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Small Living

Small living with Brad Swartz

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After some years cutting his teeth in some of Australia’s top design firms, Brad Swartz branched out on his own in 2014. That same year he moved into his very own 27m2 apartment in Sydney, Australia. The key to unlocking the potential of this small footprint space was containing the ‘amenities for life’ to the smallest possible area to create the largest possible living space. The following year, ‘Darlinghurst Apartment’ secured Swartz his first award and the awards and attention have been flowing ever since. 

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Good design is not only about making a smaller footprint work harder. Swartz explains, it’s also about creating a great quality of life and bringing a sense of luxury to even the tightest spaces. 

A sense of space and luxury are themes that recur throughout Swartz’s designs. For him, living in a small space doesn’t have to mean compromising on luxury and luxury doesn’t have to cost a fortune. 

Materials are fundamental to Swartz’s practice and how he seeks to bring a sense of luxury to his projects. He explains how prioritising the materials in your apartment or space that you regularly touch day to day might make luxurious materials more affordable. For instance, you might decide on a cost-effective joinery option in favour of a marble benchtop for your kitchen. “Finding this balance can make all the difference,” Swartz says.

“If you can’t make a space physically bigger, you need to create a good sense of space.”

Swartz’s ‘Boneca’ apartment has been described (in the jury citation for the Houses Awards accolade it secured in 2018) as an “…essay in comfort, luxury and unexpected spatial depth.”

Creating a “good sense of space” might be a matter of revealing the full extent of the apartment upon entry, he explains – allowing more light into the space. Or using lighter finishes on materials to reflect light into the space.

“Materials are a huge part of what we do. Part of that is about bouncing light through the space.”

Swartz also carefully selects materials that not only support a better sense of space but also the sense of luxury he strives for in his design. 

While the small spaces Brad and his team work on might trend towards interiors projects, he still leads with a strong architectural approach. 

We’ll still think about them in terms of where the light’s coming from, what cross ventilation opportunities we have.

His clients are presented with 3D designs in advance of a project commencing. 

“[This] allows us to pick up on things that don’t quite feel right. It becomes a really good way to show our clients what we were thinking when we have some crazy idea.”

Clients can virtually ‘move’ through the different spaces within the proposed design. For Swartz and his team, it’s key for understanding materiality and the relationship between things within each space. Further, it’s also key to minimising surprises down the line and ensuring a successful execution of the design.

Ultimately Swartz and his team aspire to create spaces that are calm, comfortable and timeless. And this theme of timelessness is another hallmark of Swartz’s designs and linked to his passion for sustainability.

“Cities like Sydney have some amazing old housing stock that’s been solidly built and isn’t going anywhere and repurposing that amazing housing stock to bring it up to the way we want  to live our life now or just give it a refresh is one of the most sustainable ways we can continue to grow our cities,” he says.

“If we do something well and do it right the first time then the client can come in and put their own furniture and artwork in and it becomes their space [and] in five years, 10 years or 20 year’s time when they decide to move out the next person can come it and it becomes their space,”