In conversation with Megan Burns


Following the rebranding of CM Studio, its Founder / Design Director Megan Burns shares a few home truths with architecture journalist, Peter Salhani.


Q. What drew you to design?  

My parents commissioned a house when I was about 11 or 12 from an architect named Susan Rothwell. They included me in the process and brought me to all the site meetings, which I liked. So from early on, I knew that I enjoyed the touch and feel of creating residential spaces.

Q. Where did you study and who were some of your influences?  

I studied architecture at Sydney University. A big influence of mine at the time, and early in practice, was the Belgian architect Vincent Van Duysen. His spaces are timeless, there’s always a connection between his interiors and the architecture, and a very refined way of working with materials. 

Q. When did you start CM Studio and why?

We established the practice almost in 2011. I’d had some experience working in larger practices on some very high-profile projects but knew that I really wanted to devote myself to single residential projects.  

Q. What is really important in designing a home for other people? 

Listening to the client and what they want, really understanding how they want to live.  

Q. Do you have a design philosophy? 

How a home feels as you move through its spaces is everything. It should be uplifting and beautiful. We tend to use volumes and voids to contract and then expand spaces, concealing then revealing, creating intrigue and delight. It also plays performative roles like distinguishing between the public areas of a home, which are more open compared to the private rooms. I think joy is very important especially as there are so many functional requirements of home in terms of storage, bathrooms, bedrooms etc, it’s the moments of delight that we love. Even a staircase should a beautiful moment when you think about how many times a day you use it. With the light filtering through the staircase it can be a beautiful object in its own right, changing with the seasons. 

Q. What’s your approach to materials at CM Studio?

Each project has its own palette of materials, largely in response to the clients, so some are more pared back than others. We steer away from trends – we want things to be timeless and built to last. We lean heavily into natural materials and always layered, which is why quality craftsmanship is so important. We love colour, but we would never do a hectic coloured tile for instance, you can always add colour through art and other furnishings, but the backdrop as a whole should be clean. The other advantage of a restricted palette, is that it gives clarity and continuity, especially when you’re renovating or adding rooms in renovations and you need to unify old and new spaces. 

Q. How do you define luxury?

Luxury is relative, it’s different for everyone. In the context of residential design, we see luxury as creating some very personal spaces, like a library, or steam room, for instance. It can also be beautiful detail work on everyday elements, like the balustrading of a staircase. 

Q. For many clients, having a home designed for them is a huge leap of faith. What do you love most about what you do?

It’s always changing. It’s very satisfying to watch projects materialise, and watching our clients get excited to see their homes coming together. Seeing that the decisions made, sometimes years earlier, were good design decisions. Technology has really changed the way we communicate the design vision to our clients. It gives us another tool to help them visualise a design and bring them on the journey early in the process.   




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