I’ve always been mostly a traditionalist. Perhaps it’s my father’s ancient English roots or perhaps my mother’s lineage of fine dressmaking. I think it is actually the combination of this history paired with the circumstances of my own life that have formed my affiliation with the traditional. In Australia life is easy, being outside is a huge part of any childhood, and the architecture is, frankly, for the most part basic.
This month, as with any, I am working on several projects that intend to effortlessly relate interior and exterior space in a fashion that reflect my clients’ ideas, tastes, and intentions, whilst embodying the best of architectural design principles. These three factors of a strong inside/outside interconnection, a client-centric design process, and the intention to achieve the highest possible architectural standard seem such obvious, common elements of the architectural process that it’s quite hard to imagine that they aren’t always, and haven’t always been at play together in the design of residential architecture.
This season we’re going for a wonderfully rich, festive colour. Rouge Carmin is the sort of colour that has big power, the sort of colour that it’s impossible to shy away from, the sort of colour that just screams sultry winter evenings by the fire.
Autumn is normally one of those months that spells sudden crisp air, quickly shortening days, and a general move inside. But this year in Australia, autumn really hasn’t happened at all. We’ve had soft, sumptuous sunny days for seemingly months on end (I am not complaining!), but I know that the cold snap must be lurking just around the next bend…
When I think of summer I think of sunshine and greenery. I think of warm afternoons lazing on freshly cut green grass under the cool, dappled shade of the trees. I picture looking up through the bright green of leaves made translucent by the intensity of the sunlight toward the stark and endless blue sky. This green of these summer days is so inherently calming, invigorating and revitalising – there’s not much to compare to it.
This month I’m going outside the box and looking at a beautiful house designed by Brillhart Architecture, who are based in Florida in the US. Normally, I like to narrow my focus to Australian and New Zealand architecture but I could not go past this lovely little prototype-type house that is deliciously pared back, vernacular inspired, and perfectly suited to its site and context. It inspires very positive things in me regarding the state of architecture in the world.
There is something quite strange about this house, it seems almost foreign, as though it might have once belonged in northern Europe and somehow floated into NZ, plot of land and all. Perhaps that is part of the reason that I like this house. It has no particularly stunning outlook or rugged landscape to contend with, but instead creates its own quiet, internalised vistas, and does so in a very neat and refined manner.
This month has been cold. I don’t know about you, but when the weather gets cold I just want to surround myself in rich colours; the thought of a white on white house makes me shiver (with cold, discontent, restlessness … etc.). Having said that, I think there are certain rooms that suit being wintery and snug all year, and others that work as lovely crisp, clarified spaces even in the cold. Part of this relates to the room’s use, and the other part relates to its aspect. A bright, white kitchen flooded in winter sun works. A deep, dark tv room tucked away from the blazing summer heat is a complete retreat. I am definitely one for colour eccentricity, and I think a house in many colours can be just as coherent as one that shuns them all. The most important thing is to make each colour suit its room and function, and after that, anything goes.
This month’s House of the Month is a conceptually well rounded alteration and addition that results in a neatly arranged conglomeration of well thought-out, readily communicating interior and exterior spaces. The appeal of this project lies in the clarity and focus of the planning, which places great emphasis on enhancing site lines and creating multiple indoor and outdoor rooms that act as new vistas seen from various vantage points throughout the house.
May and June this year is a bit of a[n exciting] switch up… Instead of my usual life and the usual monthly posts, I travelled through Europe and will be posting about my time spent exploring Istanbul, Greece, and France.
The beginning was Istanbul; seriously one of the most wonderful cities in the world. This is a place that architecture, food, and textiles reign supreme – in effect, it is exactly my kind of place!
I’ve been eyeing off the work of Herbst Architects for a few months now, so my only real issue today was in choosing which house to feature… Sometimes I feel as though I should be writing about the most recent, hot off the press architecture from around Australia and New Zealand, and then sometimes I find myself returning over and over to certain buildings, and that sometimes these buildings just aren’t brand spanking new. I don’t think that this really is a problem, I mean, good architecture should be some of the most lasting of all human creation, so surely a few years here or there doesn’t matter, right?
It does seem a bit odd, writing an article about colour on a colour that is a balanced combination of grey and beige, but alas, when we’re talking about houses we can’t be talking of rich, jaunty colour all the time now, can we? And let’s face it, most of us are a little reserved (perhaps timid) when it comes to choosing colour for our houses, but this doesn’t mean that the results have to be characterless. In fact, one of my favourite interior styles is derived from French country houses and it just happens to be that these spaces epitomise luxurious grey-beige.
This month I can’t go past this colour. Winter is coming and I am longing for rich, sumptuous, dark rooms that have the ability to somehow both embody and yet defy the blustery, wintery cold. It’s the complexity and depth of this colour that makes it work so well in this way. While pure dark blues can feel cold and dark greens a little stifled and old fashioned, deep blue-greens are just perfect. The green edge warms them, making them feel cosy and enveloping, whilst the blue undertones lift them to a certain level of elegance. For this reason, teal is a much more flexible colour than either of its parts alone. It can sway between coastal, country, bohemian, or Parisian-chic. It has the ability to work within many spaces of all sorts of influences.
Donkey Brown is a reasonably loose shade – meaning that you can use it a bit lighter, a bit darker, a bit greyer, a bit more saturated, or as a perfectly medium tone depending on your space. I used a classic medium tone for my lounge room, but one with quite a lot of brown in it. I tried the more grey versions and they just didn’t give me that unctuous feeling I was after. Below are a few examples of colours worth experimenting with, and how they look once luxuriously lathered over walls.
I’ve always enjoyed the work of Christopher Polly Architect. His practice is so aptly skilled at happily integrating the old and new, comfortably siting crisp black steel and white cladding up against old bricks and stone, and seamlessly refining exterior form to sit comfortably within its neighbouring architectural context.
This beautiful New York farm house has the most delicious interior. The colours are glorious ; confident, happy, summery, and playful. What’s so nice about this whole ensemble is almost the contradiction between the built form and its interior colour scheme. Whilst the architecture (by Sharon Architects) is traditional, the interiors tread a continually wobbling line between the presumed country house aesthetic and a much more vibrant edge. I just love this. I often think that I’d love to have a big old tradtional country house, and then I realise that I’m just not really that way inclined. I could certainly live with classic, subdued interiors and elegant finishes for a time, but I know that deep down, soon enough, it’d all just begin to feel a bit too reserved for me. Well, have I found the answer in Rafe!
This month a very calming and demure interior resultant of another successful collaboration between Robson Rak Architects and interior design firm Made by Cohen. Elwood House is a soothing retreat that draws upon classic interior elements and combines them with a light, contemporary touch to create spaces that feel warm and weightless.
This month, because I can’t decide on one (and because I just came across the most amazing range of paints by Marston & Langinger) I’ve decided to feature a collection of colours.
I’ve come across Wolveridge Architects quite a bit recently, and am almost consistently found to be entirely won-over by their elegantly restrained forms and wonderful materials palette. Indeed, I have to say that it’s quite rare that I find myself drawn to a piece of contemporary architecture as a result of a distinct sense of warmth emanating from within (seems, in some ways, a bit of an oxymoron; contemporary and warmth..), but it is true of the works of Wolveridge Architects, and especially so in the case of their Eltham South house.
This month I decided to be really bold and feature … white! In one way it seems a bit inside out and backward to feature such a colour here – in a realm that is all about rich saturation, depth, and character – and yet in another it seems essential given white’s huge popularity and its vast array of subtle undertones that can be close to imperceptible to identify and therefore implement to the untrained eye. So here I feature cool white, if not purely as an exploration of just one side of white’s character. I’d say that there are at least several broad categories of white that I could deal with, but starting with this one just seems right on a warm, sunny, breezy October day like today.
Sometimes I find myself drawn to strange things when I’m writing this segment. I begin to notice myself veering off in unpredictable directions and toward completely out of character destinations. It’s a strange phenomena that I can’t fully explain, except in the sense that there’s a lot of room to move in simply thinking about things for pleasure, and not having any further obligation to dissect, interpret, comprehend, or apply them. After years at university doing exactly this to exactly everything I looked at, these days I feel a great freedom to simply open up to things without any further underlying intention other than enjoyment.
I think this place is one of those things. In fact I recently went for a drive up through Merewether Heights and was reminded by a few examples along the road of just how good a good 1960’s house can be, so when I came across this I thought it would be a nice thing to explore. The architect is unknown, yet the house certainly speaks a clear language. I think what I like most about the house is that it would only work in this location. It’s very site specific, both in terms of its plan, landscaping, and interiors, and I think that this quality is always a sign of good architecture and interiors.Never, ever, would I normally advocate a high gloss interior floor tile, and yet here, in the arid heat, I think it’s perfect. Rarely, if at all, would I consider cool white, mint green, tangerine, and sunshine yellow a sensible or appealing interior colour palette – and yet here, it seems quite right. The whole house exudes a real sense of laid back sophistication and summery, linen-clad days by the pool. I feel like if I lived in Indian Wells, California, I would rather fancy stepping out from my usual self and spending my days in a place like this.
Evidently, this segment is becoming more and more inclusive, where I used to focus on a room, I then moved to covering entire interiors, and now I can’t help but just make it an all-encompassing look at a whole house. Having said that, there’s certainly a more light-hearted approach to things here than in House of the Month (for reasons explained above), but it’s becoming ever more clear that a house really should have a sense of character than runs through it’s entirety in order to properly make sense, and I think that’s another reason that this place seems to sit so nicely in the realm of successful space. It has a very simple design aesthetic which gives great clarity to the building, and certainly helps to instate the strong sense of calm that so readily envelops it.
I’m so glad that Emily Summers and her husband rescued this place from its 80’s deformations and reinstated its classic 60’s beauty, because it sure does look lovely now.All images from Architectural Digest
I got a bit excited when I saw this lovely little Paddington house by Adrian Amore Architects – for two reasons. Firstly, I have just realised that of all the focus I put on wonderful, contemporary, Australian Architecture, I have not yet featured a house from my home state of NSW – travesty! And then I noticed that AAArchitects are based in Melbourne; their Paddington house simply being a tasty diversion from their usual Melbourne-centric architectural works… I guess the NSW feature will have to come later!
Oh dear Lord. Sometimes I really think I belong in another place – aka, England, France, some other part of Europe, etc etc. It’s as though my English/Irish Heritage is really catching up to me now, and I simply need to be around these sort of spaces (I won’t go into my potential Punjabi heritage here, for that would only confuse things, although it does explain my constant talk of sunshine and heat…).
I love this house. The materiality really gets me. And the light. I’m such a sucker for a warm, sunny little space, I can’t help it, it just appeals so naturally to my inner sun lizard. This house, however, has more than mere sunlight. It has a lot. The planning is careful and yet generous, no-where attempting to squeeze in too much, yet never forgetting anything. Within its little footprint, the house offers a genuine sense of space, openness, and repose.
Last week we walked the dogs in a different part of town, and as usual, this meant that I spent most of the time snooping at all of the houses that up until this point I’d not been past slowly enough to look at in any great detail. This particular street is one of the best in Newcastle in terms of its physical location and the wondrous vistas it carries both northward across the city of Newcastle and its beautiful beaches, and southward towards the national parks that inhabit this stretch of coast just south of Merewether.
Upon this walk I came across a house I’d never noticed before – I don’t know how, except to say that perhaps it sits much more quietly on the street than many of the others, who tend to demand attention. Anyway, it was a lovely old Spanish revival place, just in the midst of being very delicately renovated, and had the most beautiful, traditional, semi-circular terracotta roof tiles (alongside other lovely considerations). There are so many poor (ugly) examples of terracotta roof tiles here in Australia that these ones seemed to so clearly describe why indeed we started using them in the first place. It’s like a lot of things I suppose, being that the original is often so much more simple, elegant, and admirable than its later, watered-down imitators.
This month, I’m back to sunny Brisbane, probably because the cold has now thoroughly set in here in NSW and with winter being my least favourite time of year (save for the novelty of dressing in lovely big coats), I feel an innate need to plant my mind somewhere characteristically warm and bright.
Indeed, this is another contemporary Queenslander; a space which bounces between inside and out, constantly eroding the edge between both, so that at any moment the architecture might slip into the guise of landscape and vice versa. This is such a clever approach to contemporary living for many reasons, but the most pragmattic (and as it happens, environmentally sustainable) is that it genuinely negates the relevance of sprawling square meterage, allowing for a smaller overall footprint, therefore inciting lower quantities of construction materials and a lessened overall environmental impact. It also leaves more room for grass, trees, and fresh air – what’s not to like?!
In 1965, Bunny and Paul Mellon built and decorated this incredible slice of French paradise designed by architect H. Page Cross in the heart of New York. The pair had a formidable sense of style and grace, owning several stunning estates, all of whom continue to exude the most enviable sense of warm and comfortable sophistication. The interiors of their Manhattan townhouse are the result of serious collaboration between several heavy weight designers, including [but not limited to] Paul Leonard, William Strom, John Fowler, Bruce Budd, and Bunny herself. The house is not only architecturally wonderful, but full of the character that years of collected art and furniture bring to a space. It really is a sight to be seen, and when I stumbled across the house via Architectural Digest and Sotherby’s real estate (up for sale for the at once ludicrous and yet absolutely deserved and dignified $43M) I fell into the world of late 20C New York interior design, and to be honest I would rather never retreat… Ahh, if only!
I’m not sure why it’s taken me quite so long to feature this colour; it is one of my personal favourites (you might recongnise it on this website!) and a wonderfully versatile shade. Eau de Nil is inherently restful and calming, evocative of the seaside, pristine springtime flowers, and fresh morning dew. It works with so many varying interior styles precisely because of this broad reference base. And despite its beautiful watery blue-green lustre, it really is almost a neutral, and so can sit comfortably as a backdrop to many interior settings. Furthermore, Eau de Nil is ractually more of a colour palette than an individual hue – ranging from fresh greens to watery blues – and can therefore be applied in any one of its incarnations as suited to your space.
Even the best of us architects are unable to defy the beguiling glances of rigorous, pure, geometric forms. Nor can we honestly turn away from the alluring lustre of robust, masculine, metallic things. And I do not believe for a moment that we are capable of retreating from shiny, wondrously lit objects…
In many ways then, it’s not surprising that lighting is such a fascinating and delicious thing to all of us. It doesn’t t simply come down to the form of the object itself either – as designers and live-rs in this world we know and want for the power of inviting, soul-warming light, and we know that there is no such thing a a meager substitute for a perfectly lit room.
Only recently did I discover Auhaus, a small Australian architecture firm with a focus on finely crafted detail and a meticulous approach to materiality. In fact, they are so fussed about the details that they seem to be gradually developing their own range of interior elements; including lighting and door hardware. This practice’s interior spaces are so thoroughly thought through, and this is what fascinates me so about them.
Not that long ago I came across Studio John Irving Architect and was immediately impressed by their understated, yet somehow supremely confident design sensibilities. Waiheke Beach House is a great example of this – at once spacious, engaging, and subtle. Nothing about this space is boastful or showy, and yet I can’t help but feel jealous of the lucky people who get to call it theirs!
I recently read an article which said that one of the biggest mistakes DIYers make in updating their interiors is in choosing yellow as a wall colour. Well, this upset me! I mean, I can see where one might go wrong in this department, but when it’s right, it’s so right. So I thought I’d better put together some options for those of you who are as awed by yellow as me, but aren’t exactly sure of how to use it. As as you might imagine, dealing with yellow walls is a matter of selecting the right kind of shade, and as a general rule, a bold, primary yellow just won’t work – we so want to ensure after all that you don’t end up living in a lego house! If you do love bright, bold yellows, consider choosing furniture or soft furnishings in these shades, as they’ll be less dominating, and yet just as powerful a design element.
Each year The Australian Interior Design Awards “recognise and celebrate interior design excellence via a credible, industry-based program, which is backed by the Design Institute of Australia, the professional body representing Australian designers”. The awards are open to any design professional within Australia and can include projects from all over the world.
I’ve always appreciated the architecture of James Russell for their attention to detail and infinitely fine craftsmanship, as well as for their oft ingenious approach to the contemporary way of living. With an underlying focus on genuinely considering what one does and doesn’t really need from a Queenslander, the firm produce some wonderful examples of the contemporary verandah houses – those which Glenn Murcutt opened the world to back in the early days of world-class Australian Architecture. “A shelter can be as simple as a roof to shield the summer sun or a wall to protect from winter winds. The experiences derived from a building which allows you to interact with the environment, outweigh the occasional discomforts that may occur by not having “complete control” of the environment.” Of course, in designing houses which are at once inside and out, threshold spaces begin to take on a crucial role, and this is where James Russell Architect consistently prove themselves to be considerate, aware, and highly diligent designers.
This Thursday I will be doing a brief talk at The Architecture Foundation’s Annual Sponsor Event. The Architecture Foundation run the Parker Fellowship (previously the Eric Parker Travelling Scholarship, as it was known when I received the prize) and year after year go to the huge and wonderful effort of funding a travelling scholarship for one Newcastle University architecture student who shows great potential, interest and dedication. This award is about seeing, thinking and drawing, and literally changes lives. It is the most beautiful initiative, created in memory of Eric Parker, once a great influence in the Architecture Faculty of Newcastle University.