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Black book of secrets

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Renowned for his daring designs, Sydney architect Scott Weston reveals inside tips to help builders, designers and craftspeople work together seamlessly. Photos: Nicholas Watt

Kerryn Ramsey

Content Writer
For award-winning architect Scott Weston, collaboration is key when working on a major project. This was apparent when he took on one of his most challenging jobs – the rebuild and revitalisation of his own home. Originally built in the 1880s, this grand Victorian Italianate-style terrace in Paddington was a daunting renovation but Scott had a lethal weapon – ‘I call it my little black book of secrets,’ he says. 

Scott refers to his wealth of contacts that range from structural engineers and builders to artisans and craftspeople. ‘You learn from these talented people,’ says the principal of Scott Weston Architecture & Design. ‘It’s very collaborative.’
A two-year collaboration between Scott Weston and Wattyl established a custom colour palette made specifically for Villa Carmelina.
Using Scott’s custom colours, the staircase walls are in Wattyl ‘Studio Mauve’, and handrail and bannisters in Wattyl ‘Ivory Grey’ and ‘Walnut’ stains.

Getting started

When taking on a major project, Scott utilises 3D models and animation, which he designs from the inside out as a design tool. This was a necessity when working on the rebuild of Villa Carmelina, the property he owns with his partner, Andrew Hornery, a Sydney Morning Herald senior journalist and Private Sydney columnist. 

‘I designed it with all the structures in place, then added the layers,’ says Scott, who compiled over 170 drawings. A 3D video animation, which ran for four minutes, started as a basic shell, then the structure, wall lining and fine finishes were added. ‘By the end of the video, we saw how all the objects fit neatly together.’ 

Once an architectural concept is finalised, the next stage is working with consultants to make sure the vision can come to fruition. 

‘When putting together the documentation, you need advice from a range of different trade professionals. It’s a matter of letting them know how you want things done but listening to them to find out how to achieve those objectives. It all comes down to having a good working relationship with these consultants.’
The roof terrace with a retractable awning from Aalta Australia.
'The kitchen is one of the most important parts of our home because my partner loves to cook,’ says Scott. Cabinetry was built using Laminex in Wattyl ‘Curious Planet’ from Scott’s range.

Onsite solutions

In the early stages of working on Villa Carmelina, the main challenge was underpinning the building due to its different levels – the main dwelling was four metres higher than the rear stables. 
‘We wanted to maintain the integrity of the original terrace, then rebuild and conserve the stables because it was damaged by termite and wet wall.’

The property also required plenty of rectification work, a termite treatment, and water and drainage repairs. But, as Scott says, ‘That’s part and parcel when you have a house of this age that’s been so neglected. You have to listen to the experts. My philosophy is to listen to them and take on board the advice they offer.’

Competitive edge

When an architect selects a building and construction team, they have specific criteria. ‘I don’t use the same people all the time,’ says Scott. ‘I like a healthy sense of competition among builders to ensure the pricing is competitive and current.’

After many years in the industry, he has worked seamlessly with various teams, and is impressed with their way of thinking. ‘To be able to think backwards is a rare quality. From the start of the build, they have to think about where light fittings go, where penetrations are, and how things will be installed.’

During the Villa Carmelina build, many of the walls utilised joinery from Laminex and Cedar Sales rather than plasterboard. ‘You can’t make mistakes because the finished product is a finely crafted timber wall. If cabling is in the wrong position, you can’t just cut another hole and relocate it. There’s no room for error. It’s a big responsibility on the builder to think ahead and ensure the finished object is high-end, high-quality with no defects.’
Artist Cressida Kennedy produced a mirror inlaid in 3mm-thick brass; she used a water jet-cut to create tones of blue, peach, gold and silver.
The downstairs guest bedroom showcases the Cole & Son ‘Chiavi Segrete’ wallpaper and wall cladding in rib-clad hemlock from Cedar Sales.

Beauty of bespoke

When designing a project, Scott Weston always injects individuality. ‘I’m intuitive about incorporating colour, pattern and decoration into a home. To me, it’s just a gut instinct. I come up with a set of rules and ideas of how I want spaces to be representative and how they connect.’

While his many years of architecture have stood him in good stead, he knows the process runs smoothly due to the team behind him.

‘I’m only as good as the people I have around me,’ he says. ‘I have a great stable of builders and artisans. This enables me to push the boundaries and deliver things above and beyond people’s expectations.’

Home palette

A two-year collaboration between Scott Weston and Wattyl established a custom colour palette made specifically for Villa Carmelina. ‘I said to the Wattyl team, I want your paint but I actually want to create my own custom twelve colours. I need to find something specific for my home”,’ recalls Scott. 
The twelve colours in tones of grey, pink, yellow and lilac have a continuous thread from the entry through to the converted stables at the rear. The project used Wattyl’s I.D Advanced Ultra Low VOC interior paint with less than 1g of VOCs per litre. It can be custom-matched to any colour.

How to work with an architect

When an architect and builder work together, there may be different points of view. Tension and clashes can cause time delays and even financial losses. So what are some tips that will help this process run seamlessly? Scott suggests:

• You need a good communication dialogue between the team, the architect and the client on a daily or weekly basis. He tends to go to site every week and hold formal site meetings.
• Quality contract documentation is essential. There has to be a certain level of discussion about the contract documents, what you’re trying to achieve, and the buildability of the architect’s drawings.
• Speak up. If a builder has a better way to achieve a result, respect that – as long as it looks the way it is designed. It’s a collaborative process. Egos are left at the door because you have to work with a tight team.
• Trust each other. By trusting one another, you end up with a result that’s above and beyond everyone’s expectations.
For more information on Scott Weston Architecture & Design, go to: www.swad.com.au