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Structure and Form with Roberto Santella

Updated: Jun 21

5 tips from our lead designer - Roberto Santella


Roberto is the Design Manager at Urbane and leads most of our home projects during the design phase. With over 25 years of design experience, Rob has developed 5 key principles and essential best practice to efficiently generate a visualisation of the homes he created. In this article, Roberto shares with us these tips that helps him in his daily work.


"A designer inhabits every home they create before the completed outcome. In their mind, they occupy every room and every space and open every door and window.

They constantly ask themselves: is this space welcoming enough? Does this home offer a suitable living + working environment?

Does this home create the necessary drama and intrigue? By doing so, a designer can say with the assurance, that as the client moves in, all the rudimental questions have been asked, addressed and answered."



Tip #1 - Understanding your site - Storyboarding


Before starting any design work, it is important to understand the site on which the home is being built. This information are usually acquired from a site survey and observations from site visit.


Some factors to consider are:

  • Site Orientation

  • Views - existing or created

  • Topography

  • Overshadowing by landforms, trees, and existing buildings

  • Climate

Other factors to consider are: R Codes and local council requirements


Defining these elements will help identify the strengths of your site and set restrictions/limitations to avoid wasting time and resources.




Tip #2 - Get inspired


Getting inspired is an important part of every creative work. Depending on your personality, there are different ways to look for inspiration when designing a home. Whilst it is common to get inspiration from reference images, there are many other ways to get inspired, for example:

  • Nature

  • Movies

  • Books

  • Artworks

  • Philosophy

  • Music

  • Textures

Online platforms I often us to look for inspiration are: Instagram, Pinterest and the Urbane website.



Photographed by Dion Robeson


Tip #3 - Sketch/write down your ideas


"An idea on paper is worth 10 in the mind"


Documenting your ideas is crucial when designing a home. Whether you are a designer or in the process of designing your home, it is important to document your ideas and thoughts. This will help you to remember them and visualise them to review, evaluate, and develop.


Depending on you skills you can: write them down, sketch, use photo montage, create 3D models, or using any medium you are familiar with.





Tip #4 - Think about lifestyle


It can sometimes be difficult to think in terms of form. A good exercise to start planning for the structural design of a home is to think about the residents' lifestyle. Understanding the people who will live in the home will help define the space.


These information can be collected with the demographics and interests of the home owners. For example, in term of space, a family of four will have different needs from a young couple and a chef will have different need from an artist. Also be mindful that the residents' lifestyle needs will change over time and the home should be able to adapt when these needs arise.


Photographed by Jody D'arcy

Tip #5 - Don't be afraid to be bold


Being a creative, your work is often limited by elements such as budget, site, planning regulations, timeline, etc. While it is important to keep those in mind, you should not be afraid to think outside the box and be bold in your ideas.


Being a designer, we have the ability to explore a vast array of possibilities and with every project comes the ability to learn new skills. Sometimes it can be rewarding to focus on the creative side of a project and then scale down as required.



Original Image: Joel Barbitta (DMax Photography)

Want to learn more from Roberto and our design team?


You can how apply for an internship with Urbane if you are a student or apply for a job if you are an established professional. More info on how to apply on our Career Hub. Click here to go to Career Hub Page.

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