Kelly Martin Architecture - The Backstory
Updated: May 3
Kelly Martin Architecture may sound newish to the Noosa architecture scene, but I’m definitely not. My love with the local area started back in 2005 when I spent three years working for local firm Middap Ditchfield after completing uni in Brisbane. Peter and Tim were fantastic mentors (still are) and happily handed over the reins on some career shaping projects, with equally ideal clients and sites. Within weeks, I knew that I’d found my ideal practice and location and would have easily stayed put, but the temptation to explore could only be ignored for so long.
After reluctantly leaving Noosa, I followed the typical path of an Aussie in their 20s and headed off to the UK. My working holiday proved worthwhile and after landing an architecture job for a global company, I was able to enjoy many trips to various locations including Japan, China, Morocco, Turkey and the USA.
Surviving the UK recession and narrowly avoiding the Heathrow injection (thank you post-architecture waitressing job where I was not sitting on my bum all day) the time came when my visa was running out and if I’m honest, I was more than ready to get back to my day job. So by 2010, after an extended trip home via Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore, I was back in Australia and in particular Brisbane with a plus one, my future husband Ken.
Until 2015, I was the Associate Director of a prominent Brisbane-based architecture firm. I had worked my way up the ladder and in theory should have been content, but in reality I was thinking – what’s next? So I did what any person who finally feels like they’ve reached the end goal of their career, I quit.
We made a quick but considered decision to move to Noosa and wasted no time starting Epoch Architecture from scratch. As a couple running a business (Ken is a draftsman) we decided that if we were together 24/7 we needed to separate work from home, so we took up office space in Noosa Junction and had a goal to grow the business into a small empire. We were well on our way and in the last 6 years we took on lots of work, completed many successful projects, had staff members and raised a small child (fingers crossed also hopefully successfully but I guess only time will tell). We were busy and the work seemed never-ending, we were growing at an unsustainable speed. Work was all consuming and with a chance tenancy opening up in Arcadia Street, we shifted our office space. There was clause in the lease that stated we must run a food business on the premise. This was Ken’s dream so why not – we quickly saw the potential and signed the lease. After creating two businesses spaces in one, Ken officially jumped out of the architecture ship in 2019 to finally follow his dream to open a food business - @telephone_call_from - check it out.
At the time I was managing projects, staff and juggling all the other things required of me to run a business. I was very much over the “empire” idea. It wasn’t the experience I wanted to give my clients and it definitely wasn’t the lifestyle I wanted to lead. I craved to be more involved in all of my projects, but it was impossible when I was spread so thin. I also had a young child which meant that sleep was a commodity and working nights became impossible. The simple solution was not to hire more staff but to reduce the workload so while chipping away at the projects I had already, I also started the process of being much more selective of what new work I took on. It’s a scary idea to turn work down, but I was way past tipping point so it was the only way to get to where I wanted to be and be available to take on the work that I did want when the opportunity arose. The goal was to offer a better experience, a more personalised approach to architecture. I wanted to offer one point of contact from start to finish and give 100% of my attention to each of my clients. I already did the design work, but I also wanted to personally work on the documentation drawings, essentially be an architect in every sense of the word, rather than put all my energy into running a business and managing others.
It was a slow transition, but I have been working with in this new frame of mind since 2019 and I can tell you that my physical and mental wellbeing have benefited immensely. I started to switch off and get enough sleep, enjoy weekends, mornings and afternoons with my family. At first the workaholic in me was still stressing out about how much work there was to do, but after a while this became my new normal, I started to relax into it and accept that one person can only do so much. After all I just design buildings – no one is going to die if I don’t get a joinery detail emailed out on a Saturday!
However, even with my new work ethic sorted, I still felt that Epoch Architecture wasn’t portraying the message I wanted to give. I wouldn’t blame anyone for not knowing some basic facts, such as who runs Epoch and is this a small or big operation? I also realised that by keeping the name Epoch I would still be tied up in that ridiculous notion that I should be portraying myself as bigger than I am and always speak in third person. To me it became clear that it was now time to evolve and start Kelly Martin Architecture to reflect the new approach I had to my business and the way I intend to proceed.