Nick McKimm & The Howitt Project | The Unparalleled Series
Caulfield North, VIC, Australia

“If a project is costing more than budgeted for we will always make sure everything is done properly without taking shortcuts. This mentality is at the essence of creating quality work and has always held us in good stead.”

Cultivating a love of home-life in developing spaces, Nick McKimm, Director of mckimm, uses a seamless approach in combining robust materials with his temerity for structural integrity and carefully considered architecture. With a mid-century inspired Yuille residence and recently completed Howitt, Mckimm’s design standard has maintained its reputation as a boutique firm. An aspect that allows for greater creative control and sets new expectations for unparalleled residential design. Citing the experience that drove him most towards success, Nick takes us through the concept of creating Howitt. Exposing the pivotal aspects that led mckimm to be where it is today, Nick discusses what he believes to be the foundation to creating a successful business, what he prioritises most, and what he predicts will be the biggest challenges in the industry onwards.

Located in the enclave of Caulfield’s Golden Mile in Victoria, Howitt embodies the identity of contemporary design: clean symmetrical lines supported by structural building elements and an effortless integration of natural light. Distinct components of cedar, zinc and concrete champion the design for its inclusivity of geometric shapes amongst sequential white brick walls that accelerate the precision and architectural finesse only adding harmony to its purpose as a home. With the circular staircase its foundational element, the multi-level construct feels like a singular entity. A two-meter circular skylight hovers above the staircase exposing the sky, allowing light to enter and sweep across all levels before falling to the basement courtyard.

The exterior landscape of Howitt and Director Nick McKimm.

Designed for a young family of five, the contemporary home on over 1200 square metres is equipped with a master suite and three children’s bedrooms, each containing their own ensuite and walk-in-closet. With the gym, steam room and cinema feeding into the basement courtyard, the functionally designed living areas are conducive to carefully crafted spacial zoning and make for easy transitions from one space to another. Invaluable in fostering family interaction, Howitt’s breezeways allow family life to take over for the sense of freedom it invokes. The unprecedented light that emulates from the staircase creates fluidity throughout the home, ensuring that no space is compartmentalised as unused or forgotten.

Aiding a transterior flow, Howitt took influence from Yuille, the modern family home that stood to transcend a Palm Springs vibe with its use of overhanging cantilevers and boundless introspective elements. For Howitt, the west facing site and flat topography is a point of distinction as it permits extended views of the encroaching terrain beyond both swimming pool and tennis court. Large sliding glass panels are receptive to warm and cool temperatures and create a space that is consistently malleable based on the family’s needs. The textured carpet and use of soft grey fabrics contrast the prevalence of thickened concrete walls while the cedar shelved carvings illustrate a sense of intimacy and warmth.

The use of concrete is prevalent within Howitt's structure. Cedar and zinc contrast the concrete and create warmth and a sense of familiarity. Photographed by Dave Kulesza & styled by Bea Lambos.

With a reputation for superior structural integrity, Nick prioritises the skeletal framework over anything else. “Investing in structure translates into how a space feels. If a home breathes well then everything else can be worked out after that.” Recalling mckimm in 2004, Nick tells me it was at this time that the design team was added to mckimm, ultimately giving him the business he had always wanted. “Yuille was the first project I completed with our Design Principal Lorenzo Garizio. It was a completely different type of project from what we had done before and it was special because Yuille was the seventh house that we had built on the street.”

Success, Nick tells me, came from staying true to their market. “We attract people that appreciate good quality and I think being true with ourselves about what that meant allowed us to narrow our focus on what we can offer exceptionally.” Citing reputation and word of mouth as adding growing value, Nick, Lorenzo and their team cherish the relationships they have with their clients and are constantly thinking of ways to better their practice and evolve. With an interest in design efficiency, environmental stability and housing accessibility, Nick is attentive to the challenges within the industry. Having grown up in Brighton, Victoria, Nick recalls the availability of space, an aspect that was once in abundance is now something that is slowly becoming redundant. “In our work we try and create spaces that feel boundless. Growing up in Brighton made me conscious of how important space is for us. In the industry there is a discrepancy between quality and affordability. Everyone should have access to quality housing without the excess cost but we don’t see that and it has a much bigger effect than we imagine.”

When I ask Nick what he believes got him to where he is today he tells me about the influence that witnessing his parents experience financial hardship had on driving him towards success. Determined not to endure the same, Nick became confident in his ability to always make things work. His production of high-quality structures originates from wanting things to be built with purpose and to withstand the test of time.

The circular geometric staircase, fixed with a cedar handrail, leads to the cut out shape that exposes blue skies. Photographed by Dave Kulesza & styled by Bea Lambos.

With the knowledge he has gained from 25 years of practice, Nick continues to take on complex projects that challenge his expertise for well designed structure. His sense of ownership within construction and design tells me that the near future holds an interesting set of challenges, including addressing the demand for large, high end and sophisticated boutique apartments. “Moving into these luxury developments gives us an opportunity to create our own legacy. We are in complete creative control, which is really exciting for us. The design and finishes, paramount in existing mckimm homes, are carried through each development with a focus on solid materials, intelligent acoustics along with structural and visual integrity.”

Thank you Nick for the insights into your work and history. It was a pleasure to learn about you.

Photographed by Dave Kulesza & styled by Bea Lambos.

The use of glass rids of the distinction between outside and in. Creating a transterior home was fundamental in fulfilling Howitt's conceptual tone. Photographed by Dave Kulesza & styled by Bea Lambos.

Soft grey fabric and white brick manifest themselves subtly although consistently throughout Howitt's interior. Photographed by Dave Kulesza & styled by Bea Lambos.

A view of Howitt's landscape from the exterior. The tennis court and swimming pool were both of central importance in designing Howitt. Photographed by Dave Kulesza & styled by Bea Lambos.

The exterior landscape is simple and continues the use of concrete as extended from the flooring within the interior. Photographed by Dave Kulesza & styled by Bea Lambos.

The master bedroom and ensuite use black steel to structure and outline the space. The soft translucent curtains provide a sense of privacy without total opaqueness.

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