LIGHT me up! home lighting from lux to led. by megan norgate

Left - Vintage metal lampshade sourced from  Etsy.  Right - ‘Pino’ pendant by  Giffen Design.

Above left - Vintage metal lampshade sourced from Etsy. Above right - ‘Pino’ pendant by Giffen Design.

Lighting is the forgotten hero of home design - when done well it can make us feel good, and make our homes safer and easy to navigate. Lighting can also be energy hungry.
But how can you make clever lighting choices that look great and use less energy?

Lighting accounts for an average of 6 per cent of residential energy use and between 8 to 15 per cent of the overall household budget. There are clearly efficiency and budgetary gains to be made when designing and specifying lighting solutions. Despite this, home lighting choices are often chosen an after-thought, missing the opportunity to maximise efficiency and to access the potential health, functionality and aesthetic benefits of good lighting design. 

Each area of a home has different lighting requirements and each light fitting need only provide enough directional light for its purpose. The earlier lighting is addressed in the design and build process, the more likely sustainable and appropriate choices will be made before time, patience, and budget run out.

brave new eco sustainable interior design melbourne

Above - Dreamweaver pendant by Pop and Scott.


The most important source of light to consider is daylight, not only because it is a free resource, but also because it positively affects our health and happiness. Ideally a home has enough windows that supplementary lighting is rarely needed during daylight hours, as this causes the least disturbance to human circadian rhythms. Circadian rhythms are the biological, behavioural and cognitive changes that occur in the body over a 24-hour period in response to environmental signals such as light and darkness. Natural light can assist in reducing fatigue and improve sleeping patterns, alertness and mood. 

Appropriately sized and oriented windows will allow light gain according to the direction and timing of sunlight. For example, east-facing windows can be lovely in bedrooms and kitchens to help you start the day, and larger windows are needed in daytime use areas such as kitchens and living areas than in bedrooms and utility spaces. Though of course, window sizing and orientation for daylight should be considered within passive solar design requirements to balance against undesired heat gain or loss. 

In a dimly-lit environment, the placement of new windows, skylights or solar tubes can have multiple benefits. When there is overshadowing from a neighbouring property, boundary wall or vegetation, a clerestory or highlight window can dramatically improve an interior space. Alternatively, quality skylights with seals, double-glazing and a capacity for summer shading can be used. Solar tubes effectively access natural light with a small glazed surface area, preventing the heat gain and losses associated with skylights. 

Other inexpensive tactics include painting skylight shafts a light colour to bounce light into the interior, or using light paint and reflective surfaces on south-side exterior fences or walls to bounce light back through south-facing windows. For apartments or other spaces with no roof or wall access to daylight, LED skylights that mimic the outdoor light levels could be a good option.

brave new eco sustainable interior design melbourne

Above left - ‘Gala’ led wall light by Inlite. Above right - ‘Old skool’ wall lamp by Volker Haug lighting.


A considered approach when thinking about lighting solutions begins with working out what tasks are likely to be done in a particular space, and the amount of lighting required to comfortably complete them. This means considering the ways householders use each room; if people sometimes work at the dining table, then an option for bright light is a good idea. Even better, place a window or skylight above daytime work areas to boost productivity. 

Lighting throughout a house can be provided by a combination of ceiling lights, wall lights, downlights and pendants. Some areas of the home, such as utility areas and passageways, have fixed layouts but bedrooms, living rooms and dining rooms have movable elements, so a degree of lighting flexibility should be incorporated, including the use of standard and table lamps. In open-plan designs, a flexible range of lighting solutions is needed in order to define zones from one another and adjust the light for differing moods and activities. 


Task lighting is needed in utility areas such as kitchens, laundries, bathrooms and offices. Lighting here can be directed where it is needed most by being zoned over the key elements of the layout, such as the sinks, stovetop and food preparation areas, ensuring a person’s head will not cast a shadow when bent over a task. LED strip lights and recessed downlights under cabinets are ideal for these purposes. These should be specified before cabinets are built and installed so that recessed tracks, cutouts and transformers can be integrated into the design. 

brave new eco sustainable interior design melbourne

Above left - Sentinel 2 exterior wall light from Beacon Lighting. Above right - Raw brass bunker light from Geneico.


Outdoor lighting is important for safety and amenity. Floodlighting is useful for security and large area illumination; however, ensure directional lighting doesn’t face a neighbour’s window or entranceway. Floodlights can use up to 500 watts per light and can easily accidentally be left on during the day, so using an LED equivalent will save around 80 per cent of energy use. Wall-mounted lights, solar lighting and porch lights are a welcoming safety feature around access areas. Outdoor living and dining spaces can also benefit from ambient lighting, such as a pendant or solar powered fairy lights strung over pergolas or fences. Various landscape, deck and pathway lighting can be used for safety and effect but don’t overdo it: pick a couple of key areas to highlight rather than the whole space.


To assess the quantity of light needed in an area you need to consider both quantity of light emitted (lumens) and the beam angle (eg. 60-180 degrees). Lux is the measurement of light intensity, based on lumens, distance from the light source and the beam angle of the light. This measurement is used to ascertain how many of each type of light is needed in a particular area of your home. Typically for general use 200-300lLux is sufficient, with 350-800 in task areas and 150 lux for soft light. Free software such as Relux can be used to calculate how many light fittings are needed in each space- or lighting designers and some suppliers will be able to provide an accurate plan.

brave new eco sustainable interior design melbourne

Above - Dusty green ‘ambit’ pendant by Muuto.


Colour temperature is a way of defining the colour characteristics of light, ranging from cool, bluish tones to warmer, yellow and red ones. Task areas are often best served with a ‘white’ light at the cool end of the spectrum, as cooler LED lights tend to have slightly higher lumen outputs per watt of electricity used. Studies have shown that blue light can have a stimulating effect on people due to its similarity to early morning light. Spaces for relaxation may benefit from warmer light sources for the opposite reason. Avoid placing very warm and cool lights next to each other as they can clash. Some fittings and bulbs have both warm and cool LEDs and smart control systems, allowing the flexibility to select the colour temperature desired using a remote control or mobile phone app.

brave new eco sustainable interior design melbourne

Above left and right - various vintage 20th century pendants.


Home automation uses technology to control homes with the push of a button, voice command or our presence in a room. At a basic level it is a sensor light that switches on with human activity. More sophisticated systems allow lighting and appliances to be controlled via smartphones or tablets. These products allow users to schedule appliance and lighting use and get alerts when something has been left on. Home automation is best approached by starting small and understanding the technology fully before investing. 

brave new eco sustainable interior design melbourne

Above - Original metal sun disk wall pendants from home - re-wired and re-anodised.


    Decorative pendant lamps look best in open spaces with high ceilings or hung low over areas that are not walked under such as dining tables or the corners of rooms. Scale is important with a pendant lampshade or chandelier as the width and height of the fitting should appear balanced within the scale of the room and its furnishings. Pendant lights with solid sides will only cast light downwards in a relatively narrow beam, and are better suited over a table rather than as a central light. Exposed bulbs, translucent and clear shades will cast light in multiple directions while coloured and perforated shades will create hues and patterns in the light they throw. Pendant lamps and shades are one of the easiest ways to use locally made, handmade, vintage and recycled lighting. Metal, ceramic, glass, plastic, paper, felt and cloth light shades come in an appealing array of shapes and sizes that can add character and interest to a room. Coloured, milk, etched, holophane, depression, frosted and hand painted glass shades will create softening, diffusing and toning effects. Vintage light fittings may need to be restored and re-wired by a qualified electrician or lighting restorer, so consider the cost of this when purchasing them; multi–globed fittings such as chandeliers are likely to be quite expensive, but still comparable overall with the cost of high quality new decorative fittings. However, they can be energy-intensive if not lamped appropriately, so look for low-wattage bulbs for your fittings eg. a five-lamp fitting might have 3W lamps so would only be 15W in total.

    Wall lights are excellent for mood lighting as opposed to task lighting because they conceal the light fittings and can direct light up and/or down, creating a consistent wash of diffused light. Generally wall lights are used in groups or with a combination of other lighting to provide adequate lux levels in a space. Wall lighting is useful for when ceiling fans are placed in a central light position. Feature wall lights and lamps can be used to highlight objects and draw people to an area. Consider the placement of all wall-mounted elements when deciding on the height and location of lights.

    Downlights are small directional lights generally recessed into the ceiling. Traditionally used with inefficient halogen bulbs, downlights have been a well-documented cause of energy wastage and high power bills, with interruption to ceiling insulation leading to unwanted heat loss/gain. Thankfully there are now LED replacements and less seal-disruptive options available. Surface mounted downlights are an alternative option for task areas, and avoid the ceiling penetrations and the associated energy loss of regular downlights. LED options are common and don’t generate the levels of heat that makes halogen downlights a fire hazard. A reputable lighting supplier will be able to calculate how many will be needed. Flat disk LED downlights are a useful option where ceilings are low, or where a surface mounted light fitting could look too busy, also avoiding ceiling penetration. They typically have a 180 degree beam spread. Unlike many recessed downlights they are a sealed unit and insulation can be installed up to the edges. Some fittings may be rated to be insulated over, but as all LEDs produce heat and would be more likely to overheat with insulation, they will run cooler and brighter and last longer without.

    These are an economical choice for low ceilings and anywhere a ceiling light is desired and a feature light is not required, such as laundries, bathrooms, hallways and entries. 

brave new eco sustainable interior design melbourne

Above left - Dream Weaver Starburst from Pop and Scott. Above right - Co-pendant light from Nook and Co


The homeowner should carefully study electrical plans as they know best how they are likely to use their home. Any room with two entrances should have switches at both for convenience and switches should be grouped together where possible. However, some task lighting switches might be better placed at the location they are used. Ensure the heights and locations or switches are specified in plans or you may find switch plates in the middle of your beautiful tile splash back. Dimmer switches allow lights to be softened or made brighter for mood and convenience. Typically this is useful for bedroom, living, dining areas or anywhere some control over ambience is desired. Compatible globes and light fittings must be used with dimmer switches.


  • LEDS
    Light emitting diodes are solid-state semiconductors that convert electrical energy into light. LEDs have many advantages over other options, including very low energy use, long life (up to 50,000 hours), instant full light, and very little deterioration over time. LED replacements should now be available for all lighting types, but some halogen globe replacements for downlight fittings can leak more air than halogens as they have cooling fins around the perimeter, which could offset any energy efficiency gains. This is one reason to opt for full fitting replacements instead of bulb retrofits. Like all technologies, quality between LED globes varies greatly and high quality units are desirable. As the price of LEDs falls and life expectancy and savings over time are factored in, they provide a good return on initial investment.

    CFLs use about 70 per cent less energy than incandescent bulbs, but do have significant issues in both efficacy and environmental impact. These lights have warm up periods for full brightness so are not suitable for the instant light that may be needed in hallways, bathrooms or as sensor lights. CFLs also contain mercury so must be disposed of through recycling programs to avoid contaminating landfill, and are potentially hazardous if broken inside the home. 

    Fluorescents are typical office lights that come in cool, warm and daylight varieties. However, often the much cheaper phosphor-based tubes are selected; these emit a flat and cool light and are more prone to flickering, and have been associated with reported health problems. Now, energy savings are made in workspace design by using LED equivalents and lighting specific areas only

    Halogens produce a white light that makes colours appear more vivid. Halogens became very popular with the widespread use of downlights and many consumers were confused with the term low-voltage lighting- thinking it meant less energy use. In fact, a single halogen downlight consumes nearly as much electricity as a traditional 60 watt incandescent. Astronomical power bills ensued for homes containing sometimes hundreds of downlights. 

    Thank you to Graeme Ambrose from Eco Decisions for assistance with this article. 

This article was originally published in Sanctuary Magazine, issue 33.

All photographs by Emma Byrnes.

YARRAVILLIA PROJECT by megan norgate

brave new eco sustainable interior design melbourne

This project began in 2015 with the small scope of a new wheel-chair friendly bathroom design. Emboldened by the initial design process the clients, Claire and Hayden, decided to consolidate their long-term plans for the house into a full scale-renovation. The family of four had bought their dream inner-suburban home in an ideal location - tucked down the end of a cul-de-sac that snaked around Cruickshank park in Yarraville. The house is a familiar post-war cream brick 1950's Bungalow with big park views. Their design brief was one that was wholly aligned with the BNE approach:

"To create a beautiful, sustainable, thoughtful, wheelchair-friendly family home that meets many people's different needs. To restore and protect all of the original fittings where possible and to reuse what can be re-imagined. A super kitchen for the domestic chef, great living spaces both inside and out and lots of storage" - Claire

brave new eco sustainable interior design melbourne

Claire and Hayden loved the proportions and quirks of the house. In good original condition, it contained an over-sized front room, once used for ballroom dancing by the first owners. Overlooking the lofty gum trees of the park and opening onto a suntrap crazy-paved patio at the front, the home embodied the modernist design ideals they are so fond of. With two young sons under 10, they needed a robust and uber-functional space. Owen, their eldest son, uses a wheelchair for mobility, so the house was designed for ease of movement and to facilitate various daily activities. This home needs to work a bit harder than most, providing a space for entertaining, play, places to store specialist equipment, to work from home, foster creative projects and to support the people that provide daily care for Owen. 
Brave New Eco collaborated closely with Claire and Hayden, to understand their family's functional needs and to create an environment that was a consolidation of the many narratives that inform their life. The outcome is a deeply optimistic, nostalgic and playful environment, speaking volumes of the character, tenacity and good taste of the people that inhabit it.

Brave New Eco collaborated with Greensolar Designs to resolve the design - a sustainable, passive-function, double-storey extension containing a kitchen, dining and sitting room opening to the north and east.  Upstairs a "parent's zone" with bedroom, study and ensuite looks out to treetops in every direction. The extension was clad in recycled red and cream brick and leads on to timber decking and a pergola connecting the house to a converted garage workshop studio. 

In the open plan kitchen/dining, a rich retro palette of browns, oranges and yellows is combined with soft greens for a warm organic effect. Herringbone patterned terracotta tiles in tones of earthy brown were handmade in New Zealand and provide a warm surface underfoot as they absorb the winter sun. A large sliding door in sunny 'margarine yellow'  separates the old part of the house from the new. 

A single space heater warms the extension and, next to it, a built-in desk is designed for Owen to use. The deco style curved front patio corner was replicated in a curved series of windows into which an oval dining table fits snugly.  Above it, Pop and Scott's "Starburst Dreamweaver" pendant never looked so at home.

brave new eco sustainable interior design melbourne
brave new eco sustainable interior design melbourne

The olive green kitchen hides it's utilitarian heart behind beautiful surfaces. Mossy green tiles are used for the splashback and the high benchtop, concealing the serious work zone with an integrated stainless steel bench, triple sink and cooktop. Overhead shelving is suspended in aged bronze finished steel and D handles were custom made to match. Rounded blackbutt timber shelves speak to the curved forms found throughout the house. Every drawer and cupboard system was custom designed for the items it would store and each space is in full use. 

brave new eco sustainable interior design melbourne

The moment you step into the front entrance the home states its intention not to be bland with a joyful paprika coloured entranceway. The entrance opens out to a wide hallway lined with storage and a solid Australian hardwood staircase.

brave new eco sustainable interior design melbourne

A schoolhouse style red and blue laundry features salvaged laboratory taps and vintage bakelite red cupboard pulls. A custom-designed hardwood tilt-down drying rack sits over the bench, and a double-sided linen press is accessible from both the laundry and the hall.

brave new eco sustainable interior design melbourne

The 1960's pool inspired main bathroom used mixed shades of matt blue mosaic tiles. Beautiful raw brass tap-ware was purchased in 2015 and quietly aged in storage, adding a touch of luxury. The curved edge of the hardwood vanity eliminates hard corners in the small space so carers can move around the bathtub easily. The vanity is designed for Owen's chair to tuck under with the semi-recessed basin accessible from all sides. Claire says of the new bathroom: 

"Our son now has a very lovely bathroom that he can access in a shower chair. He can transfer easily from his bedroom out of his wheelchair through all the widened doorways and wheel straight into his shower. It's great! Plus the bathroom also works as a great family bathroom without a 'medical' or 'disability' flavour that often accompanies these kinds of bathrooms"

brave new eco sustainable interior design melbourne
brave new eco sustainable interior design melbourne

Inside the original rooms a brutalist relief wallpaper, anodised metal sun-disk style wall lights and curtain relief plaster pelmets were among the quirky and unique features the clients wanted to preserve. The wallpaper was painstakingly repaired and painted over in mauve and soft pink tones taken from the twin tiled fireplaces. Pelmets and lights were removed and refurbished in an exercise in patience by the owners and the dedicated trades of Macasar builders. Claire and Hayden's collection of vintage kitsch, mid-century, and industrial objects had been stored for years waiting for their forever house. Claire, who worked for many years in fashion, has a keen eye for colour and form and Hayden had amassed a vast collection of industrial relics and objects in a nearby junkyard. The eclectic colour scheme was intuitively drawn from both the existing home's materials and the owner's belongings. 

brave new eco sustainable interior design melbourne
brave new eco sustainable interior design melbourne
brave new eco sustainable interior design melbourne
brave new eco sustainable interior design melbourne
brave new eco sustainable interior design melbourne

Timber double-glazed timber windows were designed to be derivative of the original steel framed windows, that were beautiful but beyond restoration. Hardwood ramps were added to the front and back, the original bricks cleaned and sandstone paving restored. A 5-kilowatt solar array and evacuated tube solar hot water system was installed on the new roof. A custom-made angled hardwood front door was made with textured glass side panels to light up the entranceway. 

brave new eco sustainable interior design melbourne

The clients summary of their favourite aspects of their new home is: 

"The kitchen and the new living space are so functional and tranquil. The kitchen has so much attention to detail, great appliances, its a delight! The joinery is exceptional. Both the bathrooms are really functional, easy spaces and so beautiful. We are really happy with our bold colour scheme and everybody who visits love the colours throughout, we feel enveloped by warm earth tones. The old living space has new life and is even prettier than before. Upstairs is great and feels like a getaway. Everything is easy, everything is beautiful and feels organic. There is lots more light coming inside, it looks amazing. There is much more space for everyone in our family to escape and good spaces for us to come together as well. It's hard to pick a favourite - but the best thing is the gorgeous home we now inhabit, which we feel very connected to, proud of and thankful for. The outcome was beyond our initial expectations but as the project evolved, we grew with it".

brave new eco sustainable interior design melbourne

Photographs by Emma Byrnes

WORK WITH US - JOIN THE BNE TEAM by megan norgate

megan norgate brave new eco sustainable interior design

Brave New Eco is looking for someone special to join our small, dynamic and committed design team.
We are a happy productive studio in which everyone wears a number of different hats and brings a range of skills to the table. We manage multiple projects and clients so our team members need to be happy having their heads and hearts across several diverse elements at once.

Our studio atmosphere is supportive, dedicated and fun. We are located in a Merri Creek-side building of like-minded businesses, and work in a very beautiful light filled space with a sunny deck and native gardens outside. 

We are looking for a designer to join our team on a permanent part-time basis - someone who would benefit from an independent flexible work environment; who has a passion for sustainable design; and has the relevant technical skills to contribute to our projects in a meaningful way. 

The essentials:

- A commitment to sustainable outcomes and practice on a professional and personal level. (At BNE we walk-the-walk and talk-the-talk)

- Must have relevant qualifications and 3+ years professional experience in an Interior Design or Architecture practice.

- Must be competent in construction documentation and 3D renders using REVIT.

- Familiarity with the residential building code, construction documentation conventions and the stages of design and tender process. 

The ideals:

- Competent using Photoshop, Indesign and Illustrator.

- Experience with residential design including kitchens, bathrooms, and custom joinery.

- Experience with client presentations and liasion.

- Experience with contract administration.

- Experience specifying appropriate interior finishes, fittings and surfaces.

A bonus:

- Passive solar design principles; sustainable design principles and product knowledge; and/or permaculture knowledge would be a bonus but is not essential. We can provide training and resources to up-skill in this area.

- Graphic design skills.

- Competent use of Excel and other microsoft office products.

- Research and writing skills.

- Digital native problem solver :-)


- Work is on a permanent casual basis and is PART TIME.  Work/ life balance is very important to us, this position would suit someone wanting a part-time study or family-friendly workplace. 

- If you are interested in this opportunity, please email us with some information about yourself, a resume with relevant experience, and a folio or examples of your work.

- We will respond to inquiries by the end of Feb 2018. 

- Feel free to email us with any questions.






COLLINGWOOD COMPACT by megan norgate

brave new eco sustainable interior design megan norgate
brave new eco sustainable interior design megan norgate

This project is the home of clients totally committed to living resourcefully in small spaces. These guys walk-the-walk and talk-the-talk - willing to do everything they can to reduce their energy use and create a low impact lifestyle for their family. 
I first met Zoe and Cameron when they came to chat with me at a 'Speed date a sustainable expert' event a few years back. When they got back in contact they had been working with Matt from Greensolar Designs to resolve a small extension design (building out to a boundary wall on one side) containing a third bedroom, light-well and a study. 

After realising they could add two extra rooms and that the modestly-sized Collingwood cottage could really work for their family long term, they decided that they would need to include a renovation of the kitchen, bathroom, laundry, study, living room, and bedrooms. BNE was engaged to design these alterations including lighting, interior + exterior finishes, window + door furniture and soft furnishings. It was a pleasure to collaborate with Matt to create a modest, hyper-functional, super-cute home.


Above: The kitchen contains an induction cooktop, new highly efficient appliances, and beautiful matt black Paperock benchtops made from recycled bamboo and paper. Joinery was kept simple, with a combination of laminex and Vic ash veneer.

We started with the notion that a reconfiguration of the interior zones and good joinery design was the key to the small-spaces working for the family. We re-arranged their current furniture to better utilise the open-plan living spaces so they could test out a new layout whilst the design was being developed. In order to keep the kitchen small and simple, a metre wide extension to the boundary wall was suggested, allowing a walk in pantry to be included to allow for bulk purchasing and overflow appliances. 

brave new eco sustainable interior design megan norgate

Above: The ventilated plywood-shelved walk in pantry was designed to house the Thermomix and toaster - keeping the kitchen bench space clear.

brave new eco sustainable interior design megan norgate

Above: Built-in robes and drawers were added to each room, with handmade hardwood handles by a local joiner. A study was designed with space for books and two desks, one standing and one sitting. 

The interiors were painted throughout with non-toxic paints and timber sealants, retrofitted with LED lighting, eco-rated joinery materials were used and no MDF was used for mouldings or doors. 

megan norgate sustainable interior design
brave new eco sustainable interior design megan norgate

Above: The bathroom and laundry were reconfigured to allow for a large linen press for household storage. Handmade timber vanities were installed and custom mirror surrounds made with the left-over timbers.


Above: The bathrooms are compact but work a treat. Matt porcelain tiles in soft green and charcoal, combined with matt white penny rounds are durable and provide interest in the small space. 


Above: Built-in-robes included drawers and a "play and study" nook in the children's room to reduce any need for extra pieces of furniture and keep the rooms open and spacious.

Water tanks, fully retrofitted insulation, a PV array, solar hot water, secure bike storage, and security window screens and doors for cross-flow ventilation complete the project making it an outstanding example of a sustainable retrofit home, not only in energy use but in encouraging sustainable lifestyle habits for this family and any future inhabitants. 

brave new eco sustainable interior design megan norgate

Above: Brave New Eco also completed a landscape design featuring decking and built-in productive garden beds, composting systems, and adjustable exterior shading.

All photographs by Emma Byrnes.




brave new eco sustainable interior design megan norgate

***** UPDATE TO THIS BLOG POST! Are you a designer working as a sole practitioner or with 1-2 other people? Would you like to work in a productive purpose designer collaborative community? We have desks available in our design studio- and are looking for other designers or sustainability professionals looking for an exceptionally beautiful and functional working environment. Landscape, industrial, interiors, architecture, graphics all suitable practices. Read all the details about the studio here. *****

BNE has completed some workplace fit-outs in the last couple of years, alongside our residential work. Just to give you a taster we thought we would show you our own awesome creekside design studio in Northcote. When we found this studio we knew it ticked all the items on our wish list for the ultimate workspace. It is a sustainably retrofitted industrial building with a unique bonus - a 100 year lease on an acre of creek frontage - and a deck off the studio overlooking the native trees and Ceres environment park. 

brave new eco sustainable interior design megan norgate

Seeing the adapative re-use and development of this industrial park on the edge of an important urban wildlife corridor is so encouraging. Erin and Henrik Ender, the architect and designer owners of Big Bang studios have not only developed this land but have contributed positively to the surrounding ecologies and community, activating the area socially and restoring a neglected and polluted creek frontage. They have also created an extraordinarily productive work environment, in which, you can step out at any time during the day onto the deck and have a few moments with the birdlife. We feel very privileged to be able to work from here, and our studio is multifaceted - part office, part maker-space, and part sanctuary (and occasional party venue).

brave new eco sustainable interior design megan norgate
brave new eco sustainable interior design megan norgate

Our workspace is perfect for our needs, as comfortable and homely as it is a functional professional environment. Our own studio design is a pretty organic and ongoing process but for our commissioned workplace designs we take a more refined approach - creating resolved and inherently resourceful, 'feel-good-to-be-in' workspaces. Below we have summarised just some of the considerations we use to embed sustainable objectives into these projects. Using a human and environment-centered approach, we focus on both the health and productivity of the users and the resourcefulness and adaptability of the space.

brave new eco sustainable interior design megan norgate
brave new eco sustainable interior design megan norgate

DIVERSITY AND ORGANISATIONAL CULTURE: Our designs are specifically curated for a business or organisation's individual structure, needs and personality. We lean away from bland corporate environments to create spaces that communicate the identity and ethos of a business and reflect the diverse personalities of the people within it. This may be by using locally designed/made elements, creating meaningful connections between object, maker and community. We may commission artworks or support art projects that communicate relevant themes. These gestures positively affect end-user perceptions of the work environment, enhancing comfort, amenity, connection and quite simply, making a person feel at home at work. 

FUNCTIONAL COHESION: Functional amenity is created through logical and intuitive ease of movement, by using ergonomically optimised furnishings and joinery and by providing adequate and accessible storage. Interior design is a potential place to solve workplace problems around productivity, distraction and communication.  Each workplaces way of operating needs to be firstly understood, and then ultimately improved by the process. Creating a healthy, pleasant workplace includes finding out what employees need from their environment to do their jobs well then responding to these needs within the design.  

SUSTAINABILITY OF MATERIALS: We positively select for sustainably sourced materials, furnishings and fittings, that are either good environmental choice certified, energy efficient, low VOC, locally made or contain recycled materials. We take into consideration the life cycle impacts of a product.

ADAPTION AND RE-USE: We always start from a point of optimising the potential of existing features and resources of both the building and the existing furnishings. High quality, appealing and essential existing elements are often integrated with new furnishings. We aim for our workplaces to be future-proofed by designing in the flexibility to adapt to changing needs and growth over time. This may be through the use of modular or flexible systems or spaces and/or through selecting furnishings that allow for partial replacement, repair and upgrading. The value, enjoyment and longevity of our spaces is enriched by making classically appealing design choices in high-quality materials. Where possible we source second hand or upcycled furnishing and materials. We avoid applying a blanket solution to a whole environment and draw diverse elements together for flexibility, personalisation and interest.  This diversity and quality creates interior spaces that withstand robust use and resist becoming outdated.  

HEALTH AND WELLBEING: Evidence-based design methods are used to create pleasing and productive spaces that support human health and happiness. This involves the careful consideration of sound, lighting, indoor air quality, colour and artwork from a psychological and physiological health point of view. Improvements in indoor air quality can be achieved by minimising the use of materials that off-gas chemical pollutants, and by the beneficial installation of plant life to absorb remaining indoor pollutants. Providing pleasant visual aspects for users is possible with the use of carefully selected artwork, natural materials and textures and colour to create visual interest. 

PLANTSCAPING: Indoor environmental quality (IEQ) can be dramatically improved by introducing plant life. This is due to the remarkable capacity of indoor plants for air purification through phytoremediation. Plants can absorb and metabolise airborne contaminants such as particulate matter (fine dust), and the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) released from our furnishings, paints, adhesives, building materials, paper, textiles and plastics, found in high concentrations in well-sealed indoor environments. A University of Technology Sydney study on plants and indoor air quality found significant improvements in recuding stress and negative feelings with the introduction of plant life (up to 50 and 58 per cent respectively). Brave new eco specialises in plantscaping environments, specifying appropriate quantities and types of plant life in low care systems. You can read more about using plants in interior environments here.

brave new eco sustainable interior design big bang

All photographs by Emma Byrnes.

APARTMENT LIFE by megan norgate

brave new eco sustainable interior design megan norgate

This apartment for professional business coach Ange and Bodie her dog, was one of a boutique development in Port Melbourne with original high quality interior fit-out by Hecker Guthrie. We were engaged to personalise the storage and joinery for Ange's needs and help furnish the space, plus provide a plantscaping package. Existing exposed concrete ceilings, white paint, concrete, marble and washed-out American oak timber joinery detailing provided a pleasing base palette to work from. To ensure cohesion we worked with this existing 'feminine industrial' material palette enhancing the original features rather than diluting them. We started with a kitchen joinery unit - made to fit onto the original kitchen, yet reading as a distinct form. This joinery storage and shelving had to straddle both the functional needs of the kitchen yet sit comfortably with dining room furniture. Built by Auld designs, the American oak veneer unit was carefully oiled with non-toxic Osmo oils. Locally crafted MadeMeasure leather cabinet tabs were perfectly toned in the space. We replaced the kitchen wall light with a handmade Anchor ceramics wall light in dove grey, to match the existing grey-blue range-hood. This we mounted on a timber plinth, adding extra timber detailing and casting the light right where it was needed in the work zone. 

brave new eco sustainable interior design megan norgate
brave new eco sustainable interior design megan norgate

The master bedroom was too small for anything else other than a queen bed and one bedside, and the resulting feeling was a 'bed in a box' with little visual interest around the bed. We solved this by removing one of the built-in wardrobes and installing a custom drawer unit and open shelving above. This little nook articulates the small space, creating an opportunity for display and the drawers provide more useful storage than cupboards. We designed a floating bedside table that maximised floor space and added a hanging bedside lamp from Anchor Ceramics on the other side to remove the need for a second bedside. A wall mounted shelf provided a platform for vertical interest. 

brave new eco sustainable interior design megan norgate

In the second bedroom (which triples as a study, a yoga room, and a guest bedroom) we removed a double door wardrobe and built a desk into the alcove, meaning the floor space could remain clear for yoga sessions and be easy to adapt with a fold out queen bed for guests. Allergic to waste as we are - we recycled all the removed cupboards and light fittings into another project.

brave new eco sustainable interior design megan norgate


Finally we sourced a few key decorative items and furnishings and supplied a comprehensive plantscaping package, choosing low maintenance house plants appropriate to each space's light levels and optimising the number of plants to the space for air purification. The outcome is a compact apartment yet rich in texture: simple, yet warm and calming. 

I met with the owner the other day and she told me that she had not bothered to make any holiday plans for the summer as she loved being in her home so much. In her words "The greenery in my space is gorgeous and has totally improved the feeling of my place....My home is a total sanctuary.. easy to live and work in, a total delight". 


All photographs by Emma Byrnes.

BUNGALOW UPCYCLE by megan norgate


We first visited this 1950's cream brick bungalow on a generous 800sqm block back in 2013 for a sustainable design consultation. At the time the house had an overwhelming list of issues to be resolved, it was in disrepair, dim, dated, and freezing in winter. Most confoundedly, in the 1970's, a self-contained granny-flat had been built only 4 metres from the back of the house. This addition made both buildings feel hemmed in and blocked the home's connection to the generous garden. With a south facing backyard, the home lacked in northern sunlight. To the owner's dismay, the design professionals they had met with so far had lumped it in the 'too hard' basket advising them to demolish both buildings and subdivide the block into townhouses. Such is the fate of many period homes on large parcels of land close to the CBD! The clients loved the deco style charm of the cream brick, and despite the unfortunate configuration, wanted to make the most of the considerable resources contained in two substantial and solid brick buildings with hardwood features.

brave new eco megan norgate sustainable interior design emma byrnes

Our design concept was to turn the problem on its head and make it the solution. We proposed that rather than demolishing the granny-flat and building an extension, we keep the entire footprint of both buildings and consolidate them to create one large, unified, ecologically sustainable home. This design was resourceful both materially and financially by drastically minimising the amount of new build required instead capitalising on the scope of the existing structures. We suggested an approach based on maintaining the charming original features of the principal building and upgrading the rear buildings interiors and thermal envelope extensively so that they read like new spaces. This project required a lot of imagination and a willingness of the owners to do something unconventional. To our delight, they embraced the idea wholeheartedly.

The buildings needed a total reconfiguration, refurbishment and thermally efficient retrofit. During this process, we were able to solve many diverse problems at once. We provided access to all day winter sun to daytime living areas, by placing them in the rear building. The design created a functional layout and abundant visual and physical connection to the garden. We collaborated with building designer Logan Shield to design structural upgrades to replace a substandard lean two passage currently connecting joining the main house and minor dwelling to function as a sitting room and sun trap. A new cathedral roof to the rear building allowed for the addition of north-facing clerestory windows. 

brave new eco megan norgate sustainable interior design emma byrnes
brave new eco megan norgate sustainable interior design emma byrnes

Vintage danish metal pendants were used in the kitchen along with led strip lighting under cabinets. Locally made lights were used by Giffin Design and Anna Charlesworth. Up/ down LED wall-lights were used throughout to allow for ceiling fans.

brave new eco megan norgate sustainable interior design

Creating a visual and practical connection from the residence to the rear garden was prioritised, sliding doors were added to the east courtyard and west decking- making the most of the generous productive gardens. The existing window openings were used to avoid the need for patching of exterior brick-work and the windows upgraded to high performance timber-framed double glazed models. West and south facing windows were reduced and north facing glazing increased. Flexible use of the spaces includes the potential work from home scenarios. Maximising the thermal efficiency of the buildings and upgrading to sustainable technologies involved rainwater tanks, photovoltaic systems and solar hot water. We updated the heating to two zoned efficient space heater systems and added ceiling fans. 

brave new eco megan norgate
brave new eco megan norgate sustainable interior design

Designed in collaboration with Geometrica, an exceedingly simple timber clad structure formed the new sitting room that would slide in under the eaves and require minimal built alterations to integrate with the existing rooflines. This room opens onto outdoor living spaces to the east and west allowing the owners to follow all day sun and providing cooling ventilation. Early on we envisioned a space for reading and morning coffee and bobby coffee table and pampa rug from Pop and Scott made this space come together. 

brave new eco megan norgate sustainable interior design

The new living areas are separated from the rest of the home by a beautiful barn-style blackbutt timber door that was handmade onsite. Providing the heat zone separation, this also slides away when not in use, tucked neatly against the shelving like a feature wall panel.

brave new eco megan norgate sustainable interior design

The old granny flat is now unrecognisable- entirely transformed into a warm, light, open plan, living/dining and kitchen plus a new laundry/ mud/ drying room and second bathroom. We carefully selected classically appealing details that do not reproduce the mid-century period style but instead provide a contemporary interpretation of it, building a cohesive relationship between old and new. The existing Australian hardwood detailing (Blackbutt) was continued throughout the new spaces to minimise any jarring transitions. Door and window hardware is consistent in aged brass.

brave new eco megan norgate sustainable interior design
brave new eco megan norgate sustainable interior design

We sourced and repurposed salvaged timber railway lockers and fluted glass doors.  A combination of vintage and locally made custom furnishings was used to create a timeless mix of style and form - unified by quality and materiality.

brave new eco megan norgate sustainable interior design emma byrnes

The colour palette draws on earthy deep textures and colours reminiscent of the late mid-century period 1950-1970. A neutral base of white, charcoal, warm blacks and concrete is warmed up with varying shades of warm tones come from timber, terracotta, brass and treacle-coloured tiles. Accents in deep green provide contrast. Surface materials create textural interest, with the existing exterior brick creating a new internal wall, slim plantation timber lining boards to the cathedral ceiling, mosaic tiling, raw terracotta and recycled composite surfaces. We considered durability and practical function in each space with a place for everything and robust surfaces that will age well with use.





All photographs by Emma Byrnes

PRESTON HAPPY by megan norgate

megan norgate sustainable interior design

Preston happy was completed in 2015 and was one of our few heroic-owner-builder jobs. When the clients came to us they had already gutted the back of the house and removed their kitchen. Then having the realisation it should probably not go back where it was and that they needed some help to design a new one! It's not our normal style to jump in at that stage of proceedings and churn out a design as quick as we can, as we are great believers in the value of methodical processes and slow design, however after meeting this lovely family and seeing the potential of this modest project we could not resist. This family of five were looking to make their living spaces more functional without adding any space only their originally sized bungalow, simplicity and resourcefulness were key to contain both the complexity and budget. In this case, the lean-to back of the house that often gets removed in favour of new large living areas, stayed. The kitchen we decided to tuck into where the laundry previously was, looking onto the back garden opened up to a dining and sitting.  New double glazed doors and windows in this area improved views and natural light. The kitchen footprint was tiny and complicated, with structural walls creating awkward alcoves, so we designed cabinetry that made sense of the space. Our main objective in the small 6m2 space was to make it user-friendly for a growing family. This was done by creating second workspace alcove in between the pantry and fridge where drinks and snacks could be prepared without having to get in the way of the person cooking or doing dishes. The sink was put in an oversized island bench, deep enough for kids to spread out homework or eat meals on one side while kitchen prep. Over head cupboards were taken to the ceiling provide extra storage space.  The kitchen was made in a low-cost materials, white laminate with plywood trims, and a small amount of hardwood feature shelving. Custom timber handles were made for the pantry to match, with matt textured japanese mosaic tiles for the splashback. Vintage metal pendant lights in yellow and blue were sourced on etsy and added some colour and fun to the kitchen and dining space. A softer shade of silvery blue in natural linen was used for thermally lined curtains. A hardwood built in seat was added to the end of the dining room with storage inside. The laundry was fitted into the hallway to the bathroom, again using storage to the ceiling and designed to have a curtain pull across the work-zone when not in use. The bathroom fixtures were kept in the same place to save money but it was completely transformed through new paint, tiles, toilet and tapware, and we sourced a lovely second-hand Australian hardwood hall table repurposed as a vanity. Inexpensive pool tiles were used in small quantities for the splash back. Vintage porcelain handles were sourced from etsy for the unit and a matching timber base created for a Volker haug wall light. New paint and window furnishings have created a supremely pretty and cheerful home to be in, not to big, not to fussy, just enough. 

And here is what the client had to say:
"It was great to work with Megan, who has such expertise in her field. She enabled us to simplify many of the decision-making considerations of the project. We are very happy with the final outcome. We love the freshness, the incorporation of natural materials, the colours and the beautiful details of recycled timber shelving in the kitchen (integrating it into the angled roof line and making a feature of it). The space is very functional and working really smoothly, especially the compact kitchen. Megan sourced a lovely piece of furniture for the bathroom vanity that adds such warmth to the space. The lighting is a real feature of the renovated spaces. Megan's suggestions have really enhanced the ambiance of the rooms."

megan norgate brave new eco sustainable interior design
megan norgate sustainable interior design
megan norgate brave new eco sustainable interior design

All photographs by Emma Byrnes.