The Perfect Storm: a unique Camperdown renovation project
We sat down with designer Matt Woods from Killing Matt Woods to talk about his latest collaboration and BresicWhitney listing: The Perfect Storm.
What defines perfect Storm?
In its most simple terms, it was a project where everyone involved worked extremely collaboratively to create an inner-city escape. The space is grey, moody and brooding, yet it is also simple, comforting and warm. As such, and to all of us involved, it is the Perfect Storm.
How did the project/brief come about?
Perfect Storm is the builders, Sam O’Flaherty (Green Anvil Co.) and his wife Lou, long time home. Sam and I have worked together on hospitality projects for many years, and It’s the second personal project of his I’ve worked on, having helped out on the design of the Green Anvil Co office space. Every few months Sam and I would discuss potential directions of the renovation, until one day Sam suggested to me the idea of a concrete escape. I’m not sure if Sam was aware at the time, but Brutalism has long been my favourite architectural movement, and it’s therefore something I’m always drawing reference from.
Like Brutalism, I’m always pushing my projects to be honest in their materiality and am always reducing their architectural elements to the bare essentials, yet I’ve never had a client; and/ or I’ve never been; brave enough to really push such a raw brutalist aesthetic in such a verbatim way.
Tell us a bit about the design process.
After admiring Brutalist architecture for years, I knew immediately what I wanted to do with the space. My initial concern was that as we only had a discussion of what the idea was, that perhaps what I thought of as a concrete hideaway may not align with what Sam and Lou had in mind. So very quickly I mocked up sketch of their place which I then thew into photoshop with a concrete “bucket fill”, and sent it back to them for comment. To my great relief, they loved it, and we were on.
Were there any constraints or particular challenges involved in this project?
The size of urban spaces is always an obvious constraint, but as I’m not one to generally go overboard on finishes or ornamentation, this actually worked to our advantage.
Talk a bit about the materials, and your approach to materiality?
In a nutshell it was very simple approach, with the principal design intent to focus on a single finish and allow the architectural forms to do the heavy lifting. Whist initially we looked at a couple of different ways to achieve this, we were very conscious of not over capitalising both financially and environmentally on what is ultimately a loft space. As sustainability is one of my principal driving factors, I almost exclusively specify Porters Paints, as they contain low or no VOC content. They have a French Wash finish which I’ve used it on a bunch of hospitality projects, and on Perfect Storm, we all felt that we could achieve the right aesthetic if applied correctly.
Over the years, and with the ever changing winds of a Sydney audience, I’ve disappointingly come to realise that no matter how good a design may be, venue designs don’t last “forever”. It therefore makes absolutely no sense to create environments out of materials that will last forever and that can’t be reclaimed or recycled and as such do irrevocable damage to the environment. I’m a firm believer that it is the design and architectural communities responsibly to adapt our aesthetic sensibilities to reflect the reality of the realities of a warming planet. If my approach aids in changing attitudes and notions in a more environmentally positive way, then i’m very happy with that.
How do you achieve warmth with a utilitarian aesthetic? Or do you think this pared-back look actually contributes to the apartment feeling like home for the client?
I think there is a bit of both happening. Striking the right balance between a “concrete hideaway” and a liveable home was one of the principle challenges, but luckily Sam and Lou not only wanted to redo their apartment, they wanted to de clutter their living spaces. In reality, I think that simple and bold architecture looks a bit naff when covered in shit, so reducing their stuff to the bare essentials really allowed the apartment to be seen a contiguous whole, rather than a collection of parts, which is why the space works so well as a home.
What experience or emotional response does Perfect Storm aim to evoke?
It’s intentionally moody and brooding. But it is also warm and cosy. These are perhaps contradictory emotions, but within my work I love exploring contradiction and juxtaposition, which are innate human traits.
How is the project informed by the clients’ lifestyle?
It was very mush a reflection of how Sam and Lou wanted to live. They are a busy couple, at the time I was designing their home they were both running their own successful small businesses. They wanted a place that they could escape their busy work lives and simply switch off. Further to this, some of our early briefing conversions focused of the desire to recreate a hotel like experience at home. While aesthetically the project moved away from emulating a hotel aesthetic, the project did however maintain these design principles, and it very mach aims to achieve that for them.
Can you briefly discuss the contribution of the builder?
I’m a firm believer that builders make a paramount contribution on every single project, and collaborative approaches always yield the best results.
I’m lucky, as Sam and I are mates, and over the last 4 or 5 years, we will have have a chat at least 2 or 3 times a week. Often we’re just shooting the shit, but we’re always talking about each others respective projects. I go to Sam with almost all my build-ability related questions, whether he’s building the project or not. As such we have a great conversational working relationship, and this was evidenced by how seamlessly everything came together on Perfect Storm.
Can you tell us a bit about Killing Matt Woods’ background and approach?
My background is as an Industrial Designer, and I came to architecture and interiors via a side door. At Uni I was always more interested in one off human scale environments, rather than mass produced product. While making the shift to Interiors wasn’t initially obvious to me, It was perhaps inevitable.
I’ve always been quite passionate about environmental issues, so l completed a graduate certificate in Sustainable Architecture at USYD right as the first genuine Killing Matt Woods projects started to take off. My approach has always been to make design more accessible, as I believe that good design has the ability to enrich peoples lives. Engaging a designer is an experience most people will never have, but every single one of us will experience the end result. My goal is bridge that gap via the creation of affordable, honest and authentic environments that inspire and excite.
View the sale listing here: 30 Lyons Road, Camperdown