The Hydes Creek Road House in Bellingen is up for a People's Choice award in the Australian Institute of Architects National Architecture Awards. Photo: Stuart Scott
The Hydes Creek Road House in Bellingen is up for a People's Choice award in the Australian Institute of Architects National Architecture Awards. Photo: Stuart Scott

GRAND(ish) DESIGNS: Check out this ‘cheaper’ success story

ARCHITECTS often promote their boldest – and most expensive – work, but Bellingen architect Tricia Helyar says the industry has more to give.

Ahead of a public vote on some of the best builds in regional NSW, Ms Helyar says good design is not limited to those with a big budget and is proud to be championing her ‘cheaper’ work.

Ms Helyar has three designs nominated in the NSW Country Division Architecture Awards, one of which is in the Affordable Housing (under $400,000) category.

The Hydes Creek Road House in Bellingen. Photo: Stuart Scott
The Hydes Creek Road House in Bellingen. Photo: Stuart Scott

There are advantages to engaging an architect even on a limited budget and Ms Helyar said two of her designs, the Hydes Creek House in Bellingen and the Lourdes Ave Alterations in Urunga, were prime examples of this.

“I do believe in design and that good design can make your living better,” Ms Helyar said.

“It’s not just about making grand design decisions, it is about making the most informed decision you can make.

“The way I approach it is that you might have a smaller house, but it’s a better design.”

The Lourdes Avenue Alterations in Urunga is an example of doing just enough to make something more modern and liveable. Photo: Stuart Scott
The Lourdes Avenue Alterations in Urunga is an example of doing just enough to make something more modern and liveable. Photo: Stuart Scott

Owners of the Hyde Creek House, Vivianne Elliott and Paul Netterfield, spent more than a year working out how to build a home while they lived in “the shouse” – a converted shed – on their Bellingen property.

When the couple started talking to architects, Ms Elliott said they didn’t seem to share the same vision of something “just for us and not for other people”, a small home which did a lot with less.

“All I could see were these huge amazing places which we actually didn’t want and I thought – ‘they are not listening to me, we just want a little place’,” Ms Elliot said.

Feeling big without being big. The success Hydes Creek Road House is a testament to builder, architect and owner being on the same page. Photo: Stuart Scott
Feeling big without being big. The success Hydes Creek Road House is a testament to builder, architect and owner being on the same page. Photo: Stuart Scott

Ms Elliot knew they would eventually find the right people and when the couple spoke to Ms Helyar, and eventually builder Mike Brazel, they “just clicked”.

“She understood what I was saying,” she said.

“She picked up on that we didn’t want anything grandiose and wanted something that fitted our environment – and budget.”

The result was a two bedroom house that “feels open and big”, plays to its surroundings and cost just over $300,000.

Owner Vivianne Elliot says with the help of builder Mike Brazel and architect Tricia Helyar they were able to bring down costs by ensuring the house and its design worked with the block. Photo: Stuart Scott
Owner Vivianne Elliot says with the help of builder Mike Brazel and architect Tricia Helyar they were able to bring down costs by ensuring the house and its design worked with the block. Photo: Stuart Scott

With 25 years experience Ms Helyar – who also serves on the Australian Institute of Architects NSW Country Division committee – said the industry “did not sell itself very well” when it came to affordability and there was a tendency to focus one type of work.

“(Architects) often showcase very high end projects because they are the most avant-garde, bold and experimental,” she said.

“What I really like about the awards that we run at country division is that is also promotes attainable architecture – not just the boldest designs.

“I think it is important to show that good design does not have to be expensive, just well thought through and meeting the clients needs, including the budget.”

The ThomsonAdsett designed Waratah Wing at Dougherty Villa in Grafton. Photo: Simon Hughes
The ThomsonAdsett designed Waratah Wing at Dougherty Villa in Grafton. Photo: Simon Hughes

Another North Coast build up for an award is Dougherty Villa’s new Waratah Wing in Grafton.

The ThompsonAdsett designed building is nominated in the Public Architecture category and at its official opening in March Clarence Village CEO Duncan McKimm said it had been designed like a home.

To vote for your favourite design visit the Australian Institute of Architects website.