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    Studio Visit: Samara Greenwood Architecture

    By Keely Malady

    Samara Greenwood and Anna Castles outside SGArch’s studio/pavilion – Photo by Martina Gemmola.

    Samara Greenwood and Anna Castles outside SGArch’s studio/pavilion.

    Samara Greenwood Architecture is a young, boutique architectural practice focused on creating homes with heart. Founded by CWC Member Samara Greenwood, under her direction the team have an approach to design that is without pretense and is firmly focused on people – their hopes, dreams and everyday way of life.

    What inspired you to start your own practice?
    In many ways, the business began itself. My youngest daughter was nine months old when I was asked to help a couple who were struggling to understand the architectural process.

    While I originally only agreed to help scope out their needs and prepare a brief, I fell in love with the project and decided then and there to use it as inspiration to create a more ‘user friendly’ architecture and design practice.

    Model making experiments during a recent Dream Home Workshop.

    Model making experiments during a recent Dream Home Workshop.

    The SGArch.'s practice philosophy encourages listening and sharing of ideas.

    The SGArch.’s practice philosophy encourages listening and sharing of ideas.

    ‘Listen’ and ‘Heart’ are quite unusual key words in an architectural firm’s mission statement – why are these important to you?
    The focus on ‘listen’ actually came from a workshop attendee – who commented how great it was to spend the day with talented architects who listen. We were so taken with what he said that we have used it as a kind of motto ever since!

    A lot of the time I meet people whose experience with Architects has been more difficult than it needs to be, where the designer’s vision has taken over and the client feels forgotten in the process. I wanted to create the kind of practice that I would want to engage as a client. Listening is critical to that process, balancing our skills in understanding our clients with our expertise in translating their needs into beautiful designs that work for them.

    In that same sense, the ultimate aim for us is to find the ‘heart’ in each design, to produce beautiful pieces of architecture with the ‘human factor’ built right into the core.

    What factors drove you and Anna (Castles) to start the Dream Home Workshops?
    Anna and I met whilst working at the same architectural firm many years ago and have been friends ever since. Over lunch one day, I was describing to Anna the new methods I was developing to understand my client’s needs at a deeper level. She then simply stated ‘that would make a great workshop’ – and so the adventure began!

    Both Anna and I love the conversations that arise during the workshop. We are amazed at how much the attendees get from each other, as well as from us. I know they appreciate the opportunity to spend a whole day with two architects who are willing to talk about pretty much anything (oh and we do!). It is a really warm and open experience, designed to make people comfortable with both the design process and with figuring out what they really want and need from their home.

    The Dream Home Workshops are held at our tree-top studio in Ivanhoe. Again, people tell us this is a really great part of the day, as they get to step outside of their normal, everyday lives and have quality time in a beautiful, inspiring environment. We do love it when they say that!

    Scrapbooking of a dream home

    Scrapbooking of a dream home

    A Dream Home Workshop participant trying their hand at model making.

    A Dream Home Workshop participant trying their hand at model making.

    Who are your typical clients, and why do you think they are drawn to SGArch’s new approach to architecture and design?
    We attract a broad range of clients, but there are some common factors we are beginning to notice; when they first come to us, most clients feel ‘stuck’ in some way – perhaps they have lots of ideas but don’t know which ones will work best, or maybe they know what they want and need someone who can translate those dreams into a great design – whatever it is, our job is to help them get ‘unstuck’ and moving forward to their goals.

    Our clients want a home that works beautifully, is well built and feels amazing – what we call the dream home trifecta. Many clients haven’t been through the architectural process before and aren’t sure what to expect, so we take them through what is involved as clearly and concisely as we can. We love how pleased and surprised they are by the detail we go to, and how involved they feel in the evolution of the design from start to finish.

    How do you approach the next step, making ‘dream home’ aspirations a reality?
    The first step in any project, small or large, is exploring all the (many!) factors that are taken into account to determine the best design strategy.

    Basically, we listen, ask a lot of questions, and then more questions about the answers to those questions, then do some research, then try a few ideas out, then ask more questions, until both we and our clients feel we’ve hit on the best course of action. This is a process that takes a fair bit of experience and intuition to navigate, but is so much fun at the same time! We call it our ‘house doctor’ strategy – you tell us your problems and, together, we’ll find the cure.

    The Dream Home Workshop's are held at SGArch’s studio pavilion in Ivanhoe, with  stunning views of the Darebin Parklands and CBD.

    The Dream Home Workshop’s are held at SGArch’s studio pavilion in Ivanhoe, with stunning views of the Darebin Parklands and CBD.

    Find Samara and the Dream Home Workshops online at www.sgarch.com.au, or on Instagram @samara_greenwood.

    Keely Malady is a twenty-something year old graduate architect living in Melbourne. Her passions include art, design and the environment, both built and natural. Keely’s blog, Small Talk & Co., is on a mission to share the brilliance of big hearted entrepreneurial thinkers from around Melbourne and Australia with the world. Find Keely on Twitter and Instagram @keelymalady or on Facebook /smalltalkco.

    {All photos by Martina Gemmola}

    Posted by: Tess McCabe
    Categories: bricks & mortar, interview, virtual visit, women in architecture | Comments Off
    Posted on

    My Advice: Finding Inspiration (when you’re in a rut)

    By Lizzie Stafford


    {Photo by Emily Nelson}

    It seems fitting that it took me a while to get started on this introduction, and that in the meantime I had to get up and make a cup of tea. A creative rut can strike at any time, whether you’re writing a blog post, starting a painting, composing a song or mere hours away from a client deadline. I asked an illustrator, painter, musician and creator how they find inspiration when they’re having ‘one of those days’.

    Allow it.

    Helen Franzmann, musician, McKisko

    “I am stuck in a creative rut. I have been for some time. I’ve never been the kind of person who can turn songwriting on. I respond negatively to external pressures and I’m stubborn. I know what I need to do but sometimes the desert that is the rut becomes so consuming I avoid even picking up an instrument. So, to give advice on how to shift this is confronting for me because I’m in it and my biggest obstacle is myself.

    Generally I…
    Allow it.
    Look at art books and go to exhibitions.
    Hang out with people that inspire me.
    Write in the mornings when I’m still a bit dream struck.
    Don’t expect everything to become something.
    Actively listen.
    Take good notes.
    Avoid social media and internet wormholes.

    Wish me luck.”

    Move, do and observe details.

    Jade Suine, creator, Forget Cake

    “Creative inspiration is a sum of everything I have taken in and the connections I make between it all; it sets me abuzz when it catches me off-guard but kick-starting creativity on cue can be oh-so daunting. There are 3 things that prove almost fool-proof for me however: moving, doing, and observing details.

    Whether it’s walking to my day job in the morning and thinking of script ideas or scrawling notes while I’m on the train or in an aeroplane, I find the act of moving, or more so, going somewhere, to be very conducive to creating. During my creative thinking studies I’ve even had to admit that exercise helps. Perhaps while the primal part of our brain is ticking over in rhythmic motion other parts of our brain are free to produce the esteemed juice!

    I also find that good ideas can become spectacular through doing; decent work can only grow into something sensational through actually making it. As hard as it can be to get started, iteration and experimentation are at the heart of creating, they are the framework, fuel and the fun part!

    While doing all this moving, testing and doing, I try to make sure I observe. Exploring through my camera, sketching an amazing shape I see, noting down the something that can potentially be a starting point for the next project or a better version of what I’m already making.”

    Jade work2

    Make a mess cleaning, tidy it, then go for a short walk.

    Carolyn O’Neill, artist

    “The act of starting on a painting can sometimes be daunting.  I generally start one by cleaning out my paint bowls and making quite a mess, but it’s my starting point. When stuck for inspiration I might tidy up the studio, go for a short walk to clear my head, taking in the scenery around me. Coffee breaks are good too, as sometimes you just need to get out of the studio.

    Quick sketches on paper also help as does swapping your dominant hand to paint or draw. Holding the end of the brush so you have less control and writing down thoughts and ideas can be useful. Background music can set the mood for inspiration.”



    Break the problem down into smaller steps.

    Emily Nelson, illustrator

    “Working from home and freelancing full time means that I have to stay motivated and switch my creative brain on even if I’m not in the mood. When I’m having trouble creating new work, I set up a nice clean space, a cup of tea, and maybe some music and write down all of the things that I like at the moment in a notebook. I write down objects, colours, descriptive words, themes, anything that I’m interested in. Then I find that ideas start to emerge from my lists and I can start to draw little sketches and form ideas for new art works. Sometimes if I’m really stuck, I look through old notebooks and pick up forgotten ideas. I also make cheesy, motivational art works and display them around my studio as a reminder to stick at it.

    When I’m working on a commissioned project and I hit a creative brain freeze, it’s usually because something is challenging me. I often freeze up when my work becomes hard and I don’t know how to solve a problem. When this happens I always break the problem down into smaller steps and it becomes much easier to manage. For dealing with stress related brain freeze, I take a long walk in the morning before I start work and take tea breaks when my work gets tired, which helps me to regroup and find clarity. My brain gets cluttered and needs some space to think sometimes! It may sound like procrastination, but de-cluttering my studio really helps me to get into a creative mind set. My studio gets really messy during a project and when I’m finished I clean up and start fresh for the next project. And in the case of an emergency creative brain freeze, I jump in the shower. I usually come up with lots of ideas in there.”


    Lizzie Stafford is a freelance writer and editor and owns and runs Künstler, an independent magazine and bookstore based in Winn Lane, Brisbane. She is the Brisbane events coordinator for CWC.

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    Posted by: Lizzie Stafford
    Categories: my advice, regular columns | Comments Off