Back with our Behind the Build series, we’re talking to Will Collins at ARCO designs about an exciting home renovation project we are currently working on at Paradise Point on the Gold Coast. Here, Will talks us  through the design process, how he approaches renovation designs, and how he manages to merge classic, heritage design with modernity.

What was the design brief for the Paradise Point project?

The owners were long-time Gold Coast residents that loved the area at Paradise Point, as well as some elements of their 80s home. They didn’t want to sell up and move to another area, as they have such a beautiful view of the water from the upper level of the home. However, they were in need of a home renovation – it was disjointed with the living areas disconnected from outdoor space.

How do you go about creating a floor plan for this kind of home?

We first measured the existing residence, photographed it and really got to know the existing house and their owners. Then we put that information into our Archicad computer software program, printed off the existing plan and sketched over it using tracing paper. Our design was informed by the owners wish list, so we started with the most obvious problems / obstacles of the house. In this instance, it was that the living room areas on both floors were not facing or connecting with the external outdoor living areas well. So we had to reverse the kitchen and dining positions, which meant moving the kitchen away from the outside wall and placing the dining room space there instead, this way it opened up to the view.

We added an extra large roofed balcony to the west of the home, and absorbed the existing small balcony to be part of the living area. We also created a new entry as the existing one was hard to locate.  The entire house was quite dated and needed design elements that brought it into the current decade.

 How does the design process differ in a renovation and extension vs a new home on the Gold Coast?

When you design a new home on the Gold Coast, you can start with a clean slate.  The main restrictions are size and slope of the block, the orientation towards the sun or views, any easements or services and of course what the owners want to achieve.

When designing home renovations, we need to deal with the existing design and structure.  In many cases on the Gold Coast, the homes were not designed to take advantage of the views, or the solar orientation and were often cramped and did not flow well.  I think most of us have experienced a poorly designed home and it’s not a pleasant experience and a big waste of money.

But we love turning the pigs ear into a silk purse and there’s nothing more satisfying than seeing the smiles and amazement on our clients faces when they see our design in 3D for the first time!

How much of the Paradise Point design process involved the client?

At the very beginning, we send our clients a detailed 12-page questionnaire which gets them thinking about what they really want to achieve. We then discuss the answers with them and go over their brief in detail.

Then we meet on site again and discuss the house during the measuring process.  Next we prepare the sketch design and present them with the new design.

If they want to make changes to the plans, that’s fine and a necessary part of the process. If that’s the case then we’ll meet up with them again and go through amended designs.  

Where did you / the client find inspiration for this design? 

We get our inspiration from many sources, using the internet  but sometimes from buildings in the area.  In this case we got inspiration from Pinterest in particular where modernity has merged with historic buildings.  

What role does natural light plan in this design?

The existing house was very dark.  We opened up the house a lot – to the point where we need involved discussion with the engineers to find bracing and spanning solutions.

In this case, we opened up the home to the north and to the west. We also opened up the south entry area to make the living room more sun-lit.

How did you ensure the new addition would match the existing home?

To keep the budget down we left the original house alone as much as possible and only altered the areas that really needed altering. We kept as much of the existing brickwork as possible, only bagging and painting so it could retain its authentic design charms.

We also kept the basic shape of the roof, but internally raked the ceiling to allow a triangular highlight roof to give the home a more modern feel and add more light and space vertically.

How did you achieve a design that blends so comfortably into its surroundings?

I think it’s important to provide visual interest by mixing up materials and colours that will blend with nature. Natural timber and the use of black metal goes well with nature. As does designing large openings. It’s so important when we have such beautiful ocean and nature with a new home on the Gold Coast!  

How important is builder/designer collaboration?

The designer and builder need to be able to get on well, but provided you choose a quality builder (like McGowan Homes) for the project then our input isn’t needed often. However,  when we have questions we know we can rely on Jeremy to answer the phone and help us out and vice versa. 

How do you ensure communication between builder, client and architect in a build?

These days we have email, mobile phones, WhatsApp, Skype and FaceTime.  What did we do before this technology I wonder? There’s no real excuse for lack of response now.

If you hear of stories where the designer or builder are slow at responding to questions,  it’s usually their attitude and a red flag.

What are you most excited to see come to life in this project?

It will be amazing to  stand on that new wide balcony with its view over the pool to the Gold Coast waterways.  I can just see the owners having their breakfast and coffee out there now…

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