Our House: the designer

If you’ve ever been for a photo shoot or an album design session at my place, you’ve probably spent the first 10 minutes or so of our time together talking about my house. Was it a renovation or did we build from scratch? Gosh, what a lovely view!, So what was it like when you moved in? Did you change much? Oh, I love your kitchen! Oh, I want your kitchen!

And my personal favourite to date: “Oh! I love the window in your bathroom so much! I just took a photo of it. Hope you don’t mind!”

And no, I don’t mind. Nor do I mind talking about the fabulous team of people who helped us transform our house into our home, and a fabulous place to live and work.

In fact, I’d love nothing better than to introduce you to them here on the blog. Firstly, meet Dean Maher of Design Confidential

Dean Maher: Architectural draftsman


How did you start in this field of architectural design, Dean?

I have always loved drawing. Not so much the swirly arty stuff, but drawing houses and buildings. Always, ever since I was a kid. And I’ve always loved plans. I used to go to open houses and display homes and just collect the floor plans. It was in high school, though, that I really got into it, in Tech Drawing. I was never one for doing lots of homework, but I always did my Tech Drawing homework, and I always did well in it. And I think that was because I was genuinely interested in the work. I just loved it!

When I left school I enrolled full time in a design course, but it wasn’t until I changed from fulltime study to part time study and full time work in an architectural firm that I really got a true appreciation for what I was learning in my course. It suddenly all fell into place, and I could see every day applications for the theory I was studying.


What do you love about your work?

I guess that it’s always more complicated than expected. Most of my clients are mum and dad clients, so it’s real families in real homes. And there are always lots of different constraints on each job. Sometimes it’s working within the constraints of an existing building, sometimes it’s having to create a home that meets a big list of requirements on a tight budget. Some jobs involve heritage listed buildings. That comes with a whole long list of constraints! But I guess it’s the challenges that have to be met each time that keep the job interesting and fresh. No two projects are ever the same.


Do you have any favourite projects?

Yes, I do have a few, and most of them are in West Pymble, actually. I think one of my favourites would have to be a house that we kept virtually the same from the street view, but we added a modern, light-filled pavilion at the rear of the house. So you enter through the original house and then as you walk through, the building just unfolds and opens up to this wonderful new space. The client said to me, “It’s like being on holidays every day! It’s always so light and bright.” They love it. And they’re right. If you get the light within a building right, then you feel happy. Great light makes a home a beautiful place to be.


So how do you get great light, Dean?

It’s the roof that controls the light, really. Get the roof right and you can keep out light and heat where you don’t want it, and let it in where you do want it. So the angles of the roof, the depth of the eaves and the height and placement of windows are crucial.


What would you say people don’t understand when it comes to designing houses and renovations?

I think people underestimate just how much time it all takes. It’s not just about drawing a few lines on a piece of paper, or like some people think, just punching some numbers into a drawing program and then it does all the work for you. It actually takes quite some time of working on a particular problem to come up with a good idea that is practical, addresses all the issues, and is aesthetically pleasing. And then after that there’s all the red-tape side of things….preparing drawings for submission to council (and each council has its own unique set of guidelines), plus you have to keep across all the changes that happen to regulations like the bushfire design regulations and so on.


Describe your ideal client.

Well I guess like all people who work with individual clients, it’s when the client and I are a bit like-minded that I enjoy my work the most. That doesn’t mean that I only work with clients who agree with me all the time! Not at all! But I guess if I had to describe my style, I wouldn’t be able to point at any one particular design style, but rather a style in the way I find solutions. Every project is unique, but I like to find neat, simple solutions that are modest and clever in the way they meet the needs given to me in the brief. It’s a kind of paired-back, clean approach to design, I guess, that comes out of collaborating with the client and working to meet needs and budgets at the same time.


Are there any magazines that you would recommend for people to look at when they’re thinking of building or renovating?

“Houses”. It’s fabulous! There’s not too much advertising in it, and it has really great pictures of probably four or five houses in each issue. I love it. Great ideas and inspiration in there.


So what would we find you doing when you’re not here?

Being a dad! I have two young boys, so it’s pretty full on in our house at times. They’re into soccer, and I help out with their teams a bit, too. Oh, and I’m into kick boxing.

Dean’s favourite quote:

“Fashions fade, style is eternal.”

                                                        — Yves Saint Laurent.

Architectural photos courtesy of Dean Maher, and are used with permission.

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Dean Maher - G’day Jen,
That draftsman bloke sounds awesome……I’m going to call him on Monday.

Seriously, that is really nice. I love your photos & the ‘conversation’. I’ll never look at my untidy stacks of books the same way again. I’d love to be able to use the portrait shots…..rather than my tired looking point’n'shoot timed selfies.
Thank you again.
All the best,

jen - Yeah, he’s a really nice guy. You’ll love him!

It’s always a pleasure to chat with you, Dean, and to combine it with opportunity to come photograph you and your space is even better. I’ll drop some files up to you soon.

Lots of love,

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