We underestimate how our homes make us feel and how they impact our moods. But imagine walking into a monastery. You immediately feel a sense of relief as you move from the hot sun outside into the cool, stone-filled interior. Your eyes take a moment to adjust to the darkness, where beams of light filter through an arcade to create a soft glow inside. The interior is quiet and echoey, you lower your voice to a whisper and take a seat to contemplate the vastness of the space. Compare that to walking into a fairground. Coloured lights blink on and off, carousel music plays loudly on repeat and voices over the loudspeaker encourage you to 'step right up' and 'test your strength'. Children run past you with sticks of pink fariy floss larger than their heads. Compared to the monastery, the fairground is a hyper experience, exciting, yet overwhelming. That's the power of architecture to affect how we think and feel.
With this in mind, how can we design our homes to create the kind of moods and emotions we'd like to experience?
Blinco Street House was designed for Dan, a fly-in-fly-out worker who spent a month on and a month off. Readjusting to life back in Fremantle can take some time and the client wanted the home to help him recalibrate - to provide a robust, yet laidback 'barefoot house' to relax and reset. Philip Stejskal Architecture designed the home as a transition. "The home needed to allow a gradual adjustment. Nothing too abrupt", explains the architect.
To help Dan relax when he arrives home, the architect planned an entry sequence designed to calm and centre. Arriving home from the airport by car, you enter the home via the back gate and onto a sheltered porch. Closing the solid front door behind you, you enter a narrow, contemplative space, with cooling brick floor and walls and dark-stained plywood joinery. Light reflects off a tranquil pond through a frameless glass door. This evokes feelings of calm and contemplation similar to the monastery.
To the right, the warm honey tones of natural plywood draw you into a central, circular library. All other spaces in the home radiate off this central space. "From here go straight ahead into the living room; turn right for the spiral stairwell; left for the kitchen; or hook right for the toilet."
The ground floor, with kitchen, dining and living spaces is intentionally darker but it opens onto an outdoor living area and yard screened by a hit-and-miss limestone wall and cyclone fencing which will eventually be covered with creepers, to create a filtered connection to the street.
The home is designed to be naturally comfortable, using passive design techniques. Operable screens, made from an off-the-shelf lattice, cover the north-facing windows to filter and moderate the light or allow it in to warm the home. Over the living area, a double-height volume lets natural light in from windows above, while opening the windows to the pond encourages a breeze to naturally cool the home - a natural evaporative air conditioner.
As you climb the circular stairs, the treads change from dark-stained timber to lime-washed, signalling the transition from the darker living spaces to the light-filled bedrooms and bathrooms upstairs. You've transitioned from cool and calming to light and breezy, leaving you feeling refreshed and relaxed. By the time you reach the rooftop, you've transitioned to a completely open state of mind, where a roof terrace takes in views of the city and treetops.
Materials are all selected with low-maintenance and durability in mind. Face brick, painted concrete floors, splashbacks created simply with glazed bricks and plywood allow Dan to "kick off his shoes, walk in off the beach, [or] have his friends over without worrying too much."
Blinco Street House is a place Dan can relax, enjoy some lazy days and entertain friends without the need for too much maintenance or feeling precious. Interestingly, Dan's circumstances changed while the project was under construction, but even as one half of a couple who no-longer works a FIFO job, this home is a calming and low-maintenance sanctuary, the perfect place to come home to at the end of the day. If we design our homes based on how we want to feel instead of fleeting trends, we're sure to create spaces which bring us joy, no matter how our circumstances change.