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May 31, 2017

Designing for artists’ sake

Faith in architecture paid off for artists KAB101 and Sooz Wong.

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  • Words: Johnny von Einem
  • Pictures: Julian Cebo

When Scott Coleman (otherwise known as KAB101) and Sooz Wong first stepped foot into their new home, it was with a fair amount of blind faith in the ability of architect Damien Chwalisz.

“They got me involved in the actual purchase of the house to start with,” Damien says.

“It had a few hairs on it, but it had a few interesting qualities as well… It was a real rabbit warren of spaces all connected very strangely. No corridors or anything like that. It’s actually quite a big house, but it’s broken up into all of these little fiddly things.”

With no natural flow to the space, each of the house’s tiny rooms felt cramped. Still, both Kab and Sooz were sold on Damien’s vision.

“Once we’d discussed ideas, we were really excited,” Kab says.

“This was a really daggy bathroom, pretty poorly built,” Damien says, directing our attention to the space beside the kitchen.

“That was blocking out the northwestern light, so the first big move was to say ‘Let’s cut those bathrooms out,’ which enabled us to maintain the waterproofing on those walls, and then create this little garden space within what was the old bathroom.

“There were three spaces all within that one three-by-five-and-a-half metre space, all with different ceiling heights, different floor heights, and rationalising those different levels was a problem… but then that opens up its own opportunities in itself.

“For instance, the funny cut in that wall, giving that little detail [in the cement blocks – seen above]… you’d never design that kind of thing. It came through by accident because of the process we used.”

Where once there was just a series of boxes, Damien has created a light and flowing living space with industrial elements that, despite incorporating quite a large steel beam, never feel overly weighted.

“The idea was to let things be the way they’re going to be, and get them to a point where it’s not crazily dusty or, you know, there’s not sharp edges here and there,” Damien says.

It’s an aesthetic that suits Kab and Sooz, and was also a result of keeping to a modest budget.

“The interesting thing for me with this project was probably that open-endedness,” Damien says.

“We were able to work with Kab and Sooz in really a very open-natured way. They had an amount of money, and we knew we couldn’t really step too far over that, so it was about how much we could do with this relatively small amount of money to bring as much value and happiness to the joint.

“Nothing was really that hard with this project, except for… I suppose reining in the guys that are working with me [and their] temptation to finish things. That was probably the challenging thing, to get into people’s heads that it doesn’t matter that things are a little rough around the edges.”

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