We are thrilled to discuss the very important topic of designing for the future and ageing in place in Dare Magazine.


“Whether aged seven or 70, we want home to feel secure, comfortable and provide connection to the people, places and things we love. Fortunately, we’re enjoying the benefits of home longer as an increasing number of older Australians are opting to age in place, rather than enter aged care facilities.

“Ageing in place is being able to live independently and thrive in a home environment that supports your changing needs as you grow older,” explains designer Mairead Murphy of Maike Design. Paul Porjazoski, architect and director at Bent Architecture, who is passionate about design that enables people to live well in their older years in the home that they love, says: “Good design is central to ensuring that the home remains a safe, accessible and comfortable place.”

“In a practical sense, ageing in place is about future-proofing your home and maximising adaptability,” adds Anna Dutton Lourié, architect and interior designer at Bower Architecture.

Strategies can be subtle and often involve undertaking minor modifications or engaging a professional to help meld beautiful form with functionality. Here, our three experts share their ideas.”

Design and building budget

Pricing Your Design Project

Budget and pricing are often two of the biggest concerns people have when starting a building project.  This has been heightened by a lot of news about the rapid escalation of material and labour costs in the building industry.

How do you price your project?

There are a couple of different ways to price a project for construction. The most common methods used for a residential project are a competitive tender or a negotiated offer.

Competitive Tender:

Generally, a competitive tender will include pricing from three or four Builders. They are each issued a full set of documentation and have a window of time to price the project.  This does depend on the size and complexity of the project, but a tender period is usually around four weeks. To help ensure pricing is accurate, during the tender period your Architect or Designer will assist the builders.  They will answer queries, issue additional information, and organise for the builders to visit the site.

At the end of the tender period, your Architect or Designer will present you with each of the tenders.  They will discuss each option with you and give their assessment of the pricing.  But it is your decision who you will engage.

If all the pricing comes in high, you can discuss the project further with your preferred builder.  This is an opportunity to discuss buildability, scope reduction and other potential savings so that everyone is satisfied with the scope and budget before signing contracts.

At the core of the tender process is a spirit of fairness. All the tenderers should have access to the same information and be assessed equally.  The other tenderers should be informed if you or your designer has worked with one of the builders before, or if one of the builders has prior knowledge of the project.

A tender should never be used as a ‘test price’ process or a way to check on the pricing of a preferred builder. The builders involved in a tender invest a substantial amount of time pricing your project.  It is not fair to expect this to be done if you know ahead of time that you have no intention of going ahead with them. If you want to check construction costs at any stage of the project, you should engage a Quantity Surveyor to provide a detailed pricing.

If you are thinking of going through a tender process we highly recommend having the project priced by a qualified Quantity Surveyor at least once in the early stages.  This ensures that the scope and design are on track and you go to tender with a reasonable sense of what the construction price will be.

Negotiated Offer:

A negotiated offer is the process of negotiating the price with a preferred builder rather than calling for tenders. It is a more open, collaborative relationship and saves the time spent completing the tender process. The builder can be brought onto the project earlier to offer opinion on buildability and pricing.  A builder with a better understanding of the project can provide a more thorough pricing. Knowing about the project early also helps your Architect or Designer to manage the design timeline alongside the builder’s availability to start on site.

A Negotiated Offer is done in good faith that the project will go ahead with the preferred builder.  Unlike a tender, it is not a competitive process. It requires a higher level of trust and an established positive relationship with the builder to ensure the project is priced fairly. Again, you should engage a Quantity Surveyor at any stage of the project if you would like a second opinion.

Maike Design kitchen and dining room. Open timber shelves, indoor plants, brass pendant light, teracotta tiles, timber floors.

Case Study:

We successfully used the process of a Negotiated Offer to price our Meow House. We had been referred to our Meow House client by one of our other very happy clients from a previous project. During our early discussions, our client decided that they would also like to bring on the builder from this previous project. We knew that we worked well with this builder, his work was of a high standard. He had been fair and transparent in his pricing in the past, so we were happy to work through a negotiated offer process with him.

The Meow House house included fully gutting and renovating an existing 1960s brick house. The footprint of the house was large but very poorly planned, as a warren of small rooms. Our new design sat within the existing footprint, without an extension.  This meant the careful treatment of the old building was critical to the success of the project.

Once the Sketch Design phase was completed, we had the outline of the design and scope of the project.  We organised a walk-through with the builder to discuss the design and the extent of repairs required.  The builder was able to review buildability and give an indicative price for repair work – giving us a baseline for our budget. Having this baseline cost showed us how much of the budget would need to be allocated to  non-negotiable  items. This wasn’t a matter of expensive finishes or design details.  This was work that the building required to bring it up to a suitable standard.

We continued to check in with the builder as the design and detailing developed.  We worked with them to price some stand-alone elements, like the joinery, ahead of the main pricing. This helped us to keep tabs on pricing and give our client a sense of where the construction price was going to end up.

There is a place for both types of pricing and we hope being aware of your options will allow you to choose the best way to proceed for your project.


We love hearing about your projects no matter what stage you’re at.

If you’ve just started out thinking about your new home have a look at our free 4-week guide – How to: Defining Your Design Brief.

Our Little Big House featured in The Design Files.

“This family home in Ashburton, Melbourne is nicknamed ‘Little Big House’ both for its deceiving size and playfully integrated children’s features. 

Little Big House is located at the rear of a battleaxe block with an outlook across Malvern Valley Golf Course in Ashburton, Melbourne.

Concealed from the street, the house’s ground level remains hidden from view, even in the driveway, by the slope of the block. It is only when entering the home on level one that its large scale is slowly revealed through double-height living areas and expansive views. 

The architectural concept was designed by Basset Lobaza Architects as a series of interlocking boxes stepping down the hillside, each accommodating a different function. ‘It was a very striking design with beautiful clear volumes which I immediately loved,’ says Mairead Murphy, director of Maike Design, who designed the interiors. We were brought on board to, (in the words of the client), “ensure that it is done tastefully and that everything works together as a whole.”

Maike’s design carefully balances visual beauty with practical spaces required for a young family. ‘The architecture uses clear rectangular forms in the building. We wanted to enhance the sense of these boxes, while also breaking up the volume of the house into easily recognisable interior zones to help bring it to a more domestic scale,’ explains Mairead.

Changes in floorplan work to differentiate spaces, enhanced by the carefully considered colour and material palette. The shared areas feature light timber, concrete and white bright walls; while the main bedroom and lounge adopt a muted, darker colour palette with carpet, dark timber and deep blue and grey walls. ‘I also love the way the dark lounge frames the view across the yard,’ says Mairead. 

Little Big House is a family home designed for both parents and children. ‘We really were designing a house that was equally for the big people and little people in the family,’ says Mairead.”

See it Here

Maike Design lounge room. Bench steat and sheer curtains. Blue painted walls

See our Little Big House featured in the March issue of Inside Out Magazine.

“Mairead Murphy’s clients already had an architectural concept in mind, and town planning permission sorted when the interior designer was asked to work on this new build in the Melbourne suburb of Ashburton six years ago.

“It was a striking design with beautiful clear volumes, which I immediately loved,” says Mairead, founder of Maike Design.  “We were bought onboard to ensure that the interiors were done tasefully and that everything worked together as a whole.  The clients had renovated homes before and had a clear vision for what they wanted to achieve while building a new house.”

However, the original condition of the property left much to be desired.  The house was passed in at auction in 2016 and, months later, there still hadn’t been any interest in the property until the current owners purchased it.  “It was a daunting site when we inspected it,” says the homeowner.  “It was dilapidated, had masses of weeds, abandoned junk and building materials, dead trees and an overgrown backyard – but we saw what it could be.  My parents nearly disowned me when I signed the contract, but we fell in love with the property and were determined to realise our vision – and we couldn’t be happier with the result.

The clients learnt of Mairead from their builder, Grandway Homes, as Mairead had worked with them on a previous project.  She joined the team just in time to work collaboratively with the owners and their draftsperson on the plans.  Her scope of work was to include the overall interior design and joinery plus exterior finishes and lighting design.”

How to Manage Design Decisions

Everyday life is already filled with a seemingly never-ending series of decisions. Some of these decisions are big and many you will barely notice you are making. Cornell University research estimated that the average adult makes around 35,000 decisions every day! On top of all these, the process of designing a home is packed full of even more decisions.

Decision fatigue refers to the sense of overwhelm people feel when they are required to make too many decisions. According to one study, the decisions you make during the day draw on a single reserve of mental energy. This includes all decisions, whether they are less important or particularly weighty. As people become more fatigued, decisions are harder to make. You can read more here and here.

At Maike Design, we use a clear process to that breaks decisions into manageable groups. Each of our stages focusses on finalising specific elements of the design in a carefully ordered progression.

The initial stages of our process set the foundation of the design. We respond to existing conditions of the site, neighbourhood, and original building. The overarching approach sets the conceptual intention of the design, the layout of the plan and is the baseline of the design direction for the entire project. Working through our process, the decisions become more detailed until we have a fully fleshed out design – documented and ready for construction.

By staging the process in this way, each decision sits in the context of the ones prior. While there is an overwhelming array of choices for every element of a design, ours are narrowed down to those that fit within the framework we have already put in place. Using our design knowledge and expertise, we curate these to present the best two or three options. And just like that, the choice becomes easily manageable.

Here are a few ways you can minimise overwhelm and impact of decisions fatigue through your design project:

Work with an Architect or Designer you Trust.

Take their advice on board and voice your thoughts and questions. Understand the theory and reasoning behind the design to help you to feel confident in your choices. Working as a team will result in a considered and individual design.

Consider how involved you want to be.

Before you begin the project, consider how involved you want to be and discuss this with your designer. Be sure to raise it again if at any point your preference changes. Some clients love being heavily involved. Many of our clients work with us because they trust that we will taking care of decisions while keeping them up to date with the key milestones. Delegate decisions to your designer at a level you are comfortable with.

Remember your design is for you, not for everyone else.

As tempting as it is to gather opinions from everyone you know, multiple, differing points of view can make decisions even harder to make. Find someone you trust as a sounding board – but don’t forget to discuss your ideas and priorities with your designer so they can respond to them through the design process.

Give yourself time.

When you have a review meeting with your designer, create some space around the timeslot so you can go into your meeting with a clear mind. After the meeting, put aside time to absorb the information. This should be a time when you have the capacity to consider how your design will meet your specific requirements and make your life wonderful.

See our Meow House featured in Habitus Living.

“Maike Design has considered the specific needs of felines and their owners in this thoughtfully reconfigured Melbourne home.

“From the street, Meow House still looks like a slightly tidier version of the original house, which I love,” says Mairead Murphy, founder of Melbourne-based Maike Studio.

“It’s not a highly decorative or traditionally charming house but we wanted to just let it be the little orange house that it is … in all its frumpy, orange glory. But once you head through the front door it is an entirely different home.”

Mairead is referring to the frontage of Meow House, which is for the most part, the original front room of her client’s home. “We have taken an old structure that, with different clients, may have been demolished, and turned it into a functional and beautiful family home,” adds Mairead. “I really admire their dedication to their old house and am so pleased with what we were able to create for them.”

Aside from a strong desire to retain the character and quirkiness of the original property, Mairead’s clients had some specific requirements related to the spatial planning of the house. “Their two cats were to be seamlessly incorporated into the design without it looking like a ‘cat house’,” explains Mairead.

“One of the clients is a shift worker so we were also asked to consider a way in which he could come and go for work at odd hours without disturbing the rest of the family.” Additional requirements included providing a small, quiet workspace for the other half of the client duo and a hangout space for the couple’s almost-teenager.

The existing house presented a warren of rooms that were dark and cramped, and non-reflective of the way the family wanted to live. They also had no connection, making the house feel much smaller than it actually was…”

See it here.

Maike Design kitchen and dining room. Open timber shelves, indoor plants, brass pendant light, teracotta tiles, timber floors.

The story behind our Next Door Houses was covered in At Home magazine

“Tiny weatherboard houses once dotted Australia’s inner city and suburban streets, but as our hunger for bigger, and supposedly better, homes has increased, many of these so-called workers’ cottages have been demolished to make way for shiny, new structures, or extended so that they utilise every inch of the often sizeable blocks they were originally built on. This is something that has long troubled Melbourne-based illustrator and interior designer Mairead Murphy, who completed a Masters thesis on the topic.

“These little weatherboard houses were originally all throughout Melbourne and such a big part of the city’s history,” says Mairead.

“They were people’s first homes and so many of us have memories connected to them.  But they don’t have the character or the charm of the Victorian or the Georgians and they’re easy to get rid of, so they’re bulldozed and then up go townhouses.  It’s such a shame.”

Given Mairead’s passion for these weatherboard charmers, it’s not surprising that when she and her partner Pete Drake were finally in a position to buy a home, they snapped one up.  The house, in Melbourne’s hip Brunswick neighbourhood, was small by modern day standards, but the couple delighted in that.

They planned to renovate and refresh extensively, but to keep their footprint small so that they could enjoy some green space too.  The renovation went smoothly thanks in part to Mairead’s professional skills and the new family (son Flynn arrived in 2016), settled in well.  Their worker’s cottage was just one fo three left on the small suburban street where they lived and they were deeply proud of what they had achieved by preserving this little slice of history.  Then they learned the weatherboard house next door was to be sold – and they immediately panicked…” 

See it here.

Maike Design backyard. Charcoal painted weatherboard and cedar cladding. Black painted pergola and grape vines. Concrete pavers in lawn

We love this write up of our Meow House in Hunter and Folk

“Meow House, designed by Maike Design, is a reworked 1960s home for a family and their much-adorned cats!

Located in Fairfield, close to Melbourne’s CBD, Meow House was an original 1960s home full of charm and character, yet unfortunately the floor plan was not functional for its owners.

The family turned to Maike Design to transform the interior so that it was more open, allowed for family gatherings and also contained spaces and holes for their beloved indoor cats!

‘We completely replanned the existing warren of small rooms, creating a layout that suits the needs of a young family including a shift-worker and two indoor cats,’ says Maike Design.

The design relocated services areas originally at the back of the house to the south of the building, giving clear access to natural light and the backyard.

The new space has been carefully zoned using open shelving to provide interconnected living areas. An oversized central glass door allows the family to close the living space off from the cats and move freely between inside and outside.

Inspiration for the aesthetics was drawn from the original house, leading to the incorporation of terrazzo, brass, terracotta, and pastels including a minty green, peach and light blue.

‘These materials have been re-imagined and incorporated in new ways to create a design that sits comfortably alongside the original and provides surprising moments throughout the house.’

The design of the detailing, materiality and texture add a tangible sense of the hand-made nature of the house.

‘The objective was not to perfect the imperfect old house, but to find and accentuate its charm to create a distinctive, warm family home,’ says Maike design.”

See it here.

Maike Design lounge room. Timber shelving, indoor plants. Boucle chair and ottoman.

Our Garden House had a lovely write-up in Dwell Magazine

” The old saying that “two halves make a whole” is a fitting motto for one of Maike Design’s latest projects. The interior design practice recently helped a family of four in Malvern East, a suburb of Melbourne, renovate and reimagine their California-style bungalow while introducing a new extension. “Rather than try to integrate the new and the old, we decided to create a design with two distinct parts,” says Maike Design founder Mairead Murphy. 

“Overall, it was a clean and neat little house, but it needed repairs and it didn’t functionally meet any of the client’s requirements,” says Murphy, who worked with Bancroft and Malone Architects on the project.

The client’s needs ranged from additional living space and improved storage to a more streamlined floor plan with better daylighting, as the home’s dark, inward-facing layout obstructed views to the generous backyard. Connecting the existing house to the garden became the key design goal.

First, they reworked the existing house to create quiet spaces that cater to what Murphy calls the “inward-facing parts of life”—like the bedrooms and the bathrooms. The renovation also opened the back of the house, linking the interior with its environs. 

Second, the project added a new extension at a 90-degree angle to capture the northern light. Both halves intersect in a glass vestibule-turned-walkway with garden views on either side. “For a space that technically doesn’t do anything, it has such a huge impact on the design, and how the old and new sit together,” says Murphy.

One of the home’s most impressive features is the 30-foot-long glazed wall which spans the length of the new addition. Whereas before the home faced inward, now walls of glass invite the outdoors in.” 

See it here.

Maike Design garden connection. White bricks and black frame
Maike Design renovated Californian Bungalow and extension with beautiful garden

Our Garden House had a lovely write-up in Hunter and Folk

” Melbourne design studio Maike Design has gained a reputation for their clever approach to heritage home renovations, creating bright and functional spaces tailored to each individual site.

Their latest project, Garden House, in Malvern East, Victoria, is no exception. The original heritage Californian bungalow house has been renovated and reworked using its inherent solidity and darkness to create gentle, calm and enclosed private spaces.

The brief called to accommodate the growing family’s needs, including the provision of spaces for working from home.

‘This design is quiet, restrained and responds to the needs of our clients. It envelops the rituals of their lives and has prompted new ones, such as the owner’s daughters spending summer evenings together on their back deck,’ says Mairead Murphy, director of Maike Design

The interior results in a contrast with bright and open shared spaces of the new pavilion, which is as much a part of the garden as it is the house. The strong exterior connection sees the light and atmosphere of the rooms shift through the day, creating ever-changing moments of delight and picking up the natural properties of the interior finishes.

The design relies on subtle texture, careful material choices and a complete integration of interior design and architecture to create a sense of balance between all its elements. While the building is visually calm and simple, careful use of spatial volume, natural light, materiality, and beautiful craftsmanship provide a tactile and engaging home.

Materiality for the project is inspired by the original brick and timber construction but differs in colour selection to differentiate old from new. The restrained palette is a backdrop to the lives of the client and the beautiful plants inside and outside the building.”

See it here.

Maike Design garden connection. White bricks and black frame
Maike Design renovated Californian Bungalow and extension with beautiful garden