Architecture That Makes You Smile


Architecture That Makes You Smile | One MANI House by Mani Architecture

Project Feature

Fitzroy North, Victoria, Australia
Words | Anthony Richardson
Video |
Design Emotive Studio

We knew that we were creating something really special, and we knew that bringing in natural light would bring that sort of quality of life that you really want to achieve, but I think being in here, and seeing everything, and sitting in different spots, you just smile. Like, it just makes you really happy.
— Sara Tonini, Mani Achitecture

Sara and Rene from Mani Architecture had an idea, and instead of waiting around for a client to come to them to execute it, they decided to be their own client. Their main goal with One MANI House was to educate the value of an architect, that through design you can achieve a certain quality of life, your dream home that makes you smile. “The idea of this house was to showcase to people what you can do with spaces, how your lives and how you live in a space,” Sara explains, “how that can impact so many things, quality of life, smiles, fun.”

Before Mani Architecture could begin the design, they had a burning question, what is a ‘family’ in 2019? What does a modern family look like, and how might they live? Of course, there isn't a single answer, and that was their answer. One MANI House was designed to be an adaptable home, whether that was to accommodate grown-up kids still at home, or maybe AirBnB a section of the house, or even have two families move in but still allow privacy.

With a long and skinny site in Fitzroy North, Mani Architecture designed home packs quite a lot into the block. A master bedroom sits at the front with a sophisticated black bathroom, which could be cordoned off from the rest of the house if need be. The open living and dining area features beautifully designed and constructed built-in furniture, including a 20-seat dining table. Large glazing over the dining table floods the space with northern sun and light. Having experienced the home myself in winter, I can attest the effectiveness of this simple design move. Walking through to the kitchen with laundry and toilet behind almost-secret doorways, you then connect with the backyard with a sunken dining area and the most unique garden shed you’ve ever seen. Upstairs sits two more bedrooms, another bathroom and a second master bedroom. And yes, Sara and Rene also managed to fit in a plunge pool on the north-side of the home!

But what makes this home unique? What gives this home personality? For me, this comes down to two design elements, the bathrooms and the external cladding. Wanting to go beyond the typical approach to bathroom design, Mani Architecture wanted to inject some colour. There are three bathrooms and one toilet, each with their own colour palette and hand-made basin. “We had a local ceramicist come in,” explains Rene, “and she handmade every single basin in every bathroom, based on a sort of colour palette that we gave her.” Each bathroom was clad in a coloured tile, whether that was black, blue, pink or orange. I mean, how could you not smile while showering in a pink bathroom?

The home sits on a traditional Fitzroy North streetscape, surrounded by cottages and the like. Timber shingles on the exterior, while deviates from the neighbours, it doesn’t detract or distract. The shingles add a voice to the home, and if that wasn’t enough, yes, there is a bumblebee mailbox out the front. And yes, many people stop to look at it.

Mani Architecture is derived from the Italian word, Mani, meaning hands. And this home definitely has the handmade touch about it through working with local artisans and collaborates. The result of everything is a home that is smart, light-filled, adaptable, quirky, full of personality, and of course, it just makes you smile.


Project Credits

Designed by Mani Architecture
Steel fabricated by Tescher Forge
Built-in furniture and joinery by Daniel Poole
Ceramic basins by Glost Studios

Full credits at end of video

Filmed by Design Emotive Studio


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