Cera Stribley Design Initiative

In the midst of a pandemic and nation-wide lockdowns, Cera Stribley looked to their core values to inspire an initiative providing some relief during a period of hardship, with the belief that well-considered design has an enormous impact  people’s overall well-being.

Two Four Nine Cera Stribley Design Initiative

Image by Cera Stribley

COVID-19 has brought out the best in some people, with many thinking of ways to make the lives of others a little easier. Architecture and Interior Design practice Cera Stribley wanted to bring some hope in the way it knows best, delivering architectural solutions to people who may have lost their income, were adjusting to new ways of living, or even lost their homes in the horrendous bushfires over Christmas. “The Design Initiative was born towards the end of March, just after the announcement of the government’s lockdown, when people who still had a job were working from home,” says architect Domenic Cerantonio, managing principal of Cera Stribley. Simple thoughts such as repositioning furniture in a home or home office to settle people into their new work environments quickly ‘morphed’ into an idea to offer people pro-bono in the form of schematic designs: a reworking of an existing home or complete redesigns.

The Cera Stribley Design Initiative found its ‘legs’ when it was announced on social media, with an entry form available on the practice’s website. People, whether property owners or those renting, could send in submissions as to what they were looking to achieve, and by the end of April there was a steady flow from those looking for renovations or simply advice to improve their lot. “I had some spare time on Saturday afternoons for this program, driven by the pleasure of giving hope to those who need it most during this time,” says Cerantonio. Some, such as the owner who lost their home in the bushfires, is delighted to see a schematic without an invoice attached. Others, such as a couple of medicos, one who is in the front line of the coronavirus, had just purchased a home a couple of weeks before the shutdown and were understandably distracted in knowing what to do with their run-down inner-city Victorian cottage. “The house was poorly orientated, but there was an opportunity to create a central core to attract northern light,” says Cerantonio, who, with his team, endeavours to select projects that both address people most affected by the pandemic, and are diverse.

Chris and Megan were the first to be selected for the Design Initiative, with the two young doctors looking for some guidance on transforming their new home to maximise the space, layout and natural light. 

There’s the house in Sorrento owned by a couple who were, up until the lockdown, operating two Pilates studios. They wanted to rebuild on the property, yet create a new home that possessed some of the quirks from the 1970s home on stilts, including a large deck where family and friends could gather. And while not in the position to currently act on Cera Stribley’s design, it highlighted what could be achieved in the future. “I came across the Design Initiative on their Instagram. It was at the time of the first lockdown,” says Arthur, the owner of the house at Sorrento. “Discovering that initiative was truly uplifting. It gave Louise and I something that would distract us during this terrible time,” says Arthur, who was delighted to be selected, and as thrilled with the scheme that was presented to the couple. “It’s something to dream about, but hopefully also action, when the time is right,” adds Arthur.

Until now, nine schemes have been designed, with a tenth one in the process. “The idea wasn’t to bring in more work. We’re busy enough even with the downturn. It’s about giving back and lifting the morale of people during this time” says Cerantonio. After the initial release of the Design Initiative for people’s homes, Cera Stribley announced the addition of entries for businesses affected by the pandemic, with bars, restaurants, gyms and offices now needing to rethink the way they operate going forward. For some who have not been fortunate as yet to have a free schematic design from Cera Stribley, they have been contacting the practice to find out more about the process and the potential of their projects.

Arthur and Louise were looking for some inspiration for their older family beach house, with clever design needed to maximise energey efficiency and space, while working with the challenging block.

Arthur and Louise were looking for some inspiration for their older family beach house, with clever design needed to maximise energey efficiency and space, while working with the challenging block.