Living well can mean living more simply with less.
Founder of HIP V. HYPE, Liam Wallis is a creative entrepreneur who believes in the power of design thinking to resolve intuitive solutions to project delivery and value creation. He is passionate about cities and is driven by a desire to achieve better outcomes.
Since establishing HIP V.HYPE in 2002, Liam has refined a design-led approach to business that seeks to shape and enhance the social, environmental and economic fabric of our cities through informed, responsive and collaborative design and development solutions.
Liam designed and built 1 North Street as an opportunity to test a number of design concepts and construction details firsthand. The result is a contemporary yet respectful townhouse-style project completed in 2013.
The project comprises a three bedroom, one-car townhouse with a roof deck to the corner of Albion Street and North Street with a smaller two bedroom, one-car townhouse fronting North Street.
The concept at the heart of the project was to utilise a restrained design-led approach to increasing density on a typical 300 square metre Brunswick block. The challenge was to strike a balance between efficient use of the site, user-centred design, integration with the street and affordability.
Selling the rear smaller townhouse during construction enabled the project to be financed and resulted in a more affordable home for Liam and his partner Katya Crema.
The following is an excerpt from an interview with HIP V. HYPE founder Liam Wallis.
Welcome to our home – Liam, Albie and the bike shed. Highly textured materials such as timbers are located at ground level which are very robust. Low maintenance materials such as colorbond were used in areas out of reach by a standard ladder.
What motivated you to design and build your own home?
I wanted to design, detail and build a home with design merit on a modest budget. Having worked on a small project in St Kilda East I was ready for the next challenge. In 2011 property prices were already too high to undertake a project south side. Brunswick was a logical step having spent too much time hanging out around the hood back in uni days.
I also wanted to explore ideas of enhanced livability in the context of increasing density, which I think is particularly relevant to the housing climate we face.
Having worked on a number of architecturally designed homes as a labourer while at university I noticed that, despite the cost clients pay in pursuit of a design idea, the outcome does not necessarily improve the occupant’s experience. This just didn’t make sense to me. So I decided to design and build a home with design integrity while maintaining affordability.
Master bed. Stucco throw-back to Brunswick’s migrant past.
What were some of the key design principles that guided you through the design?
I am a big believer in the importance of detail resolution. Effective collaboration between designer and builder is essential to ensure a cost-effective resolution of details that are robust, beautiful and easy to maintain. I am also interested in designing for tolerance and ease of assembly with simple yet elegant resolution of natural, personable and recycled material where possible.
As it turned out, a number of the details tested and resolved in 1 North Street were actively integrated into the larger Kalex projects I worked on in my role as Development Director. (350 Clarke Street, Northcote designed by Breathe Architecture and Park & Raphael, Abbotsford designed by Jackson Clements Burrows.)
Affordability is not just a consideration during construction. Maintenance over the life of a building should also be considered when designing in order to decrease costs over time. Highly textured materials such as timbers require more regular maintenance and are located at ground level with very robust, low-maintenance materials such as Colorbond used in areas out of reach by a standard ladder. This focus has the added benefit of maximising texture and warmth at everyday touch points at the human scale.
It was also important to maximise integration with the street. I’m a big believer in the ability of incidental interaction to break down boundaries and strengthen community. The design for the front yard was designed with multiple layers, which filter this transition between public and private space. A very deliberate decision was made not to install blinds to the ground floor living area. Instead an open posted recycled timber fence prevents all but perpendicular external sight lines. An arrangement of indigenous tea tree is placed inside the fence to create a layer of permeable screening to the setback front yard with passive seating made from recycled railway sleepers. The seating ledge is separated from the living room by timber sliding doors obscured to waist height, which give the inhabitants complete privacy. The use of layering enables connection to exist between inhabitants and passersby. Having lived in the house for four years, I can genuinely say that I haven’t felt once that my privacy has been compromised, nor have we seen a need to install blinds to screen out passersby.
Living room and kitchen. Creatively integrated storage design is important to ensure essential things have a home and are easily accessible.
What are the benefits of living in a smaller space?
Smaller space, designed well, can provide for pretty much everything you need to live well, with less, more simply.
Smaller space allows for greater interaction between people. Relief is an important aspect of well-designed small space — clear boundaries should be established to allow for sanctuary when needed.
So the key benefits for you are living well, more simply, with less. What does ‘with less’ mean? Is it just an affordability thing or is it a more conscious lifestyle decision?
Spot on. The importance of things diminishes when clutter impedes on the use and enjoyment of a space. I find this to be a particularly satisfying benefit of living in a smaller space. Creatively integrated storage design is important to ensure essential things have a home and are easily accessible.
Less is not about affordability, it’s about what we need to live well, not what we think we need to live a life we’re told we should aspire to live. The simplicity of living in well-designed smaller spaces frees time for personal development, connection with friends, family and the natural rhythms of our surrounding environment.
Coastal Landscape Vibes. Interacting with the street and maintaining connection.
The importance of things diminishes when clutter impedes on the use and enjoyment of a space. – Liam Wallis
To maximise integration with the street, the design for the front yard was designed with multiple layers, which filter this transition between public and private space.
What impact do you think a project like this can have on the local community?
We believe in using design as a tool to bring people together while providing sanctuary from the world when needed. By opening out onto the street we increase opportunities for connection and kinship. Provided sufficient layering is used to maintain privacy, design strategies can be used to increase incidental interaction and in doing so develop relationships with neighbours, build a sense of community and increase belonging to the moment and to each other.
Having lived in 1 North Street for a little over four years now, we have been delighted by the chance encounters afforded by the design of the front yard. Too many houses in Melbourne turn their back on the street. I often imagine the kind of city we could live in if more houses were designed to embrace the street, rather than turn away from it.
Master ensuite. Roman bath with a view of the stars.
ABOUT LIAM WALLIS
Architect / Designer
HIP V. HYPE is an entrepreneurial design firm utilising design thinking to resolve intuitive solutions to project delivery and value creation. We use our unique perspective on business, process and technical knowledge as a tool to enable designers and consultants to do what they do best. Our operations focus around FOUR PILLARS: DEVELOPMENT. DESIGN. SUSTAINABILITY. RESEARCH.