Elissa and Ronan

An interview about life and community at
Nightingale Leftfield
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Who lives here?

RONAN: I’m an architect and Passive House designer. I work primarily in education, on Victorian School Building Authority projects. I’m from Ireland, I studied in the UK and I’ve been in Australia for about 12 years.

ELISSA: I’m an urban planner. I care very much about how we make cities better places to live. I’m also a ceramicist - that’s my creative outlet - and a cake-lover.

How did you come to live in Nightingale Leftfield?

RONAN: We hadn’t been dating for very long when The Village ballots began. The Kennedy Nolan information evening came up, and I'd always loved their work, so I said, “Let’s go check it out.” 

ELISSA: So we found ourselves at the bank two days later. 

RONAN: I’d always thought home ownership might be on the cards eventually, but probably not in Brunswick, and certainly not in something designed by an award-winning architect. We were very lucky that we were in a position where we could ballot - so we did, and we were allocated our first choice. 

What part of the Nightingale approach most appealed to you?

ELISSA: I love people, so I'm most excited about the community. For us, living here is not just about the building, it’s about all the wonderful people we’ve met across The Village. We went to a dinner party the other night over in Skye House, a two-minute walk away. There’s also been some swapping of cheese across The Village…

RONAN: Somebody committed to a huge wheel of cheese that they could not manage themselves.

ELISSA: It got shared to every building. 

RONAN: Also, since we’ve moved in, as you can imagine a number of people have had Covid, and on the building Slack channel and WhatsApp chat, people isolating have often asked if anyone would mind nipping down to the shops to get them something, or get a prescription filled, or whatever.

ELISSA: There’s lots of sharing and swapping and looking after each other. We’ve had neighbours borrow our food processor at 10 o'clock at night and then drop back protein balls the next day with the mixer. 

RONAN: An urgent need to make protein balls!

What’s your favourite part of your apartment design? 

ELISSA: We love Kennedy Nolan. They’re amazing architects, but also, they’ve made us feel part of the whole project. They’ve created a beautiful apartment that we love coming home to and showing off to friends and visitors. It’s the nicest place we’ve ever lived. 

RONAN: I’m always marvelling at the clever things that great architects working in the multi-residential realm can do, and the qualities they can bring to small spaces. I love how Kennedy Nolan really lean into texture and comfort, and find joy in the details. I like the terrazzo bench-top, the cork on the wall, even the shade of grey paint and the selective use of timber… We both fell in love with the attention to detail. 

What do you think about the inclusion of community housing across The Village?

ELISSA: It’s a really important precedent for other developments, local councils, and state government. It’s what should be done. We all need housing, and we all deserve really good housing that’s well-designed, in a supportive community. 

RONAN: To be part of a development that does this is awesome. As an initiative, I’m baffled it hasn’t been made mandatory in Australia. It sounds like a massive intervention to make community housing mandatory, but once it becomes the norm rather than something people have to do by their own initiative, it becomes better understood, and it's the right thing to do. For instance we’re already starting to hear developers using language about social sustainability that organisations like Nightingale and Assemble have been using for a while.

You’re expecting a baby soon. How do you think living in a Nightingale community will affect your experience of becoming parents?

ELISSA: I can’t think of a better place to have a little bub. We have such lovely people around us. This will be the first baby in the building; we have some excited neighbours. There have already been conversations about knitting blankets, offers of babysitting, and offers of baby things from people in other Nightingale buildings who don’t need them anymore, which is amazing. 

Everything is so close by. I know that if I'm home with bub all day and I need to nip up to the supermarket, I don’t have to put him in the car; I can just walk up. It’s really convenient. 

What are your top local spots? 

RONAN: A1 Bakery and Very Good Falafel.

ELISSA: Mr Kitly, for gifts and beautiful things for the home and lovely ceramics. School of Clay and Art is a really great place to learn pottery or practise. Brunswick Bound is a great bookshop, and they run book clubs and events. 

RONAN: The record store Record Paradise

ELISSA: In summertime the rooftop at The Cornish Arms is lovely, with views out to the city. Inner North Brewing Co is a favourite; they do takeaway growlers. We could go on forever. We love Brunswick. 

RONAN: I go climbing at Northside Boulders Brunswick. There’s a great social side to it; we always go with friends. They have really good coffee and sometimes cakes as well. Northside Boulders have done a lot of work over the years to make sure their gyms are open, accessible, approachable, great for women, great for gender-diverse groups. They’re good to have in the neighbourhood.

Published September 2022

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Nightingale Leftfield
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