Two of Sydney’s most renowned cutting-edge design teams, Freedman Rembel and Durbach Block were commissioned to design a contemporary installation in the magnificently proportioned historic Dining Room and Drawing Room at Elizabeth Bay House.

Responding to a unique challenge, each firm transformed one of the Georgian rooms into a unique self-contained studio apartment. These dynamic contemporary designs proposed bold ideas for using historic buildings and explored ways of using and adapting historic buildings, stimulating discussion and thinking about the interpretation of historic interiors and their meaning to a contemporary society.

Durbach Block in the Dining Room

Imagine the dining room at EBH as it might have been when the building was just finished and unfurnished in 1839. Its’ restrained elegance, symmetry and scale make possible a beautiful and immediate contemplation of its two long boundaries the fireplace wall and the harbour view wall, the opposite conditions of fire and water.

Imagine then the most delicate and concentrated apartment as one piece of furniture settled up against the front door to this newly emptied room

This furniture/apartment- simultaneously minimal and casual- responds specifically to each of the four sides of its site, the old dining room itself. A long bench and a long table exaggerate the hospitable nature of a drawing room and a small internal courtyard garden surrounds the tiny bathroom with nature and light. A sleeping platform keeps watch over the entry hall and a slowly changing projected image on the end wall effects the atmosphere of the whole room by day and night

5 October 2005 - 30 April 2006
  • A sink and tap unit installed in a smooth tiber bench top
  • Long timber structure kitchen and seating structure in an ornate Georgian room
  • Image showing the corner of a bench with a high quality join in the timbers
  • Close up showing green plants growing from a white pebble garden
  • Timber structure with a ladder built into the side facing the viewer. A green plant sits inside it to the right.
  • Kitchen structure with Georgian windows in the background
  • Georgian style room with ornate furniture and framed images on the wall

Freedman Rembel in the Drawing room

In a time where economic pressures have made living in urban Sydney increasingly limited to an affluent socio economic group, a need to broaden the accessibility of our cities and combat the ever increasing, and ultimately unsustainable suburban sprawl, is now an imperative contemplation for those actively involved in improving our built environment and saving our planet.

The Design for the Drawing Room explores an idea for an alternative sociological model for contemporary living within a specific space that might only previously have been occupied by an elite group. The concept takes this single space and offers a solution for it to be occupied and potentially owned by a syndicate. In this case two groups live independently and communally in one space.

The demographic might be a younger group who are starting out with a modest income. They are less inhibited and more likely to adapt to an alternate lifestyle. Technology allows for higher density living by making us less dependant, more compact, mobile and wireless.

The design incorporates two private modules. Defined symbolically to represent the individual(s) one black and one white. Each accommodates the exclusively private functions for one of the groups. This module is a compact arrangement of sleeping, bathing and personal storage.

The remaining spaces are defined in strong colours to symbolise the communal elements. These are given precedence within the space by locating them on the axis of the fireplace and the view. Furniture is multifunctional to allow the occupant to sit, lye, slouch etc but also free form to enable social interaction to be informal and flexible to suit the group or the individual.

The built elements are made from ordinary items recycled, gathered or collected and assembled in alternate ways, an ingenuity driven by economic circumstance. Multicoloured kitchen sponges make up the upholstered elements and Milk crates and pipes form storage components. The elements are abstracted by colour and finish as a personalizing gesture.

The various elements are brought together in a colourful composition that is harmonious with the colours of the Drawing room, sets out to be unusual, engages thought about contemporary living with a humour that leaves the occupant and viewer feeling positive.

  • Image showing large curved sponge-covered seats in a Georgian room
  • View of a blue kitchen like structure with a sponge seat in the foreground.
  • View into a box like construction with a red light inside
  • View of bright red books, shot from above with a narrow depth of field
  • Image of a man making adjustments to a green table
  • A green table with green plates and cutlery in front of a blue structure made from milk crates
  • An organically shaped seat covered in coloured sponges and two orange tables, one with a type writer
  • A Georgian room with period furniture and dressing