Archertec Interiors is an award-winning interior design studio that specialise in creating functional spaces of all sizes and for all tastes. Whether the space is large or small, whether the brief is minimal or extravagant, they are committed to delivering a design outcome that fits the client’s budget, enhances their lifestyle, and suits the Canberra market.
To achieve those outcomes, they work closely and collaboratively with all stakeholders – including and especially the client, who they keep closely involved every step of the way. They go through the creative journey together, explore the best options, and ensure that their project ultimately meets all their personal and professional aspirations.
Sonja McAuliffe is the founder, director, and principal interior designer of Archertec Interiors. She has been providing the same high quality, creative, and collaborative since since starting the studio in 1999. Over the years, she has worked on a diverse range of projects, and gained experience in everything from large casinos, hotels, and resorts, to multi-unit developments, shopping centres and workplaces, all the way through to small-scale retail fit outs, hospitality projects, and boutique offices.
“I’ve worked on everything to do with interior design and interior architecture,” she says. “But my favorite has always been residential.”
Today, Sonja focuses on that high-end luxury home niche. The majority of her projects are high-end residential homes, kitchens, and bathrooms for clients who share her values. Those clients typically approach her early on in the project, enabling her to coordinate with the other architects and engineers to get the most out of the project’s space.
At this point in the studio’s life, most of their work comes from referrals and past clients. Over time, Sonja has built a virtually unrivalled reputation in Canberra, which is backed by a large volume of industry awards.
Sonja has also built strong relationships with clients, builders, and other architects, many of whom she has worked with multiple times. She credits the strength of those relationships to a litany of factors – including “good communication, providing the right service, making their clients happy so they look good, making their jobs a lot easier through documentation – and maybe winning an award at the end of it all.”
Sonja also enjoys strong relationships with other industry stakeholders and project team members, including engineers, subcontractors, and suppliers.
“I work with the same people quite often,” she says. “I like to build very strong relationships. I rely on those partners to keep me up to date, to keep me educated on the best and most lasting materials, and to keep me inspired to try new things.”
Since 2002, Archertec Interiors has continuously won awards locally, nationally, and internationally. Sonja has consistently been recognised for her work and contribution to the industry, to the point where she has collected more than 80 prizes from the Master Builders Association (MBA) and Housing Industry Association (HIA) combined.
“From a marketing point of view, that really helps people see what I can do,” Sonja says of that recognition. “It gets my name out there. It helps attract work. It’s great for my ongoing business and reputation.”
Most recently, Archertec added to their trophy cabinet at the prestigious 2019 HIA-CSR Australian Housing Awards. There, the company was announced as the winner of the Australian Bathroom Design award.
Sonja says that she and her team took a lot of pride in that award in particular because it was recognition on a national scale for a project that used all local architects and suppliers. It proved that the quality they were achieving in Canberra was among the best in the country. It also gave her an opportunity to visit Perth for the first time.
Held in Perth, the HIA-CSR Awards are one of the premier platforms for showcasing the talents of the country’s top builders and designers. The winners are selected from state-based finalists, and Archertec was one of three builders from the ACT and Southern NSW region to claim a national award.
In their comments on Archertec’s winning project, the HIA judges praised Sonja and her team for their innovation and flair. They said that their design, “despite its moody palette of charcoal and onyx tones,” was “unexpectedly light and spacious.” They credited the large frosted glass panels with providing “a favorable balance of privacy and light transference.”
The judges also commended the freestanding bath tub and matching basins, which were crafted from Apasier Nero to complement the natural Arabescato marble vanity and cabinet tops.
The bathroom also featured mirrored cabinets suspended from above, making the basins accessible from either side of the floating vanity. The judges were impressed with that feat, calling it “a clever example of engineering.”
Sonja was personally proud of all the elements the judges singled out. In addition, she was proud of the project because it was a long time in the making. She first designed the house eight years ago, but the client went through some family issues that meant putting it off. Eight years later, the client came back again and they picked up where they left off.
“Surprisingly, there was not much I wanted to change from an architectural point of view,” Sonja says. “It was the trends and colours that we wanted to tweak a little bit.”
“Back then we were using aubergine and purples and plums and chocolates,” she adds. “Half of the materials we selected weren’t available anymore, and anyway, we thought we could do better with the colour schemes. We thought we could update them to a more timeless palate.”
She credits the improved result to the client, who was very trusting, and who had a budget that allowed for high quality materials and feats of engineering like the suspended cabinets.
“It was nice to have a healthy budget and a client that was very trusting and open to doing something different and special,” Sonja says.
“I think the fact that it won an award supports the idea that the design is quite timeless,” she says. “The layout may be eight years old, but it’s still cutting edge, it’s not out of date at all. And the finishes are very classic and I believe they are going to last. In another eight years, I believe it will still look brilliant.”
Moving forward, Sonja’s goal is to continue delivering similarly timeless – and similarly award-winning – results. And she wants to continue delivering them for like-minded clients, the kind who appreciate quality and creativity like she does, and who are eager to collaborate to get where they want to go.
In general, Sonja aims to keep doing what she’s doing. She doesn’t aim to grow. In the past, she’s taken on business partners and expanded the studio, only to find that she was spending all her time managing the business instead of designing. Designing, though, is her true passion, and she doesn’t want to lose sight of that again.
“I enjoy what I do,” she says. “I enjoy the creative side of this business. I can see myself doing what I’m doing for a very long time.”For more on Archertec Interiors, their process, services, and past projects – and to get in touch with Sonja and her team – visit https://archertecinteriors.com.au/