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    Interview: Allison Smith, architect


    By Emma Clark

    Allison Smith is the woman behind Studio 15b, a boutique architecture studio based in Brisbane. With over 20 years experience in architecture, Allison branched out and began her own practice in 2013. You can follow her work on Instagram and Facebook.

    What drew you to becoming an architect, and to doing what you’re doing today?

    Architecture was the main idea that stuck in my mind as a possible career path during high school.  It’s a profession where every day is different, every project is different and as an Architect we are required to continue to learn and adapt to changes in the world. The variety is what keeps me going and motivated in this challenging industry.

    I’ve worked in small, medium and large firms in Brisbane and London, which has seen me work on a large variety of projects from small alterations and additions, new large homes, multi-residential developments, heritage buildings, community, commercial, train stations and education projects.  Seeing a project from the very initial client meeting through to the finished constructed project can take years but it makes it all worthwhile when you see the final product.

    I have most recently established my own small practice – Studio 15b.  In two and a half years I have built a small team but would like to expand this team in the future.  Having my own practice is an enjoyable challenge and I’m glad I took the plunge.  I feel that Studio 15b is able to provide a personalised service as a small practice that is backed by big practice experience.

    Allison Smith_Studio 15b


    Can you give us a little insight into your creative process?

    One of my design strengths is being able to take the disorder and sometimes confusion of a client’s brief, along with all the other constraints that comes with building and then reorganise to give it purpose and reason.  Whether those constraints are budget related, to do with the site or council, I enjoy testing the options to produce one clear concept that fits the brief and the constraints best.

    Creating interest and flair while fulfilling the brief is key.  We continually test ideas with form until we are happy with the results, before we present to the client what we feel is the best solution for a project.  I’m a very considered designer and prefer simple, refined solutions. The simplest solutions are often the hardest to achieve but I prefer not to take the easy road. I like designing the most efficient solutions that are not necessarily what the client imaged but end up fulfilling the brief even better than they could have anticipated.  This clearly demonstrates the value of our service to them.

    Who is your typical customer/client?

    Our clients could roughly be allocated into three types each with totally different needs.  We have a good understanding of each of their different needs and what they require from a project perspective.  We enjoy the variety that each client brings.

    Typically our residential clients have generally never been involved in a building project.  For these clients we spend a great deal of time educating them in the process.  This helps them better understand and gives some reassurance to what can be a stressful process for them. It is our job to guide them through.  We are given a lot of trust, with in most cases their biggest investment – we value and respect this.  Design decisions are very personal choices and we aim to guide as well as collaborate with our clients.

    Our multi-residential clients are generally developers with a range of experience.  We tailor the service to their needs.  Personal considerations are not usually a factor with these cost driven projects, however factors such as; designing to the current market, maximising the development in terms of saleable area and number of units plus aligning with the budget that is driven from sale prices all come into play.  We enjoy working with experienced and new developers to help them achieve the most from their development.

    Our commercial clients also have different project requirements.  We have worked with a number of businesses to improve their fitouts.  Every business is different and I enjoy finding out how each of them tick.  Then we question whether there is a better way of operating from a business perspective as well as in the available space.  A well designed fitout can improve staff productivity which generally leads to increased sales or revenue.  We enjoy working with businesses big and small.

    What does a typical day involve for you?

    A typical day starts with getting on top of any urgent emails and quickly flicking through a couple of construction or architecture blogs such as The Urban Developer and ArchitectureAU.  It keeps me on top of the industry as a whole and also sets the tone for the day.

    I’m big on writing lists, so weekly I put together a ‘to do’ list but I also have daily ‘to do’ notes which I often leave as reminders of urgent things to do.  Because I am the sole director, it’s important that I spend my time on the most pressing things first and prioritise well.  This list is constantly changing so it’s important to revisit it daily.  It serves as a good reminder to focus and help with my productivity.  I try to roughly plan out the week ahead for meetings at appropriate times, but also plan time for project work.

    I usually arrange a coffee with an industry colleague or potential client every week or so.  Networking serves multiple purposes.  As a small practice it is important to seek communication with what is going on in the industry outside your own world.

    Once I’m organised with a list of priorities, then a typical day could involve a mix of writing a fee proposal for a potential client, reviewing my staff’s project work as well as completing my own project work.  Depending on the stage of the project this could be some initial design sketches or design development, through to coordinating with consultants or visiting a project under construction.

    What has been your proudest career achievement to date?

    There have been many proud moments throughout my career and it’s hard to pinpoint just one.  The most recent being the start of Studio 15b and winning a HIA Interior Design Award with our first project.  It was totally unexpected but important to recognise and celebrate these achievements.  It certainly gives you motivation to continue what you are doing.

    What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

    A direct piece of advice doesn’t come to mind, but I’ve watched and learnt from many other architects that I’ve worked with.  I’ve tried to model myself on a little of all the things I admire about others but with my spin on it.  Things such as being proactive in sorting out any issues that arise, not worrying about things that are out of your control and keeping a good work/life balance most of the time.  These are all things I aim for.

    What are your plans for the future?

    I plan to continue building Studio 15b.  I would like to grow our small team and create a culture of friendly and dedicated people who use their strengths to provide Architecture & Interior Design solutions to those that see the value in our service.  I encourage anyone to approach us for networking or project opportunities.  We are always available for a chat.

    Posted by: Emma Clark
    Categories: Growing a Business, Interviews with Creative Women, Regional | Comments Off on Interview: Allison Smith, architect
    Posted on

    Five tips on working from home


    By Jes Egan 

    Working from home seems like a great idea in theory. Ever tried it? All of a sudden you look at the clock and it’s 3pm, you’re still in your PJ’s and you’ve not actually done anything that actually classifies as work. Here are a few of my tips to get you started working from home.


    Shower, get dressed and get ready for work. It may be a bonus working from home that you don’t need to make the effort as you’re not leaving the house. Think again: if you take advantage of this it can keep you in the wrong mindset. You want to try and position yourself that you are actually at work. Don’t get me wrong, you don’t need to have your face made up or your good clothes on, but set your day up like you are going into work. Start in your normal routine, shower, get dressed, have breakfast and your morning coffee. Then take a seat and get ready to work.

    Sit down

    You need a place to work – seems obvious, right? It is, but allocating a specified space for you to sit down and work can help to make you focussed and keep you in the right mindset. While you are in that space, focus on making it where you do your work. If you have a separate office or desk that is great, however not everyone will have this option in the house, so making do with a kitchen table or the couch are often the compromise that needs to be made. If you can try and have one space that you do your work, instead of moving around from seat to seat, this will help you train yourself that when in this space it is work time. You need to be comfortable so pick a seat that you are comfortable in. You don’t want to keep getting up (and getting distracted) but don’t get too comfortable, otherwise you may be like me and be tempted to have a little nap on the couch.


    Do your best work in the morning? Or not quite a morning person? Part of the bonus of working from home is picking your hours. Ideally if you can set work hours, give yourself a certain amount of time to do what you need to. It can easily be the case that you’ll still be working long after you planned to stop because you haven’t had to leave the ‘office’ to get dinner etc. Having a work / life balance is desired, however this is a difficult balance to find when your work and life are in the same place. I find setting hours that you are going to be doing what you need can help with this as it can make you focus on completing the job and hopefully stop you from getting too distracted.


    Being a huge fan of lists I can’t recommend this more. I write at least one a day. When working from home set yourself a list of tasks to do in the time frame you have set. This can help set a focus for the day and stops you from finding something else to do when you get up to get a coffee. It also stops you from looking at the clock at 6pm then realising that you haven’t really achieved what you wanted throughout the day and wondering where the day went. Put the items that you least want to do at the top of that list, tick them off first so it’s not as tempting to procrastinate. If there is one large task for the day, break it down into smaller tasks in the order that you need to do them and work through them systematically. Tick the items on your list off as you go so you can see how you are progressing.

    Minimise the distractions

    Distractions can be one of the hardest things to mitigate. Do you know what you get most easily distracted by? If you’re on the computer, is it surfing the internet or email? Close all of your browser windows and only have visible the page / program that you need to work in. Same goes with your phone. Put it just out of reach, so if a call comes through you can hear it but you’re not tempted to pick it up to check Instagram or to send a message. Any other things that easily distract you, try and keep them out of your line of sight or hearing range where you can.

    Jes is a ‘practical creative’ and a very busy lady, doing the business in a digital agency, being an artist, a university lecturer, and small business owner who can creatively be found cutting up a storm at paperchap.com. Follow Jes on Instagram and Facebook.

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    Posted by: Emma Clark
    Categories: Regular Columns | Comments Off on Five tips on working from home