Margaret River based builder John Wholagan of Wholagan Building Inspiration has worked with Suzie on several projects including two at Leeuwin Estate. Here he talks here about how they came to work together and why he enjoys their working relationship.
Q: John, how many projects do you average each year?
Over the years it’s usually been about three. If it’s a major project, I’m happy to do one a year.
Q: I’d like to understand a bit about the nature and the scale of the projects that you’ve worked on with Suzie. Can you tell me a bit about them?
The first work I did with Suzie was at Leeuwin Estate Winery in renovating the restaurant and tasting bar area. That was my first contact with Suzie. We worked together on that and then some time later the owners of Leeuwin Estate, Denis and Tricia Horgan built their Margaret River home, Witchcliffe. Suzie got involved with that, and because I had such a good working relationship with the Horgans, I was the chosen builder. That was the first major project that we did.
Then I built a very large project called Yallingup Coastal House. There was another architect involved in the actual construction side of the build, but he couldn’t handle the interior design and set out and choices of materials. I got Suzie involved in that project, which was fantastic. She did a great job with the interiors and the owner was very pleased with the result. Suzie’s got very good people skills and can convey her ideas to the client in a very self-confident way which, to me, is great.
Not many clients are aware of design and ideas that need to be put together and how they’re going to work together. It’s sometimes very hard for the clients to communicate their ideas to their architect but Suzie has a great skill in helping them to develop their ideas and make the final choices. What’s great is that she brings the clients along for the journey.
Q: Can you tell me about the process of building a new home? I’m going to get you to be my builder, can you just explain how it all comes together?
Basically, sometimes I’ll have a client come to me through my website and they generally all need advice on which way to go in choosing architects or designers, working out their budget and design details. I usually pass clients on to someone like Suzie if they want an architect. That’s when the ball really starts rolling.
It’s really a one-on-one with the architect and the owners to sit down and sort out what their ideas are and what they want in the new home that they want to build. That’s the start of the process really.
Then I become involved as the design stage progresses, and we will just spread things around between each other to decide which is the best way to go. Suzie will ask me my opinion on using different mediums. That’s how the whole process really starts to evolve.
Q: What’s the advantage, for somebody who’s going to build a new home, of working with an architect?
The expertise in design. An architect is a lot more qualified than a designer so the main advantages are the quality of work that you achieve, the administration of the contract, looking out for the client’s interests, the go-between between the builder and the owners.
Q: Tell me more about architects and people skills.
I think that Suzie’s always had very good people skills, and getting close to people and advising them and getting their ideas across. She has a strong character and comes across well. People like to know that they’ve engaged someone that has the confidence and the expertise to carry out the project for them.
Q: How important is project documentation?
Right from our first work together, there’s always been fantastic documentation from Suzie and it really came to light when we built the Horgan’s house (Witchcliffe House) at Leeuwin Estate. The quality of the drawings, the detailing and everything, that was excellent. It amazed me how quickly she gets things done – a lot of architects tend to go on and on and on and take a lot of time. Whether they take on too much work or what, I don’t know, but I’ve never had anyone else that can complete documentation with the detail and time frame that Suzie’s been able to do.
Slow documentation causes delays in projects. If changes need to be made and there is detailing that needs to be attended to, generally it’s done in a couple days. Some other architects take a couple of weeks. That causes delays and frustration for us and the owners.
Q: Sometimes the budget on projects can be an issue and costs can blow out. What do you think is important to keep within budgets?
Well, with the projects I’ve worked on with Suzie the budgets haven’t blown out. Generally budget blowouts are caused when people want to make changes and add things in, and they don’t really take into consideration the extra cost involved in doing that. Clients can see better products that they want to improve the overall standard of their home. They make decisions without realizing what the implications are. Good up front planning can avoid a lot of problems like this.
Also the documentation provided by Suzie’s practice is exceptional. The end result is Suzie’s projects stay on budget and win awards.
Q: Thanks John for your time.