This Community-Minded Interior Is More Unique Than Meets The Eye

Most able-bodied people don’t think about how interior spaces can be difficult – or even impossible – for people with accessibility requirements to navigate. Even fewer think about how these accessibility requirements can be married with good interior design.

Sibling Architecture has made determined innovation in this often overlooked space with their recent project, ‘Frenches Interiors’ – for a home-based consultancy firm. By maximising circular motifs and drawing on the spatial philosophy of Quaker meeting halls (among other inspirations!), the studio designed a flexible space to cater for all bodies and ages. It also happens to look damn good!

Sasha Gattermayr

Theatrical curtains divide the professional and personal spaces, concealing desks and work fittings behind them. Photo – Christine Francis.

The circular table holds cylindrical pockets to hold stationary, glasses, plants – anything! Photo – Christine Francis.

A wedged ‘pizza couch’ allows for slices to be taken apart and the seating arrangement reconfigured to accommodate support apparatuses. Photo – Christine Francis.

An existing Melbourne terrace has been converted into the highly functional and beautiful space. Photo – Christine Francis.

The circular dining table makes the most of rotating discs! Photo – Christine Francis.

The spherical, cylindrical shapes are abundant. Photo – Christine Francis.

The pink powder-coated handles on one of the couch components allow wheelchair users to sit with ease. Photo – Christine Francis.

A feature wall keeps ornaments off the ground. Photo – Christine Francis.

Vertical bookshelves are mounted on a tiled plinth. Photo – Christine Francis.

The master bedroom strips the colour but keeps the circles! Photo – Christine Francis.

Sasha Gattermayr
6th of March 2020

If Cruella de Vil were reincarnated as a millennial maximalist, she would probably live here. I say this largely because of the Dalmatian hidden in the lounge room, and also because her design taste is vastly underrated. But beneath the colour and personality of this interior, is something much deeper than aesthetic vibrancy, something far more real than a storybook villain’s fictional sadism.

The project, titled ‘Frenches Interiors’, was created for a client with highly specific design requirements. The couple run a consultancy firm from their house, one which assists people who have suffered mental and physical trauma in acquiring easy at-home care and navigating a world designed for able-bodied and -minded people. It was imperative the design here maximised accessibility options for the clients and friends that would be coming and going frequently.

‘Accessibility in architecture can often be reduced to universal measurements and requirements, such as wheelchair turning circles, grab bar details or standard countertop heights,’ Director of Sibling Architecture, Jane Caught, explains of the particular gap in architecture and interior design they were innovating within. ‘Frenches Interiors develops a different and domestic type of accessibility.’

This development centres largely around adjustable spaces and circular motifs. One table has deep cylindrical pockets inserted into wells on the surface, allowing for safe deposits of stationary, flowers, cutlery or champagne bottles (to name a few!). The central dining table operates on the same circular mechanics, using ‘lazy Susan’-style rotating discs to distribute food  across the tabletop.

The rear living room houses a ‘pizza couch’ whose wedged slices can be removed and reconfigured to accommodate various kinds of support apparatuses. One component of the seating arrangement features a pink powder-coated handle to assist wheelchair users to seat themselves easily and safely.

Jane cites a myriad of reference points centred around communal gathering and shared perspectives as the inspiration for their designs. The salon culture of Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, the postmodern Italian design collective, The Memphis Group, the egalitarian meeting culture of Quaker groups, and even community-centred celebrations around food all lent philosophical fluid to the cooperative spaces!

But in the end, it was about making the space as warm and welcoming to all different types of people and bodies as it can be. ‘Non-hierarchical, inclusive, community-based designs are at the centre of our practice,’ states Jane. ‘This project extends Sibling’s interest in how to design in an all-ages and all-bodies city.’

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