To an outsider, architect Suzanne (Suzie) Hunt seems to live a hectic life. She has four children under 12, including twins, and a successful architecture and interior design business, all of which frantically co-exist under the roof of her welcoming Subiaco home and office.
While others might crumble under the pressure of trying to juggle the roles of mother and company director, Suzie wears the two hats, often simultaneously, with ease. In fact, perfecting this balancing act is what Suzie considers her greatest success.
“For me, at 44 (years of age), other than my children, my greatest achievement has been reaching a balance between life and work,” she says, “I feel that I am so lucky to have four beautiful, happy children, a wonderful relationship, loving and supportive family and friends, and a successful career that I am really enjoying.”
After graduating from Curtin University in 1987, Suzie packed her bags for the UK. There she worked for an international architecture firm for four years, sat her registration exam and met her husband-to-be in 1991. Suzie tied the knot back in Perth, and worked in government strategic planning and development roles before having her first son in 1996.
The twins arrived 18 months later during a time Suzie describes as one of the busiest of her life. “It was a crazy period. In the year the children were all under three my husband was working a lot over east, we were renovating our home in Subiaco and selling another home,” she says.
Suzie and her husband established their own practice in 1999. but the breakdown of their marriage in 2003 meant Suzie had to literally start again, taking only one project with her in the separating of the business. That project turned out to be one of the most important in Suzie’s career to date. Referred to by Suzie as the Witchcliffe house to protect the privacy of the owners, this residential project near Margaret River became a labour of love.
Together with builder John Wholagan, Suzie created a breathtaking home that’s already won a number of awards, including 2008 MBA Country Home of the year and the 2007 MBA South West Home of the Year.
“This particular project was a great stepping stone for me because I learnt so much and the people were just fantastic. It was amazing opportunity to work with clients that were really wanting to work with the builder and me as a team,” she says.
In addition to the Withcliffe house, Suzie has a string of innovative regional residential projects under way in Toodyay and Exmouth. Her practice is also responsible for retail and office fit-outs across Perth, and she has completed a number of contemporary additions to heritage-listed homes in the western suburbs. Suzie is also the metropolitan heritage advisor for Subiaco and Cottesloe councils.
Suzie’s boutique practice, Suzanne Hunt Architecture, offers both architecture and interior design services. For Suzie, working with people and translating their dream is particularly satisfying.
“What I love about architecture is that is blends the humanities of art, design and psychology and the sciences of building. You really have to listen to what people are saying and try and transcribe that. I really enjoy residential because it gives you the opportunity to get to know people and work with them so that you can find out what they want and hopefully give them their dream home. I think it’s better for us architects to be able to complete the total package – the exterior and interior – because then you get a seamless feel to a home,” she says.
Suzie’s architectural style is understated and elegant, and she enjoys working with the natural environment. “I love working with natural materials like stone and rammed earth, and I love architecture that touches the earth lightly, that seems to tuck in the natural landscape,” she says.
In the immediate future, Suzie hopes to continue growing the residential arm of her practice, working on both the inside and outside of each project. She also wants to remain family friendly with the flexibility to be both a good mother and talented designer, and credits her team of employees and contractors for giving her the ability to do so.
“For me the battle has been getting a balance. Everyone who works here has children, so we work hard to make the office a flexible and family-friendly environment,” says Suzie.
“I have great people around me, fantastic contractors, great consultants and builders who I work with very well – that makes the job so much easier.”
Article by Jessica Zoiti last seen in Insite Spring | 2008