How a clever reno turned buyer's regret into homeowner's delight
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How a clever reno turned buyer’s regret into homeowner’s delight

This narrow home in an up-and-coming suburb proved the perfect choice for a family relocating from interstate

By Robyn Willis
Wed, Dec 21, 2022 9:43amGrey Clock 4 min

It’s incredible the difference access to natural light can make to how liveable a space feels. In the case of this house in the Melbourne suburb of Yarraville, it was transformative, taking the ‘long, skinny block’ and turning it into a relaxed family home ideal for contemporary living.

Having moved to Melbourne from interstate, the owners of this single level late Victorian house soon questioned their decision to buy it, architect Rod Allan from ROAM Architects says.

“It’s an extreme version of a long skinny site with a party wall on one side and a narrow path down the other side, typical of the inner west of Melbourne,” Allan says. “But there were a lot of other places they could have bought at the time.”

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With just a 6m width to work with, he says the challenge from the start was making the house feel larger, while offering the family sufficient space to be together, as well as provide space to be apart.

“From the first day it was looking at different ways of overcoming the width of the site,” he says. “They also wanted three or four bedrooms with a big open plan living space.”

The obvious solution was to create a second level, but the plan was abandoned for several reasons.

“We did a scheme which went up and we gave it pretty serious consideration,” Allan says. “It was a more expensive option and with the planning requirements in this area you would have had to set the upper floor in from the lower floor. 

“When we got it costed up, we all came to the same conclusion – it wasn’t worth it.”

Instead, Allan came up with the design that would treat the site as a whole, extending the new living and dining area from the original house, with a deck taking up most of the garden. The three bedrooms at the front would be in the original part of the house, which was still in reasonably good condition.

“The builder loves the restoration side of his work so the front of the house was treated quite respectfully,” he says. “The original red brick in the hallway was in surprisingly good condition so we cleaned it up and painted it white to retain the texture of the bricks.” 

The bedrooms were separated from the communal living spaces at the rear via a central ‘pocket courtyard’, which sits between the kitchen and dining space and a secondary multipurpose space. Deliberately designed for flexibility, this room can serve as a playroom, reading room or fourth bedroom as the need arises.

“There are pocket sliding doors in each of the two walls and you can slide them together to create a private room,” says Allan.

This intermediary zone also has a study space in the hallway, separate from the distractions of the living areas at the rear.

“It has pocket bi-fold doors and the desk is set back so that you can push the chair in and shut the door,” Allan says. “It was a pre-COVID design but it is a pretty relevant solution.”

While the width of the house was a significant constraint, Allan says it helped considerably that the side of the house faced north. He made the most of this access to the abundant natural light with large sliding windows opening onto the side path.

In keeping with the desire to maximise space, Allan opted for built-in joinery to give the owners the storage they needed while maintaining flow through the spaces. 

“You can have people relaxing out on that bench with the couple in the kitchen, the kids can hang out and you can slide the big window open and be inside or outside,” Allan says. “There’s an element of appreciating what contemporary living is all about. 

“We were also quite keen not to go down the road of the big kitchen island unit, which was particularly because of the narrowness of the site, but we wanted the dining table in that space, to make it feel more like a country kitchen.”

Allan has also manipulated space and light by breaking up the strong lines with curves and softer angles, which makes it feel both contemporary and more connected with the outdoor space. It also creates a sense of discovery for visitors moving through the house – a significant achievement on such a small site.

“Although we are mostly dealing with straight lines in this house, those soft curves make all the difference,” he says. “It’s using design to make those moments of enjoyment. Inside, it’s reflected in the bench seat that wraps around the curve.”

In the end, though, this place would feel dark and pokey if not for the amount of light streaming in.

“Materials come and go but if you can get that fantastic light into the house and track it over the course of a day, if you can get that light, you can do a lot less with everything else.”

Pictures: Tatjana Plitt


Consumers are going to gravitate toward applications powered by the buzzy new technology, analyst Michael Wolf predicts

Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’

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Booming demand for wellness tourism shows no slowing, with travel related to health and well-being projected to have reached $1 trillion last year and to hit $1.3 trillion by 2025, according to the Global Wellness Institute, a nonprofit based in Miami.

Curated wellness travel programs are especially sought-after, specifically holistic treatments focused on longevity. Affluent travellers not only are making time to hit the gym while gallivanting across the globe, they’re also seeking destinations that specifically cater to their wellness goals, including treatments aimed at living longer.

“I believe Covid did put a spotlight on self-care and well-being,” says Penny Kriel, corporate director of spa and wellness at Salamander Collection, a group of luxury properties in places like Washington, D.C., and Charleston, South Carolina. But Kriel says today’s spas are more holistic, encouraging folks to understand the wellness concept and incorporate it into their lifestyle more frequently.

“With the evolution of treatment products and technology, spas have been able to enhance their offerings and appeal to more travellers,” Kriel says.

While some growth is connected to the variety of treatments available, results and the digital world are also contributing to the wellness boom.

“The efficacy and benefits of these treatments continue to drive bookings and interest, especially with the support of social media, influencers, and celebrity endorsements,” Kriel says.

While genetics, environmental factors, and lifestyle choices such as regular exercise, a diet free of processed foods, sufficient sleep, and human connection play essential roles in living well and longer, experts believe in holistic therapies to help manage stress, boost immunity, and ultimately influence length and quality of life.

Anti Ageing and Beyond

“For years, people have been coming to spas, booking treatments, and gaining advice on how to turn the clock back with anti ageing and corrective skin treatments,” Kriel says. However, today’s treatments are far more innovative.

On Marinella Beach in Porto Rotondo, on the Italian island of Sardinia, guests at the five-star Abi d’Oru Hotel & Spa can experience the resort’s one-of-a-kind “longevity treatment,” a unique antiaging facial using one of the island’s native grapes: Cannonau. The world’s first declared “Blue Zone”—one of five designated areas where people live longer than average, some into their 100s—Sardinia produces this robust red wine varietal, the most widely planted on the island.

Known as Garnacha in Spain and Grenache in France, Cannonau supposedly contains two to three times more antioxidants than other red-wine grapes. By incorporating Cannonau, Abi Spa says its unique 50-minute longevity session increases collagen production for firmer, younger-looking skin.

Maintaining a youthful appearance is just one facet of longevity treatments, which range from stress-reduction sessions like massage to nutritional support and sleep programs, Kriel says. Some retreats also offer medical services such as IV infusions and joint injections.

Keeping with the trend, Kriel is expanding Salamander Collection’s existing spa services, such as detox wraps and lymphatic drainage, to include dedicated “Wellness Rooms,” new vegan and vegetarian menu items, and well-being workshops. “Sleep, nutrition, and mindfulness will be a big focus for integration in 2024,” she says.

Data-Driven Wellness

Skyler Stillings, an exercise physiologist at Sensei Lanai, a Four Seasons Resort—an adults-only wellness centre in Lanai, Hawaii—says guests were drawn to the social aspect when the spa opened in November 2021.

“We saw a huge need for human connection,” she recalls. But over the past few years, what’s paramount has shifted. “Longevity is trending much more right now.”

Human connection is a central draw for guests at Sensei Lanai, an adults-only and wellness-focused Four Seasons Resort in Hawaii.
Sensei Lanai, A Four Seasons Resort

Billionaire co-founder of tech company Oracle Larry Ellison and physician and scientist Dr. David Angus co-founded Sensei. After the death of a mutual close friend, the duo teamed up to create longevity-based wellness retreats to nurture preventative care and a healthy lifestyle. In addition to the Lanai location, the brand established Sensei Porcupine Creek in Greater Palm Springs, California, in November 2022.

Sensei has a data-driven approach. The team performs a series of assessments to obtain a clearer picture of a guest’s health, making wellness recommendations based on the findings. While Sensei analyses that data to curate a personalised plan, Stillings says it’s up to the guests which path they choose.

Sensei’s core three-day retreat is a “Guided Wellness Experience.” For spa treatments, each guest checks into their own “Spa Hale,” a private 1,000-square-foot bungalow furnished with an infrared sauna, a steam shower, a soaking tub, and plunge pools. The latest therapies include Sarga Bodywalking—a barefoot myofascial release massage, and “Four Hands in Harmony,” a massage with two therapists working in tandem. Sensei Guides provide take-home plans so guests can continue their wellness journeys after the spa.

Sensei Lanai, an adults-only and wellness-focused Four Seasons Resort in Hawaii.
Sensei Lanai, A Four Seasons Resort

Sanctuaries for Longevity

Headquartered in Switzerland with hotels and on-site spas across the globe, Aman Resorts features an integrative approach, combining traditional remedies with modern medicine’s advanced technologies. Tucked behind the doors of the storied Crown Building in Midtown Manhattan, Banya Spa House at Aman New York—the brand’s flagship spa in the Western Hemisphere—is a 25,000-square-foot, three-floor urban oasis.

Yuki Kiyono, global head of health and wellness development at Aman, says the centre provides access to holistic and cutting-edge treatments benefiting physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and social well-being. Aman’s customisable “Immersion Programs” consist of a three- or five-day immersion. “The programs encompass treatments and experiences that touch every significant aspect to create a path for longevity, from meditation and mindfulness to nutrition and movement,” Kiyono explains.

Banya Spa House at Aman New York.
Robert Rieger

The spa’s “Tei-An Wellness Solution” features 90- to 150-minute sessions using massage, cryotherapy, and Vitamin IV infusions. Acupuncture is also on offer.

“With its rich history of Chinese Medicine, modern research, and the introduction of sophisticated electro-acupuncture medicine, acupuncture has been proven to assist with problems and increase performance,” Kiyono says.

Resetting the Mind and Body

Beyond longevity, “healthspan”—the number of years a person can live in good health free of chronic disease—is the cornerstone of Mountain Trek Health Reset Retreat’s program in British Columbia, Canada.

Kirk Shave, president and program director, and his team employ a holistic approach, using lifestyles in long-living Blue Zones as a point of reference.

“We improve our daily lifestyle habits, so we live vitally as long as we’re meant to live,” Shave says of the retreat. He built the program from an anthropological stance, referencing humans as farmers, hunters, and gatherers based on their eating and sleeping patterns. Food includes vegetable-centric meals sans alcohol, sugar, bread, or dairy.

Guests wake at dawn each day and have access to sunrise yoga, several hours of “flow” or slow hiking, spa treatments, forest bathing, calming crystal singing-bowl and sound therapy sessions, and classes on stress reduction—one of Mountain Trek’s primary goals. The program motivates people to spend much of their time in nature because it’s been proven to reduce cortisol, the stress hormone that can lead to inflammation and disease when elevated for extended periods.

While most guests aren’t aware of how immersive Mountain Trek’s program is when they arrive, they leave the resort revitalized after the structured, one-week program. Set in the Kootenays overlooking its eponymous river, the resort and adventure promise what Shave calls a “visceral experience of transformation.”

“They’re interested in coming to be in nature,” Shave says of the guests. “They hit a wall in their life and slipped backwards, so they know they need a reset.”

Banya Spa House at Aman New York provides access to holistic and cutting-edge treatments benefiting physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and social well-being.
Robert Rieger

This article first appeared in the Winter 2024 issue of Mansion Global Experience Luxury.


Consumers are going to gravitate toward applications powered by the buzzy new technology, analyst Michael Wolf predicts

Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’

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