I must admit, this was one shoot I was particularly excited about. I have been familiar with Sandy’s work for some time and admired not only her architectural projects, but her contribution to the Perth community. Sandy is an Architect, a board member of Historic Heart of Perth and Activate Perth, as well as a regular contributor to the media. 

Having got to know a little about Sandy, it’s evident she has a considered and intelligent view on architecture and design and is passionate about making spaces and precincts work. 

I was delighted to catch up with Sandy to take a look inside her Dalkeith home, House A, and find out more.

Tell me about the design brief and inspiration for House A?

The design brief for my home was quite simple. I wanted a functional, low-maintenance home with the main requirement being that all living spaces were to be accommodated on a single level.

Having lived in an apartment for five years, my husband Michael and I grew to appreciate the benefits of living in a more compact home on a single level. So the apartment we were living in became the starting point for the brief for our new home – an apartment house – and the brief then evolved further during the design process.

When thinking about the brief for a new home, I think it is important to consider how much space you really need – both inside and out. I think many people are stuck in the mindset of four-bedroom homes, home theatre, large backyard … when in fact two person and single-person households are on the increase. In particular, data shows that single-person households will probably rise by at least 65 per cent in the foreseeable future. Does one person need four bedrooms? The market seems to be slow to respond to changing trends.

What were the unique challenges of the project? 

Vacant at the time of purchase, the 500sqm site was a rare find in Dalkeith – a suburb known for large houses on quarter acre blocks – and has a unique dimension of 10m wide and 50m long.

The major challenge was in planning. While setbacks from the boundary are generally required, I was able to obtain a Council concession to build to the boundary on the west side. This was important because at 10m wide the block is relatively narrow – and I don’t think the generous living spaces would have been achievable without the nil setback on the west side.

By maximising the width of the home, I was not only able to create generous living spaces on a single level, but I was also able to maximise access to northern light. With north facing rear, I punctuated the home with two courtyards creating an “E-shaped” plan – with three zones separated by courtyards. This plan provides access to northern light throughout the home, a garden outlook and cross ventilation for all internal spaces. The courtyards also provide a sense of space and depth despite the narrow lot.

The three distinct zones of the house are: (1) master bedroom, (2) guest/study, and (3) living / dining. These areas are connected by a spine which runs along the length of the western boundary. The spine of the house contains the services (laundry, drying court, storage and kitchen) and a long corridor which acts as a gallery.

Remarkably, you were a lawyer before your career change to architecture. Tell me a bit about the choice to crossover to a career in design?  

I wanted to be an architect since I was a child but when I finished school in the early 1990s architecture was going through very challenging times. It is hard to believe now, but interest rates were 18% which obviously had a massive impact on the building and construction sector. I guess I chose to take the safer path of law and commerce rather than architecture.

My husband and I built our first house in 2004 and (a corporate tax lawyer at the time) it was through this process that I realised how much I wanted to do something creative and decided to return to university to study architecture.

Despite the change, I have no regrets about my previous career in law. A legal background is actually a great asset in architecture, with much of an architect’s life take up with reviewing local council legislation and policy and administering contracts.

How would you describe your design aesthetic? 

I don’t really have a set design aesthetic. The houses I have designed so far all look quite different – because they all have different owners and are situated in different neighbourhoods. I like homes to reflect their owners and their neighbourhood rather than me.

Home design is very personal. For most residential clients their home is the single biggest investment they will make in their life and they should enjoy both the design process and the outcome. This is very important for me.

Regarding reflecting the neighbourhood, I like the idea of creating a link to the past, and a sense of place – particularly today when so many older homes are being demolished to make way for new houses, and the traditional character of the older suburbs is being lost.

For example, for my home I referenced local examples of 1930s architecture in the neighbourhood. There are some beautiful examples of Art Deco architecture in Dalkeith – including Kylemore (1937) on Wattle Avenue and Chisolm House (1939) on Genesta Crescent – and I was definitely influenced by these houses when designing my home. The exposed off form concrete slab edge, which create a defined band around the perimeter of my home, is a reference to the concrete projections of local examples of art deco architecture. The strong horizontal bands of the parapet and windows were also inspired by local examples of art deco architecture.

What is it about the design process that inspires you most?

I am working on a few projects at the moment, a renovation in City Beach and a new home down south. What I like most about the design process is the challenge. There are so many challenges in designing a home – balancing client expectations with budget, testing various iterations to get the best result … Every project presents a different challenge and the opportunity to learn something new.

If you would like to get in touch with Sandy, head to sandyanghiedesign.com.

I’d like to thank Sandy and Michael for opening their home. It was an absolute pleasure!