Q&A WITH ARCHITECT MADELEINE BLANCHFIELD
Credit: Stoke Magazine, June 2019
Blanchfield’s signature is purity of design, clever use of the site to bring in sunlight and ensure privacy - whatever the budget.
“I think there should be good design principles involved in creating any home without it necessarily having to cost a fortune,” says Ms Blanchfield.
How would you describe your interior style/aesthetic?
Our projects are mostly new houses. The interior aesthetic is an inseparable part of the overall house. Our work is always bright, voluminous and focused on light and space. Clear, strong planning and simple, pared back design is a consistent attribute to our work – beyond that we treat each project as its own entity and draw on the site and the clients for inspiration. For this reason we do not have a prescriptive aesthetic per se.
What inspires you and where do you look for inspiration?
I’m inspired by Japanese design, which deals beautifully with the journey through spaces and the interface between public and private space. Travel is always a great source of inspiration, as are the individual character and traits of our domestic clients.
Tell us a bit about MBA – Have you always been in Paddington? How has your team grown since branching out on your own in 2009? What is your workspace like?
We work in a corner store, which is a shopfront. It is like sitting on the street. I love the light and being connected to the neighbourhood and part of the community. Previously I have worked in a warehouse or high-rise, where the experience of a working day is very different. I feel like I’ve lived a day in the world in our current office. I started MBA out of my spare room in 2009 and gradually took on colleagues and built up the firm. Four people in the spare room was not ideal, so getting our own space was a very welcome evolution.
What’s been the most challenging thing about going out on your own? And the best?
You have to be an all-rounder having your own business and do a lot of things that are not related to design. It can be frustrating dealing with the admin side when you really want to get stuck into the drawings. The best thing is being able to control the environment you work in and the projects you work on. I am fortunate to have an amazing team and we operate as a very strong group, so the pressures of ‘being on your own’ are much less now than they were initially. Problems and successes are shared and its genuinely fun going to work.
Does MBA have a distinct design philosophy?
We strive to create architecture that elevates peoples mood and spirit. It has clarity, is flooded with sun, light and is responsive to the client’s brief. We always start with spatial planning and test options rather than assume that the first one will be the best or force a form onto a house.
Your work is very contemporary yet also has a timeless appeal, which is sometimes hard to achieve. How do you manage to tread the line between ‘trendy’ and modern/ contemporary - so that the look won’t date quickly?
Our architecture focuses on proportion, balance, light and volume. It is pared back and purposeful. It is easy to avoid trends because the forms are derived from the site and the brief. There will always be a tendency towards popular materials and tones, but provided they are composed in a classic and thoughtful manner, one that has substance and is informed by the concept and brief, I don’t think that’s a bad thing.
Do you have to spend a lot of time with them before you feel you can design their home? Do you look for certain pieces in their existing home for inspiration or as a starting point?
We treat the client as part of the design team, which allows them to feel ownership of the final product and allows us to draw on them for inspiration and ensure that the house is truly theirs. We get to know them very well through the process and when it comes to the final touches such as art and furniture we are usually well aligned.
You’re currently building your familys' own home – can you tell us about the home and how it differs from designing a home for a client?
We have done everything ‘wrong’ in our house ! High maintenance timber windows, spiral stair, a pond and no rangehood. It has been harder to make decisions for myself than for other people, being one step removed makes things clearer.