Tena Wheeler is very familiar with the process of planning and building houses as she’s built a couple over the years. In this interview she describes how building a new house with Suzie was a very different experience. She reflects on how she feels about her new home and what her visitors say about it.
Q: How did you meet Suzie and why did you choose her as your architect?
I first learnt about Suzie from an article in Scoop magazine. There was a photo of her with her children. There were also photos of a home that she’d just finished. We liked the look of the home and I thought she looked like someone that would be easy to talk to. From previous experience we knew that was very important.
Q: What sort of place did you want to create?
We wanted to create a home that would be suitable for this time in our lives, but also one we could live in forever. It needed to be tranquil, feel spacious and beautiful but most importantly we wanted a comfortable home.
Q: If I was about to go on this journey of creating a new home with Suzie, how would you explain that process to me?
Suzie met us at our home and we talked about many general things regarding houses, for example our likes and dislikes. I realised later that this enabled Suzie to see how we lived in the spaces of our present home even though we wanted a completely different style in our new one.
Q: How did the communication flow during the project? What did you enjoy?
The communication between Suzie and us was very comfortable right from the beginning. When Suzie brought us the first floor plan it looked really good right away. I don’t think we actually changed anything much from that original layout but as the process of design was fine-tuned Suzie made minor alterations which enhanced the original concept.
We have had built a few homes over the last 40 years and twice have thrown away plans where we have became so frustrated with the architects. They just refused to listen to us. They kept giving us what they insisted was what we wanted. We found this was the opposite with Suzie. She always listened, but would always give us her ideas if she felt where we were heading wasn’t quite right. As the process went along we found ourselves trusting her judgement more and more.
Q: How did the interiors come together? Did you enjoy that part of the project?
With regard to the interiors we went with Suzie’s selection almost 100% she always incorporated any preferences that we had and enhanced any specific things that we wanted. I found that when it came to parts of the whole concept of the design that were our responsibility, such as style of landscaping or the correct spot for trees that affected the solar working of the home, Suzie would always give advice to help us get things right. There was also great help in selecting furnishings and colour schemes for the home.
Q: Can you think of a story or an example that best illustrates what it’s been like to build a home with Suzie?
One of the things that was really enjoyable was our fortnightly meetings on site. Usually these meetings are between builder and architect but Suzie also invited us to attend them. As the build went along we would arrive with our list of ideas or concerns and would end up throwing away our list as each time Suzie would get there before us. We found these meetings invaluable to understanding how things came together. Building a home is always a bit of an anxious time and you always want it finished much sooner than is possible. We very much enjoyed the process of the build, this was very much due to the relationship between architect, builder and us.
Q: What is it like to live in your new home? What are the parts that you especially love?
Our new home is truly wonderful to live in, efficient, light, airy and comfortable. It’s hard to say which part I love the most. One day I might come in the front entrance and I think, this is just the most beautiful entrance. Another day I walk into our bedroom through to our en suite and decide that it is my dream, there is no part of this home that’s not beautiful.
Q: What do people comment on when they first see it?
Everyone that has come here comments that it is one the most beautiful homes they’ve been in. It has everything a modern home should have and yet it feels warm and homely because of the selection of materials. Everywhere you look it has a pleasing aspect.
Q: If someone asked you what Suzie is like as an architect what do you say?
I only need one word – fantastic. We were extremely lucky to have found her, as she does one of the most important things for a residential architect and that is to listen to the client.