Challenge Accepted

Darren Naftal dreamt of being an architect from the age of 10. Swapping his lego for concrete blocks, he is now the Director of DN Architecture, and specialises in creating dream homes on difficult blocks.

Story by Emma Freeman

WHAT INSPIRES YOUR DESIGNS?
Before my pencil touches the paper I consider my clients wants and needs, then do a thorough analysis of the site and its neighbours, which dictates to me what is possible. I capture the best aspects of the block, be it views or access to sunlight, and then I find clever design solutions to overcome its challenges. Once I know how the house will be positioned on the block, I begin exploring shapes and volumes, whilst considering how people move through the house. I like creating a journey of sorts, by setting up a series of different views as you walk through. I also think about the play of light and shadow and how a space is constantly changing throughout the day depending on the position of the sun.
Equally as important as looking beautiful, the house must function well too. A well thought out floor plan allows different tasks to occur at different times without affecting each other. Flexibility of the spaces allows the house to change, adapting to its family as it grows and changes.

WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR GREATEST SUCCESS?
Starting my own practice 11 years ago and in that time obtaining planning approval for every one of my projects. More recently completing my book, which is the culmination of my 15 years practicing as an architect. It’s called – A Block in a Hard Place: A guide to designing your dream home on a difficult block.

WHAT ABOUT YOUR GREATEST CHALLENGE?
The biggest challenge is always meeting the clients’ needs, those of the council, keeping the neighbours happy, while overcoming the difficulties of the site. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love a challenge; it forces me to think creatively to overcome these often opposing forces. The results have always been designs I am really proud of.

IS THERE ONE PROJECT THAT YOU’RE PARTICULARLY PROUD OF?
I am doing an addition to a Californian bungalow, which is under construction at the moment. The space available behind the existing house to accommodate the addition was limited; however there was a lot the clients wanted to add. It was really tough but I got there. Seeing it come to life and without any compromise was well worth the long hours. I love this design, I just wish I could keep it, but it’s not mine.

WHAT MATERIALS DO YOU PREFER TO WORK WITH?
I love timber for its variation; it’s soft, warm and inviting feel, but also because it is a sustainable product and should be used in buildings as much as possible.
Bricks – I love patterns, and a brick wall allows you to play and explore various possibilities. Brick walls are also a series of small pieces laid out to create something bigger, which breaks up larger walls, making them softer. Concrete when used sparingly for architectural features, or exposed for the floor looks beautiful. When done by really great tradespeople, it feels like a high quality stone without the expense.

WHAT SETS YOU APART FROM OTHER COMPANIES IN YOUR INDUSTRY?
I specialise in difficult blocks. While these look like trouble to everyone else, I get excited and see the opportunity for my clients dream home in the location they want it to be. This is where my love of a challenge mixed with my resourceful inventive designs, overcomes the constraints to create unique, beautiful, and yet practical homes without any compromise.

THREE WORDS TO DESCRIBE YOUR PROJECTS?
Elegant, clever, homely.

Want the full story? Find it in Home Ideas Vol 9 No 2

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