How do you downsize your home when the children have flown the nest? For many people the solution is to sell and buy somewhere smaller, but this independent couple chose a different path – they built on their existing maisonette to create a brand new penthouse for themselves, and at the same time, converted the maisonette into two apartments, one each for their children.
‘The clients had lived in their home, a typical maisonette, for 25 years,’ says Ryan Calleja who was responsible for the renovation. ‘To celebrate the silver anniversary of the building and their marriage, they decided they needed a change of pace – a smaller, more intimate space that best reflected the lifestyle that they envisaged for the rest of their life.’
The original plan was for a simple one-storey apartment, especially as the budget was tight, but as time when on the space expanded upwards. ‘But the extra volume needed to have some architectural quality that made the aesthetic experience of being within the place worth the extra effort and cost,’ says Ryan. ‘It was important to find a visual language that complemented the vast vertical space over the kitchen/dining space that the upper level created.
This was done through a combination of both vertical and horizontal elements that balance each other out. ‘The verticality of the void, as well as a double-height window, a long, suspended chandelier chandelier and vertical tile wall were countered by horizontal elements such as the bridge that gives access to the front yard, and floating staircase,’ explains Ryan. ‘As well, both vertical and horizontal skylights and vertical shaft windows create a dynamic environment that changes throughout the day with the light.’
Beyond the architectural details, a bold decorating scheme also elevates the apartment into something special. A dark blue feature wall is the perfect backdrop for the couple’s collection of gilt-framed paintings and a large framed frieze of Maltese tiles reaches from the ground floor to the ceiling giving colour and interest to what would have otherwise been a vast blank wall. Elsewhere, chunky columns, that were part of the original decor in the maisonette, are used as supports for the coffee and dining tables.
‘Some of the design was governed by items that had sentimental value,’ says Ryan. ‘And other decisions were made in order to accentuate these major design features, all the while integrating a pop of colour that makes the space a bit more vibrant.’
One of the most difficult design decisions was choosing the flooring. ‘We went through hundreds of tile samples before settling on the parquet and main floor tiles,’ says Ryan. ‘We wanted to make sure that the vastness of the floor acted as a background to the rest of the furniture but without being visually boring. This decision was made even more important as the upper level gives a birds-eye view of the living space.’
The build itself was relatively straightforward although the clients living in the building throughout the work added an extra dimension. ‘That created challenges bigger than I could have ever predicted such as keeping a constant supply of water,’ says Ryan. ‘It was also a self-build project, the clients, with myself helping some of the time, taking care of all the construction and most of the finishing works within the site. Luckily, a site visit was just two flights of stairs away!’
Today, a year and a half later, the apartment is completed and the new arrangements suit everyone. ‘Taking the plunge and literally risking the roof over your head in order to pursue such a project was never an easy decision,’ says Ryan. ‘Yet, the excitement by which the clients describe their new dream home shows that it was worth it in the end.’
What is it like to live in their new home? ‘Every morning, we wake up to a view we love, brew a coffee in a kitchen we love as we sit around the dining table, looking upwards at the changing sunrise sky,’ say the homeowners. ‘ No matter what the day will bring, starting it off in a home you built, surrounded by the ones you love within a setting that truly reflects the lifestyle you always dreamed about is an experience that never grows stale. You only get to appreciate the power that a home can have on your life when you get to experience such a pleasure.’