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Habitus is a movement for living in design. We’re an intelligent community of original thinkers in constant search of native uniqueness in our region.


From our base in Australia, we strive to capture the best edit, curating the stories behind the stories for authentic and expressive living.


Habitusliving.com explores the best residential architecture and design in Australia and Asia Pacific.


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Around The World

Songs of SAPA – Luke Nguyen

Luke Nguyen’s family escaped Vietnam as boat people in 1978, first to Thailand where Luke was born, before ending up in Sydney’s Vietnamese hub of Cabramatta. Today, Luke is owner of the award-winning Red Lantern in Surry Hills, and a celebrated chef, author, gastronomic traveler and restaurateur.

Earlier this year, he spent some time in Vietnam while filming an upcoming television series on SBS and researching his recently released book, The Songs of Sapa. In this excerpt from Issue 05 of Habitus magazine Luke takes us on a walk through Ho Chi Minh City.

Read on to find out how you can win a signed copy of The Songs of Sapa.

Ho Chi Minh City

Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), formerly known as Saigon, is located at the heart of the southern part of Vietnam, it is where my family is from and it is where I’m slowly beginning to call home. It is the largest city in the country, very densely populated with 7 million inhabitants and 5 million motorbikes which zip dangerously through congested streets once swarming with only bicycles.

A chaotic but charming city; walk down wide tree lined boulevards admiring old French colonial architecture and sample food from one of the most refined cuisines in the world. This city is rich in culture and history and is the driving force behind Vietnam’s fast growing economy which has created the ‘New Saigon’ with modern hotels, fine dining restaurants, funky bars, art galleries and high end fashion boutiques.

Make your way to the city centre to District 1, known by the locals as Saigon. The area is compact and intimate, so it is best seen by foot. This is where you will be faced with your first challenge – crossing the road. There are no pedestrian crossings, and red traffic lights does not necessarily mean stop. So slowly make your way across the road at a constant pace, remembering not to pause or speed up – the traffic will gradually move around you.


If you would like the chance to win a signed copy of The Songs of Sapa, with stories of Luke's travels throughout the region and recipes of Vietnam, simply send us an email telling us in 50 words or less your best/most memorable Asian food experience. The most creative and tantilising answer will win the signed copy of The Songs of Sapa.

Murdoch Books


Images below by Suzanna Boyd



The Goulburn Valley House

A home can be a fragile balance; between internal and external spaces, between colour and light and often between new and old. For Robert Mills Architects, it was a matter of balancing all of these with the Goulburn Valley House in the hills of Goulburn Valley, Victoria.

Originally built in the late 1800s, the home – consisting of a grand Victorian homestead and a connected farmer’s cottage – had to meet the changing dynamics of the owners, with the architect given a brief to provide more living space.


This space has been delivered in the form of a long, low profile pavilion; a “modernist glass box”, which provides an obvious counterpoint to the homestead without dominating either the existing buildings or the landscape in which it sits.


“The home is set in rolling pastures. My aim was to make the addition as transparent as possible with the intent of not punctuating the view of the landscape,” Director Robert Mills explains.

Despite its bold lines and charcoal finish the new pavilion sits silently alongside the Victorian structures, echoing their proportions and providing a connection with the land that the older buildings could not.


The architects have also created a two-car garage and renovated the existing home to further create a seamless transition between the modern and traditional. 

There aren’t many opportunities such as this for architects and owners, but when they do arise it is only through a strong, trusting relationship between the two, coupled with brave decisions, that homes such as this are created.




“A home is about the people who reside in it, so a home must also shelter and protect,” says Mills. “I feel that we have a responsibility to create a home that nurtures and uplifts the spirit.” 

Robert Mills Architects


Hero image and images 1-3 below by Shannon McGrath. Images 4 and 5 by Tim James.

Design Hunters

Thai Propaganda

Andrea Millar caught up with Creative Director of Propaganda, Satit Kalawantavanich, and product designer, Ankul Assavaviboonpan, in Habitus Issue 01. Following are some more insights into their design philosophy, the similarities and differences between designing for the east and west and their own influences.


Propaganda thailand SATIT KALAWANTAVANICH 

Q. Thai marketplace or the global marketplace?

A. We don’t see Thailand as our domestic market or the western market as our international market. We are designing for a ‘global market’, trying to communicate something to the people across the whole world.

Our core product concept is derived from ‘being Thai’, but we also learn to understand the attitude, emotion and feeling of people from different language and different countries. Form is universal– there is no difference.

Our products value Thai culture and the ability to create acceptance from people living in the other side of the world. What we do is make our culture the fuel in building a new concept or idea which stands out from other brands, yet still contains elements of human emotion – west or east.

Now there are numbers of countries who accept Propaganda as we are. Today we have our products sold in more than 40 countries worldwide.

Q. Do you think Propaganda is influencing the design industry and consumers in south East Asia? How?

A. Propaganda products are now more than 200 items and vary in sub-categories. One of the major categories is Mr.P. Mr.P is lovable to every market in the world and he gains his extreme popularity especially in Asia.

While European countries tend to love the minimal design from Propaganda, Asian consumers tend to love the way of emotional design and character of Mr.P express.

Propaganda may be the only brand of Asia which stands out in the world market. We have designers and numbers of design consumers who keep tracking our movement.

Maybe we are a sample or the hope of designers or Asian entrepreneurs who have a dream to succeed in the world in their own way.

We were copied by China because our Mr.P design gives them easy profit. We don’t know if we should be sorry or happy about it. At the very least the spreading of Propaganda product counterfeit all over Asia is showing our popularity, in brand and products.

Q. How important is design at home?

A. Home is not just a place for sleeping but it’s the design that digs deep in human being. Home is the machine for living. It works with our feeling through space and sets the meaning of each space… this is not Paris, Milan or Tokyo but Bangkok city where charms come from disorderliness and the organic growth.



Q. Where do you draw inspiration for new products?

A. Mostly it is the things around me. The problems I face in my everyday life which sometimes just happen in a short or certain moment especially when I am in the restroom.

Sometimes I just don’t have time to find inspiration but when you are forced and get a lot of pressure, you will then be able to suddenly create a work that you’ve been trying so hard to think about but couldn’t succeed. 

Q. What kind of furniture and objects fill your home?

A. I bought two kinds of furniture to fill my room. Those that I actually use in my everyday life or for decoration such as modern designs which are already designed to support simply living, and the other kind are the furniture or objects that I bought to study such as furniture classic designs.

For me, it’s important to really see and feel the real design. I believe that they give us more than just an aesthetic value but to be able to learn the design thinking system and getting to know production method is good practice for my career.


Portraits: Itti-on B. Vienravi

Still Lives Photography: Mr. Chaiyut Plypetch and Itti-on B. Vienravi (Dog lamp)






Around The World

The Seidler House

The late Harry Seidler is arguably Australia’s most well-renowned architect, known throughout the world for his progressive style, with more than 180 buildings changing the face of Australian architecture. It comes as no surprise that this architect’s works have become destinations for the design-inspired and with The Southern Highlands Seidler House you can now experience his genius first hand.

Built into a sandstone escarpment beside the Wingecarribee River near Bowral, in New South Wales, the four-bedroom home is now available as accommodation for travellers, a weekend getaway or extended stays.

Set on 150 acres of natural bushland, the home displays two beautifully opposed white curved roofs, echoing the curves of the hills in which it is set while creating an obvious contrast. The unique location also ensures privacy, with no other properties visible from your private mountain retreat.

Visitors can relax in the open-plan living spaces with floor-to-ceiling glass windows peering across the river and into the gullies beyond, or watch the clouds roll by while floating in the pool – also set into the natural rock formations.

Perhaps one of the most stunning features of the home is the cantilevered viewing deck that extends out into the air above the gorge and the living room where the escarpment seems to drop away before you, revealing uninterrupted views.

“It’s a partnership with nature – we fitted the house into its setting,” said the architect, Harry Seidler, of this dramatic residence. “I want to defy gravity as Italian engineer, Pier Lugi Nervi did while creating something in 3 dimensions that is poetic and beautiful” – Harry Seidler.

While we may not all be able to enjoy the feeling of an architectural-designed home, and only a handful have ever lived in a Seidler home, it is nice to know that beautifully designed homes such as this are still accessible to us, even if it is just for the weekend.

Contemporary Hotels






Beclau: Timber Traditions

Family owned and operated custom timber furniture manufacturer Beclau boasts quality European products and Australian designed pieces tempered with an environmental sensitivity.

After the original Netherlands-based company moved to its Waterloo, New South Wales site in 2002 the company has garnered environmental certification, continued to manufacture bespoke furniture but it has also taken on commissions for several large domestic and commercial fit-outs.

Beclau’s Dominick ter Huurne says the company has recently completed the fit-out of new bar, Tokonoma in Surry Hills, Sydney; a project that echoes Beclau’s famed practical timber aesthetics.

“The bar features highly detailed joinery in solid timber and veneer that strives to create a harmonious, natural feel,” ter Huurne says.

“The emphasis is on soft lines and curves, and the fit-out required over 30 moulds to create each unique form. Working with curves rather than straight lines meant rethinking the possibilities of solid timber, and producing innovative solutions that satisfied both the aesthetics as well as the demands of a high impact space such as a bar.”

Its environmental considerations have meant that in 2008 the company received Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and Good Environmental Choice Australia (GECA) certification for its products.

“We were the first solid timber manufacturer to receive FSC certification in Australia,” ter Huurne says.

“This ensures that clients can select a timber for their furniture that they know comes from a well managed forest. Compliance with GECA standards also guarantees that all remaining inputs of Beclau pieces are environmentally friendly.

“We use water-based polyurethanes, low-VOC glues and recyclable packaging, amongst other initiatives. Unfortunately, there are as yet very few timber species originating in Australia with FSC certification owing to the slow uptake of this standard within the Australian timber industry, so, most accredited timber tends to be imported from overseas,” he says.

“I…think there is a need for companies to be as carbon neutral/ environmentally friendly as possible. It requires very little effort and has a marginal impact on price. But, in order to do so we also need support from Australian primary producers to supply raw materials.”




'Cassandra' sideboard from Beclau


'Koko' table from Beclau


Tokonoma fit-out with timber by Beclau


Design Accessories

Wheels out of history

Traditional 1950s and 1960s scooters are enjoying a renaissance among scooterists and collectors.

Brian Crook of the UK Vintage Scooter Club says it is nostalgia, engineering and curiosity that make these vintage scooters so appealing, although, he says, in more recent times they have become style icons.

“The machines [also] link to a lifestyle which was present in the 1950s and 1960s and is still thriving, and some would say booming today,” he says.  

Klaus Wolf president of The Vintage European and Vespa Motor Scooter Club of Melbourne says vintage scooters will remain eternally popular. “The only thing which will change with time is the price you will have to pay for one,” he says.

“Some of these scooters were made in extremely low numbers such as the Maico Mobil, the Piatti scooter, TWN Tessy, Bastert,  Lohner, Osa, Rumi (and) Iso Milan just to name a few.

 “There are only a few collectible (scooters) out there from the 1950s.”

Wolf says that of all the scooters produced across the globe in countries including Germany, France, Great Britain, Russia, America, Spain  and India, one of the most popular and longest surviving is the Vespa.

“It was always built on a low budget, had a great shape, was ultra reliable and was half the price of most scooters around at the same time,” Wolf says.

He says it is the simple things such as design variation, colour and overall aesthetics in addition to practicality that contribute to the appeal.

 “A vintage scooter you buy because of its practicality, sex appeal, low maintenance and easy handling around town but you don't buy one because you expect great performance.”

The Vintage European and Vespa Motor Scooter Club of Melbourne

Writer: Stephanie Madison





Images courtesy of The Vintage European and Vespa Motor Scooter Club of Melbourne

Fixed & Fitted
Design Accessories

Boutique Door Handles and Jewellery

Mother of Pearl and Sons has designed a new range of high quality, artistic door handles and jewellery meticulously crafted by leading manufacturer Fersa.

Don’t expect to find these specialised door handles during a weekend trip to Bunnings hardware. They are more akin to artisan pieces that raise the bar on the quality of door furniture thanks to Mother of Pearl and Sons’ eye for aesthetics and Fersa’s commitment to creating exceptional products.

Both the jewellery and door handles have been masterfully crafted using Fersa’s ancient methods which draw on a combination of sand cast foundry, metal chiseling and mercury gold plating.

Fersa call themselves “hardware jewelers” and according to Mother of Pearl and Sons they have managed to exceed client expectations on every occasion.  From Gothic to Italian Renaissance, and from Bauhaus to contemporary, Fersa have been devotedly manufacturing exquisite period hardware since 1941. Their work is defined by fine designs, exemplary finishes and sublime workmanship.

The long awaited collection of Fersa samples is now being showcased in store at level 2, PYD Building, 197 Young Street, Waterloo, New South Wales.

Mother of Pearl and Sons
(02) 8332 6999













Celebrate Australia Concert

Sydney comes alive in summer. Life spills out into the streets and celebrations of sun, food and culture abound. In 2010 Habitus is joining forces with Zip Industries, the Commonwealth Bank and other sponsors to bring a new event to the city’s Australia Day festivities.

The ‘Celebrate Australia!’ concert will be held in the natural beauty of the Domain, featuring opera star Yvonne Kenny, television personality William McInnes, the very popular vocalist Jon English and the Australian composer and singer Gavin Lockley.

An 80-strong orchestra and 40-voice choir will present the ‘Symphony of Australia’ – a six-movement symphony tracing our nation’s history from the dreamtime to present day.

A key event of the Australia Day Council of NSW and in conjunction with the Botanic Gardens Trust, the concert will also present Australian classics such as ‘Clancy of the Overflow’, ‘Click Go The Shears’ and ‘Waltzing Matilda’.

The Domain is the centre of cultural activity in Sydney, drawing huge crowds over the holiday period, however this will be the first time that an Australia Day concert showcasing Australian compositions and talent has been shown there.

Entry to the concert is free and visitors can buy refreshments around the grounds. The magic of the city skyline at dusk will form a spectacular backdrop as the festivities commence.

The concert in the Domain will run from 5pm to 8pm on Tuesday 26 January. You can visit symphonyofaustralia.com for more information.

Symphony of Australia





Design Accessories

Winning Design Hunter™

Congratulations to the lucky Design Hunter™ who has won our newsletter sign-up competition. David Brown of Adelaide,
South Australia, takes home the beautiful ILVE Ascaso Coffee Machine, valued at A$659.

If you dream of home coffee that doesn’t involve a kettle
and jar of stale granules, ILVE by Ascaso series of domestic coffee
machines combines professional technical precision with world-class hand built
craftsmanship, plus a little bit of fun.

Established and manufactured in Spain, Ascaso has transformed the once simple
domestic coffee machine into a beautiful, innovative design masterpiece.
Available in 2 neutral colours these coffee machines are ensured to add style
to the kitchen.

Stay tuned for our next huge competition where you’ll have
the chance to win the ultimate design package worth over $30,000 for your home,
and many more competitions coming in 2010…

Thank you to all those who entered.



Relationship Building in Singapore

The creation of a home is about relationships: not just that between architect and owner, but relationships between building and environment, inside and out and often crucially, the relationships between occupants.

For Singapore architects D Lab these interactions are at the core of their philosophy. When working on the Moonbeam house, D Lab considered how the home would sit within the streetscape, how it would respond to the tropical climate and the unique interactions of the owners.

Designed for a husband and wife, the home had to cater to two very different sets of needs. “The husband feels more comfortable in his enclosed A/V room while the wife is a designer who works from home and wanted and airy open loft space to work within,” says D Lab Director Darlene Smyth.

The front half of the house – an existing semi-detached building – offers a lighter more open space for the wife, while the new extension to the rear of the home is much more internalised, ‘wrapped’ on all sides by solid walls, staircases and services. Smyth explains that the house tells “a story of dualities” providing “introverted” and “extroverted” space – open and enclosed spaces, old and new forms. 

“The house provides for the specific personalities of the couple, as well as for their private time apart and their time together,” she says.

The home sits within a neighbourhood of low-rise semi-detached houses. A metal mesh façade wraps around the building with the solid structure visible behind, creating a dynamic play of light and creating spaces that are neither inside nor out –continuing dialogue between introverted and extroverted space.

“The lightweight ephemeral quality of the mesh, like folded origami, is contrasted with the rear block which is inspired by the language of solid sculpted rock,” Smyth says.

“We find it important to plan for how the space can evolve with time and with the changing conditions of the inhabitants [while] customising the home to the specific needs and personalities of its owners and to the relationship of the building in its context.”

Keep an eye out for issue 06 of Habitus magazine with D Lab’s Margoliouth Road House on the cover. 

D Lab

Architect: D lab

Interior Designer: A D Lab Pte Ltd

Design Team: Warren Liu Yaw Lin, Dennis Ng, Usha Bragenshyam

Structural Engineer: Aston Consulting Engineers
Contractor: 265 Group Developments Pte Ltd

Photographer: Aaron Pocock


Outpost – 'Recession-era Dining'

In a modern age that has seen eaters become increasingly detached from the provenance and preparation of their food, all the while spending more and more on kitchen equipment – a counter culture was bound to be born.

And thanks to the Global Financial Crisis – less cash has meant a lot less flash.

Recession-era dining shifted the edible emphasis from over-indulgent fine dining to an appreciation of value for money, which in turn has given birth to a flurry of quality dining in understated locations.

‘Outpost’ is one such project in which Paul Jewson – a chef with serious gastronomic pedigree catering for Admirable Crichton and Conran in London – has joined forces with coffee specialists St Ali to head their low-key South Yarra ‘outpost’.

While chefs were once chained to their stoves, sweating away in a steamy backroom, the barriers between kitchen and dining rooms have been gradually coming down, now to full revelation.

With a homely tiled floor and range oven fully exposed, Melbourne’s latest laneway eatery, by design firm Hecker Phelan and Guthrie, offers a dining setting so domestic, that even a pinch of the bespoke is in the recipe, where the chef is all for audience participation.

Amidst fresh sprouting herbs and fragrant bags of Single Estate roasted coffee beans, eaters are invited to perch on a stool and experience their meal be prepared.

With 40 covers now also spilling out onto the laneway, the ‘Outpost’ offers a daily-changing seasonal lunchtime menu with an emphasis on rustic cooking with robust flavours.

The result is immediate, affordable, comfort cooking – just like mamma used to make.

9 Yarra St, South Yarra
61 3 9827 8588


Cross-Cultural Dialogue

For almost a century Maruni Wood Industry Inc. has harnessed the beauty and skill of the handcrafted to manufacture interior furniture for living. Despite the mass produced reality of their collections, each piece exudes a visual poetry of its own.

Producing furniture since the late 1920s, MARUNI have had lots of practice at their craft, combining the delicate and precise work of highly skilled machine workers with handiwork craftsmen.

Theirs is a culture of high quality, says MARUNI’s public relations officer, Kozue Ohyama. And, while they are primarily a manufacturing company, “we also have in-house designers that design many of our furniture lines”, he says.

Producing a number of furniture lines under associated brands – or “projects” as Ohyama refers to them, MARUNI has put the magic wand to good use with Nextmaruni and the Maruni Collection.

One of their most recent series, under the Maruni Collection, is the Hiroshima series by Naoto Fukasawa.

The chairs and tables of Hiroshima are defined by subtle lines and simple structures which highlight their natural Beech and Oak frames.

It is envisaged that these pieces can be used everywhere, says Ohyama of the visually harmonious series.

True to form, the pieces are all about gentle curves and tapering sides, complementing their surrounds – wherever they may be – in an elegant, understated way.

And, whether it’s highlighting the wood surface and grain, or “accentuating the beauty of the light shining on their surfaces”, MARUNI’s pieces converse with the user on a subliminal level.

"We hope our furniture will be used across the globe and people will have an affinity with it for a long time," says Ohyama.