Interview with Architect Emma Templeton

  • Templeton Architecture director Emma Templeton shares insight on the joys and challenges of residential design and the importance of place and space in our lives.

    Emma Templeton’s portfolio is shaped by a laser-sharp focus on residential design. Fostered at Chris Connell Design, where she began as an architecture and interior design graduate, Emma took this passion to establish her own studio through what she describes as a strike of enthusiasm, boldness and naivety.

    Sixteen years on, Emma and her team have a widely-appreciated list of warm and restrained homes to their name. Their creative problem-solving spans the sensitive revival of heritage homes, considerate new-builds and various inventive alteration and addition projects. A sense of timelessness permeates everything Emma and her team do – but is especially apparent in the design of Emma’s own family home featured in est Magazine issue #36.

    We were fortunate to speak with Emma about establishing her studio, her portfolio of regional Victorian homes and why renovating her own home was one of her most significant projects to date. Emma shares why she isn’t a believer in definitive rules around design – rather questions that continue to impel a sense of belonging and connection in her projects.

    How did your career begin?

    Emma Templeton: I graduated in the midst of the 1990s recession.  While studying, I was working for a large corporate firm where I learned about the important procedural aspects of realising a project yet the work lacked the emotional and personal design responses that motivate me.

    After I graduated from architecture, I was determined to work in a design-focused firm and was fortunate to find a home at Chris Connell Design.  I remember these formative years with great fondness and love. Chris is a hugely passionate and talented designer who places uncompromising value on the significance of design in our lives.  It was while working for Chris that my passion for residential design took hold.

    What led you to become an architect?

    Emma Templeton: I originally channelled my love of design into interiors. I completed a refreshingly conceptual degree in interior design at RMIT which ignited my desire to continue on to study architecture.  It is the combination of these closely related disciplines that fascinates me and provides me with the framework to explore the importance of place and space in our lives.

    We hope to produce work that has carefully considered details and possesses a timeless restraint, a sensitive understanding of place and deep respect for history. Together these form unique spaces that resonate with our clients. We seek to quietly remove unnecessary detail allowing the focus to be on the essential form and the feeling it evokes.”


    – Emma Templeton, director of Templeton Architecture

    The Osso Chair, designed by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec and the Semi Pendant by Claus Bonderup and Torsten Thorup for Gubi in Georgina House by Templeton Architecture.

    Why did you decide to open your own studio?

    Emma Templeton: An opportunity arose and I took what now seems like an incredible risk. The greenfield commission was in the bayside town that my family had always holidayed. I was a romantic mix of enthusiasm and naivety that manifested in an uncharacteristic boldness. In hindsight, the fact that I didn’t think for too long was a wonderful blessing. 

    How did you evolve your studio?

     Emma Templeton: The studio has grown slowly and steadily but remains small and personal.  Most of our current team has been together for many years and we feel more like family than colleagues.  We each have talents and skills that combine successfully to support the studio ideals and the project outcomes.  The conversations, company and critical thinking shared within the studio environment ensure the day is rich and challenging. Currently, we are missing these moments together.

    Could you please describe your studio culture and vision?

     Emma Templeton: We aim to create a studio culture where we all wake up and look forward to coming together to create something beautiful and meaningful each day.  We’re a highly passionate and motivated group of architects and designers with unique sensitivities and experiences which create a studio environment that is both nurturing and challenging.

    We hope to produce work that has carefully considered details and possesses a timeless restraint, a sensitive understanding of place and deep respect for history. Together these form unique spaces that resonate with our clients. We seek to quietly remove unnecessary detail allowing the focus to be on the essential form and the feeling it evokes.

    What do you find most challenging and rewarding about designing residential projects?

    Emma Templeton: As a studio we are acutely conscious of the trust our clients place in us. The process of designing somebody’s home is intensely personal, often emotional, and almost always bound by financial realities. Balancing these realities throughout the creative and construction processes and achieving a resolved and beautiful outcome is both the challenge and the joy.

    What has been your most significant project to date?

     Emma Templeton: Given the importance I place on the home, renovating our family home was an important and personal chapter.  A heritage-listed home with many challenges and compromises, the process provided me with a wonderful opportunity to develop deeper empathy and sensitivity towards our clients during their journeys.  The result now houses the people I love the most, it frames our lives and allows us to feel the warmth of family, the sanctuary of home and have the confidence to be ourselves. 

    Could you please talk us through what it’s like to design homes in regional Victoria and what you enjoy about this process?

    Emma Templeton: It’s like breathing fresh air. Designing homes in the city are often the result of rigorous, complex, and intelligent problem-solving. The process is rewarding and often the inherent limitations nurture astonishingly creative outcomes.

    In contrast, when you have the opportunity to design a country property, you’re not often dealing with tight boundaries or the amenity impacts of neighbours and you’re often thrilled to embrace the neighbourhood character and beauty of the rural surroundings. It is a disarmingly liberating and creative process that affords a breadth of possibilities.

    What is your largest source of inspiration?

    Emma Templeton: I am always trying to better understand how and why an environment evokes certain feelings and responses.  Happily, these studies can be explored anywhere. I have a young family so as I don’t travel or go out as much as I would like. Therefore, inspiration is found in simple daily events; a walk, a passage of music, an object, or a visual image. In essence, anything that moves me.

     This year has increased my appreciation of the arts, in particular, music. Recently I have relied upon music’s ability to immediately change an atmosphere, to shift my sense of place, to lift, comfort, and inspire.

    What is an essential design rule in your book?

    Emma Templeton: I am not a believer in definitive rules around design. I find questions more productive, effective and revealing.

    When we start a new project we like to ask ourselves how we want somebody to feel when they experience a place or space. The answer to this question can influence every design decision from the spacial connections, the material selections, and the eventual form and volumes created. The right design can bring a sense of belonging and connection between people and places and this is the challenge we set ourselves. 

    What are your goals for the year ahead?   Emma Templeton: The current environment has as made this question very simple. Keep the studio busy and fulfilling and celebrate with my family and friends, daily when possible.

    Design insider’s guide:

    Favourite local designers and studios?

    Emma Templeton: Chris Connell Design, Sean Godsell Architects, Edition Office, Fearon Hay (sort of local NZ) and Yuncken Freeman.

    Favourite design stores?

    Emma Templeton: Geoffery HattyChristine, Mr KitlyHalcyon Lake, Criteria Collection and Vasette.

    The Triad pendant light by Apparatus Studio, Alistair P lamp by Parachilna, Lipp Armchair, designed by Piero Lissoni for Living Divani and the Bell Side Table, designed by Sebastian Herkner for Classicon in Emma Templeton’s own home.

    Favourite galleries and spaces?

    Emma Templeton: NGV – Roy Grounds, Heidi II – David McGlasham and Neil Everirt, Cardinal Knox Centre by Yuncken Freeman and home. When in Belgium; valerie_traan.

    Where do you go to look at great design?

    Emma Templeton: Everywhere and anywhere. Books, magazines, podcasts, online or a walk. It is a personal challenge to find design inspiration regardless of what I am doing each day. From the local playground  – to the mountains of the North East of Victoria. World of Interiors is also my not so secret indulgence.

    Emma Templeton

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