- Article by Jan Henderson
Albert Mo, director of Architects EAT, is a master when it comes to designing houses. As inside co-editor Jan Henderson steps inside Mo’s very own home, it is apparent that the beauty of nature is a great influence on the architect and designer, providing peace and contentment away from his busy office.
inside: How long have you lived here and what drew you to the property?
Albert Mo: We have been here seven years. I vividly remember we came to one of those open for inspections on the weekend without actually wanting to buy, we simply love checking out all the modernist houses in Studley Park (in Melbourne’s inner north-east). The moment I walked up the stairs I knew I was in trouble; the view out to the top of the elm tree transported me to another place. It is serene and surreal, a true living in landscape type of environment – I was in love.
When did you produce this design?
I didn’t produce the original design. The house was designed by Peter and Dione McIntyre in 1957 for the Williams family and, so, is named the Williams house. We bought the house from the Williamses, and met them after the auction, and they were so glad that it was sold to another architect, who didn’t want to pull it all down!
What was the thinking behind the design?
Before we moved in, we did some basic renovation. We stripped all the carpet in the house to expose the concrete slab and painted the whole of the interior white. The idea was to keep it raw so the flora and fauna from the outside became the focal point. In the centre of the house is a seven- by five-metre courtyard. It was the brief from the Williamses to McIntyre, after visiting the Mediterranean. Therefore, we also call our house the ‘Donut house’.
And just before our first child was born, we put in a new kitchen. It opens the space up a bit more and allows the dining space to connect to the northern landscape. A small cheeky detail that we’ve put in is in direct reference to McIntyre’s architecture – a red, yellow, blue and white shelf unit, the colours just like his River house, which is better known as the Butterfly house.
Are you a good client?
No! I’m a horrible client! Or rather I’m a horrible client of myself, I think I’m up to version 20 for our ensuite design. My wife is also an architect, and a brilliant one. Together we have many plans to extend (or not to extend) and renovate the house. We start and stop and each time when we come back we have better ideas. The problem is not that we cannot make up our minds, but rather that we have time, and the architecture that I produce has to be authentic, smart and precise.
Which is your favourite room and what makes it special?
The living room: that’s the space that I saw when I came up the stairs for the first time. The elm tree outside displays the seasons magically. To me it is like an extra high definition TV that only shows the nature. This is also the room where we spend most of our weekends – the morning sunlight filtering through the tree branches, jazz playing inside or someone playing the piano, coffee brewing and kids yelling in the background, watching movies with the kids, and talking politics with friends in front of the fire with whisky and gin.
Tell us a bit about working with your art collection?
Not really art per se. All these things that we have collected were started back in university days. We didn’t have any money, so most of them are prints and photographs and then we started collecting small sculpture and objects. Together, they form a collective memory of time and places. I guess you can just call them memorabilia?
Which is your favourite piece of furniture and why?
The Jardan Enzo sofas – the pair has been with us for more than 13 years. They are a metre deep, which means I can curl my legs up very comfortably and, trust me, we have spent countless hours sleeping on them too! They are more or less like our daybeds. And, yes, the kids love jumping on them yet, after all these years and heavy use, they still look and feel amazing. True timeless pieces of furniture design and, more importantly they are made in Melbourne. And no, Jardan didn’t pay me to say this!
Does being in the design industry, where you’re constantly looking at new design, make it difficult to choose products for your own home?
Temptations come every day and from everywhere! But no, not really. I’m quite drawn to all things classic and modern: from Richard Sapper’s coffee maker for Alessi to Peter Opsvik’s Tripp Trapp chair for Stokke; from Marc Sadler’s Twiggy floor lamp for Foscarini to Chris Connell’s Kapelo table lamp for ISM Objects. I suppose you can say that I’m eclectic the way I choose the products and furniture, and that I can smell what will become future classics. Right now on top of my list is something from Dieter Rams’ Braun collection…
Are there any loose elements that you change frequently and, if so, what are they?
Indoor pot plants, because it seems like we keep killing them! But we are getting better though…
Photography by Dianna Snape.
Read about some of the driving principles behind the work of Architects EAT.