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Seear-Budd Ross | An Interview with founders Thomas Seear-Budd & James Ross


I first crossed paths with Thomas Seear-Budd earlier this year when he was in the process of setting up his architectural practice with business partner James Ross. Jointly establishing himself as an international photographer, Thomas has photographed the Antwerp residence of famed Belgian architect Vincent Van Duysen for Home magazine, a project for award-winning McLaren Excell in London, and locally, for some of the most respected names in NZ architecture. Sharing a passion for beautiful design, calm spaces and natural textures, Thomas and James have now launched their practice Seear-Budd Ross in Wellington, NZ. Completing their first projects with more underway, their work is beautifully composed, already demonstrating an honest and well executed approach to design through rich materiality, clean geometry and attention to detail. 

The Antwerp residence of Vincent Van Duysen photographed by Thomas Seear-Budd for Home magazine. Both he and James cite the renowned architect as inspiration for their own architectural work. 

I caught up with Thomas and James to talk more about their new practice and how they envision it will unfold over time.

Tell us about the journey that led to the launch of Seear-Budd Ross.

We met while working together at Studio Pacific in Wellington. We decided to enter a competition together and found the collaboration worked really well. This collaboration continued into a cafe fit out at Wellington Airport. And then a concept design for a house in the Wairarapa. With momentum building, we decided to take the plunge and both resigned from our jobs the same day. 

Do you share a similar approach to architectural design? What is your studio’s design philosophy? 

Yes. We always work together on projects. As we develop a design for a project, we generally agree when a project is not quite right. And then, as we keep iterating, we will arrive at a consensus that we are either heading in a good direction, or that we have solved the key issues. We think having two people tackle a problem is better than working in isolation. 

In terms of design philosophy, our ambition is to produce work of substance and quality. We see the Japanese style of Wabi-Sabi minimalism as an example of this. And we love strong, simple geometry. 

How would you describe your aesthetic, and how is this translated into your work? 

We are both drawn to the same aesthetic. We love to create rich, calm spaces with atmosphere. This means using light, geometry and materials as the foundations for any design.

Barnett House, Carterton, New Zealand / Concept Design by Seear-Budd Ross

Seear-Budd Ross is already showing diversity across residential, commercial and furniture design. Is there a particular area of design that you enjoy focusing on?

We really want to continue a diverse mix of project types. We think the small projects support the big projects. And vice versa. 

You recently completed the design of Three Quarter Society’s new kiosk at Wellington Airport. Rather than shouting for attention, you describe the new cafe as a "restrained counterpoint to its neighbours, a beautiful place of calm." How did you achieve this? 

We focused on the using two materials, timber and aged brass, to create a space that is simple, ordered and exhibits high attention to detail. There is also a really amazing bench seat behind the counter and provides a fantastic space to withdraw from the hustle of the airport. It allows users the opportunity to pause and view the planes, with Lyall Bay as the backdrop. It’s quite nice when the sun is setting over the water behind. We’re pretty happy with it.

Three Quarter Society Cafe, Wellington Airport, New Zealand by Seear-Budd Ross

Where do you find inspiration? 

We draw inspiration in connecting to the work of others in the fields of art, music, film, photography and design. And natural materials will always be integral in our work.

Tell us about your 'Table 01’ design. Is there a furniture collection on the horizon? 

This is a simple table that James made for his home. It is made from recycled Rimu and sealed with a wax finish. We would love to produce more furniture and at present we are working through designs for a bedroom collection.

Table 01 in waxed Rimu by Seear-Budd Ross

What else are you currently working on?

We are working with some really great clients on residential projects in Wellington. There is also an interesting pre-fab cabin that we are developing as a joint-venture with a client. And there are always furniture ideas being sketched and discussed. Watch this space!

How do you see Seear-Budd Ross growing over the next few years?

We want to work with interesting people on interesting projects. We would love to do a new build house in a rural setting. Or an ambitious hospitality project in an urban setting. We would love to do an art gallery.

What is one piece of advice you would give to aspiring architects and designers?

Find good people to learn from. And try to find people who value what you do.

I think those words will resonate with anyone in the creative industry, and I'm looking forward to following Thomas and James on their journey. You can do the same at, and over on Instagram (@seearbuddross). 

Photography by Thomas Seear-Budd 

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