I have always been intrigued by people who pursue one career path, excel in their field, then turn around and decide to chase something completely and utterly different. It’s partly because I can’t imagine the level of dedication and commitment required for someone to study something completely new, right from the start, and then pursue it as a new career.
Lawyer-turned-architect is one such person. I first met Sandy and her husband Michael many years ago, when I was freelancing for The West; visiting homes most days of the week and writing on them. (And in typical Perth ‘everyone knows everyone somehow’ style, my dad knew them – with my dad and Michael being of Sri Lankan background (and as anyone Lankan in Perth knows, all Sri Lankan people in Perth have some common link somehow!)
Back then, Sandy was working as a lawyer, and she and Michael, who is a managing partner at EY, had just finished building a large two-storey home in Mount Pleasant.
The next time I saw Sandy, she had not only started and finished a gruelling architecture degree while also working full-time; she’d also become accredited by the Board, started her own design studio () and had designed and built the most beautiful home in Dalkeith for her and Michael - which I am so excited to share with you today!
No-one needs to explain their fascination with houses with me. But I still want to know – what sparked the big career change?
“I was a lawyer for ten years before returning to university to study architecture in 2006, but I actually always wanted to be an architect,” says Sandy. “I finished school in 1991 during a recession and the architecture and building industry were facing considerable challenges, and I was encouraged to study law. I took a year break from work in 2005 when my husband and I built our first home, and after working with an architect on that my decision was made – I wanted to pursue my dream job of architecture.”
When it came to designing her own house, Sandy drew from the other homes she and Michael had lived in over their sixteen years together, making note of what they had liked and what didn’t quite work.
“Our first home was a townhouse in South Perth,” she says. “We then built the rather large house in Mount Pleasant. We sold that and then lived in an apartment in Nedlands while we were building this home. The first house we built was too big for the two of us. Interestingly our first townhouse and the apartment were probably the same size, but the apartment felt better being on one level. We had spent several years living in the apartment and liked having everything on one level. So the apartment we were living in became the starting point for the brief for our new home – an apartment house.”