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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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Happenings
What's On

Mid-Century Modern: Australian Furniture Design

From Grant Featherston’s plywood Contour range and Clement Meadmore’s welded steel corded chairs, so distinctive of the 1950s, to Gordon Andrews’ elegant 1960s designs for home and office, mid-century furniture design turned its back on the overstuffed and ornate examples of previous decades and, in doing so, revolutionised the contemporary Australian interior. Mid-Century Modern will showcase more than one hundred iconic pieces by these significant figures along with other key designers such as Douglas Snelling, Fred Lowen and Schulim Krimper, and present recreated interior vignettes including a full-scale living room based on the 1955 Age Dream Home. Tony Ellwood, Director, NGV, said: “Mid-Century Modern will explore the influence of modern design upon the changing landscape of Australian furniture in the decades following World War Two. “Furniture produced by local designers such as Featherston, Meadmore and Snelling is found in galleries and actively sought after by collectors across Australia today, showing its enduring influence and appeal. Mid-Century Modern is the first major Australian survey to provide an in-depth look at this period, revealing how Australian furniture designers moved away from traditional, conservative pre-war styles and forged a new language of design that was innovative in its use of materials, functional and often imbued with a good dose of style.” New methods of furniture design took hold in Australia after World War Two, prompted in part by the availability of new materials, and sometimes the shortages of others, the development of new production techniques and the influx of European immigrants who were skilled in the traditions of fine furniture making. Taking their cue from international trends in furniture, local designers adopted the pared-back language of modernism to create stylish and sculptural pieces, which found the ideal setting in the architecture of the period. Mid-Century Modern also charts the dramatic changes that took place within Australian furniture design and manufacture across four decades, from a very modest industry in the post-war years which did its utmost to produce well-designed and affordable furniture and which, by the 1960s, was able to manufacture designs that catered to the local market as well as being exported in vast quantities. Alongside these seminal modern furniture pieces, Mid-Century Modern will encompass designs by visual artists such as Robert Klippel and Janet Dawson who occasionally adapted their creative skills to the production of furniture, and examples of Fred Ward’s post-war do-it-yourself Patterncraft furniture. Contextual material including working drawings, textiles of the period and photographs of contemporary architecture will also be included, building a rich picture of this relatively little known aspect of Australia’s design history. A beautifully illustrated 200-page, hardcover publication will be produced in association with the exhibition, which brings together a series of essays that elaborate on various aspects of mid-century Australian design. Exhibition curator Kirsty Grant provides an overview of furniture design from the period, balanced by an in-depth text on mid-century architecture, the natural counterpart of furniture, by Dr Conrad Hamman. Essays discussing the careers of Featherston, Meadmore and Michael Hirst are included, along with texts by architect Neil Clerehan, designer Mary Featherston, conservator Suzanna Shaw and collector Dean Keep. Available from the NGV Shop and all good bookstores for RRP$39.95. The exhibition will be accompanied by a series of public programs - visit ngv.vic.gov.au for further details. Mid-Century Modern: Australian Furniture Design will be on display at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia from 30 May to 19 October 2014. Open 10am–5pm, closed Mondays. Admission fees apply: Adult $10 | Concession $7 | Children (16 and under) Free.abc
Design Hunters
People

Design Hunter Q+A: Simone McEwan

Your name:  Simone McEwan What you do: Interior Design & Design Consultancy Your latest project: The interior design for the Olympic Studios, London olympic_studios_1Olympic Studios, photograph by Paul Raeside Who are three people that inspire/excite you: 1) Paola Navone 2) Mathew Bourne 3) Phoebe Philo What is your favourite… Car/bike/plane/boat model:  A BMW E9 classic in black! Chair model:  Robert Mallet Stevens Chair 727 Residential space: Lina Bo Bardi’s Casa di Vidro Commercial space: The Barbican, London Decorative product: All the gorgeous bedlinen from Larusi olympic_studios_3 Olympic Studios, photograph by Paul Raeside Functional product: My Ally Cappellino Leather Rucksack Handmade good: Ceramic plates by Kasper Wurtz Mass-produced good: Duralex Gigogne tumblers for drinking red wine MealHama Sushi, Venice Beach, LA Restaurant: Bakfickan Stockholm  DrinkMy holiday drink obsession, Aperol Spritz BarThe Zetter Townhouse Cocktail Lounge and The Southampton Arms, for a pint.  olympic_studios_2 Olympic Studios, photograph by Paul Raeside Item in your studioMy Moleskine notebook Piece of technology: Spotify and my Jambox wireless speaker. 

Historical figure: Peggy Guggenheim

Fictional character: Ferris Bueller  Vice: Too much chocolate! Virtue: Always positive. What does the term ‘Design Hunter’ man to you?  A compulsive obsession for inspiration, insight and intelligence.abc
People
Design Hunters
Conversations

Full of Beans

Coffee has evolved – NESCAFE AZERA is the next generation of coffee that combines premium instant coffee with finely ground-roasted beans. The result is a full-bodied taste and rich, intense aroma like no other. It’s time to find another use for your old plunger. nescafe_7Seaton McKeon NESCAFÉ is giving three designers the opportunity to do just this. The designers – a mix of industrial, product and furniture makers – are adept in evolving materials and objects in surprising and inventive ways. NESCAFÉ is asking them to show us the ultimate reuse of a plunger. nescafe_6Christel Hadiwibawa But not just one plunger, a whole bunch of them; 150 to be precise. And some cash to help transform them into something else entirely through cutting-edge techniques and processes. In two weeks (no pressure). nescafe_5Jacob Pemble This is a challenge – it's head-to-head competition to find the most innovative and exciting evolution the plunger has ever seen, demonstrating the value of design to the every day consumer. nescafe_4 Hover by Christel Hadiwibawa From March 24 – 28 NESCAFÉ will be asking you to help decide what theme the designers use and then follow. nescafe_2 Light by Jacob Pemble Follow the designers Seaton McKeon, Jacob Pemble and Christel Hadiwibawa from March 31 – April 14 as they create their pieces. NESCAFÉ will be unveiling the final pieces on April 15th at an event in Sydney. nescafe_8 Bollard (left) and Hanger (right) by Seaton Meckeon While the judges will decide the official winner on the event night, it will be up to you to vote on a Peoples' Choice from April 15 – 22 on Facebook. Follow the competition as it unfolds at the NESCAFÉ Facebook page. You can also catch the official Azera Project video, and meet the designers here:   NESCAFÉ nescafe.com.au  abc
Finishes
Design Products
Accessories

Royal Oak Floors and Concreate Walls

In extremely easy-to-use panel systems that are both lightweight, consistent in colour, inexpensive and able to be retro-fitted, the new range from Royal Oak Floors is giving designers the freedom to design. oak After four years in development perfecting a completely new method of introducing the intrinsic cool, the new urban look of polished concrete is a very usable and inexpensive form. The ‘brief’ was to produce both a floor system and a super lightweight wall panel / ceiling system that was sustainable with a more environmentally alternative to the conventional poured concrete systems. Each panel produced is finished with a skim of concrete, easy to install, is polished and pre-finished with a natural oil clear coat giving a beautiful and natural concrete look and what is ultimately a natural product that is fully biodegradable. harper1 Furniture: Hub Furniture There are no harmful chemicals used in the production, of which the bulk of materials used are minerals such as magnesium oxide and cement. These natural minerals are mixed and pressed with natural fibres and layers of recycled textiles. Common design sense was the applied to create the unique size modules that allow the Concreate floor and wall panels to be used in a variety of patterns and compositions. Floor panels come in 1200 x 300 x 14mm and are available in White, Natural Grey and Dark Grey with the wall panels coming in 1200 x 600 x 4mm and are available in Natural White, Natural Grey and Dark Grey. Both products are available through Harper & Sandilands (61 3) 9826 3611 Royal Oak Floors royaloakfloors.com.auabc
Happenings
Parties

#thearthunter Sydney Launch

The interior of #thearthunter was carved out into discrete areas, each themed around colour, shape and texture, with mirrors, hidden doors, reflections and projections to constantly surprise, and reveal. Two hundred of Sydney’s coolest guests, including Steve Pavlovic and Tanja Gacic, Felix Forrest and Edi Robinson, Carmen Hamilton, Nadia Fairfax, Fiona Myer and Luke Jacobz joined the The Cool Hunter’s Bill Tikos and Matthew Beaven, Jaguar’s Chief Exterior Designer, to experience the concept car first-hand. Studio Neon's Aaron Teece and Richard Robinson and Trollyed created an extraordinary, artistic food and wine experience to match the space. From Andy Worhol's famous Campbell's Tomato Soup, edible paint in tubes, and Zucchini flowers in a Van Gogh pot - the food and drink were as much a piece of art as the rest of the room. CJ Hendry, 20-something independent artist, was the talk of the night with 7 of 8 artworks sold pre-exhibition. [gallery ids="29389,29388,29387,29386,29385,29384,29383,29382,29381,29380,29379,29378,29377,29376,29375,29374,29373,29372,29371,29370,29369,29368,29367,29366,29365,29364"] When: #thearthunter launched March 11 at 6:30pm and is open to the public from Wednesday, March 12, to Sunday, March 30 Where: 90-96 Bourke Road, Alexandria, NSW 2015 Opening times:
  • Tuesday 18th – friday 23rd march: 12pm to 8pm
  • Saturday to sunday 10am to 4pm
  • Tuesday 25th – friday 28rd march: 12pm to 8pm
  • Saturday to sunday 10am to 4pm
abc
Architecture
Homes

HouseMuseum

Above: Locals couldn’t quite determine what was being erected on the Kew site. Neither a house nor a museum, this is a ‘housemuseum’ in Kew, Melbourne, with elements of both. Some of Australia’s most significant contemporary artists, including Howard Arkley, Patricia Piccinini, Tim Maguire, Callum Morton and Brook Andrew are displayed in the home of architect, Corbett Lyon – a home he shares with his wife, Yueji, and their two teenage daughters, Carlin and Jaqlin. housemuseum_2The lines are blurred, with the formal lounge forming part of the gallery. Collecting since the late 1980s, Lyon was looking for a place to display and share his art with the public. Mindful of the need for accessibility to the housemuseum, Lyon was enticed by this prominent corner site on the 109 tram route. Lyon’s first domestic design (and initial drawings) were knocked back by council. “Our first scheme was essentially a museum with a small portion set aside for living on the first floor. But given it’s a residential area, we were asked to considerably expand the domestic component within the building,” says Lyon, who is one of five directors of the prominent Melbourne architectural practice, Lyons. housemuseum_3A dramatic void can be appreciated from two levels. As the zinc-clad building took shape, neighbours approached the builders. “Some people wanted to know when the penthouse was coming on to the market, thinking they was apartments. Others thought it was a factory or warehouse. There was even the idea of squash courts,” says Lyon. He is used to his architecture, as well as the contemporary art he collects, being questioned saying, “We’ve always been attracted to unconventional ideas, whatever the artistic field”. housemuseum_4The passage leading to the bedrooms is lined with paintings and installations. While the building includes the traditional hallmarks of a house, such as a front door, the entrance contains elements more akin to that of a gallery or museum. A dramatic staircase with cantilevered balustrade also functions as a reception desk. A built-in bench provides a place to wait before a tour commences. And a set of flush timber doors open to reveal empty shelves, “designed specifically for schoolbags,” says Lyon. Juxtaposed to these functional forms are domestic features. The folded plywood ceiling, for example, features text conceived by the family. It includes words from people who have made an impact on them, scores of music and simple recipes. “It’s quite a baroque idea to reclaim the ceiling,” says Lyon. housemuseum_5The dining and informal living area share space with Patricia Piccinini’s ‘Baby Trucks’. The kitchen and family room also blur the distinction between home and museum. While there are comfortable lounges and a television set, there are also two of Patricia Piccinini’s earliest works, ‘Truck Babies’, one powder blue, the other pink. “These [1999] pieces were quite radical at the time. They are Piccinini’s interpretation of what a baby truck might be,” says Lyon who, like the artist, appreciates the way materials are used and technology explored. housemuseum_6A Brook Andrew installation animates one of the gallery spaces. Although ‘Truck Babies’ takes centre stage in the informal living area, there are the usual domestic elements as well, such as a galley-style kitchen to one side. Featuring stainless steel benchtops and timber joinery, the kitchen is purposely recessive. “When we hold functions [once a month],” says Lyon, “the kitchen takes on a more museum-like role.” housemuseum_7Peter Hennessey’s ‘My Lunar Rover’ is visible from outside. Lyon designed the spaces in the housemuseum in a hierarchical manner. There are the privates spaces, such as the three bedrooms (including the main bedroom) upstairs. This zone also includes a ‘quiet’ library, without a television set. The middle tier of spaces is a combination of private and public spaces: the kitchen and informal living areas. And then there are the public spaces, one of which is referred to by Lyon as the ‘white box’, a cube in the centre of the building with a dramatic seven metre-high ceiling. Featuring artists such as Tim Maguire, Louise Forthun and Patricia Piccinini, as well as Howard Arkley, it is a space that allows the dimensions of the housemuseum to be fully appreciated. “The ‘black box’ [a separate space currently dedicated to Piccinini’s work] and the ‘white box’ create the two anchoring points in the design. It is not unlike the idea of [architect] Robin Boyd’s courtyards. But this is an internal landscape,” says Lyon. housemuseum_8Even the childrens’ bedrooms are filled with art. Other artists in the collection have been literally ‘carved’ into the building. Callum Morton’s ‘Habitat’ has its own nook along one passage. And the late Howard Arkley’s iconic paintings occupy what could also be interpreted as the home’s formal lounge. housemuseum_9The library includes material on artists featured in the housemuseum. The dining area on the first floor is a case of art driving architecture. Arkley’s ‘Fabricated Rooms’, comprising 17 panels (the artist’s last major work and shown at Venice Biennale in 1999) fits precisely into the elongated space. “Most people would locate a dining area next to a kitchen, but we have a dumb waiter to take up the meals. How often do you get to dine completely surrounded by Howard Arkley?” asks Lyon, who consulted with Arkley’s partner, Alison Burton, on this installation. housemuseum_11Views of the courtyards and outdoor sculptures are maximised throughout. While the focus is on paintings and sculpture (including a wonderful Chris Langton in the front courtyard), the central music room space has been set up for organ music, with the organ designed by Lyon himself. “We also intend to hold music concerts,” says Lyon. Those fortunate to attend recitals, will be mesmerised by Brook Andrew’s striped wall installation ‘YOU’VE ALWAYS WANTED TO BE BLACK (white friend)’, as well as Peter Hennessey’s ‘My Lunar Rover’, parked nearby. housemuseum_plansGround floor plans Living with art on this scale is unusual. Peggy Guggenheim’s home in Venice is one example. Closer to home is the Heide Museum of Modern Art in Bulleen, Melbourne, a gallery/home designed for art patrons, John and Sunday Reed. While the art collections and architecture of the Lyon housemuseum are vastly different, there is a similar philosophical approach. As Lyon says: “There are those who treat art like ‘trophy hunters’ [kept locked up for only the owner to admire]. Then there are the ‘investors’. The third group, are people like us, ‘custodians’, sharing art with the public. Like architecture, we feel it’s important to be able to see art in the right context.” housemuseum_plans_2First floor plans Photography: Dianna Snape diannasnape.com.au Details regarding tours, events and concerts at the housemuseum can be found at lyonhousemuseum.com.au Architect: Lyons Builder LBA Construction Structural and Civil Engineer: Bonacci Acoustic Engineer: Marshall Day Electrical Consultant: Umo Lai Hydraulic Engineer: Rimmington & Associates Landscape: Lyons Town Planning Consultants: Urbis Cost Consultant: Slattery Australia IT /AudioVisual Consultant: Urban Intelligence Total Floor Area: 1,058m2 ARTWORK Living Truck Babies, 2001 and Big Sisters Video, 1999, both by Patricia Piccinini. Sitting centre wall, Eiffel Tower, 1989, Louise Forthun, right hand wall, Sing the Sailors, 1990, Janenne Eaton, and Sitting Bull, 1990, Tim Johnson. Bedroom Spearmint Baby, 1989, Jon Campbell. Music Hall on right hand wall, YOU’VE ALWAYS WANTED TO BE BLACK (white friend), 2006, Brook Andrew. Dining Area Fabricated Rooms, 1998, Howard Arkley. Downstairs Gallery Panel Work, 2000, Patricia Piccinini, and My Lunar Rover (you had to be there), 2005, Peter Hennessey. Hall Original drawing by architect Robert Venturi. White Box at top, Rose Nolan 2000/2001, 2000-2001, Rose Nolan, and from left to right, Shadow Factories, 1990, Howard Arkley, Untitled 99 U20 Diptych, 1999, Tim Maguire, and Orange Building Site, 1990, Louise Forthun. FURNITURE Sofas from Space Furniture, spacefurniture.com.au, Siekaup, siekaup.com.au, and Poliform, poliform.com.au. Seating in Music Room and Museum, custom designed by Lyons, manufactured by Xilo, xilo.net. au. Vitrines custom designed by Lyons, manufactured by Xilo. LIGHTING Throughout track lighting by ECC, ecc.com.au, and iGuzzini, iguzzini.com. FINISHES Wall panelling printed timber veneer panels custom designed by Lyons, printed by PB Visual, pbvisual.com.au, and fabricated by Mortice & Tenon, morticeandtenon.com. Joinery in Kitchen by Mortice & Tenon, specialist joinery throughout custom designed by Lyons, printed by PB Visual and fabricated by Mortice & Tenon. Floors honed concrete. Carpet in Bedrooms by Velieris, velieris.onlinegalleries.com. au, and in Art Space #2 from Supertuft, supertuft.com.au. FIXED & FITTED Pipe organ designed by Corbett Lyon, Rod Junor, Pipeless Pipe Organ Company, pipelesspipeorgan.com. au, Wakely Pipe Organs, pipeorgans.com.au, and manufactured by Xilo.abc
Design Products
Furniture

Leolux by Misura

Other classic designs from the Dutch brand include: Kikko armchair - a clever multinfunctional chaise lounge misura_adv_mar_kikko Parabolica armchair - A swivel armchair and reddot design winner misura_adv_mar_parabolica Bolea - An armchair that cocoons you with its cosy seat and inviting design misura_adv_mar_bolea Sella armchair - A beautifully moulded design misura_adv_mar_aster   Leolux is available from Misura misura.com.auabc
Fixed & Fitted
Design Products
Accessories

COMBI from DELSA

Can't decide between shower or bathtub? Thanks to the surprising combi units in smaller sizes, you won't have to. Fitted with a sturdy handle and mechanical latch to prevent the door from being opened accidentally, the door leads to a comfortable shower area. delsa_mar_adv_1 The removable seat allows the unit to be converted into a convenient bathtub, available with whirlpool: a genuine oasis of relaxation. The styling is truly appealing, with the utmost attention to detail and choice between several different wood finishing panels or fully covered to your liking. delsa_mar_adv_2 The COMBI generously caters to the needs of children, adults and the elderly. Everyone can enjoy them as either a bathtub or a shower as they are easy, safe and comfortable to use, thanks to painstakingly studied ergonomics. delsa_mar_adv_3 Delsa delsa.com.auabc
Architecture
NOT HOMES

Up Among the Clouds

Elaborated from a concept dreamt up by the team at MFWF, and more than double the size of last year’s Festival hub, The Immersery: Festival Kitchen, Bar and Raingarden is one of the most ambitious temporary spaces Melbourne has ever seen. immersery_9 HASSELL designer Brenton Beggs said The Immersery brings the Festival’s water theme alive and offers a glimpse of the long term potential of the Southbank site. immersery_3 “We thought about how to interpret the theme of water and connect it to the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival brand, which is one of the most prestigious festivals of its kind in the world,” said Brenton. “We wanted to design a space that would draw people in and create a sense of excitement and an element of surprise. immersery_2 “The design represents the three states of water as well as the water cycle, encouraging visitors to consider how we use one of Earth’s most precious resources, at the same time as enjoying the vibrant and lively atmosphere of the festival." immersery_10 The cloud-like canopy sitting above the disused Sandridge Rail Bridge will create a skyline community space and offer a new city vantage point. immersery_7 “Water misters, multi-level planting and a water-inspired soundscape all contribute to the sense of an urban retreat, where visitors can relax, and become truly immersed in the landscape,” said Brenton. immersery_8 “We worked closely with Melbourne Water to create ground-level raingardens that are located around the site. They feature drought-tolerant plants and demonstration vegetable patches in reclaimed 40-gallon drums. “They show how people can harness Mother Nature’s most precious resource and capture, filter and reuse water before it re-enters the water cycle.” immersery_5 The barge on the Yarra River will be moored to the wharf beneath the cloud and be home to a floating bar hosting some of the country’s best wine, cocktails and drinks. The open-kitchen eatery on the concourse level immediately adjacent will feature a lunch and dinner menu designed by a star-studded collective of local chefs. immersery_6 Many of the materials used throughout The Immersery are connected to water infrastructure, such as plumbing pipes, and have either been reclaimed, recycled or will be returned into circulation following the Festival, ensuring material waste is kept to a minimum. HASSELL Principal Mary Papaioannou said temporary projects such as The Immersery provided the opportunity for experimentation through intervention in the public realm. immersery_11 “Temporary or ‘pop-up’ events are great vehicles for testing ideas. They offer a chance to directly challenge established modes of public occupation and behaviour and offer the public a new perspective on a space they may already be extremely familiar with,” said Mary. HASSELL hassellstudio.comabc
People
Design Hunters
Conversations

Weaving Magic

“Hungry colours are surrounding me” are the words to a song by The Unicorns. And they once played in designer Maricar Manalo’s head constantly. It was a trying time for Maricar and her twin sister Maricor right after they left design and film studio Mathematics, to form their company MaricorMaricar in 2010. Those lyrics hit home, and inspired their first piece of hand-embroidered lettering with the phrase stitched in a watercolour wash effect — this became their signature. maricor_moricar_4 “The lyrics seemed to sum up that positive-negative relationship designers, artists or makers often have with inspiration and the creative process,” says Maricar. The colourful and tongue-in-cheek embroidered aphorism soon attracted custom requests to embroider personalised mottos. maricor_moricar_6 Maricor and Maricar — born in the Philippines and raised in Sydney — learned embroidery using a Reader’s Digest manual and YouTube videos, in order to produce an animated music video tasked by Mathematics. Their portfolio now encompasses illustrations, animation, window displays and print. Kylie Minogue has featured their work in her book; TOMS shoes and West Elm Australia commissioned embroidered designs for window displays; the duo embroidered the word ‘Delicious’ in six languages realised in food motifs, for display at Hong Kong Airport. maricor_moricar_1 The Maps wall hangings, presented at Koskela last year, were inspired by their time in London after winning the British Council’s Realise Your Dream grant. Colourful patchwork and fluorescent weaving paint vibrant panoramas of London Fields. It is their first foray into larger scale textile pieces, which they plan to develop into rugs, blankets and bed linen. Current works also include animating their Epic Battle series of quirky embroidered characters. The designers also cite Bompas & Parr as a dream collaborator to create ‘Willy Wonka’ magic in edible embroidery. maricor_moricar_5 “We’ve always tried to use embroidery in an expressive way rather than the more traditional approach,” says Maricar. “You’ll see a lot of textural play in our work to evoke the feel of painterly brushstrokes or fluid colour transitions echoing watercolours.” Quilter’s cotton and linen are favourite materials to use. Remnant fabric sourced from fashion and design houses, and combined embroidery techniques with weaving were used in the Maps series. maricor_moricar_3 Every one-off piece — handcrafted at Maricar’s home studio — may take more than a month or less to complete, depending on the size and needlepoint techniques. Pinned on their mood board are a swatch of excess fabric with loose abstract stitching; an image of Tim Johnson’s artwork, ripped from a magazine; diagrams of nautical knots. Maricar says, “We hope people enjoy the little details. We like to inject a part of ourselves into each design — especially details which are made possible because we work each stitch by hand.” Photography: Lucy Leonardi lucyleonardi.com Maricor/Maricar maricormaricar.comabc
Architecture
Homes
MAGAZINE

A Tale of Timber

Above: The wide roof overhang creates a semi-covered pool overlooking the valley below. Langkawi refers to an archipelago of 99 sunsoaked tropical islands scattered roughly off the north-west coast of peninsula Malaysia, at the point where the south Andaman Sea meets the Straits of Malacca. The main island of this group is also simply known as Langkawi and has been declared a UNESCO Geopark due to its natural habitat and a unique geology and biodiversity. My first visit to Langkawi was on an architectural school trip in 1981, when the island had but a single bus, hardly any cars and no hotels. Getting to the island was via a slightly irregular ferry service (actually just a boat holding 50–60 people) from Kuala Kedah on the mainland. I have fond memories of walking the main street in the principal town of Kuah and not seeing a single car for miles. Alas, in the ensuing decades, Langkawi has been developed and today boasts modern concrete buildings, an international airport, numerous luxury marinas, a host of five-star hotels and resorts and a duty-free status to boot (meaning some of the products of contemporary Western living, such as cars and alcohol, are cheap and plentiful). Fast forward to 2007 and we have a retired British couple, Angela and Bob, falling in love with the island. Bob’s previous career in advertising had enabled him to visit a number of exotic destinations the world over. a_tale_of_timber_1 In a gesture of honesty, the original markings on the posts are left intact. When I met the couple over tea, Bob explained how he had kept a checklist of all the places he had visited, to determine which one – come the day – would be the most suitable place to retire to. At the end of the exercise, Langkawi had the most number of ticked boxes. Ironically, the partial development of Langkawi was somewhat of a plus to the couple. As Bob explained, “Although retired, I am occasionally called up by my ex-employer and other friends in the industry to help with difficult projects. Overseas travel is convenient with an international airport literally in our backyard... the modernisation of Langkawi is not all in vain.” Apart from the obvious beauty of the landscape and the agreeable climate, another advantage as far as Angela and Bob were concerned was the ‘Malaysia, My Second Home’ scheme. This government initiative not only encourages foreign retirees to move to Malaysia, but then also provides a support network and a number of incentives if you do so. Through a mutual friend, the couple got in touch with Building Bloc, a young husband and wife architect team based in Kuala Lumpur, to design their dream home. The brief was simple: “Give us a timber house”. a_tale_of_timber_2 Left: The full-height glass doors to the kitchen slide back to provide a completely open ground floor plan. Right: Detail of the four-post column on the ground floor, resting on a metal plate which floats above the bare concrete floor. Wen Hsia and Boo Chung run a comparatively small practice, undertaking only a few selected projects for discerning clients. When faced with the task of designing a ‘timber house’ for Angela and Bob, they did not want to settle for just another timber house – it had to be something different. Something that touched the soul; a home that not only provided shelter for its occupants but also respected and celebrated nature and its resources. Design and Construction When Hsia and Chung presented their unique idea of a timber house – one made primarily of recycled electric poles – Angela and Bob listened. The idea seemed plausible – these timbers would be solid, hardy and well seasoned but not necessarily cheap. The next few meetings, over the course of six months, were spent fi ne-tuning the design and getting the budget sorted out. But major obstacles remained: fi nding suitable timbers for the house in the required quantity, as well as a knowledgeable and sensitive builder who could translate the design into its built form. Hsia and Chung accompanied the clients as they traversed three states to source the timber – literally the whole of northern peninsula Malaysia. Their search paid off when they located a timber yard in the town of Alor Setar, which had stockpiled a large quantity of these disused poles from the national power company. Meanwhile, a number of builders were shortlisted and interviewed, some from as far away as Kuala Lumpur. The chosen builder, while not the cheapest, did have good credentials and also happened to be a local from the island. a_tale_of_timber_5Ample ventilation in the master bedroom provides the perfect resting place for balmy tropical nights. Thus began the construction of a unique house sitting atop a little hillock, surrounded by lush tropical greenery and kampong houses in the valley below. It took close to 18 months to complete, with monthly – and at times fortnightly – site meetings with the builders, often working out construction details on the spot. As time progressed, the architects and the clients felt lucky to have the builders’ experience, which contributed to the exercise and helped them in realising their design. The experience When I visited Angela and Bob recently, what fi rst struck me was the tranquillity of the countryside surrounding the house. You drive through a narrow kampong road arriving at a gate that hints at something remarkable beyond. But nothing is visible, save for a narrow uphill driveway that disappears around the bend. From the covered garage (upstairs is a reconstructed kampong house that now serves as Bob’s workshop), the house proper is reached via a set of steep steps made of poles leftover from building the house. And when you reach the top – level with the house – there’s another surprise: almost the entire house at grade level is completely open on the two long sides. One’s eye is drawn immediately to the breathtaking countryside that slopes steeply away from the house on the opposite side. The living space is a large open area overlooking a pool that runs the full length of the house. On each side of the pool are deck areas, with the same timber poles echoing throughout the spaces. a_tale_of_timber_6Left: The kitchen is simple, with cool finishes in keeping with the rest of the house. Right: Recycled, utilitarian brass fittings with an old world charm and simplicity. The kitchen is the only area that has any modernity to it, with gas stoves, built-in ovens and other appliances. It even has an air-conditioner for those balmy afternoons, the only space in the entire house to do so. Apart from the mod-con fittings, this space too is simple, with fair-faced brick walls, concrete open shelves for storage and a concrete island worktop with period-style sink. Remnants of the residents’ native country are the custom designed taps – all the original brass stopcocks in the house were purchased from a junkyard in Great Britain. A single flight of stairs, again in the same timber poles, are suspended from the first floor using steel rods, leads to the upper floor. The entire upper floor has two open balconies running the full length of the house. One side overlooks the pool below and the countryside beyond, visible for miles on a clear sunny day. The centre third of the floor acts as a family area and is simply furnished with an assortment of antique furniture and a beautiful raised divan as the centrepiece. On either end of the structure are the sleeping quarters: one is occupied by the huge master bedroom, while on the opposite side, two smaller (but still spacious) rooms share the remaining third of the floor. Each bedroom has its own ensuite, located at the extreme ends of the floor. a_tale_of_timber_3 The openness of the house is evident from this side view. The single flight staircase is seen on the right. None of these spaces have airconditioning, but the open balconies welcome in a constant breeze flowing from the lowlands, cooling the house comfortably even during hot days. Only simple ceiling mounted fans aid in circulating the air on still nights. The architects took great pains to design unobtrusive insect netting to the upper walls, which is almost invisible from inside. Together with the timber louvres on the lower half of the walls and the operable casement glazing, the entire façade is able to breathe naturally. Similarly, the timber floorboards have been laid deliberately with gaps in between to allow air circulation between the floors. The expressive timber structure and underside of the roof, which are recycled Belian shingles sourced from a dismantled local hotel, maintain the simple and honest architectural aesthetic of the home. Downstairs, only the kitchen can be closed off using full-height glazed sliding doors, while the upper floor can be isolated at night by locking the staircase gate. Angela and Bob love the simple living concept and the quiet and safety of the locale poses no security problems to such an open house. “Locals are a friendly lot,” Angela and Bob explain, telling how both people and the monkeys that reside in trees on the neighbouring hillside followed the building of their home with interest. This project was very much a collaborative process where residents, architects, builder and engineer went on an enlightening journey together over a period of time. Something as intimate as a home always inspires an array of human connections – here, these were first brought to life in the working relationships, and then the friendships, between the people involved in its creation. “We had just envisaged a little timber house, maybe something vernacular,” the couple remark. “This synthesis of ideas, concepts and technologies and take on the green revolution... is a pleasant surprise.” Photography: Tianxing and Ken Soh Architect:| Building Bloc building-bloc.com Project Team: BC Ang, Wen Hsia Ang Engineer: PKS Chin Dan Rakan Rakan Builder: HQB Construction Steel/Metal Works: CL Steel Furniture:  Furniture throughout is owners’ collection. Lighting: Lighting throughout is basic lightbulbs. Finishes: Floors ground floor is cement screed and first floor is recycled timber floorboards. Columns recycled timber electricity poles. Walls recycled timber with steel frame. Roof recycled shingles. Fixed & Fitted Tap fittings and door handles custom designed by Building Bloc.abc
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Ergonomic Design For Modern Living

The result of years of studying the finer points of ergonomic design, user needs and design trends, the Dot.Pro Chair is the result of cutting edge manufacturing and world leading design. Built using the highest quality materials and components, designer Jorge Herrera with Spain’s Forma 5 design group have mastered the art of ergonomics with this stylish, functional office chair. The Dot.Pro chair has been designed with current office, and home office, aesthetics trends in mind, yet never loses sight of the important of ergonomics and functionality. If you’re sitting for eight hours a day, the importance of ergonomic design can’t be overstated, and the Dot.Pro fulfils the needs of the modern worker. From an aesthetic perspective, the design, dynamism and comfort of the Dot.Pro means it’s able to be integrated into a wide variety of spaces – from individual offices to open plan workspaces. Made from a highly flexible material in the seating, the chair remains comfortable for long hours of sitting, making it the ultimate task office chair. All occupational health studies suggest using chairs that accommodate the movement of the back whilst working, and the Dot.Pro does just that. The Dot.Pro offers an innovative system that combines the use of highly flexible materials allowing a flexible torsion in the upper whilst maintaining firm seating waist. The back-rest frame takes it cues from the contours of the human spine – our flexibility centre – with a uniquely designed fulcrum that allows the backrest to move through rotation, flexion and extension in unison with the user. Employing such ergonomic design principles allow for dynamic movement, comfort and health. The clean crisp contoured lines, subtle mesh backrest and slim frame coupled with highly functional and resistant materials beautifully combine to create a task chair that does not sacrifice beauty for function. These two design elements work in perfect harmony in the Dot.Pro. Dot.Pro features a Synchro Motion mechanism, 3D arms, web mesh back and lumbar support making it the perfect task chair for continuous work whilst assuring healthy freedom of movement. The Dot.Pro is available locally through the office furniture experts at Workspace. Workspace workspace.com.au abc