Resident Stories

At home with Fiona from 231 Smith Street

Fiona Brook purchased her apartment in Neometro's 231 Smith Street, Fitzroy development off-the-plan in 2012. After renting it out for over a decade, she decided to make it home three years ago, filling it with an alchemy of art and vintage furniture to cultivate a dynamic urban sanctuary.

When Fiona, founder/director of Collingwood-based PR agency Zilla & Brook, decided it was time to purchase an investment property back in 2012, she immediately sought out a client of her then agency, Neometro. She knew she wanted to buy off-the-plan, diverting funds away from stamp duty and into her property budget, and was looking for an apartment that exuded a higher-than-average level of finish, one that delivered all it promised on paper. After being introduced to 231 Smith Street, Fitzroy, which ticked her north-facing and large terrace boxes, her search was successfully over.

Given the professional relationship, Fiona was already aware of Neometro’s eminent reputation as a developer back when she purchased. However, when she moved into the apartment during COVID, that reputation continued to stand strong with the apartment’s built and design integrity embodying the developer's mantra in its propensity, after over a decade of rental history, to wear in, not out.

“I was willing to pay a higher p/m2 price for the integrity of the Neometro brand,” says Fiona. “I co-owned an apartment with my sister already so I was looking for a great investment.” It was always a consideration that Fiona would eventually make the apartment home so her own wish list came into play as well.“ Since my 20s, I’d only ever lived southside. In 2012, Fitzroy was a hot suburb. It was interesting and happening and felt like a great place for investment due to its enduring popularity.”

When COVID lockdowns coincided with Fiona’s tenants moving out, she moved in. Having already made minor changes pre-construction (steering away from the black or white kitchen options in preference for timber veneer), she has since made a few more. With the fundamentals in place — “I was aware that a lot of new builds tended to be long, narrow apartments which I like but my apartment also has great circular programming. It's a rectangle with maximum glass that warms the building; concrete floors for passive solar; and navigation that allows for fluid circular movement beneath those magical high ceilings Neometro is known for.” — changes have been slight but impactful. “I cut down the big kitchen/living room wall,” she explains. “It’s now a stone bench with a curved edge. I’ve also painted black sections of the kitchen walls blue and the inside of the office nook yellow.” In introducing colour, Fiona’s effortless curation of vintage furniture vignettes and salon-style artwork hang (she is an avid photography collector), are artfully articulated while a greater connection between the living room and kitchen has been established.

“All my furniture is second-hand, either family heirloom or vintage,” says Fiona of a personal style that is eclectic and refined, composed and richly layered, inviting and characterful. “The sofa is a Gerald Easden. The oak table and chairs belonged to my grandmother. The teal lounge chairs were my mother and father’s first-anniversary presents (they gifted a chair to each other back in 1958) and have since been reupholstered. The sideboard is from Italy. All the furniture has a story.”

Beyond the walls of her haven, Fiona has embraced the micro-neighbourhood fostered at 231 Smith Street. “The building itself has a really lovely community,” she says, “l I know everyone on my floor and lots of people throughout the building. Being a small building makes all the difference.”

When she moved to Fitzroy, Fiona also decided to establish an office nearby. After a stint of working from home, she moved Zilla & Brook to a co-work environment before recently settling into a new office on Smith Street. “I don’t like commuting,” she admits, “but I love walking and cycling around the neighbourhood so it’s perfect.”

Fiona’s home at 231 Smith Street, Fitzroy has been perfectly shaped to reflect her passion for the artistic and cultural milieu of Melbourne and beyond. It is a light-filled vessel adorned in pieces that spark joy, nurture memory-making and time spent with friends. It is the first place Fiona has enjoyed entirely to herself and has become a perfect retreat with the world on its doorstep.

A big thank you to Fiona. Find out more about 231 Smith Street, Fitzroy by Neometro here. Words by Tiffany Jade. Photography by Derek Swalwell.