The embedded history of Aesop Balmain’s location provided graceful cues for a contemporary refurbishment by local architect Henry Wilson – encouraging an elegant sufficiency. While this inner West Sydney peninsula was home to many who worked in local shipping and manufacturing industries during the early and mid-20th century, by the 1960s its harbourside location and weatherboard cottages began to attract new residents and irrevocable gentrification. The terraced shopfronts on Darling Street, which is at the neighbourhood’s heart, have witnessed rapid transformation in recent decades.
The store’s design retains many of the original structural elements discovered during renovation, including doorways, fireplaces and the raw sandstone blocks that line the walls. A legacy of the 19th century, their cool, rough-hewn forms lend the store a cavernous quality. Floors in pale Australian Chestnut and white ceilings enhance abundant natural light, and add a sense of volume to the space. Robust steel edge shelving, powder-coated in white, echoes the area’s industrial past; its smooth, linear form contrasting with the heft, tone and finish of the sandstone. These modular structures also act as frames for the counter units and improvised sinks, made from plastic tubs. Copper’s warm tones are found lining the windows and façade, while the utilitarian aesthetic continues to custom lighting in the windows – lightweight and portable.