Designer Interview – Paul Somerford

Designer Interview – Paul Somerford 900 675 admin

Paul Somerford, one of the Directors of BDG Architects, sat down for a quick chat about his design process.

How is the initial design conversation between you and the client had – what do you focus on?

Listening. It’s basically a conversation to try and find what their needs and wants are. Trying to find out what they like, and often throwing idea of things that I like. I also look for things that will be very tricky to achieve, or assess whether their ideas are actually going to work. If someone has been in a property a long time they know it well, but if it’s been recently purchased, their eyes are fresh and they may not have the knowledge or experience to know what changes will make it more successful.

I often find myself comparing to my own house. Your reference points are the things you know best I think it is because it’s the house I have lived in for 30 years and we have made changes throughout this time – it’s become a bit of a lab in a way.

Do you have any design principles that you always start with when you start designing?

Light. I don’t like spaces to feel gloomy.
The site is key as well. Sometimes site constraints are useful givens that mould the house and inform the Architectural response. It is important to highlight the opportunities for view and sun which sometimes challenge each other.

Space. I would rather three generously sized spaces than squeezing in a fourth. Really well-designed small spaces are cool, and its happening more and more, but they have to be usable. The floor plan is the starting point for everything, but in saying that there are so many things that introduce themselves to it. When you do a floor plan you need to analyse how it’s going to look in 3D and spatially. It’s a dark art – the plan is one thing but at the same time you are doing a plan you have to be thinking about how its going to pull out of the paper.

Honesty of Material – I like the texture of natural materials, and, if you can, offset against colour. I like material to be celebrated. I don’t like seeing a brick veneer going miles into the sky to make it look like the building is built out of brick, or heavy materials atop light materials without the intentional play. Keep it honest.

What is the highlight of the design process for you?

It is hard to pinpoint just one highlight, but designing something in collaboration with your client, and you both love it, is up there on the list. At the end of the day, I always say, “It is your house, but I recommend this”. At times there is a thought process and a feeling, and at times we have an idea and can’t quite justify but you just know it’s right. It’s a great feeling when they buy into my recommendations or suggestions, and they trust me enough.