Architect at Home: Madeline Sewall

The Commons | Breathe Architecture | VIC | Photographer: Elizabeth Campbell

How would you describe life in The Commons, and did you transition from A house when you moved in?

Life in The Commons is just right. Things I used to spend time thinking about like temperature, acoustics and lighting rarely cross my mind because the building handles all these things so naturally. There is not too much of anything, but there certainly is not too little. We love having an efficient house that we can tidy in an hour, but we never ache for more space (despite a large, clumsy dog and an extensive collection of camping gear!). As a lazy housekeeper, for me apartment living is the perfect balance between comfort and ongoing effort. The materials in The Commons are incredibly robust and easy to look after, even with a small kid and a large dog. The bathroom is virtually bomb proof, which is one of my favourite parts of the house!

From an amenity perspective, we are completely in love with our apartment. In the summer, the apartment’s Northern outlook is completely overtaken by Wisteria, which is both beautiful and functional, blocking out the hot sun. The vines create a moody quality of light inside which I find incredibly peaceful. The texture of the recycled floorboards underfoot feels like walking on a beach boardwalk – coming home to this place often feels like a vacation.

The biggest transition for me was probably having to factor an extra 15 minutes into my travel time to anywhere to account for all the friendly neighbours I chat to along the way!



My concept of home has been a little ad-hoc to date. Perhaps a reflection of my lifestyle and also my priorities, home has simply been a waterproof shell in a convenient location to fill with family, friends, rituals, and things.

Our home at The Commons is the perfect shell – warm, quiet, comfortable and so easy to live in. We are three different people leading different lives, and our home is a flexible space that accommodates the diverse needs of a young family – working from home, house parties, pillow fort obstacle courses, an informal painting studio, home gym, home schooling, daily meals, the list goes on. This is a lot to fit into a two-bedroom apartment, but this home was designed to be used, and it works well and works hard for our family.

Our home at The Commons is the first time I have experienced thermal comfort in a genuine sense, It sure is hard to picture living in a draughty terrace house again!

The Commons | Breathe Architecture | VIC | Photographer: Tom Ross


One of the things that’s very special about The Commons is the community that is created between all the individual units. We have a diverse group of people, but with shared values. We love being a part of a thoughtful community where we feel part of a larger system, and we can contribute to the lives of those around us. This was of particular value during COVID-19 when we were disconnected from so many of our friends and family. Lockdown on Florence Street is something I’m still reflecting on. Neighbours went to great lengths to create small moments of joy for each other on what were otherwise quite grim days. There was a balcony disco, book swaps, make-shift exercise clubs, and many exchanges of homemade goods.


Well to start, we aren’t overly curated about it! Our house has layers of things we’ve made, things we’ve collected and special treasures we’ve inherited. Some favourite items are a quilt that hangs above our bed which my mum made, a French oil painting which I grew up with in my family home, and the tacky dashboard hula dancers that were on our wedding cake. To me, the quality of space feels much richer to be surrounded by so many tokens and memories, and we don’t try too hard to edit that down.

We love things with stories and often look for tokens on favourite things.

Safety and comfort are high priorities, of which our home at The Commons well outperforms anywhere else we’ve lived.  We love being a neighbour of people that look out for each other.

Madeline Sewall is an Associate at Breathe.

Elizabeth Campbell is a Project Architect at Kennedy Nolan with broad experience across single and multi-residential, cultural and commercial projects. She is a researcher, writer and contributing editor of Architect Victoria.

Published online:
14 Apr 2021

Architect Victoria
Lost for Words
May / Jun

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