Kory, Lauro, Nalini & Mark WEST END HOME

We had a great afternoon hosting Kory and Lauro and their new beautiful baby girl Nalini at our studio for their own HOME Masterclass. They were keen to explore how their home might grow and change with their new little family as well as develop and support Lauro's business. Lauro runs the Chao Academy, traditional brazilian Jiu Jitsu, he offers personal classes at their home with a studio set up under the house. 

Kory's friend Mark, visiting from the UK joined us for the afternoon and explored his ideal changes to his countryside home as well.

Home Masterclass run by Suzie and Laura, in our Brisbane Studio with Kory, Lauro, Mark and wee Nalini. Beautiful photos of the garden by Shantanu Starick, candid photos by Suzie.

HOME Masterclass Personal is a private session for you and your family or friends, which can be undertaken in the comfort of your own home, or in the creative environment of the Surroundings studio.   Call Suzie or email now to book in 0419 028 906.

Madeline & Nick's NORTHCOTE HOME

Madeline & Nick's NORTHCOTE HOME

I journeyed down to Melbourne last week to run our Home Masterclass with old friends of mine, Madeline and Nick. Mads and Nick and their two young boys, Sid and Hughie live in Northcote in inner Melbourne in the lovely victorian house. Mads and Nick are looking to renovate, demolishing the rear and adding a new kitchen, living and dining. We explored how they like to live and made a plan for the ideal home.

Mandy's Home WEST END

We were blown away when we walked into Mandy's and saw her preparation, Mandy, a designer and managing director of Gilimbaa had created her own ideas wall with images and post-its of her dreams for her home. Seeing this wall and being in her home gave us a great feel for the things Mandy loves. Mandy comes from an italian family and has a great love for breaking bread and sharing food with loved ones, our workshop was no exception as we were treated to pasta and wine as we worked with Mandy and her bestie Genevieve. 

Read about Mandy and the Home Masterclass in an article written in the West End Magazine

Home Masterclass run by Suzie and Jon, in West End with Mandy and her bestie Genevieve. Photos by Jon Henzell.

HOME Masterclass Personal is a private session for you and your family or friends, which can be undertaken in the comfort of your own home, or in the creative environment of the Surroundings studio.   Call Suzie or email now to book in 0419 028 906.

Surroundings is moving in a bold new direction

A new direction

Sometimes you’ve just got to follow your heart and focus on the things you really love. And over time, we’ve come to realise that human-centred design is our calling. Our strength and interest lies in the ‘egg hatching’ phase of building, where our expertise helps connect people to personal experiences in space.

We’re launching a new program

From 2016, we’ll be focusing solely on this design approach. We’ve brought together all our learnings to develop a program called HOME that will help people explore and discover their ideal space. 

A calendar of workshops

Rather than follow architecture projects through to completion, we will now work with our clients to develop the perfect brief – and offer a special matchmaking service to help our clients choose the best architect for the job.  We will run a calendar of events for group workshops and take bookings for individuals and couples. We will also consult on commercial projects, such as our work for Hummingbird House and Endodontics.

Thank you for your ongoing support

We’re shifting from a traditional architecture practice to human-centred design because it’s what we do best. Helping people define what they need and want is an invaluable first step in the process. So, if you come across someone who’s starting a project, tell them about what we’re up to, we would love to support them to discover their brief and choose the right architect for their ideal home.

Thank you for your love and support; we hope to continue this journey with you.

HOME Masterclass Group

Come and join us for a group session in the creative environment of the Surroundings studio.

This five-part workshop will help you establish who you are, what inspires you, where you’ve come from and where you’re going. We put together these elements to help you better understand your personal relationship with space. You will receive a portfolio of your activities, exercises. HOME Masterclass Group offers a more cost-effective option. 

Price: $450 ex gst per person

We have opened dates for 2016
Book your tickets now in eventbrite

or looking for something more personal and customised? See our other packages on our website.

Christmas is coming! Need an extraordinary gift for an extraordinary person?

Gift a loved one, a ticket to our group workshops. The gift of learning about how you relate to your home will last a lifetime.

A perfect gift for those who are;

  • looking to buy a house
  • moving out for the first time
  • thinking of studying interior design or architecture
  • loves home, nesting and their environment
  • wants to learn more and make their home their own

Simply email or call Suzie 0419 028 906 to purchase a gift certificate and we’ll email over a gift certificate addressed to your special someone. If the class they want to do is cheaper, we’ll do a credit towards their next visit. If the class is more expensive, they can pay the difference direct to us when they book in.

Hummingbird House Insight Workshops​

Surroundings were commissioned by Queensland Kids to connect with the Queensland Kids Community and gain their feedback on the upcoming design of Hummingbird House, Queensland’s first Kids Hospice.

Our role has been to extend an invitation to the community, open the conversation and engage the families and other stakeholders in the design process.  Together with ThomsonAdsett, the designers of Hummingbird House and their teams, we hosted a series of workshops in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne.

For us this stage has been about recognising the families as experts in their kids needs, and taking a step to ask and involve them in the design of Hummingbird House as both a facility and an experience.

We set about to bring together an intimate group of designers and stakeholders together, to start forming and reinforcing community around our building a set of ideas – to spark conversation and through process learn and shape Hummingbird House. 

Our workshops also curated a diverse set of future users of the space to explore Hummingbird House from the perspective of non-family stakeholders, the people who will work and live their daily lives in the space.

We also had the privilege of visiting the two open and functioning kids hospices in Australia, Bear Cottage in Sydney and Very Special Kids in Melbourne to learn from their experience and wisdom and build on their best practices for Queensland.

The true outcome of our workshops is immeasurable in print, we formed and reinforced bonds in the community that will inhabit and grow within the walls of Hummingbird House. As well as this, we gained some great insights into what will be a great experience for the kids and families of Hummingbird House. 

Our role included; Design of content and methodologies of user consultation workshops, facilitation, recorded data, analysis and outcomes, Sessions with Project Architects and Clients for gap finding and feedback, Peer Review.

West End Magazine Article HOME Masterclass

Reprinted Article from The West End Magazine | Words by Alice Thompson | Images by Camera Obscura

So you’re designing a house? Maybe you’re renovating. Either way, if you are new to design, and architecture is foreign to you, then you run the risk of ending up with a design that you do not want. 

Ending up with a design that you are not happy with is time consuming and ultimately very costly to rectify. Therefore, it pays to know what you like and how you want to live in your house before you employ the architect or builder to do the job.

West End local Mandy was faced with an interesting design conundrum. Having bought a classic West End Queenslander workers cottage with a friend, she found herself the proud owner of the ground floor. Thus, when she was ready to renovate, she was renovating just half a house. This was an intriguing situation that would take the most careful of touches and understanding of architects to get just right. There was no room for error. Quite literally.

Mandy employed local architecture firm Surroundings to help get to know her own style. This may sound like a very basic concept, but it is in the simplicity of the service that the genius is found. Surroundings has developed a new service that fills a gap between client and designer. By all accounts, the design and building process can be a very long one, sometimes running over years. By the time a project is finished, Surroundings principal architect Suzie Wiley saysshe knows clients very well. The problem is, she wishes she knew clients as well as she did at the end right at the beginning — thereby making the design process a whole lot easier. 

Surroundings’ design program is called HOME, a name that puts ‘me’ in HOME. So how does it work? In Mandy’s case, the program was run by Suzie over four hours one Saturday at her soon-to-be-renovated cottage. During this time Suzie facilitated a process by which Mandy was given the language and the visual prompts she needed to understand her own architectural preferences. By designing around the experiences that she wanted to have in her new home, they were able to work from the inside — the ideal experiential — to something that can be translated to the built form.

From this process, Mandy knew that she wanted the kitchen to be the heart of the home; that she valued family and friend get-togethers and needed places to live out those wonderful social moments. This in turn helped Surroundings understand the very emotional fabric that needed to be woven into Mandy’s new home. Hey presto — client and architect are on the same page.

Surroundings has a great deal of connections with small architecture practices around West End. Their idea is to facilitate more workshops like this, and once they understand the style of the client, to pass them on to another architect who matches their needs and completes the design. 

As for Mandy, her home will be completed soon, and much to her experiential satisfaction.

A Garden to Work from

Sawtooth+Co is Surroundings’ new home

Because we couldn’t imagine leaving our garden behind at our old studio, we decided to take it along for the ride. It has now settled in nicely with us under our shed roof at 1 Trafalgar St, creating a lush courtyard where you will often find us working, meeting or sharing lunch.
We are looking forward to sharing this big shed - named Sawtooth + Co - and its garden. So why don’t you join us in our co-working space? If you would like to set up shop here, just swing by for a chat and a tour.
The space will host different events. Beats and Pieces is up next. So look to your calendars and save the date for this series of 5 music appreciation and art nights. A guest DJ will be setting the mood while you will be picking up pen and paper to explore an artwork carefully selected to reflect the music.

Find out more about our co-working space.
The Sawtooth+Co photo gallery
Sign up for 5 art sessions “Beats and Pieces” night.

Photo by Shantanu Starick 

Human Centred Design and our Dental Project.

The Endodontic Group’s new Indooroopilly practice is a safe, nurturing and natural environment where plants grow, sunlight dances and patients gently transition from the outside world to the dental chair and back into the world again.

The waiting zone is tucked away with a screen between reception and waiting for privacy to both clients and employees. A choice of chair types allows people to be active or resting. This one is the quiet reading zone.

Creating an enhanced health experience: A case study in human-centred design. 

Now that the project is complete, we want to share the results with you and discuss how human-centred design works in practice.  See our full project gallery. The beautiful photography is by Jon Henzell and David Hanson of Camera Obscura

Our brief : to enhance the relationship between the Endodontic Group patients and their referring dentists

As leaders in their field, the Endodontic Group wanted their new Indooroopilly location to reflect the high standard of care patients could expect. They saw a new location as an opportunity to break with convention and raise the bar for patient experience and the design of endodontic practices. The business is driven by referrals from general dentists, so they wanted their new space to have a positive impact on the patient, and generate a flow-on effect of enhancing a patient’s relationship with their dentist. By designing a patient experience that’s supportive and nurturing, our client saw the potential to increase referrals from dentists, and generate word-of-mouth referrals from patients to their friends, family and colleagues. It was also important to design a great workplace for staff – the people who would experience the space day in and day out.

We intentionally contrasted clinical spaces with nurturing spaces. The consult zones to each surgery provide a place of contrast and interest, a space for a partner to wait and a place to put your things.

he Human-Centred Design Process

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Before we began designing, we asked a lot of questions, analysed the existing experiences of patients and staff, and looked for opportunities to enhance their interactions.

Our first step was a Human Centred Experience Review. We imagined ourselves in the shoes of a patient and mapped out their treatment journey at an existing location of the Endodontic Group. This allowed us to identify key interaction points, which we’d later use to maximise a positive experience through design.

We also took a multi-focus approach. We spoke with a number of different staff members throughout the organisation – from dental assistants to endodontists, administration, marketing and reception staff. This helped us gain a thorough understanding of how the space needed to function and allowed us to explore how we could enhance all of their experiences within the space.

 Each surgery has a small anti-room, which is both inviting to look at and be in.

Each surgery has a small anti-room, which is both inviting to look at and be in.

We realised that the staff spend all day in the space, while patients only spend an hour or two there.

So much of the space was dedicated to improving the quality of experience for the staff, which in turn would improve the experience for their patients. We were fortunate that the Endodontic Group had a solid patient experience for us to build upon, and they were prepared for change and a little experimentation.

We then set about creating layers of design – to ensure everyone’s needs would be met through functionality, clinical excellence and a variety of spaces and experiences for all the different people who encounter the space. We planned an environment that would be rich with experiences that activate all of the five senses.

Throughout this process, we worked closely with our client and partnered with dental interior specialists, KDW, to ensure the space would function and feel beautiful for everyone.

The finished project is nurturing, cutting-edge and rich with experiences.

Daylight is captured, reflected and played with throughout the space with skylights, additional windows and timber battens to cast shadows, while glass, glossy paint and tiles bounce light and reflect views.

We created a fun lunchroom near a large warehouse door, making a room for staff to relax. It doubles as a function space for student dentists who come to learn at the endodontic group. A training space on a mezzanine looks back down to the dining space.

Natural elements – stone, timber and plants – create a sensory connection to nature and a dark colour scheme creates a safe and nurturing atmosphere, ensuring patients don’t feel exposed or vulnerable.

To enhance the relationship between endodontists and their patients, we found ways to reflect their individual personalities through artwork and furnishings. No two rooms are the same. This gives staff a sense of ownership of their space and also gives patients insight into their specialist as an individual.

The view from the chair in one of the rooms, Light and shadows filter through plants and stripes on the glass creating movement in view. Dr Macnamara has a replica of his first ever surfboard mounted to the ceiling.

This project is a great example of how human-centred design principles can lead to the design of a bespoke and beautiful set of experiences. This is often unexpected in an environment such as an endodontic practice.

 See more human-centred-design projects on our website.

As always an architectural project is the result of much collaboration, here is a list of some of the many who contributed to this one : 

  • Our client: The Endodontic Group
  • Human Centred Architects: Surroundings
  • Interior in collaboration: Jacks Corner
  • Interior dental specialist: KDW Design
  • Builder: Premis Solutions
  • Structural Engineer: Optimum Structures
  • Mech Elec Engineer: Norman Disney Young
  • Town Planner: Urbis
  • Landscape: Mappin Design Group
  • Builder Certifier: Building Surveying Professionals

Photography by Camera Obscura (see more photos here) and copywriting of this article by the talented Merrin McCormick. 

5 principles of Design Thinking in Architecture

At Surroundings, we are moving beyond a basic design solution to integrate human needs more fully into our processes. We have been working to adapt these new and exciting processes and apply design thinking to our playing field : architecture. 

Human Centred

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Architecture is experienced through client's eyes.

We all have individual backgrounds, experiences and preferences related to how we live and what environments we prefer. Human Centred architecture seeks to design through client's eyes to meet their needs and recognise their individual preferences.



We include all stakeholders in the architectural design process

To truly be human centred we must carefully balance and fulfil the needs of all users of the space. We aim to harness the knowledge from as many different perspectives as possible in our process. Rather than see creativity as a gift, we believe everyone is creative and can express this by learning to articulate the ideas that naturally flow through their minds. 

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Architecture is an interface for human experience

In parallel with designing a space, we design a set of key experiences and rituals to play out in that space. These scenes are designed to celebrate and enhance the experience of the occupants living there.



We see the architecture as a sequence of events that unfold over time

We imagine the building as a movie of the occupants' lives and we set about creating the building 'movie set' to suit them. We create experiences and spaces that reinforce, accumulate and build meaning with time.



We consider the entire environment of the human experience

Lives play out in physical environments and people perceive these environments usings all their senses: sound, sight, feel, smell and taste. We reinforce and connect the occupants to nature and promote a sense of place.

Find out more.

So, what is this Design Thinking?

One of the leaders in this field of 'design thinking' is a company called Ideo

Design thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer's toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.” —Tim Brown, president and CEO Ideo.

Design thinking is a deeply human process that taps into abilities we all have but get overlooked by more conventional problem-solving practices. It relies on our ability to be intuitive, to recognize patterns, to construct ideas that are emotionally meaningful as well as functional, and to express ourselves through means beyond words or symbols. Nobody wants to run an organization on feeling, intuition, and inspiration, but an over-reliance on the rational and the analytical can be just as risky. Design thinking provides an integrated third way.  Ideo. 

 "Our Approach: Design Thinking." IDEO. 9/12/2013. <www.ideo.com/about>

Dreams of Home

Once upon a time there was a house...

The piece below was written by our client about her hopes for her upcoming home. It is truly wonderful.

by Lesley-Anne Houghton. 

I can’t see my house from here where I sit, words beneath my feet, a giant pink rabbit standing guard.  But I can see the bridge, people always walking, journeying to home, work, study, life.  And from the bridge I know I can see my house. An inspiration, a sanctuary, an adventure. It is bold my house.  It takes risks. It makes a statement. It connects with its community and stands apart from it. It doesn’t care what you think. It won’t be offensive, but it will be known.

My house is welcoming.  It is filled with light, love and laughter.  It is a place for friends to come and eat, drink and connect. A place for children to play and family to rest. A place of many and of few. Opening up and hiding away. It is a place which generates creativity, connection and generosity.  And intimacy, love and rejuvenation.

We claim who we are in this home. We are enveloped and embraced; inspired and pushed to step into possibility, to live a life bold, to take risks and stretch boundaries.  We dream big dreams in these spaces. We sit in a rooftop garden, soft and beautiful, the lights stretching the world beyond us.

And we retreat. To reconnect, to be intimate, to have solitude. To live a life the two of us, forgetting about the demands, the requests, the lists of jobs to be done, people to ring, reports to be written, meetings to be had. We sit quietly, a glass of wine, soft lights and music – holding the world at bay. And my soul repairs.

And then there are children.  Running and hiding and finding adventure in these spaces.  A contemplative garden becomes a jungle adventure.  There are rooms to explore and cubbies to be made and places to hide.  But not yet. There is still quiet and stillness in these walls for awhile.

A home for no-one but us. A home for everyone to share. A home for now. A legacy for the future.

The Photograph is by Shantanu Starick, is of the existing warehouse prior to refurbishment.