Peel By Milieu with Dean and Sam
Interview by Nick Smith
Photography by Morgan Hickinbotham
In December 2017 Dean Ung and Sam Page moved into their beautiful first floor apartment on the corner of Peel and Wellington Streets in Collingwood. Featuring an angular form the building is a sight to behold, but the size of the floor plates and clever use of interior space is what impresses me most. As the couple lead me from the entry area, through the kitchen and into the living space it’s obvious they are extremely house proud. And they should be. They’ve managed to create a beautifully curated, warm, welcoming home in an area that they love. As Sam pours me a glass of Pinot Noir we take a seat in the kitchen and Dean puts on a pot of pasta.
[Dean is cooking dinner]
Nick Smith: So when did you guys move in?
Dean Ung: On December 20th. We kind of busted everyone’s balls to get in.
Sam Page: It was a lot of fun trying to move in that day. Dean was already up here and there’s only one lift so a friend of ours and I just ended going up the fire stairs with everything.
NS: Well at least you guys are on level one.
SP: Yeah exactly.
NS: You got the couch up by yourselves?
SP: Well it’s modular and pulls apart which made it much easier. That was pretty much the only big piece of furniture we had to bring up the stairs.
NS: When did you purchase the apartment?
SP: Around September 2015.
NS: You must've been pretty excited leading up to being able to move in.
DU: Yeah. Every week we used to drive past and sit out the front to see what progress had been made. It was so lame...
NS: I’m sure other people would've been doing that too.
DU: It was just cool to see it come together. Seeing the walls go up, the cement be poured and the windows go in. We were like “Wow that’s going to be our window.”
NS: Did you know which apartment was yours as they were building it.
DU: Yeah early on we figured out which was ours.
NS: We were contemplating squatting here for a while. “Oh the ceilings are on. The windows aren't in, but lets go up there and we’ll put some tarp over the windows and squat here for a while.
DU: A nice fresh breeze would be alright.
SP: Yeah, we were pretty excited and I’m sure Charlie was getting sick of us by the end of it all. We kept asking “When can we move in? When can we move in?”
DU: Charlie was the best.
NS: What was Charlie’s role?
SP: She works for Milieu as their Sales and Marketing Coordinator corresponding with all the purchasers. She was the person that we would go to for updates on how the build was going.
NS: How did you guys meet?
SP: You always do this…
SP: Well… I had some friends in town from Sydney and they wanted to do the shopping thing down on Chapel Street. At the time Dean was working at Arthur Galan.
DU: It was just before I started at Giorgio Armani.
SP: Umm…Do you want to tell the story?
DU: I’ll be quiet!
SP: So, we went into Arthur Galan and Dean came over asking if I wanted some assistance. I said no, because I wasn't looking at buying anything.
DU: I was like, “Do you want some assistance…”
SP: I thought he was good looking so I walked out of the shop and thought, “Right! I’m going to go back there next week and buy something so that I get a chance to talk to him.” I chickened out… Anyway, I caught up with some other friends later and remembered that one of them used to work at Arthur Galan so I said, “Do you know the Asian guy that works there?” and he said, “Yeah, that’s Dean.” So I asked, “What’s his story? Is he single?” My friend said he would send him a message on Facebook for me and suss out his situation.
NS: How long ago was this?
DU: This was 2009.
SP: My friend sent the message and then went on a holiday. So I didn't hear back from Dean nor did I hear back from my friend. So I thought, “Oh well, I know Dean’s name now so I’ll send him a message of my own and if I don't get a reply then I’ll just let it go.” I sent him a message and got no reply so I though, “Oh, that’s it. He’s not interested. I’m not going to be tragic and keep hounding him.” At the time I was working at Telstra in Collins Place and Dean had just started his new job at Giorgio Armani, which is also in Collins Place. We ended up passing each other in the foyer and I noticed Dean but I didn't actually put two and two together. I didn't know he was the same guy from Arthur Galan. I just though, “This guys good looking.” But thankfully, Dean recognised me.
DU: I was like, “That’s that weird guy that’s been messaging me.”
SP: Yeah, “That’s that stalker guy.”
SP: So once Dean recognised who I was, he then decided to reply back to the message that I’d sent on Facebook and we kind of went from there. We had lunch the next day and the rest is history.
SP: Yeah, it was kind of fate that we ended up working in the same building.
DU: If that hadn't of happened…
SP: You would've been a rude prick and just ignored me.
DU: Totally. And you would've got to see the real me.
NS: That’s a nice story. So, I wanted to ask what drew you guys to the Peel Street project initially.
SP: You can tell this story, because in a way it’s kind of your story.
DU: Well we weren't looking to buy.
SP: Not seriously anyway.
DU: We’d talked about it.
SP: And decided we wanted to one day.
DU: One weekend we had brunch down at Alimentari. It was a Sunday and we thought, “Why don't we go and look at apartments?” I’d driven past Peel Street and has seen the posters and some of the marketing collateral.
SP: It used to be an old garage on the corner.
DU: I said to Sam “Hmmm… that looks really good.”
SP: Well we were actually going to look at some apartments nearby.
DU: I’m getting there!
SP: Oh okay…
DU: So anyway, we went down to see some other apartments. And for me, a good apartment is all about the floor plan. I’m very particular about seeing how I would enter the space, how the space flows and how smart they are in designing the space. We went there and I was like, “No, I don’t like them.” It was just silly. They had parts of the apartment that were a complete waste of space. Like a small corridor in the main bedroom that opens to a light well. Is somebody going to walk down there, open their book and read? It was just pointless. I wanted something that utilises space really well. So we parked out on Wellington Street and we decided to check Peel Street out. We walked in and it had a gallery space with Dan Hocking’s work which was awesome. As soon as I walked in I was like, “Mmmmmm, yes…” Then I saw the kitchen, it was beautiful! And I’m not even a cook.
SP: Which is really ironic.
DU: Yeah I don't cook at all do I?
SP: This is just a show for you tonight, Nick.
DU: But hey! Since we’ve been here have I not been cooking?
SP: Yeah you have, because you love the kitchen.
DU: Yeah, I love the kitchen. Anyway, the finishes, the colours and the way they had furnished it was amazing. I got one of the brochures, had a look, and fell in love with this floor plan. This one was the floor plan that I wanted.
SP: This was the last one in this particular floor plan.
DU: Sam was like, “If you really want it, do the research and organise it.”
SP: I was really cautious. I said to Dean, “I don't want to be one of those people who moves into an established area with a nightclub across the road and then complains about the noise.” I said to Dean, “I love it and if you're set on it do the research and make sure it’s well soundproofed.”
NS: Has that been fine?
SP: Yeah. The Peel is open Thursday, Friday and Saturday but everything is double glazed and that comes standard. You can opt for triple glazed if you want.
NS: I think over time you acclimatise to street noise anyway.
SP: That’s just inner city living. There’s always going to be noise around.
SP: I’ve lived North side for a while now though. I love the North side. I really like Collingwood because it’s still affordable inner city living with everything that we could want around us and our friends all live around here so it’s perfect.
DU: It is perfect. And best of all… seriously… the floor plan. I love it. The entry, having that wall there [Dean points behind the TV unit], having the ability to use the second bedroom as a dining area.
NS: It really is amazing and feels so large for a two bedroom apartment. This feels like a home, it’s beautiful.
SP: Which is great because that’s what we want it to feel like. A home.
[Dean serves dinner]
NS: It’s a very well curated house.
DU: It’s really nice cooking in this kitchen. We were so detached in our last place. We’d have friends over and when we cooked they'd be in a separate room and one of us would be cooking on our own. So now we always cook and sit at the bench here. It’s nice.
NS: It’s so great when you have a place where the kitchen is close to the living area. It’s probably one of the reasons I enjoy cooking so much. Because I can do it and still be part of a conversation.
DU: Yeah me too.
NS: Nice. So you guys bought off the plan right? Was that something you ever imagined you’d do?
DU: Well we could’ve bought an established apartment but it would have to be art deco or something where the space and proportions were right. Like I said, the floor plan is so important to me.
SP: For me, the obvious thing was the stamp duty savings.
DU: See I don't think about that.
SP: Yeah, but that was definitely one of the benefits. I was also really excited that we were moving into a place that no one had ever lived in before. This is our space. We’re going to bring our energy into this space.
NS: Does that create a strong sense of ownership?
SP: Yeah definitely. It’s nice to live in a house that has history but with this place we’re creating the history. And I hope that we live here for a long time. I really love this place.
DU: We could definitely follow our parents advice and “Buy an investment property first.” But at the end of the day I don't want to spend another eight, nine, ten years working equity off my investment property to finally buy a house that I can enjoy living in. Even if it’s a small place and it doesn't have land or bring us much return, at the end of the day I'm living in a place that I really love coming home to. Sam and I are proud of our place.
NS: Did you guys know much about the DKO or the DesignOffice before you bought the place?
DU: I’d done a lot of research on that sort of stuff. DesignOffice designed Mud Fitzroy’s interior.
NS: It’s such a beautiful interior. I’m a sucker for Vitsoe shelves.
DU: And I knew they’d also done the interior for Higher Ground. One of our friends is part owner of Kettle Black so I knew they’d worked with them, so I knew through friends what projects they’d done before. I didn't know about Milieu before we came across the project though. It wasn't until we put the word out to our architect and designer friends and asked if they had heard of Milieu, which they all had. If you have friends who are in the industry who respect them, it automatically adds a layer of trust. My father was very much of the opinion that if you're going to buy an apartment off the plan, from a developer, make sure you do all your research. Check what other properties they have done. Whether they have had any issues. Go and see the properties in person. See how it’s made.
SP: It stressed us out a little but his advice was coming from a good place.
NS: I imagine a lot of parents would do the same.
SP: Yeah they just wanted to make sure we had done our research and were completely informed.
DU: It was good though, because Dad did ask really important questions but it eventually got to a point where I said, “Dad…you need to stop being like that, because you’re actually taking all the fun out of it”
NS: You can tell from Milieu’s previous projects there’s a certain level of quality though.
DU: Correct. Sam is very adamant about retaining the feel of old Melbourne too, so we made sure that we were in a place that didn't disturb the existing area too much and that fit into the environment well.
SP: I just like that this place is not pretending to be old Collingwood. It’s a new building and still stands out in its own right but compliments what previously existed here. I love the angles on this building too. You look at it from different vantage points and it becomes a completely different building. It’s really clever.
NS: Today was the first time I’ve seen it since it was completed. Coming up Wellington Street you really notice what a beautiful building it is.
SP: Did you notice the clock downstairs outside Congress? It’s got a little red and green light on it. Similar to when Parliament is sitting, they’ve got a green light to say that the venue is open and a red light to say they’re closed.
DU: It’s that attention to detail that we love. The Congress guys are such cool people too. You should definitely go there. The service is amazing.
NS: I’m going to take my fiancé.
DU: She’ll love it.
SP: The Milieu guys have done an amazing job. And even post-sale and having already moved in, they still treat you with that amazing level of service which we experienced with Charlie. That’s something I know you probably wouldn’t get with big developers.
DU: Definitely. I spoke to one of my girlfriends who has bought investment properties and we were both having handovers at the same time. I was telling her about what Charlie had done and how she’d been communicating with us. I said, “Oh yeah, it’s fine, they’re organising this for us. And all the defects have been fixed.” She was like, “Oh my God that’s amazing. They’re moving us in and half the foyer still has exposed beams.” They just didn't care. Not one bit.
NS: Even some of the smaller developers who do townhouses and apartments don't give that level of service.
DU: And that’s the thing. When you look at Milieu’s website and their collateral, they put faces to the names. They’re putting their personal reputations on the line. They’re not just saying “Oh hey! We are a company and we do this and we’ll provide you with this.” They’re saying these are our people, these are their backgrounds, these are their personalities.
NS: It seems they’ve got this really tight knit community they collaborate with frequently too. They’re focused on building more than just an apartment for someone to live in. They want to provide an experience.
SP: Our assumption before we bought was Peel Street was going to be their flagship and a benchmark. So we put a lot of faith in that they'd put a lot of effort into this project. Even when they had the open days before we moved in there were a couple of apartments that were completely furnished just so that people could come and see what their work was like. There were so many people just having a look and asking, “Is this for sale? How can I buy one?” In my mind I was thinking, “Oh thank God we bought one!”
DU: But everything had already been sold. It was just a display that said, “Well, this is what we can do.”
NS: The Milieu projects always sell well.
DU: We’ve had people stand outside the front of the apartments and ask us, “Are there any for sale?” It’s amazing.
SP: I’ve seen so many people standing down there taking photos of the building. I think to myself, “Wow, that’s really exciting.” And hey… we live here and we own this place you’re taking pictures of it.
NS: It must be a really special feeling when people you don't know are visibly appreciating where you live.
DU: Yeah, we’re very house proud.
NS: What do most of your friends say when they come over?
SP: We had one friend who came here over Christmas and he didn't want to leave. He just loved the space so much.
DU: One of our friends said to me, “This is my favourite thing now. Just coming to your place on a Saturday and just chilling. This is my favourite thing to do” That’s all I could ask for. I want our friends to feel comfortable in our home. We really love entertaining and this space has enabled us to do that a lot more. When you first walked in you said, “It’s a great house for entertaining.” That’s awesome.
DU: No, but we’re really happy. The Milieu team have been great and I don't know if everyone has had that experience but for us, the enjoyment wasn't just moving but also working with them.
DU: They’re cool people. Normal people. They aren’t real estate moguls who are just looking at the bottom line and are wanting to…
NS: Pull the wool over your eyes?
DU: Yeah exactly. You can tell the difference between a developer that wants to make a lot of money and one who wants to foster a sense of community. And that’s what we’re looking for. You can tell the internal culture of their business is good too, because the staff love working there and they get along with one another.
NS: It seems like they’ve got something special that extends out from the core. They’ve built a good culture and ethos and that translates into to what they produce and the people that they bring on board and collaborate with.
SP: It sounds really corny, but you almost feel almost part their family and not just a purchaser.
NS: How do you imagine you're future here?
DU: Based on the location, the area, the space, the layout, the fact it’s a place we can entertain in and a place we can be on our own and be comfortable… I would be happy to spend a good patch of my life here. This is a home. This is not an investment for us.
SP: I feel like even ten years down the track if we decide to do a bit of renovating it’s already got a great floor plan that you could easily configure in whatever way you choose.
DU: It’s a template. There’s not many places that allow that. We’re very, very privileged.
SP: So lucky.
DU: When friends come here and they're like “You’ve done well.” I feel like saying “Yeah…we have.” We’re house proud and enjoying it. We live in one of the best cities in the world, in a great neighbourhood, in an amazing development and in a space that’s really liveable. We’ve just got to enjoy it and be really positive about it because at the end of the day not many people get this opportunity. We’re been really, really fortunate.
NS: I can really feel a happiness that emanates from you when you talk about the house. I don’t think I’ve ever met two people who are more house proud than you two.
DU: I just think we know the way we want to live. And when you find the right place and you feel settled, it’s awesome. We love it. We’re very happy.
If you were inspired by Dean and Sam’s story we’d like to introduce Bedford By Milieu, a selection of refined homes in the culturally enlivened neighbourhood of Collingwood. Created in collaboration with DKO and DesignOffice, Bedford Street is an evolution of Peel By Milieu. The team have taken into consideration the nuanced visual language that informed that design and evolved it into something fresh and distinct.
For more information, we invite you to register your interest at milieuproperty.com.au/space/bedford-by-milieu.