Two white houses, with identical plans

By Penny Craswell

Two identical white rectangular houses placed at ninety degrees to each other in Melbourne’s East Malvern present an intelligent and cost-effective approach to residential design by Justin Mallia Architecture.

Oak Grove House. Photo: Shannon McGrath

Both buildings at Oak Grove feature the same folded front facade, derived from the site’s angular orientation to north, resulting in a geometry that breaks up what could have been a blocky appearance from the street, while enabling cross ventilation, north orientation and connection to outside. Read more

26 Original Fakes for Melbourne Design Week

This exhibition text was originally written by Penny Craswell for 26 Original Fakes, an exhibition curated by Dale Hardiman and Tom Skeehan of Friends & Associates as part of Melbourne Design Week.

26 Original Fakes, Melbourne Design Week

Fake furniture takes the original design and perverts it. The image in the magazine might look the same, but the object is fundamentally different – not just in quality, longevity, function and aesthetics, but also in its very essence. What makes the original authentic is stripped away and all you are left with is an empty simulation. Read more

Review: Crochet, performance and silly hats with Chili Philly

By Penny Craswell


The first solo exhibition of Phil Ferguson AKA Chili Philly at the Australian Design Centre crosses traditional boundaries of art, design, craft and performance.

Pizza by Chili Philly. Read more on The Design Writer blog
Pizza by Chili Philly. Image: courtesy the artist

A series of crochet hats made in bright colours (often in the shape of food or other recognisable fun shapes), the work is simple in some respects, but understanding it as just that would be to sell it short. Ferguson does not make crochet hats as artworks, or even to sell. Instead, he makes the hat, wears the hat and posts an image of himself wearing the hat onto social media. Read more

Melbourne house, with cloister

By Penny Craswell

While the word “cloister” evokes images of monks roaming crumbling monasteries, in fact the term merely refers to a covered walkway, usually with garden connections. Melbourne-based practice MRTN Architects has used the architectural device in a new alteration of a Victorian-era single-fronted terrace house in Carlton.

Carlton Cloister House by MRTN Architects. Photo:
Connecting old and new at Carlton Cloister House by MRTN Architects. Photo: Shannon McGrath

The addition to the house is placed at the back of the site, with the cloister connecting the two buildings. This layout has a number of benefits, offering an internal link between the two buildings while retaining valuable garden space. By orienting the cloister at the south of the site, the property also gains access to northern sunlight. Read more

Top 10: Ethical design gift guide

By Penny Craswell

Design isn’t just about aesthetics, and to prove it, this ethical gift guide lists a few of the many designers and brands now donating to charity or committed to ethical practices. So, read on, this is your chance to give back this holiday season – not just to families and friends, but also to those in need.

The Pretty Fly pin by Annie Hamilton. Photo: supplied

1. Increasingly, community-minded makers and sellers are donating a portion of their profits to charities. Sydney-based multi-disciplinary designer Annie Hamilton donates 10% of sales from her pins and art prints to the Asylum Seekers Resource Centre to help support and empower people seeking asylum in Australia. With a focus on insects and patterns inspired by plants, including the Pretty Fly enamel pin set consisting of venus fly trap and matching fly, Hamilton’s work also includes clothing and scarves, made locally and ethically in Sydney by a small team of makers in Redfern. Read more

Object stories: Softly sofa by Nick Rennie

By Penny Craswell

Melbourne designer Nick Rennie was recently in Paris where French design brand Ligne Roset launched his latest design at Maison & Objet – the Softly sofa. For Nick, the sofa is really about comfort, creating a compact shape with high cushions that provide effective support while being extremely comfortable.

Softly sofa by Melbourne designer Nick Rennie for Ligne Roset. Photo: supplied
Softly sofa by Melbourne designer Nick Rennie for Ligne Roset. Photo: supplied

“The idea came from placing a number of cushions together vertically to form the sides and the back of the sofa,” says Rennie. “It has quite a high seat level as well, so its super easy to get up from. And the higher back and sides also have a little flex to them and yet retain their stiffness, which allows great support.” Because of its compact size, the sofa is much more flexible than many other options. Read more

Review: Experimental Practice exhibition at RMIT Design Hub

By Penny Craswell

A desolate landscape with a long stretch of road. Two cold war era cars pull up and a man gets out of each car. Both men wear the cliched clothes of a cold war era spy. Solemnly, they exchange a suitcase and files before sobbing, getting back in the car and driving away, all filmed with a slow, meditative quality. This is the scenario in London artist Noam Toran’s video work “If We Never Meet Again” which features what the artist calls an “exchange of things by men”. The work explores design as an event and is one of a number of works exploring the limits of design in “Experimental Practice: Provocations In and Out of Design”.

Curated by UNSW’s Katherine Moline (my Masters supervisor), and RMIT’s Brad Haylock and Laurene Vaughan, the exhibition just finished its run at the RMIT Design Hub in Melbourne as part of the 2015 Melbourne International Design Festival and explores what Katherine refers to as “design gone feral”. Rather than showing design as a finished object divorced from its process, the exhibition seeks out work that is in progress,explores works that push the boundaries of design and art, showing process, design thinking and other experimental modes. By doing so, Katherine seeks to: “shift perceptions that works of art and design ‘arrive’ from nowhere both conceptually and materially as fully formed” and in the process provides a series of works that are about change. Read more

Review: Bavarian bierhaus interiors by Techne

By Penny Craswell

When Techne Architecture + Interior Design was given the brief to convert a South Wharf goods shed into Melbourne’s first bustling bierhaus, the Munich Brauhaus, the challenge was clear: to design a space that can pack 900 beer-lovers into what is essentially a large warehouse, while maintaining a contemporary, fresh design.

The Munich Brauhaus with design by Techne. Photo: Tom Blachford.
The Munich Brauhaus with design by Techne. Photo: Tom Blachford.

In order to achieve this, the design team split the cavernous space into a number of areas, including a large dining hall, Jager Bar and Wunder Bar, with a mezzanine floor and private function room providing more private, quieter zones. Timber is used extensively and creatively, with major joinery elements in a pale American Ash that creates a refined, bleached finish. Read more

Design writings: Christopher Boots studio visit

“We visit Boots in his Fitzroy studio. The streets lined by large oaks and restored facades are a far cry from the suburb’s working working-class roots, when Boots’ studio would have been home to one of many factories that formed the beating heart of the area’s industrial past.

via Broadsheet

“From an outsider’s perspective, Boots is living the dream: a studio in a fashionable suburb—which also doubles as his house—and luxury brand Hermes calling to design the Christmas lights in their New York store.

“Inside, Boots’s studio is a flurry of activity flanked by the fixtures that have brought him acclaim the world over. By one wall, there are iterations of Boots’ signature crystal fixtures, the Prometheus series: handmade chandeliers embellished with quartz around a ring of bronze.”

Alan Weedon visits Christopher Boots in his studio for Broadsheet, a well written article that gives in insight into this hard-working, talented designer.

Read the full article here.



Melbourne house, with vestibule

A vestibule, like a portico or a gazebo, is one of those architectural words that evoke a sense of romanticism. In the case of a vestibule, a small entry hall that connects the front door to the main interior, the term has an added exotic flavour for Australians, simply because our architecture does not often include one.

Interior, exterior. Photography: Shannon McGrath
Interior, exterior. Photography: Shannon McGrath

This is primarily for practical reasons. In Scandinavia or other cold climates, a vestibule is a space for you to shed and store your snow clothes which are not needed inside. In the UK, the same applies but usually for raincoats and muddy wellingtons or gumboots. In Australia, we often need a verandah, where we can shelter in the shade with the benefit of a cool breeze, but we do not normally need a vestibule. Read more