Ascot Vale House

Interior Design Projects: The Initial Stages + Engaging an Architect

The Processes Involved and Services Available
Our interior design services are most often engaged in conjunction with our architectural services. Though other circumstances may involve client’s purchasing a new house where they want to adjust interiors to allow an infusion of their own style. Quite often, if clients have lived in a house for a long time but have entered a different life phase (a growing family, older children moving out, retirement etc.), rather than opting for a total renovation or moving to something smaller or larger, a refurbishment of interiors can be a great way to respond to changed needs, especially when a client is working with a lower budget. In other projects, clients have contacted us when the finishes in their home feel a bit dated or worn. Adjusting some key elements in the interior of these client’s homes can allow a house to be refreshed, increasing the usability of spaces and the joy in inhabiting them.

The key items to consider in the initial stages of an interior design based project is setting a budget and time frame. It will always be beneficial to identify any other constraints that may affect the project.  A consideration that can assist in establishing a budget and time frame is a process of prioritisation where the client identifies what’s most important in the project.

Another process that can be initiated even before approaching a professional, is establishing a way to communicate your personal style and what you want to bring to your home. This, along with thoughts around the actual usability of spaces and where this is currently lacking can greatly benefit an architect or designer’s ability to promptly meet your needs. A lot of clients will come to us with images cut out of magazines. Once we formalise the project, we set up a shared Pinterest board. Working as a digital scrapbook, Pinterest helps to effectively communicate ideas throughout the project.

Engaging an Architect Rather Than an Interior Designer or Draftsperson
We feel that it can be greatly beneficial to engage an architect rather than an interior designer or draftsperson for jobs of this scale. As architects, we approach interior design more broadly, so the scheme never just involves interior decorating. We look at things like where the light’s coming from, the access to outside etc. and will be able to identify opportunities where say, a new window somewhere may dramatically improve a space. An architect will also have a better understanding of structure and services which will allow a better ability to push and challenge the limitations of a projects scope. In our office, we don’t see interior design, architecture, and landscape architecture as being dissimilar. They shouldn’t be considered separately if a cohesive response is going to be found.

An Architect has the skills and ability to look at the whole house and the whole project. Amelda in our office explains that often a client might be thinking ‘I want my living and dining rooms revamped’ though in some cases the issues effecting the usability of a home are bigger than that. “I think we’re skilled at being able to identify the issues on a larger scale, a project might not only need a couch to be replaced but a whole room to be reorganised, or even rooms repurposed within the house.” Overall, an Architect can draw on and apply skills that are developed through the involvement in larger scale architectural projects allowing a broader based knowledge to be the foundation behind interior design skills. When considering cost management, Paul the director of our firm believes that, as Architects, “we have a great knowledge of costs. We’re skilled at managing budgets because we do it all the time throughout the process of designing buildings and getting them built.”

Click here to view a range of our recent residential projects that all incorporated our interior design service.


Interior Design Projects: A Kitchen & Living Area Renovation in Ascot Vale

A recent project that involved internal, interior based works, was in a family home in Ascot Vale. The project is a great example of how smaller aesthetic changes can make monumental differences to the experience of a home. The client first approached us with the main concern being the aesthetics of the living, dining and kitchen areas of their house that they’d lived in for over 20 years. This encompassed the entire rear area which was very dated and very dark.


Before: the dated, dark kitchen.                            After: the new kitchen in adjusted location

The focus of the project was influenced by a few different factors. Firstly, the existing front section of the house encompasses more traditional rooms including bedrooms and a more formal sitting room which didn’t really need work.  They were also going through a life transition as their kids had moved out and the house no longer accommodated their lifestyle. The clients are big entertainers and the way the house was, didn’t allow that to happen in an easy fashion. One of the clients is an artist and wanted to have a dedicated studio space.

PROPOSED PLANThe living spaces in the home were already generally open plan but, in order to improve the relationship between each area, a bit of shifting of the living, dining and kitchen zones was necessary. The kitchen was on the north side without any windows. The initial design decisions were in response to a typical passive solar design approach where we wanted to open up the north side with windows. This would also improve the view, which looks across the Maribyrnong River valley. By moving the kitchen to where the sitting room was, the whole space could then open up and address the outside to the north and east. The design process also involved looking at how we could use the space more effectively. For example, using the space under the stairs more efficiently by placing an open pantry underneath it.


Above: A pantry under the stairs is one example of reworking poorly used spaces to increase usable floor area.

The pallet of selections was kept quite simple and the place now feels light, fresh and calming. Darker toned floor coverings including timber floor boards and rubber in the kitchen, created a crisp contrast between the floors and the rest of the selections that are much lighter. The addition of new lighting assisted with creating a new feel in the spaces that was much more customisable depending on the occasion.

The renovation was completed entirely within the existing building fabric besides a small extension to allow for a window box seat. This made the living room a lot more functional as the space wasn’t quite wide enough to allow for an adequate sitting area. The seat is sunny and highly used with plenty of storage underneath. A unit that allows the television to be hidden was also important due to the proximity to the dining room.


Above: the new living area with a window box seat and a television hidden within a joinery unit.

Improving the connection to the outside by adding double doors onto the deck also helped enhance the overall feel and usability of the space. The servery in the kitchen also brings in the outside and encourages the connection between the indoor and outdoor zones.


Above: Connection to outside was improved by adding double doors and a servery window in the kitchen.

In regards to the budget, the clients did eventually spend a bit more than they anticipated. There was an ongoing process of ensuring that costs went towards things that gave a real ‘wow-factor.’ The intention was to not stray from the underlying intention of improving areas that would create an increased return when they eventually sell. In a project like this, you don’t often end up overcapitalising. You’re refreshing finishes in an understated way, not adding more area. You’re re-working what’s there which allows the space to function well – enhanced by the interior colours, finishes and details.

Click here to read more about this project in an article by the team at Houzz. There’s also a few more before shots in the comments below.


Interior Design Projects: Budget & Project Scale Considerations

Clients will often approach us with hopes of improving the liveability of their homes though will have concerns of overcapitalizing their properties. More often than not, our professional opinion is that if you are going to be there for another 5 to 10 years, it doesn’t matter too much. You’ll capitalise that expenditure over time and enjoy living in it. If you do something that’s well designed, that suits your needs, that will naturally attract a fairly large sector of the market later when you do sell. We recommend not designing with future occupiers in mind unless you’re selling soon. Overall, there can be a balance and a reduction in risk of overcapitalising when a client doesn’t make their home too specific for them but rather, rely on us as professionals to make that space work no matter who’s using it. Good design will always come back to the intentions of efficiency and usability. Which is a priority that quite often, comes above looking good. Looking good comes as a natural predecessor.

De Carlo Images

If you’re considering an interior design based project, doing a bit of research is always helpful so that you can arrive at an initial meeting being able to communicate your ideas and what you want to achieve clearly. We find that it’s better if a client has a brief that’s outcome based rather than specific. If we have a brief that says, “We really want the space to be better connected to the rest of the house, large, fresh and open.” There will be several ways of achieving that and we would test those ideas.

Another common thing we hear clients saying is “we don’t want to do something that will go out of date.” Our approach is that good design, including good interior design, will stand the test of time. In ten years, you may have something that was designed in 2018, but it will still be a nice space that’s enjoyable to be in. This differs from following fashions that come and go with a much shorter lifespan. Paul our director explains, “I think the key to good design is responding to the space and the situation. If you respond to it in the correct way, then something’s not going to date.”

Though an understanding of current fashions is important, our design approach tends to be client based rather than trend based. Some people are more flamboyant in their selections, while others more pared back. It’s also reflecting on the fact that no one is going to replace all their furniture, change who they are, how they dress, or how they reflect their personality in their living space. Quite often, it’s a balance of infusing a personality into a space while also considering the extra layers that come into a space once it’s inhabited.

  • Builder:
    Jias Malpco
  • Joiner:
    Leonard Interiors
  • Structural Engineer:
    Brock Consulting Pty. Ltd.
  • Photographer:
    Rory Gardiner

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