Profile of Amelia Lee, the architect behind Undercover Architect
- Tell us a bit about your company
My business, Undercover Architect, is an online resource to guide you in creating the perfect home for you.
I believe that your home can be great, whatever your budget, and that when your home works, life is just easier, simpler, more beautiful. I also believe homeowners are the key to unlocking what’s possible in the design of their homes. However, often they’re not confident about how to get it right when it comes to designing, building and renovating.
Time and time again, I have seen home-owners being led into choices that don’t support them in creating great homes. This generally occurs because they don’t have the access to the information they need (especially when they need it), or understand which choices will actually impact how they get to live in their homes.
As a result, they then create homes that don’t optimise the site, that cost an enormous amount to heat and cool, and that require them to compromise their daily lives for the things that don’t work. And generally they are homes that are difficult to sell on, because they don’t ‘feel’ right.
Our homes are fairly permanent, so how a home is designed is a built legacy that impacts not only our lives, but those of future owners too.
We don’t know what we don’t know, and often don’t know how to connect ourselves to the information that exists – or even that it exists in the first place! I started Undercover Architect to uncover this information, by sharing my knowledge and experience from over two decades in the industry.
Undercover Architect is about having a partner in this journey – a secret weapon that provides you with the information, tools, products and services to demystify your journey and guide your way.
- Your unique point of difference
A lot of architects insist that they are commissioned for your whole project, as the work they create is their own professional legacy, and so ensuring it turns out well is important for their reputation (and their relationship with you as their client).
I instead wanted to see how I could share my extensive architectural knowledge and experience, as well as my personal experience in renovating 3 of our own homes, to empower people in this process of designing and building their new home or renovation – whether they’re using an architect or not.
I called the business “Undercover Architect” because it removes me from the equation. This has never been about me, my built legacy or my creative expression. Of course, I love to design, and I love to make and improve spaces and homes so they serve people better. However, what I do is ultimately about helping home-owners get access to what they need so the important process of creating their homes happens more smoothly for them, with more confidence and achieves the end result they dream and hope for.
Undercover Architect provides assistance at every budget level:
- I provide a wealth of free information on my blog and in my free e-guides.
- I provide a super affordable way to get architectural advice and support for the duration of your project through my private Facebook group, The UA Village.
- I also provide partial services such as the UA Design Concept, and UA Design Review – so you can have me do a design concept to start you off on your journey, or I can audit a design you’ve had someone else do, to make sure you’ll get the best result for your investment and lifestyle.
- There’s of course the opportunity just to speak to me through the UA Solution Session
- There’s my online course “30 Days to Reno Ready” which teaches you everything you need to know to get ready for your renovation, and provides the step-by-step process and guides to create a great project
- I also provide full services (similar to other architects).
I have a vision that – EVERYWHERE – our streets, neighbourhoods and communities are places where people are striving to make their lives better through intentionally creating well-designed homes and environments. That may sound a bit full-on but I think home-owners DO actually want to make great places to live. They do understand how important their home is in helping them live life better – as the places that restore us, provide us with a sanctuary to help us go out each day and be the best versions of ourselves. They just need the tools to do it, and someone to partner them in a way that works for them, their budgets and their lives.
- Tell us a bit about your own renovations (without a kitchen for 8 months, how did you do it?!)
My husband and I were together for quite a few years before we got married, and had bought our first home during that period. We used to argue over who was going to stay home with the kids, and so we knew we needed to work out a way where we’d share the role equally.
Renovating our first home before we sold it seemed like a good way to get ahead financially and perhaps have some flexibility with our work and lifestyle with our kids. It really started there – doing work to it as we could afford to. Over the past 12 years, we’ve renovated 3 homes, each a larger project than the one before, whilst we’ve worked flexibly in our businesses and jobs.
We’ve lived in the homes for a majority of the time – the last project was one in Ashgrove, where we turned a 100m2 home into a 400m2 home. This included raising it and building in under, so we moved out for a year whilst we got this work and got the home to a state we could move back into it.
We’ve had a baby each renovation, and each of the kids learned to climb ladders before they’ve walked. I must admit, there were lots of times I was tearing my hair out. We’d didn’t have much of a social life. We spent most of our weekends and evenings working on our homes. We had belongings in boxes, and we just got used to living in construction sites, selling the homes when they were completed. It was stressful and messy and chaotic, particularly when juggled with our kids, and our professions and working lives.
We had a goal though – a dream to move to acreage in Northern NSW. After selling our last project, we moved in July of last year, and now live on 77 acres in the Byron Bay Hinterland. I set up Undercover Architect as a means of still working in my industry, helping as many people as I can with my experience and expertise, and to be able to work remotely and from home. It’s amazing what you can do with an internet connection!
As for living without a kitchen for 8 months – we’ve lived without kitchens a fair bit over the years. As long as you have some running water, a sink (which can be in your bathroom), some benchspace (which can be a table) and a few appliances, it’s amazing what you can still cook and prepare! We found a microwave, a George Foreman grill and an electric wok were our secret weapon – although I must admit, the first roast I cooked once we had an oven certainly tasted very special!
For us, we always had our eyes on that end goal, which kept us moving forward through the challenges, mess and stress. I really recommend that to anyone – work out what you’re trying to achieve with your renovation, create the picture in your mind, and then go back to it each time you’re stressed, or making decisions, or want to chuck it all in. It will give you sanity and a goal to work towards.
- Favourite project you’ve worked on and why?
That’s like asking me which child is my favourite!
It’s very difficult to identify just one. I learn so much with each project that they each have different merits and things I love. It’s also such a buzz to help clients with their dreams for their homes – and to see how much they enjoy the new spaces you’ve created for them to live in. My own renovation projects are also great because they enabled me to test ideas, and to explore ways of doing things economically that work for families of any age, so they would sell well and make great homes for their future owners.
I did have a client who is a builder that I became a very special client. I worked with him for around 8 years, as I helped with homes he was building as his own projects to sell and profit from. When we started together, he had a draftsperson do the initial design, and then would have me ‘fix’ areas that weren’t working, and provide advice and design ideas during construction. As time went on, he passed on the design work to me. And then finally, my last project with him was the house he has built for his wife and himself. They’re both ready to retire, and have worked so hard in their lives to get to this point, so it was really exciting to create a home for them that they were actually going to live in and enjoy. They love the home, and I loved working with them on it.
- Brisbane’s biggest kept secret/your favourite local spot?
Brisbane has so many beautiful locations and features, and as an architect, and someone who didn’t grow up there (I moved to Brisbane in 2000), it’s been incredible to watch its growth and development. I love Brisbane’s green-ness and its parks – particularly in suburbs located so close to the CBD.
I spent a lot of times in parks with the kids when they were little and our homes were construction sites – so my favourites are definitely the Enchanted Forest in Dorrington Park in Ashgrove, Neal Macrossan Park in Paddington (there’s extraordinary Moreton Bay figs on its edge up against Caxton Street), and “Dragon Park” – the children’s parkland in New Farm Park.
I’ve still can’t find anywhere that does Agedashi Tofu as well as Tsuru at Ashgrove!
We also love GOMA and the State Library at South Bank. The school holiday programs they run, with extensive free activities, are always brilliant for entertaining the kids, and the grassy area down on the river in front of GOMA is great for a picnic.
With our renovations, we also spent a huge amount of time at Ikea! We got to be quite expert at finding our way through it quickly, doing a lot of preparation online before we’d visit, so that we could go through the exit and straight to the warehouse area. Free childcare, the kids can make a mess and a lot of noise and no one bats an eyelid, and great products to help with renovating …What more could you ask for!
Amelia was also featured in our Community Newsletter, to subscribe please go to https://www.calibrerealestate.com.au/property-alert/ or send an email to email@example.com