Samara Greenwood Architecture is a young, boutique architectural practice focused on creating homes with heart. Under Samara’s direction, the team have an approach to design that is without pretense and is firmly focused on people – their hopes, dreams and everyday way of life. Samara has created a practice of ‘design philosophy’ that places you at it’s centre. It’s not often you meet an architect, or indeed any professional who makes it their first priority to listen to what you have to say, but Samara has made it her business to practice in this way. ‘Listen’ and ‘Heart’ are two words I have never before come across in an architectural mission statement, but ones which I think we should be hearing more of. Read on to find out what Samara had to share about going out on your own, practicing business with heart, and the increasingly popular Dream Home Workshops.
I was privileged to interview Samara as a guest contributor over at Creative Women’s Circle. Samara has been gracious enough to answer a few extra questions for Small Talk readers! Check out my other posts for CWC here.
Owner: Samara Greenwood
Business: Samara Greenwood Architecture
What lead you to start your own practice?
In many ways, the business began itself. My youngest daughter was nine months old when I was asked to help a couple who were struggling to understand the architectural process. While I originally only agreed to help scope out their needs and prepare a brief, I fell in love with the project and decided then and there to use it as inspiration to create a more ‘user friendly’ architecture and design practice.
‘Listen’ and ‘Heart’ are quite unusual key words in an architectural firm’s mission statement – why are these important to you?
The focus on ‘listen’ actually came from a workshop attendee – who commented how great it was to spend the day with talented architects who listen. We were so taken with what he said that we have used it as a kind of motto ever since!
A lot of the time I meet people whose experience with Architects has been more difficult than it needs to be, where the designer’s vision has taken over and the client feels forgotten in the process. I wanted to create the kind of practice that I would want to engage as a client. Listening is critical to that process, balancing our skills in understanding our clients with our expertise in translating their needs into beautiful designs that work for them.
In that same sense, the ultimate aim for us is to find the ‘heart’ in each design, to produce beautiful pieces of architecture with the ‘human factor’ built right into the core.
What factors drove you and Anna (Castles) to start the Dream Home Workshops?
Anna and I met whilst working at the same architectural firm many years ago and have been friends ever since. Over lunch one day, I was describing to Anna the new methods I was developing to understand my client’s needs at a deeper level. She then simply stated ‘that would make a great workshop’ – and so the adventure began!
Both Anna and I love the conversations that arise during the workshop. We are amazed at how much the attendees get from each other, as well as from us. I know they appreciate the opportunity to spend a whole day with two architects who are willing to talk about pretty much anything (oh and we do!). It is a really warm and open experience, designed to make people comfortable with both the design process and with figuring out what they really want and need from their home.
The Dream Home Workshops are held at our tree-top studio in Ivanhoe. Again, people tell us this is a really great part of the day, as they get to step outside of their normal, everyday lives and have quality time in a beautiful, inspiring environment. We do love it when they say that!
Who are your typical clients, and why do you think they are drawn to SGArch’s new approach to architecture and design?
We attract a broad range of clients, but there are some common factors we are beginning to notice; when they first come to us, most clients feel ‘stuck’ in some way – perhaps they have lots of ideas but don’t know which ones will work best, or maybe they know what they want and need someone who can translate those dreams into a great design – whatever it is, our job is to help them get ‘unstuck’ and moving forward to their goals.
Our clients want a home that works beautifully, is well built and feels amazing – what we call the dream home trifecta. Many clients haven’t been through the architectural process before and aren’t sure what to expect, so we take them through what is involved as clearly and concisely as we can. We love how pleased and surprised they are by the detail we go to, and how involved they feel in the evolution of the design from start to finish.
How do you approach the next step, making ‘dream home’ aspirations a reality?
The first step in any project, small or large, is exploring all the (many!) factors that are taken into account to determine the best design strategy.
Basically, we listen, ask a lot of questions, and then more questions about the answers to those questions, then do some research, then try a few ideas out, then ask more questions, until both we and our clients feel we’ve hit on the best course of action. This is a process that takes a fair bit of experience and intuition to navigate, but is so much fun at the same time! We call it our ‘house doctor’ strategy – you tell us your problems and, together, we’ll find the cure.
Savvy, Sass or Study?
All three are critical, but finding your Sass while tuning into your Savvy is a pretty awesome combo.
Want – learning or opportunity?
Learning -– architecture is all about the learning!
Need – apprentice or expert?
Expert – I love working with people who give me as much as I give them, so I guess that makes us Expert/Apprentices??
I once heard Clare Bowditch say ‘‘Caring is a superpower’. How cool is that? And I totally agree, I think caring has been and will continue to be our superpower.
Tea or coffee: Tea
Favourite place in the world: My back deck, seeing the sun pour through our beautiful Dutch Elm
Favourite way to unwind: See above! Alternative – a good chat with great people.
Your business icon/mentor: Clare Bowditch –of Big Hearted Business has been a game-changer for me.
Friends of SGArch
Kate Mansell – Graphic Designer, who did such a stellar job creating the identity for both SGArch and DHW
Martina Gemmola – Photographer , who takes the most amazingly gorgeous photos
Ruth Welsby – Stylist, who creates the most beautiful arrangements
Oliver McLean – Videographer, who made our dream DHW movie
Danielle Nichols – Supplier/Agent, of Form, Function, Style who is also a whiz with publicity
Susan Nethercote – Creative Business Coach, of Creative Conversation who has created a brilliant framework for building a business you love
How can I contact you?
Our website http://www.sgarch.com.au/
Tweet me @samara_jg
Pinterest – SGArch are very active pinners, with lots of great home inspiration to be found
| All photos by Martina Gemmola |