Interior Options – Assessing Alternatives

So, a fantastic thing about an interior refit of an existing apartment home is the opportunity to work within a reduced field of parameters.  The space itself is small, there are no neighbours to overshadow, nor is there a “site” to consider, aside from what is viewed from the winter garden and the extent of the building fabric is limited to what lies this side of the paint surface (mostly).

Such clear boundaries help to guide the brief, immediately refining the scope of works down to the essence of the client’s requirements.  In this way, the project immediately becomes about what is tangible to the user, in the case of this project, the client has lived in the unit for several years and has a great feel for it’s views, temperature fluctuations and those dastardly afternoon reflections on the TV set.  They are therefore well positioned to provide a clear outline of how they currently use the space and how they wish they could use the space.  Within these confines, it becomes our challenge to come up with a design (within their budget) that ticks as many boxes as feasible.

What becomes instantly apparent when working on this scale is that the inclusion of material at even the sketch design stage is imperative to any conceptual gestures.  For example, it is almost impossible to conceive of a kitchen under a low mezzanine ceiling without including at least a notion of the surface treatments and how the space will be lit.  Do we use a dark stone or stainless steel and deep timber colours and drastically increase the lighting to create a warm and inviting, utilitarian preparation area or do we leave the lighting untouched and specify a mix of white or light surfaces (2-pak poly joinery/marble benches/travertine floor tiles) and add a splash of colour in a simple gesture, say with a coloured tile or glass splash-back?

This then leads inevitably to remainder of the design scheme.  How will these materials translate into the treatment of the living room/stair/bedroom/bathroom?  It becomes a vital consideration in a space where there are almost no walls and every “room” can be seen from every other “room”, thanks to the free-flowing nature of a mezzanine space.  You might be asking, “how is this different from any architectural treatment?” and the answer is that it’s different because it is a stripped down version, literally an essential version of a new or alts & adds architectural exercise because there are far fewer elements to consider.  As stated at the top of this post, this has the fantastic benefit of creating a brief that perfectly services the needs and desires of the clients, who, like the designer are able to clearly to see the potential spaces and materials simply by the lack of extraneous influences impinging on the design vision.

The gallery above shows a 6 options in perspective plan and a diagonal section, both intentionally incomplete to preserve the client’s privacy.

Each option considers several alternative that include space, access, colour and materiality.  When presented with these combinations the client was immediately able to identify those items that appealed to them and those that did not, striking off any non essential aspects to create a new and combined alternative design, that was responsive to the way they live.  The current combined result can be seen at our website here.  As we always tell our clients, “a no is as good as a yes”, because how could we, the architect, possibly hope to get the design “right” on the first go, when everyones opinion on that (subjective) matter is so different and when the person who is likely to be the best judge of wether or not they could live with so-and-so design is the client and not the architect.

After all, it is the architect’s directive to guide the client towards an outcome that is suitable for the client to live in.  Respect for the client’s opinion and design input forms a corner stone of the architect’s remit and with that in mind it is possible to achieve great spaces for clients, as no doubt this mezzanine project will prove upon completion.

Stay tuned.

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