The S & K Way | Feature InterviewMalvern, VIC, Australia
Almost all of us can think of a time that we have conjured up a business plan with a childhood mate. Whether these plans have potential or not, most of us consider them to be nothing more than a pipe dream to distract us from our everyday lives.
Let me introduce you to Paul Kegen and Rodney Seidner of S&K Group. I had the pleasure of interviewing the pair at their humble shopfront office on High Street in Malvern and was able to learn more about how they turned their dream into a reality. With some clever planning and lots of hard work, these two childhood friends have created their very own successful multidisciplinary architecture and construction firm based on a strong and constantly evolving business model.
They met at the age of fifteen and remained friends whilst both pursuing their individual careers. Rod worked in high end construction management in Melbourne after graduating from RMIT. Paul moved to Perth and graduated from Curtin University before coming back to Melbourne and working in luxe projects as an architect. The guys worked on similar projects and shared the same pride in their work.
Paul and Rod express gratitude for the great experience they gained from their previous roles and mentors but reached a stage where they wanted more and had some ideas of their own to explore. Motivated by a common goal of best serving their client’s needs, it was time for the next challenge. In 2013, they spent a year of careful planning and consideration of their business model before launching S&K Group in January of 2014.
The beauty of S&K Group is their ability to take clients through every stage of a project. There are eight staff members in the office including Paul and Rod. The team consists of architects, designers and project managers who sit next to each other in the same office every day. This allows them to spin their chairs around and collaborate to develop ideas together minimizing any miscommunication. S&K have their own site team who work exclusively on S&K projects. Everybody works together to intergrade their skills by understanding the intent of a design and figuring out the best way to build it.
Paul describes their unique approach as, “Building with a designer’s eye, and designing with a builder’s eye.”
Steady growth of the business has been a priority from the very beginning. This is to ensure the business grows confidently at a maintainable rate, so timelines can be managed and met on every project. This mentality has allowed for the business to expand whilst maintaining the same interpersonal connection created from the very start. Paul and Rod have formed relationships with their clients and colleagues that have lasted long after the projects are handed over.
As Rod states, “There is nothing more valuable than creating a habitable environment for someone. Perhaps only second to seeing how happy the client is at the end of a job.”
Since 2014, S&K Group have worked on many recognized projects in both the commercial and residential sectors. 2017 was a particularly exciting year with projects such as The Penny Drop, a café in Box Hill collaboratively designed with Golden, winning the prestigious Best Overall Restaurant in the international Restaurant & Bar Design Awards in London. Another of their stunning projects is Workshop Brothers in Glen Waverly, designed with Studio Esteta, that won a Commendation at the Eat Drink Design Awards for Best Restaurant Design.
A focus of S&K Group’s projects, whether that be private or public, is taking the everyday occupants comfort into the highest consideration. Maximizing natural light with large, well placed windows creates fresh and spacious environments where artificial light is hardly necessary. Attention to detail is evident throughout the entirety of each project as joinery edging, and surface cladding bring a signature statement. There is a masculine elegance portrayed in their work that is translated through distinct lines and understated textural elements. This is achieved by allowing materials to speak for themselves and create interest without demanding attention.
This recently completed residential project in Caulfield North boasts such qualities, creating a modern and sophisticated family home. The space is a complimentary balance of soft textures matched with defined angles and edges. S&K Group designed and built the entire interior and exterior of this project, making it a perfect example of their extensive abilities.
Outside of the office both Rod and Paul have young growing families and enjoy spending as much weekend time as possible relaxing with them. Paul is a cyclist and loves being outdoors. These environments inspire his designs and material selections. He speaks about being truthful to the materials and highlighting natural textures. Rod is a people person and is driven by those around him. He is motivated by delivering outcomes that exceed expectations.
One of the greatest perks of starting their own business is creating an environment where one wants to come to work every day. Rod and Paul are strong believers in a work/life balance and encourage their staff to meet deadlines using a schedule that suits their lifestyle. This autonomy gives their team the freedom to excel, and it is no question why the same staff remain from day one, it is a happy place to come to work. The culture they have created within S & K Group is a reflection of these values and clearly shows itself in the work they produce.