Designer Profile

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Julie-Ann is a passionate designer with an affinity for renovations, in particular those gloriously challenging villas that have engrained themselves into the kiwi culture. No new comer, Julie-Ann has been in the architectural industry for 19 years. From Dunedin and a graduate of Otago Polytechnic, Julie-Ann started out as an architectural draughtsman in 1995, she then worked in several architectural practices before launching her company, design arc Limited in 2001.

This month, Defign spoke to Julie-Ann to get the inside word on her approach to architectural design...

You express a strong interest in renovations - what is the attraction for you as a designer?

To be honest it's the challenge.
There are so many set parameters to contend with. The new additions or alterations need to be an integral part of the site. This does not necessarily mean the new areas are reproductions of the existing structure, however they do need to reflect the history of the site and sit comfortably within the existing spaces.
It's also great to add value to our existing housing stock. Dunedin has some very beautiful old homes that just need a rejig and insulation upgrade to incorporate the way we live now.

What would your recommendation be to anyone considering a renovation?

If possible, live in the house for a year first. This will give you an appreciation of the positive and negative points of the house, taking into account all the different seasons. I would also recommend having a long term plan for the dwelling. Don't leap in and then find later on you have to do things twice - think about the future.

Where do you think New Zealander's love of the villa comes from?

It seems almost a rite of passage as a first time home owner to do up a villa or bungalow.
I think it's the atmosphere, charm and character of the houses. We are a very young country so these are the dwellings of our history, a familiar space. They can be quirky and sometimes whimsical, in a way a new house can’t compete.
Sadly my husband doesn't have this allurement, and told me very early on in our relationship that we will never own a villa. Which I can't really argue with as it would have been him doing most, if not all, of the renovating work. Maybe that's why I am drawn to villas as projects; perhaps I'm living out my dreams . . .

Where do you get your inspiration from for your designs?

Inspiration comes from many sources. We have many fine buildings in Dunedin which I get ideas from, I especially love Basil Hooper houses. I was lucky enough to work on one last year. Sometimes researching the history of a dwelling can also be fruitful, I love finding out who built it and how they lived in it. Other times it's through some of the quality architectural books we have in NZ or going to a lecture by a celebrated designer. I love Bill Bryson's book, At Home, it takes a room-by-room tour through his own house, using each room as a jumping off point into the vast history of the domestic artifacts we take for granted - it's really fascinating.

What has been your favourite project to work on and why?

It's hard to select just one, however if I have to, it would be the Poulter Fraser Residence.
It was a renovation of an early 1980's house. The house was designed by the first architectural practice I had worked for, so the detailing was so familiar and comfortable to me.
I advised the owners not to modernise the house by ignoring its origin. While it would be obvious that the residence had been redecorated, I wanted the structure of the house to look like it had always been there.
The major issue with the house was the flow. The kitchen was an isolated Seratone 'box' at the front of the house with no connection to the living areas or the beautiful private courtyard at the rear of the house. The solution for the kitchen was to turn it around to face the hallway and living area. A new internal timber window was created between the hallway and kitchen in the same style as the original sitting room window. This allowed morning light into the hallway area and visually linked the kitchen to the hallway, living area and courtyard. Cavity sliding doors were placed between the kitchen/ living and hallway areas so they interacted with the rest of the home, but could be closed off if required.
The clients were wonderful to work for and had real style when it came to furniture and accessories. There were no props necessary for the photo shoot at this residence, we were spoilt for choice.

What has been your most challenging project and why?

Probably a house I designed in Cromwell. I had a terrific overseas clients who wanted a very Australian style of house, utilising many materials that I hadn't used before including ballasted roofs. It was a challenge to incorporate this style into Central Otago's extreme climate. However we worked very well together and designed a residence that sat comfortably in its environment, but that also had many references back to their home town of Perth.
We had to go through a full resource consent hearing due to bulk and location issues, however I generally enjoy the resource consent process so I didn't really see this as a challenge.
Sadly a week before lodging the building consent, one of the clients passed away from a sudden illness and the house was never built.

If you could work on any project - what would it be?

Hmm I really don't know. Maybe having time to draw up the renovation plans for my own house!