Dean and Sam at Peel by Milieu, Collingwood

Photography by Derek Swalwell

For Sam, the benefits of buying off the plan and subsequent stamp duty savings was an important consideration; for Dean the floorplan layout, space and proportions of the interior were higher on the list when searching for a new home. It is these alternative ways of thinking that bring a rich and unique character to their beautifully styled space, encapsulating their shared energy and a keen eye for design.

With Congress located directly below their apartment, Sam and Dean have forged strong friendships with staff and other Congress regulars, warmly embracing the Milieu Hospitality venue that is an extension of their own living and entertaining space.

Please tell us about yourself, your background and how you first found out about Milieu?

Dean: We’ve been together for 13 years now, and during that time we’ve always been Melburnian North-side devotees. We can both be rather opinionated and persistent, so finding common ground and interests can be troublesome at times (especially when deciding on furniture).

Our first interaction with Milieu was simply through the bill posters we saw throughout Collingwood. They really stood out from other developers, with a cleaner and simpler aesthetic that seemed more considered than other development advertising. And then driving past the Peel by Milieu display suite, it caught our eye.

Was buying off the plan something you ever imagined doing?

Dean: To be honest, it hadn’t really crossed our mind. When we signed on for Peel, we really weren’t looking to purchase. We’d had a nice meal on Smith Street, and just for some fun, we decided to have a look at a few development display suites in the area. We fell in love with it pretty quickly. Although my parents were dubious about buying off the plan, so they ensured we did our research on Milieu and their previous projects. We visited other properties, spoke to people we knew who had worked with different collaborators of Milieu, and once we were satisfied, we went ahead!

What were your main considerations when finding your new home?

Dean: Spatial flow is a main particular focus. With urban development, not to mention budget limitations, we didn’t have the luxury of purchasing an expansive apartment. The intelligent use of space was crucial. Obviously, our budget was a major consideration, so to see competitive pricing with a utilisation of designers who are known for an attention to detail, we were impressed. To be able to obtain an apartment in a boutique development (relative to the larger developments in the area), also made the purchase feel a little more unique.

"The intelligent use of space was crucial."

How did you find the process of buying off the plan through our sales team?

Dean: We purchased Peel in 2015, at which time our purchase was managed by the real estate team at Nelson Alexander. It was the Milieu team that handled our queries during the build and during handover, and our experience with the team was fantastic. We can honestly say that experience really developed a great friendship with the Milieu team.

What do you like most about your apartment's design?

Dean: We love that for a relatively small footprint, every part of the space is used in a practical and functional way. Additionally, the large windows that allow natural light into each room also makes the outside feel like an extension of the internal space. We’ve never felt couped up. The finer design details also just give a finished quality and weight to the space.

What do you think defines good development and successful apartment living in Melbourne?

Dean: I think successful development comes from a strong intention which includes an understanding of context for the surrounding environment and a consideration of how the structure will age over time and how it will respond to the changing dynamic of the area. “Good design” for me includes: a selection of appropriate materials, the implementation of environmentally sustainable systems and detailed spatial qualities that elevate an occupants day-to-day living.

"We’re very different people, but we hope our home represents the contrasts between us in a unified way."

What do you think are the most important qualities in a home?

Dean: We really try to ensure our home has character and represents who we both are. That quality ensures it feels balanced and equal. We’re very different people, but we hope our home represents the contrasts between us in a unified way.**

What does a night at home with friends around look like?

Dean: Generally, if we have some friends around for dinner, they’ll hang out on the stools around the kitchen island, enjoying a wine or beer, whilst we’re preparing the food. We’ll either eat casually at the bench or move to the dining room (the second bedroom that we converted into a dining/office space). During summer, we open the large sliding doors onto the balcony, and our living area becomes an indoor/outdoor living space which we really enjoy. For a small space, we find it works so well.

How did you go about making your space your home?

Dean: Having bought off the plan, we had a longer period to really plan out our space. Being as pedantic as we are, we really wanted an idea of how the space would flow. We ended up planning exactly where we would position existing and new furniture. Whilst we had some plans for new furniture and pieces, we really considered what existing pieces we already had, that we could keep. In retrospect, this really made our home warmer and richer in personality. It was a great mix of our past and our future.

"Having bought off the plan, we had a longer period to really plan out our space."

Do you have any pieces that are particularly meaningful to you?

Dean: We have a large artwork, ‘Dawn, Yarra Bend’ by Christopher Pennings which we purchased almost 10 years ago after realising it was an aerial shot taken in Clifton Hill, near our old home. We used to walk our two dalmatians right through the pathway in the artwork, so it’s a beautiful reminder of them. We also have a large agave on our balcony, which Sammy’s mother gave to us for our wedding. The agave loves the sunlight on the balcony, and has thrived so much since we moved in. Although Sammy’s mother is no longer with us, it’s a daily reminder that she is always a part of us. Otherwise, our Mud ceramics are a humorous reminder of tenacity. They were very much out of our budget at the time, but I was determined to have a set of Mud ceramics. I would venture back to the store every fortnight to buy a piece or two, and we stockpiled our collection right up until we moved in. In the end, it was very satisfying.

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