November 8, 2019

Hancock Architects Brings Gold Glamour to a Centuries-Old Church in Sydney

In a kitchen in a converted church in Sydney, Australia, Hancock Architects designed a custom range hood electroplated with 23-karat gold. Photography by Simon Whitbread.

Tanya Hancock had been in the architecture business for 20 years when a client came to her with a relatively standard request: His Sydney, Australia, apartment was in need of a facelift. The not-so-standard part? It was located in a 140-year-old church. The client wanted to use the 3,400-square-foot, five-level apartment as a getaway from his intense career as a corporate advisor, a personal refuge where he could relax and enjoy life with his partner and adult son. The church had been deconsecrated in 1989, and the nave, chancel, and vestry converted into four residences shortly after. But this four-bedroom unit had a glaring flaw: the kitchen. “It was tiny, not suited to the scale of the architectural features of the church. Tucked away in the corner, it was U-shape and got congested easily,” says Hancock, who founded her namesake firm Hancock Architects in 2003.

The center island is Calacatta marble. Photography by Simon Whitbread.

From the outset, Hancock had to factor in the former church’s heritage status. She sought to take the design in an ultra-modern direction but because of the building’s provenance, centuries-old elements like exposed sandstone and steel windows would need to be preserved. Rather than balk at the inconvenience, Hancock looked to the building’s past for inspiration. “The golden sandstone details provided the tones of the materials we would use,” Hancock says. “We chose a base of neutral gray with gold accents, which complemented and accentuated the original fabric of the church.”

The apartment is located in a 140-year-old sandstone church. Photography by Simon Whitbread.

As for the client, he had only one request: an enormous center kitchen island, which Hancock realized with dramatic slabs of veined Calacatta marble. This is also where she introduced gilding, electroplating the island’s steel sides with 23-karat gold sealed with a clear lacquer. That finish appears again over the cooktop, where a custom gilded range hood commands attention.

Marble elements carry over into the living room. Photography by Simon Whitbread.

Two volumes of sleek cabinetry coated in pale-gray polyurethane flank the stove. The right-hand volume houses dual ovens plus refrigeration and freezing units craftily disguised as cabinets. Off to one side, an intimate seating nook by the bar is outfitted with custom benches, ideal for informal gatherings and before-dinner drinks. Here, the shimmering backsplash is tinted stainless steel, while top cabinets are inlaid with intricate polished-brass mesh. A sandstone-framed window keeps this area amply lit during the day, but don’t be fooled by its aged appearance: This window, and one other in the kitchen, were added by Hancock during renovations. They’re exact replicas of original fenestration located directly overhead.

Custom banquettes line the bar area. Photography by Simon Whitbread.

Throughout the kitchen, old and new are bridged by Hancock’s considered design. “We wanted a kitchen that was proportional and fitting to the old church, while also constituting a point of difference,” Hancock says. “It had to be impressive, functional, and encapsulate a sense of elegance and style.” Check, check, and check.

Only one element from the 1990s renovation remains, the porcelain floor. Photography by Simon Whitbread.
A new sandstone-framed window recalls the facade; cabinets in the bar area are inlaid with polished-brass mesh. Photography by Simon Whitbread.
Stools by Leon Ransmeier provide extra seating. Photography by Simon Whitbread.

Project Resources: Delta Light through Inlite: Linear Light (Kitchen). Hay through Cult Design: Stools. Miele: Ovens, Warming Drawer. Barazza: Cooktop. Franke: Sink Fittings. Oliveri: Sink. South Pacific Fabrics: Cushion Upholstery (Bar). Rimex Metals: Steel Backsplash. Gregory Croxford Living Through The English Tapware Company: Cabinet Mesh. Abey Australia: Sink. Astra Walker: Faucet. Instyle Contract Textiles: Wallpaper (Living Room). Throughout: Nu Space: Custom Benches, Cabinetry Finishing. All Metal Projects: Electroplating. Winning Appliances: Appliance Retailer. Nefiko Marble: Stone Supplier.

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