Design Diary

A personal review of design creations.

A contemporary Victorian Home

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Smart Design Studio has a long track record of beautiful architecture and interiors in Australia. The Sydney-based architect William Smart has recently worked on the complete remodelling of a Victorian house in New South Wales.

Light is always a key element in successful architecture. It not only enhance a space, it dresses it and amplifies the true character of a building. When Smart Design Studio was approached by a couple few months back, the point of departure was a traditional Victorian home. Known for their rather squeezed and narrow format, such homes have dark front rooms.

Visiting the house gave the studio clear indications on what to change: breakdown some walls, doubling height to gain clarity and most of everything let the light coming in.

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The clients wanted the house to be more light and open. Initially they asked me to focus on the rear of the house at ground level.

We ended up working on everything from the basement to the attic.
— William Smart.

The lack of connection to the outdoors has been counteracted by internalising the level change. As a result the combined living space benefits from high ceilings, flowing directly onto the terrace and grassed area beyond once the pocket bi-fold doors are slid away. Increased ceiling heights, generous volumes and borrowed space combine to create a sense of spaciousness in this relatively narrow site. 

Slight adjustments to the layout make a considerable difference to not only the feel but the frequency of use of different spaces. The relocation of the laundry to the lower ground floor allows a better connection between inside and outside at ground level. The new combined living room houses one gracious table for family and guests alike, leaving the former dining space to become a well utilised study. Upstairs the second bedroom is now a uniquely detailed ensuite, and the third bedroom enjoys the additional space afforded by the slightly extended foot print below.  

Curves act as a common thread between the traditional and contemporary architecture. At ground level, a rounded ceiling connects the formal living room and the new combined living room. The curves feature heavily in this light-filled new space, reappearing upstairs in the ensuite, boys’ bedroom and attic ceiling. 

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“There was no connection between the indoors and the existing Japanese garden outside. We took the level change internally, so the combined living dining kitchen space now has the benefit of very high ceilings and, once the pocket bi-fold doors are slid away, flows directly onto the terrace and grassed area beyond.” added Smart.

The finishes are light and neutral in colour to allow the owner’s impressive collection of contemporary art to shine. The materials imbue quality to the project. Brass is a highlight amongst the abundance of pale timber joinery and walls, marble and softly coloured walls. 

The furnishings reflect the owners’ preference for cooler colours over warmer shades. While the palette looks fairly neutral, there’s a scattering of soft colour throughout from caramels, blues and olives through to the dusty pinks in the dining room cushions.  The colour shifts between spaces and levels depending on the activity or room, but they all remain in the same muted colour palette, surrounded with the crisp white shell of the architecture. 

REGENT (Building area 259 m2, Site area 184 m2) - Photographer Anson Smart

Stored History

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The history of Graz, the second largest city in Austria, goes back to the Copper Age. With six universities on its territory, the city has a very rich heritage. At the Palais Herberstein, a new trilogy of permanent exhibitions is showcasing historic artifacts with a stunning layout.

The History Museum of Graz called on architecture studio Innocad to impulse a new curation concept to its exhibition spaces along with the museum’s entrance located within the historic Palais Herberstein.

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The first challenge was to embellish the museum’s entrance to guide visitors downstairs and into the exhibition space. The place was a dark and hidden atrium. A custom “carpet” in iron was placed to run along the stone pavement, accompanying visitors through the space while offering a platform for exploration. Meanwhile, the illumination for the installation was created by Austrian artist Brigitte Kowanz.

The “Schaudepot”, conceived as an exhibition depot, consisting of two parts, the Cultural History Collection and the Multimedia Collection, represents together with the exhibition “100 x Styria” a milestone in the transformation of the History Museum Graz. The Schaudepotincludes nearly 2,000 pieces ranging from historic objects to multimedia collections, all on display in a space of just 486 square meters.

The first section of “Schaudepot” honours the diversity of physical objects that reflects use of industrial material with less customisation while providing an interaction with the historic artifacts. While the exhibition setting is multifunctional and freely adaptable, it also retains a consistent interior lining which creates an atmosphere that displays objects of various shapes and sizes allowing visitors to experience the historical space from an unexpected perspective. Formerly hidden treasures of both collections are made accessible to the public in a raw and industrial surrounding, enabled by the fluent transition throughout of an infinite metal wall loop that allows a balance of historic content and contemporary exhibition design.

The second part displays multimedia archives enabling deep insights into the dispersed depot character through tailored scenography which leads the visitor to embark on a journey through the genesis of the Multimedia Collection.

The exhibition “100 x Styria”, which is located in the outstanding historic mirror hall, articulates spatial intervention in both functional and artistic ways. Relating to the concept of a “laid table of history”, the furniture-like installations made of glass or mirror are implemented with the aim to remind and reflect the historic use of these chambers. The space, furniture, objects, and visitors easily merge into one another and simultaneously maintain one exhibition medium. By becoming a part of the exhibition through the boundaries blurring, the spatial experience raises questions like: “What is forthcoming? What remains?”

Pictures courtesy of Paul Ott


The brutalist gym in Dubai


Recently opened in the heart of Dubai Design District, Warehouse Gym d3, is one of VSHD Design latest projects. It combines brutalism with a reminiscence of underground fight clubs.

When the architects were given the 600sqm space, they faced the challenge to create a cohesion between what were three distinctive business units prepared to welcome three separate stores or outlets.

VSHD Design, founded by interior architect Rania Hamed, inserted a semi transparent cube in the centre of the space host different functions: a gym floor, a cycling studio and training factory and a juice bar. As it is located at the main entrance of the Dubai Design District with direct views from the two main streets, it was essential that the design would benefit of the view from the street to attract new members. The reception acts as a juice bar with a communal space and its 17-meter-long glass façade on the main street becomes a meeting point for the design community where they can meet or for non-members to stop by and grab a salad or a smoothie or salad.


The architects' main challenge was to deliver a boutique fitness facility that is inviting, inspiring, authentic, functional and in context with a leading destination for design, art, and culture. The suspended cycling podium transfers the energy from the studio into the gym floor.

Inspired by brutalism in architecture and underground fight clubs, VSHD was determined to offer a different look for the interiors like concrete bricks combined with gold-copper alloy to make it look current, while at the same time creating modes that are elegant, warm and muscular.

Specifically customised LED suspended light used to conceal all the ceiling services while maintaining an overall vibrant lighting mood that can be controlled by the different exercise zones.


Since she created VSHD in 2007, Rania Hamed and her team have worked in Dubai, London, Florida and Cairo. 

Photographs courtesy of Nik and Tam 

Luxury in a raw and untouched environment

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New Zealand is the ideal destination for wild, beautiful and striking landscapes. Few weeks ago, a brand new resort has opened its door with a low profile and unique architectural design…

Surrounded by over 6,000 acres of mountains and valleys and nestled between three conservation parks, The Lindis is located on a moraine wall formed but the retreating glacier and overlooks the Ahuriri river and its Valley in North Otago on New Zealand’s South Island. 

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It is undoubtedly the country’s newest luxury lodge bringing contemporary architecture and design to the untouched environment including snow-capped mountains, wetlands, tussock grasslands and beech forests. 


The main building houses five eclectically designed suites – each named after a neighbouring station – and is characterised by top-shelf finishes and modern and sculptural detail. Its sweeping, wooden roof ensures the solitary man-made structure appears an organic, seamless addition to the natural landscape, while a huge expanse of glass along the front of the building provides guests with a looking glass to the spectacular panoramic views of the river – one of the top ten fly fishing locations in the world – and mountains beyond.

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Outside the main building, guests can expect merino sheep and Angus bulls roaming freely, and endless opportunities to explore the valley on foot, bike or horse, with mountain climbing, mountain biking and horseback riding also on offer at the lodge. Guests can also venture their chance at one of the world’s top 10 fly fishing spots nestled closely to the building. 

Next year, a further three suites will open as part of an extension of the lodge, as well as individual glass pods specially designed for star-gazing.

Rates for a Lodge Suite at The Lindis start at NZD $2,000 per night.