Stephen Crafti's Architects' Houses, a deep dive into beauty and imagination

Stepping inside the pages of Stephen Crafti’s exploration of 20 homes designed by leading Australian architects is like diving into several major art galleries in rapid succession. The photography is astounding, capturing the colour, light and shade of incredible interiors with their eclectic furnishings.

It’s a diverse and rich tour of buildings ranging from warehouse conversions and heritage cottage renovations to bespoke multi-level homes that incorporate office and public spaces.

The array of ways in which the various designers have addressed the creation of space for their own lives highlights the degree of innovation that is possible when design starts from a first principle of “how do we want to live in this place?”

Several key threads emerge in the narratives the designers have to share about their design decisions. A major factor is light – how to capture, diffuse and let it become an element that defines and delineates the experience of different rooms. In some of the smaller footprint homes, elements such as open stair treads that let light from light wells, skylights or upper windows reach lower levels were a chosen solution.

Ventilation and airflow is another consideration, with elements such as pivoting glazed doors that open whole rooms out to courtyards, gardens or small slivers of open space showing creative ways to reduce reliance on mechanical ventilation equipment. A common thing in many of the homes is the use of materials and ways of closing off or opening out spaces combined with solar orientation and thermal mass to reduce heating or cooling needs.

Many of the designers were conscious of cost considerations, how materials would age through time, the relationship of interiors to views and sightlines, and also the need to ensure spaces were flexible around changing household needs or the coming and going of guests.

Moveable walls, furniture used to delineate spaces at will and some truly intriguing ways of using joinery and automation to reduce bulk in core spaces such as kitchens shows just how far the materials side of the building equation has progressed.

The process of making materials decisions is also outlined, and some of them are quite unusual such as David Luck’s all-copper joinery in the kitchen, or McBride Charles Ryan’s black French zinc facade and rippling ceilings comprised of thousands of small MDF blocks.

The book also gives some keen insight into how all of the designers think and the personal aesthetic that was brought to each project. Whether it was a need to design a room that would suit a particular cherished table or set of chairs, or a desire to have inside merge with outside, or a yearning to develop a new take on living in a shed complete with indoor rock garden, the process of turning the vision into a reality is explained.

Because so many of the homes are on extremely small footprints, and show such refreshing ways of making small spaces work beautifully, functionally and humanely, this is also a very useful book in terms of reframing the discussion on apartment standards.

What the smallest homes in the book show is that where creativity and a willingness to embrace risk are brought to the table, the results can be absolutely jaw-droppingly stunning.

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