Inbetween Architecture’s client discovery form reads less like a questionnaire and more like a gratitude journal: “What’s the most enjoyable part of your day?” It sounds like an unusual query from an architect, but it’s there for a reason.

“We’re trying to understand how our clients want to live,” says architect and Inbetween owner John Liu. “Other than going to the client’s house and doing a homestay for a few months, this [conversation] is how we get their perspective and translate that into architecture that will fit their life like a glove.”

To Liu, building a home is not just about getting the number of bedrooms right. It’s about creating a space to be lived in – one that helps connect the life you have with the life you envision for the future, whether that’s family, play, retirement, or something else. “It’s about your daily routine. What you do during the week and on the weekends?” he says. “Do you cook for enjoyment or necessity? Who cooks?”

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Originally from Taiwan, he moved to Melbourne with his family when he was 11 years old. Based in the city’s eastern suburbs, Liu’s small award-winning Inbetween Architecture firm has a reputation for creating welcoming houses to celebrate the city’s architectural heritage. Launching the business in 2012, the creation of Inbetween happened by taking a chance and seeing what’s possible for himself.

“[Going out on my own] wasn’t something that I’d ever dreamed of doing, because I’m more comfortable fitting in with a group,” he says. “But the opportunity presented itself when I was offered a private commission and I thought, ‘I’ll give this a shot and see how it goes.’”

Since then, Liu and his business partner Steph Richardson have worked on over a dozen projects to create an upside-down house in Kew, an 80’s villa revamp in Blackburn and an urban barnyard house in Reservoir. Even with all this experience and reputation now under his belt, Liu doesn’t view the level of success he’s now achieved through a financial lens nor a standard definition of wealth. “There are definitely many things other than financial riches I think are worth pursuing and preserving, such as our environment, health, history, culture and human interactions, just to name a few,” Liu says.

“As an architect, I think that the more we get to experience life, meet people, and appreciate different artform, the better we are at design. Which for me is essentially creative problem-solving. The wealth of life experience is definitely something that’s worth accumulating. It benefits yourself as well as others.” This value held by Liu tracks with a report conducted by AMP which found workers and retirees naming contentment, good health and the absence of stress taking priority over money.

Liu’s idea of wealth through life experience is naturally reflected through his projects. A lot of the work at Inbetween Architecture celebrates the diversity and history of homes in the Melbourne area.

“There’s a rich variety of housing here, from heritage houses in Canterbury, to ’60s and ’70s houses in Doncaster, where we’re living,” he says. “A lot of post-war houses are really plain and simple but they have their own charm. We love figuring out how to modernise them and work with the existing structures. No one builds houses like that anymore.”

Inbetween Architecture’s first official project was an update of Liu’s own post-war family home in Doncaster. Rather than knock down the “very conventional” home, he offered a clever old-meets-new design to extend the house without bleeding into the north-facing backyard while also fixing a few niggles with the layout.

Outside of his own home, one of Liu’s favourite projects is Engawa House, a 100-year-old English cottage in Ivanhoe. Updated to include, among other things, a Japanese-inspired porch, the timber-laden outdoor space improved garden access, brought in more natural light and suited the lifestyle of the couple living on the property.

“The clients came to us with a problem and had an open mind for a solution,” he says. “It was really rewarding to have their complete trust. I still remember on handover day we got a text from the clients,” Liu says. “They took a shot from the inside looking out at the backyard, with the dusk sky in the background. It said, ‘John, you create art.’”

That’s Liu’s definition of success: creating homes his clients want to live in, both now and as they grow older and head towards retirement. This passage of time is something he deems important in his work and his own life. “I find myself always thinking about the next project, personally as well professionally, something I want to learn or a new hobby I want to try. I need to get better at time management so I can actually do them.”

With his small team, he also wants to continue finding creative solutions to his clients’ problems with their homes, so they can stay there. To do that, he’s focusing on building and supporting a like-minded team with similar values and giving back to the profession where he can. “Architects as a profession love helping each other out,” he says. “If we’re giving back, we’re gaining.”

As far as what’s next is concerned, Liu knows it’s vital to keep the right mindset in his work – today and tomorrow. It benefits him, and also the people who look to him for guidance in architecture. It’s not a complicated set of goals that Liu has for the future, just positive ones: “Stay healthy, active, inquisitive and open-minded.”

This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Bank and Wealth Manager, AMP. AMP is committed to sharing Australian stories about redefining wealth.