Phoenix Takes Five with … Sonja McAuliffe
As part of Phoenix Tapware’s interview series with key designers, architects, builders and plumbers, we take five minutes with Sonja McAuliffe, Director and Interior Designer at Archertec Interiors and winner of the award for 2022 HIA Australian Bathroom Design. Sonja chats about her career, inspiration and current design trends
How did you get started in Interior Design?
I was 18 when I first started in the industry working for a retail business that specialised in bathroom design and selling bathware, tiles, and products for building projects. Working in the building industry soon became a passion so I decided to return to school and study interior architecture. To support myself, I took on a few freelance design projects and little did I know at the time, but that was the beginning of my design business. I thought that when I graduated, I would work for an architectural studio and when my freelance jobs finished up I would ‘get a real job’. But the design work kept coming and I kept going. In 1999, I graduated and started working full-time as an Interior Designer in my own business called Archertec Interiors. Twenty three years later, I’m still going.
Bathroom designed by Archertec Interiors featuring Phoenix Vivid Slimline Wall Basin Mixer Set 180mm Curved, Phoenix Vivid Slimline Wall Bath Mixer Set 180mm Curved, Phoenix Vivid Slimline Twin Shower, Phoenix Vivid Slimline Shower / Wall Mixer, Phoenix Radii Hand Towel Holder Round Plate. All in Matte Black.
What does a typical day look like for you?
Busy! I’m a mum, wife and owner of a business that has a waiting list of people and projects that always seem to need to urgently begin. I get up early, usually 5.00am, as I feel my best work is done when everyone else is asleep. I guess this habit started when my daughter was born and my life had to change and adjust to having a child and the ever-changing daily routine of daycare, then the school years and then the extra after school activities & sport teams that we needed to be available for. Its only just recently that my daughter has obtained her drivers licence and can now look after herself, but I still get up early so that I can keep ahead of our project deadlines.
Bathroom designed by Archertec Interiors featuring Phoenix Vivid Slimline Wall Basin Mixer Set 180mm Curved, Phoenix Vivid Slimline Twin Shower, Phoenix Vivid Slimline Shower / Wall Mixer, Phoenix Radii Single Towel Rail 600mm Round Plate. All in Matte Black.
What are your favourite types of projects to work on?
I have worked on many types of interior design projects, from commercial interiors, government workspace design, hospitality, retail, medical fit-outs, multi-unit developments, hotels and casinos, but my favourite work is still residential – new homes, renovations, kitchens, and bathroom design. Residential is often said to be time consuming and high maintenance as you are dealing with personal homes and people get emotional and stressed very quickly renovating or building a home. I feel I have learnt how to help people through the process. I take out the stress and anxiety and help them get the best results to suit their budget, personal taste, and lifestyle.
What do you find most rewarding about interior design?
I love the excitement people go through when they see their new home come to life and how it can change the way they live. It’s so satisfying seeing the end result and how happy it makes my clients feel.
HIA award winning bathroom designed by Archertec Interiors featuring Phoenix Vivid Slimline Wall Basin Mixer Set 180mm Curved, Phoenix Radii Robe Hook Round Plate. All in Brushed Gold.
What currently inspires you and your work?
I love creative architecture, but I really love old homes with history and creating spaces that will last the test of time. I love looking at the details and following a style of architecture to suit the home. I work closely with a few local architects and my designs are often inspired by the architectural style of the building.
HIA award winning bathroom designed by Archertec Interiors featuring Phoenix Vivid Slimline Floor Mounted Bath Mixer in Brushed Gold.
Congratulations on winning the 2022 HIA Australian Bathroom Design Award. Tell us about this bathroom. What were the factors you considered with this design and why did you choose to specify Phoenix product throughout?
I still get excited and nervous when I enter the awards as I see the great work others are doing around Australia and feel very humbled to be amongst the finalists.
I approach every project with a practical mind first before I start getting creative with the look. I look at the space and determine first if it’s going to work as intended. Will it work as a bathroom? Is the space big enough or too big? Is privacy a concern. For example, does the toilet need its own space or needs to be discretely screened from the main doorway. I have a mental check list I tick off. I also have certain space allowances I tick off in the first stage of planning for bathware sizes and circulation space. Once I’m satisfied it all complies and feels comfortable, I then start looking at opportunities to add a creative twist to the plan. For example, do I have space to place a bath on an angle, or can I add extra storage or a make-up station? What type of colours and accents do I want to include? What type of tapware and accessories will look the best?
I chose Phoenix for this project as I feel they are a reputable and reliable brand. I also like the range of products available as there is so much choice.
HIA award winning bathroom designed by Archertec Interiors featuring Phoenix Vivid Slimline Floor Mounted Bath Mixer, Phoenix Vivid Slimline Rail Shower, Phoenix Vivid Shower Rose 230mm, Phoenix Vivid Ceiling Arm, Phoenix Vivid Slimline Shower / Wall Mixer, Phoenix Radii Single Towel Rail 800mm Round Plate. All in Brushed Gold.
What are the greatest or most important lessons you have learned along the way in your career?
Communication! It’s important to listen to your client. Learning to ask the right questions and understanding what is most important to them. It’s not always about the latest fashion or having the best. At the end of the day it’s their home and it has to suit their personal taste and lifestyle, not what the designer thinks is currently trending now and will look good on Instagram.
HIA award winning bathroom designed by Archertec Interiors featuring Phoenix Vivid Slimline Floor Mounted Bath Mixer, Phoenix Vivid Slimline Wall Basin Mixer Set 180mm Curved, Phoenix Radii Robe Hook Round Plate. All in Brushed Gold.
What kinds of trends are you seeing in kitchens, bathrooms and laundries?
I think colours are softening but black and charcoal are still popular with a shift to anthracite grey. Large format surfaces, natural stone and natural timber finishes are still popular. Colours like clay, earthy apricots, terracotta-based reds and browns are starting to pop up and greens and teals are popular ranging from leafy green tones through to sea green and fresh blue colour palettes. Purple is also making a comeback. I also see a lot of brushed gold being used. Metallic finishes are still strong features as well.