What inspired the design? Where do you look for inspiration?
I probably relied more on intuition than inspiration for this design. Looking at the original early 20th-century house with its Art Deco details and the late-20th-century addition at the back, and knowing that I had to work within the existing shell, it occurred to me that we had to improve the layout and rejuvenate the interior while finding a way to tie everything together.
Inspiration is a complex topic that’s hard to summarise in a few words. Ideas come to me when any number of externalities (location, history, context, conversations with the client, etc.) interact with the sum total of my knowledge, experience, and inner life at that point. I know it sounds bombastic, but that’s actually a reasonably accurate description of how it works for me.
Can you tell us a bit about the design process?
In the early design phase, I usually spend a lot of time drawing over the existing plan and studying photos of the existing building. The more I draw, the better I come to understand the problem, and the better I know what may and may not work. The solution tends to reveal itself once I have done enough of this.
One thing that might not be that evident from a cursory look at the finished project is the three-dimensional problem of where and how the three different eras meet. Much of it was resolved in the design and documentation phases, but some of the detailing had to be tackled on site during construction. A surprising amount of structural reinforcement was required in altering the walls, and you don’t really see it because we had a builder who understood the design intent and contributed his knowledge and experience to help resolve those details.
What were some of the key materials?
How important is material and colour selection to the project?
I love toying with materials as much as the next architect, but this particular project called for a restraint, which actually made the choices especially important. My aim was to use the new renovation to stitch the two prior eras of the house together so that the finished house would feel less disjointed, while also brighter and warmer.
The use of timber and warm white throughout the house helped to tie everything together, while common but classic patterns were deliberately used to complement, and not compete with the existing art deco features. I always felt that having the cabinet knobs plated in brass would be a small but crucial detail. Fortunately, the clients were supportive of this idea, as the material alludes to the history of the house, and I think something intangible but important would be missing otherwise.
Early on in the project, the clients suggested having the study look a bit different to the rest of the house, and I’m glad that this was carried through to the end. We went over paint samples together in the room after the plaster went up, and I’m really happy with the outcome.
What is special about this project?
I have been interested in simplicity and restraint for a long time, so it was a privilege to be given the opportunity to put that approach into practice. Not everyone sees value in doing less. Any architect will tell you that taking a project from design to construction can be a long and difficult process, and in this case, I was lucky to have had clients who understood and trusted me, as well as a skilled builder who was committed to a good result.
Architect: Jos Tan
Builder: Oli Dredge
Structural engineer: R. Bliem and Associates
Brunswick West, VIC