A Look Inside The Mill Design Studio, a female-led architecture and interior design studio

Shannon Battison is one half of The Mill, a design studio in Canberra that specialises in passive, sustainable design. In a male-dominated industry, we’re excited to be chatting with Shannon today about how she established one of the most successful architecture and interior design studios in Canberra.

Related article: 7 creative women to inspire you this International Women’s Day
Related article: Solar passive design: What it is and how it can save you money

The Mill
Interior Designer Sarah Welsh and Architect Shannon Battisson

Shannon discovered a career as an architect after years of travel and an insightful comment from her mum.

“When I finished school I had no idea what I wanted to do. So I took a few years off to travel.

“Going through the photos of travels my mum pointed out that all my photos were of buildings. She suggested I could become an architect.

“Mum planted the idea and I decided to pursue it.

I began my career with an interest in heritage design but I found the heritage rules in Australia very restrictive and after several years I decided to go down a different path.

“Inspired by many lecturers at university who emphasised the importance of designing for space, I decided to shift my focus to environmental design.

“In Australia, many houses are designed in mass and have no relation to where they are built. Environmental design is all about designing for the site, looking at its unique attributes and thinking of ways to make the most of them to help the environment while also improving comfort and reducing energy costs.”

Shannon started The Mill in 2006 as a part-time business and turned it into a full-time business in 2011.

“My good friend Sarah and I both found ourselves without enjoyable employment about three years ago. Feeling quite disenchanted, we decided to make a real go of it with The Mill.

“Sarah is an interior designer and she heads up the commercial side, doing lots of office fit outs and shop fit outs which are lots of fun.”

Your office is part of a new creative hub in O’Connor called The Studio.

“We were looking at creating a space of our own that we could share with other creative companies and found out about The Studio.

“Four companies share the space, including web and graphic designers and a copy writer. It has a great creative energy.

“It makes coming to work so much more interesting as we all feed off each other and share ideas.”

The Studio
The Studio

What’s been your most rewarding project so far?

“The Gatehouse. It’s a small studio I designed in Dickson for a wonderful older lady, a soon to be retired nun.

“My mum received a knock at her door one day from two women who wanted to know who designed her house.

“One of the women, Sister Lorraine Gatehouse, lived at the convent on the upper level. And as she became frailer, she found it difficult to manage the stairs.

“Moving into a nursing home would have been expensive and upsetting for Lorraine. She had spent her life building a community around the convent, known as The Gathering Place, where she welcomes people from all faiths.

“I designed a small one-bedroom studio that would be a space just for her. We engaged a high quality builder and created an amazing space that’s in the heart of the community she loves.

“It was a difficult project as it involved working with several different groups. From the religious Order to the local council, they all had a vested interest in the project. But I was really passionate about it and found it so rewarding to see Lorraine move into her very first home — in her late 70s!”

The Gatehouse
The Gatehouse
The Gatehouse
The Gatehouse

What goals do you have for the next 1-2 years?

“We have made a conscious effort to build the business slowly. We don’t want to become one of the many design companies that grow so quickly they lose sight of themselves.

“At the moment we’re focusing on learning how to run the business well — a whole different skillset that has nothing to do with being a good designer.

“As we are ready, we are growing the company in a controlled way. We just brought on our first design student who shares the same passion and ideas as us.

“We’ll focus on mentoring him in the same way Sarah and I were mentored when we started our careers in design.”

Check out The Gatehouse project and find out more about The Mill on their website.

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Gina Beschorner Style Curator

Welcome to Style Curator, your destination for daily interiors inspiration, styling tips, reno advice, home tours and DIY projects!

We're on a mission to help you create a home you love. And with plenty of tips and tricks, tutorials and other home inspo, we give you all the tools to achieve it!

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