studio sisu

Friday, 10 October 2014

I discovered Mairead Murphy's workspace, Studio Sisu, via her Instagram. Drawn to the generosity of daylight, the openness of the plan, the pristine styling and the artfully dishevelled character of the original warehouse, I've been absolutely hankering to see it in the flesh.



The delightfully down-to-earth Mairead (pronounced Mah-ray-d, I found out the embarrassing way) was kind enough to show me around. The space proved to be just as striking in reality. Entering through a small courtyard, Mairead emerged through a pair of large antique doors. We headed straight upstairs to the main workspace, where the shift in natural light conditions made it all the more dramatic. With a generous lounge area, large communal table for both meetings and breakout, plus the more private "phone-call" swing, this is the kind of space that would make the daily experience of coming to work an exciting one.









Mairead shared a few stories about the pieces in the space. We chatted about the re-upholstered arm chair she found on the side of the road years ago, the antique doors she had restored and the stories behind the various artworks. Perhaps that's what makes this space so interesting for me. It raises the bar for workspaces, treating the space as a place for living and not just working.








It's clear that it took hard work and determination to get Studio Sisu to where it is today. Mairead and her partner bought the space as a run down warehouse shell seven years ago. It sat idle for five years while they furiously saved. They abandoned the original plan to convert it into their home and instead turned it into Studio Sisu, to coincide with Mairead launching her own practice. They did as much of the physical labour as they could, seeking external help for joinery and services. That's a lot of time, sweat and personal energy invested into this little studio.

Studio Sisu is truly breathtaking and I think that has a lot to do with Mairead's sharp eye, many talents, hard work and inspiring determination. If this is anything to go by, I can't wait to see what emerges from her young practice.


saint louie hair, russell place

Friday, 26 September 2014



Saint Louie hair salon is one of a string of tenancies at Nonda Katsalidis’ "Little Hero" development on Russell Place. The development is a rare example of a new build that naturally contributes to the charm of Melbourne’s more established laneway network. Stepping off Bourke st, there's something seductive about Russell Place's quieter voice, more generous sense of time and collection of cosy interiors.









I was surprised to hear that design professionals were absent from the process of Saint Louie's fitout. Instead, the interior design was concocted by the salon’s partners, Jean-Paul and Ivan Constable. Working to a tight frame, the process was a flurry of creative collisions. You’d never know it, since the space hangs together so cohesively. Perhaps that fiery passion allowed the owners to critically sieve out the best ideas, whilst ultimately striving for the same end goal.




Connecting with the salon’s approach to hair, the interior is earthy and natural. A lusciously tactile palette of rendered walls, river rock and raw timber ground the space. Low level lighting strung from above is polite on the eyes. Vintage pieces are scattered throughout, steering the space away from an overly polished aesthetic. The whole space feels rather effortless. 

 It's pretty clear the Saint Louie team's eye for hair translates to an eye for interiors. 


The Commons, Brunswick

Wednesday, 17 September 2014


I think I found it. Urban living utopia, that is. Jodi Newcombe, founder and Director of Carbon Arts, was kind enough to show me through her apartment at The Commons in Brunswick.

Designed by Breathe Architecture, The Commons has quickly become the poster child of sustainable multi-res development. With social and environmental sustainability at the forefront of every design decision, this eight-star rated building stands miles apart from your typical speculative developer project. The result is an eco-village filled with impressive facilities, liveable spaces and a palpable sense of community. The fact that Breathe’s director, Jeremy McCleod proudly calls this place his home is testament to his utter belief and commitment to the project.

Walking through the entry, Jodi explains that the bricks were recycled from the building that once occupied the site. The flecks of old graffiti are scattered across the wall; a romantic gesture hinting at the building’s history as well as a means of minimizing landfill. A blackboard notice board on the wall reads “Please be careful not to spill bin juice on the floor, makes me sad [insert sad face]” accompanied by smiling cartoon animations. The tone is wildly different to the neighbourly conduct I've seen in my time.










We continue through to an enormous bicycle storage facility. Due to strong public transport connectivity and proximity to local shops, the project team convinced council that bicycle parking could be provided in lieu of carparking. The residents also have access to a car share program parked in front of the block. I’m sure this was no easy feat and fortunately, the successful battle sets a precedent for future projects.

We then took the lift up to the roof terrace which includes the roof top garden (supported by an in-house compost system), photovoltaic panels, large communal outdoor living area and even a bee hive. Oh yes, and the rooftop is blessed with absolutely killer 360degree views over Melbourne. At this point I’m wondering how this place is even real.

We finally arrive at Jodi’s apartment. A 72sqm two bedroom space (with one bedroom converted into a study). On top of this, Jodi has 20sqm of outdoor space spread across two balconies and a central courtyard. The impression of spaciousness is immediate, with generous doses of natural light and ventilation filtering through.



Reduction of materials and processes drove much of the interior design. The concrete ceiling is exposed, giving the added benefit of taller ceilings. The bathroom has raw concrete floors and copper tapware, eliminating the chroming process. Recycled timber was sourced from a range of sites for the flooring, meaning the species in each apartment varies. Joinery is made from unfinished formply with simple cutouts in place of joinery knobs.







Admittedly, I had seen photos of The Commons unfurnished and was concerned it might be a little hard and cold. However, Jodi’s apartment well and truly dispelled that as myth. In fact, the raw materiality injects the space with soul and unique sense of character. It’s a beautiful, homely space to be in and if it were mine, I would happily live there long term.

Although commercial success wasn’t the sole driving force for this project, The Commons has proven that this kind of development has legs. I was excited to hear that Breathe are planning a second development of a similar vein, and there are murmurings of others planning similar developments, using The Commons as a model. It’s so exciting to see this initiative create a shift at a broader scale and raising the bar for apartment living.

In all honesty, The Commons was one of the most inspirational buildings I’ve ever visited. I would encourage every architect, interior designer, developer and curious soul to find their way in. The good news? Jodi’s place is listed on Airbnb. Huzzah! Now please form an orderly queue.

  



high court, canberra

Thursday, 29 May 2014



One thing that Canberra has above other Australian cities are grandiose civic buildings. Edwards Madigan Torzillo Briggs' design for the High Court must be one of this country's finest examples of Brutalist Architecture.

Built in the 1970s, the building is a grand hall with three courts suspended internally and a series of ramps and stairs linking between. The structure is predominantly concrete, with glass draped across one face of the forty metre tall building.

The concrete in the main hall has been formed with sculptural details that are finely detailed but strong and robust in character. The waffled ceilings, chamfered reveals around openings and gently curving edges sent me and my camera into quite the frenzy.







island preview

Monday, 26 May 2014


Development for the Melbourne season of Island starts again! I'll be busy working away in the theatre, this time transforming the space at Dancehouse.

Here is a tiny teaser of the space from the Canberra season. The first season was a success - read some very kind words in this review. So I'm looking forward to sharing this work in my home city. If you want to check it out, booking details can be found here.

PS. Did you notice that the ol' blog has new clothes?
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