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.’