Simplicity served with dash of surprise

29 Jan 2019

“We don’t all dress the same, so why should we live the same?” asked Humphrey Homes in-house architect Helen Marchesani when she caught up with The West Australian's New Homes team this week.

Ms Marchesani, who leads the design team at the Cottesloe-based architecture and building company, said Humphrey Homes' mantra was restraint, elegance and simplicity – with a healthy dose of the unexpected so often sought in the high-end custom homebuilding market.

“Our clients understand simplicity in architecture does not mean simple,” she said.

“Our architecture is thoughtful and deliberate. It should have a strong sense of purpose and delight but it does not need to be showy or over the top to achieve that.

“Approaching the discipline with that attitude is key to delivering the desired result, and it’s what makes my job so rewarding.”

Architecture can be bold and impressionable, but the core purpose in Ms Marchesani’s eyes is to serve the client and meet their needs.

“My purpose as an architect is to be a conduit, a solution-finder,” she said.

“My work is so often about the client and rarely about me, although I usually want to live in their home by the end. Some of the clients want rich, traditional materials, others want bold lines; my job is to decipher what they want based on their way of life and then make it come alive.”

To do this, Ms Marchesani sits down with the client to get a feel for what they want and how that might be achieved.

“The process is very organic – it literally starts with a sketch pad and pen and I draw as the clients talk,” she said.

“It’s collaborative and dynamic. What it means is we are all on the same page from the get-go.

“It’s a creative way of working that embraces differences and marries them with function, and it is a very fulfilling way to work, particularly as the relationship with the clients often turns into friendship along the way.”

The process is unique and individualised, but Ms Marchesani said there were five criteria which subconsciously presented themselves when coming up with a personalised solution. The home must have:

  • Good natural light
  • Good orientation
  • Good spatial relationships
  • Good site presence
  • Ultimately, it must feel good.

“As an example, I am working on a project in Mosman Park at present that has a dark timber tunnel, charred using the Japanese shou-sugi ban technique, which opens up to a light-filled rear living space with ceilings almost 4m in height,” Ms Marchesani said.

“It is a home that balances dramatic contrasts with simple liveability, and just feels good.”

Being in-house at Humphrey Homes allows Ms Marchesani to fully immerse herself in the project.

“It’s not a common way of working, but has been met with great enthusiasm from clients and colleagues because it means everything runs in tandem,” she said.

“It’s not just the architecture that runs in parallel, the entire administrative process including costing, drafting and interior design operates that way too. Working in-house means I get to work with one unified team which is an efficient and enjoyable way to design and build a home.”

The real winner in this regard, according to Ms Marchesani, is the client.

“It’s a symbiotic process where the outcome is transparent and 100 per cent clear to all involved from the start,” she said.

“There is a very unified goal to balance time, cost and quality to deliver what the client wants, plus have the ability to visually change things up along the way – just for fun.”

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Humphrey Homes is an architecture and building company based in Cottesloe.  As a Perth local architect and builder, Humphrey Homes primarily designs and builds homes in Cottesloe, Dalkeith, Peppermint Grove, Nedlands, Subiaco and Floreat. 

This story first appeared in The West Australian New Homes liftout on January 26, 2019.