A Studio Visit With One Of Australia’s Most Exciting Young Architecture + Design Firms

It’s been five years since Planchonella House by Jesse Bennett Studio set the Australian design scene on fire, taking out Australian Institute of Architects’ Robin Boyd Award for Residential Architecture 2015, the Australian House of the Year at the Houses Awards 2015; and winner of Interior Design/Residential at the Architecture MasterPrize 2017. Phew!

Founded by husband and wife duo, architect Jesse Bennett and interior designer Anne-Marie Campagnolo, the studio has since been engaged on projects ranging from regional Queensland to southern France, and recently moved their headquarters to Melbourne! 

Take a look inside this creative couple’s space, and find out what’s next for their practice below.

When did you and Jesse meet?  

We met at Ric’s, a dive bar in Fortitude Valley, where Jesse was playing drums at the time in a band called the Z-RAYS. We had some kind of weird sliding doors/love at first sight moment and were married six months later. That was 10 years ago.  

We started the studio after the success of our first project together, Planchonella House, in 2015. We didn’t really have a plan to start a practice – rather we just really like to design, build and make things – and this turned into a practice.

How do you find working together?

When we first started it was quite challenging, as we both have very different personalities. 

Over the years we’ve developed some good strategies, and now it’s really fun. 

Our biggest lesson has been to both accept and appreciate each other’s strengths and differences. I remember I used to get stressed out that Jesse would always be doing non-work things throughout the work week like yoga, drums, mountain bike riding, guitar practice, servicing motorbikes and painting. But now, I’ve learnt that he tackles all kinds of problems and gains ridiculous clarity of thought by doing these things. He will come in from a ride and in 20 minutes flat he will draw out something wildly awesome, and it’s because he’s been thinking about it all day on the trails.

Tell us a bit about your home and studio in Melbourne.

Our current home/studio space is located in Fitzroy. It’s an old brick stable building, which has been subdivided from the original Victorian terrace at the back. It was first converted into an artist’s studio by a prominent Fitzroy lithographer, so it’s got lots of lovely natural light. It’s a very tight space though, and really needs a new roof!

We have focused on decorating the interiors with furniture, art, books and music until the time comes when it can be renovated.

This property is very different from your Planchonella House! Why did you decide to make the move to Melbourne?

This is a great question. We really love Cairns, and naturally we loved our house there too, but we were ready for a change.

I think for creative people, if your goal is original output, you need to have original input. It’s important to challenge your own way of thinking, change your surroundings and stimulate your mind, as it forces you to create a new point of view through new experience, and this naturally leads to new ideas.

I’d be lying if we said we didn’t have some serious reservations about moving back into a major city, but we ultimately decided that we’d rather take a wrong step than be static. Luckily for us, we love Fitzroy. Our neighbours are fantastic, the dog park is primo, and the changing scenes in the street are truly no less colourful than the tropical jungle we were surrounded by in Cairns. Different – but no less colourful.

How do you separate work and home? 

This is a constant challenge, but we have it pretty nailed now. We plan our week so that we both have blocks of quiet time alone in the office where one of us is out and the other works. Then we also have morning meetings, site meetings, etc. 

COVID-19 put a pretty major spanner in the works though, and suffice to say we’ve spent a lot of money at Bose on noise-cancelling headphones in an attempt to stay sane!

Do you have any major inspirations that influence your design work? 

Most of our influence is from outside the field of architecture and interiors. We look to music, colour, biophilia, fabrics, cycles, philosophy, senses, people, construction, materials, instruments, taste, emotions, machinery, actions and reactions, astrology, patterns, dogs, fine jewels, punk, history, all kinds of craft, aquatic life, the wind….

What are some exciting projects currently in the Jesse Bennett Studio pipeline? 

We are working on a beachfront home in Queensland that we are really excited about. The clients engaged us during COVID, and even though we haven’t met face to face, they have such a wonderful attitude towards the design process that we already know the results are going to be radical.

Keep up with Anne-Marie + Jesse here!

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Author: IW

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