Madeleine Blanchfield Architects’ work combines architectural boldness with a human-centred approach focused on elevating wellbeing. Light, air and nature take on heightened importance in the studio’s projects, informing spaces that shape people’s relationships to each other and their environment.
“Design, particularly on a domestic scale, has a strong and immediate influence on individuals. A space can calm you and elevate your spirit. It can shape the way we interact. It can change your mood and, in doing so, your life,” says Madeleine Blanchfield, Director of Madeleine Blanchfield Architects. After establishing her eponymous studio in 2009, she has been creating life-changing spaces that integrate architecture, interiors and landscape as a whole ever since. With a focus on light, air and nature, the houses look and feel calm and effortless, with bright, breezy and beautifully crafted spaces that enhance occupants’ wellbeing.
Madeleine began her career working on large commercial projects at PTW Architects, after which she joined Burley Katon Halliday and immersed herself in all phases of residential design. “I loved being involved from inception to completion. I was enamoured with being on site and intricate detailing, but also the big picture and concept stages,” Madeleine says. She also gained experience working briefly in Paris and London, of which she says, “it reinforced what an incredible residential design industry we have in Australia.”
And Madeleine has certainly contributed to elevating residential architecture and design in Australia, with her first solo project – Gordon’s Bay House – winning an AIA Award, cementing her name and reputation in the field. “I was driven to make my first solo work emblematic of my personal and still-evolving design beliefs. The house is very unassuming from the street, yet it is materially rich, spatially bold and experiential as it opens up to the waterside,” Madeleine explains.
This description is apt for many of the houses designed by the studio. The exteriors appear modest in the streetscape or landscape, with simple forms and crafted façades that are quiet and respectful of their setting. But beyond the front door, volumes become larger and layered, with natural materials, sculpted forms and outdoor connections flowing from space to space. “We want to make magical spaces that are light-filled, calm, flowing and elegant,” Madeleine says. “To do this, we tend to design houses from the inside out. This involves understanding the site and context, testing, analysing, listening to the client and ultimately finding joy in both the process and product of our architecture and interiors.”
The houses do indeed elicit joy as well as other emotive reactions – awe, delight, contentment, comfort. They also positively influence how occupants feel, behave and interact, contributing to their overall wellbeing and quality of life. Every room is meticulously designed in response to sunlight, ventilation and landscape in order to energise and uplift residents, as they have the potential to affect energy levels and mood. “Having sunshine, fresh air and connection to the outdoors are human necessities and are fundamental to all our work,” Madeleine says. Similarly, the arrangement and detailed design of shared and private spaces are informed by the clients’ lifestyle and daily routines, shaping family dynamics and making day-to-day living easier. “We use clients’ idiosyncrasies as our inspiration in the design, and we never say never. Some of our best work has come from being pushed in a direction we wouldn’t normally go and finding a unique middle ground with clients,” she reflects.
Madeleine and her family experience the joy and ease of her architecture first-hand, having designed their home, the Tree House in Bronte, as well as Bendalong Beach House for her parents on the New South Wales South Coast. “Good design can change peoples’ daily lives. Mum and Dad intended it as a holiday house and, after being there for a month, decided to make it home,” Madeleine says. Flexible layout and compartmentalising smaller areas mean the house can comfortably accommodate family and friends, while not feeling oversized when it is just occupied by Madeleine’s parents. And the windows surrounding the living pavilion slide away to forge a closer connection to the landscape – always a driving force in the studio’s work.
While the studio has designed houses in a wide variety of settings – coastal, urban, mountainous and even on a tropical island – a house in the desert is on Madeleine’s wish list. “The connection between landscape and space is so powerful in the desert, whereas working in urban areas has many constraints that interrupt this connection,” she says. The studio is currently working on a remote house in Tamworth, which is “giving us a taste of the design potential when the components are simply house and landscape.”
Madeleine Blanchfield Architects is now a team of 10 architects and interior designers, based in Paddington, Sydney. “They are an extraordinary team, and the work we produce would not be possible without their diverse and complementary talents. The work is very much ours as a studio,” says Madeleine.