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Sustainably small

In our latest addition to Student Hub, Graduate Interior Designer Xanthe Ward talks about the big impact a series on small living has made on the way she thinks about design.

Sustainability and cost of living are front of mind issues for just about everyone I meet.

As the Australian dream of a quarter acre block disappears, design for small living is taking centre stage, evolving to meet the needs of individuals and communities.

I came across the series ‘Never Too Small’ (NTS) on YouTube. The snappy, 5-7 minute videos were an invaluable source of information for me and clearly for many others. NTS now has an excellent website and hard copy book (worth buying!) dedicated to inspiring, small footprint design that tackles urban crowding issues and provides more sustainable solutions.

NTS videos explain materiality and spatial planning, which are obviously big players in Interior Architecture. But they also explore ‘why’ and ‘how’ spaces become what they are.

These ‘why’ and ‘how’ questions are so important – yet difficult to answer – when you’re a student. You might know what you like but you probably don’t know how things are physically put together. And while you’ll understand that sustainability is important you might be unsure how to incorporate it into your thinking and practice as a designer.

While the answers to these questions are different for every project, NTS shows you how different clients and designers across the world think – and how they find solutions.

Below are some of my favourite NTS clips, which I hope will inspire you too!

For sustainability:

This apartment in Breathe Architecture’s Nightingale 1 in Melbourne is a great example of sustainable materials and services as well as passive design principles.

Nightingale housing is amazing and definitely worthy of its own dedicated post, so check it out if you haven’t already!

For materials with purpose:

These unit blocks are just about everywhere in Australia. Many have been ‘flipped’ to include a white kitchen and they generally look the same.

Nicholas Gurney is a small living genius, and his design is a great example of how materials not only create an aesthetic but work to enhance a space through reflectivity and reduction.

For maximising space:

In this clip, you can see how architect Jack Chen achieved his goal of fitting a big house into a small apartment. It’s all about designing exceptionally clever joinery and selecting furniture to create a flexible space.

Identifying and creating adaptable solutions for spaces with lower usage frequency mean this apartment can function at its best in everyday life while still working well in occasional, unusual circumstances.