InterVIEW – Mike Cleaver

Founder and principal of Clever Design, Mike Cleaver has gained a national reputation for his niche in sustainable, contemporary and innovative design. Mike’s career has spanned over three decades in both the building and design industries. Furthermore, his extensive experience as an educator in Building Studies and Diploma of Building Design has provided him with an invaluable depth of knowledge for delivering creative, dynamic and pragmatic building design outcomes termed what Mike refers to as a “responsible design practitioner”.

Mike has been the recipient of over 90 design awards including BDAV Building Design of the Year 2012, national and state awards in sustainable, residential, interior and commercial designs. A few pinnacles of his career to date have been the HIA-CSR Australian Home of the Year 2013 and his self-published book ‘Sustainable Clever Design’ www.cleverpublishing.com.au.

Q: What is/are your favourite project/s that you have worked on, and why?

A: Batman House and our Clever Eco Series.

This project was for a builder’s own home. I always enjoy working with these projects as I enjoy stretching their skill sets beyond their horizons.

It was a great example of the client’s trust in our design and executing the build in strict accordance with our design details. I would love to live in this house myself; it’s contemporary, minimalist and oozes excitement.

The Clever Eco Series is something that we keep on fine tuning to optimise with what I phrase as “sustainable future-proofing contemporary, flexible residential design” encompassing what I have learned over the years. It is a project quite special to me and my team.


Q: To date, my biggest business/design challenge has been?

A: Probably the biggest challenge was when converted from pen to 3D cad in 1996!

Yep, that’s not 2D but all 3D back in ’96. Determined not to pick up the pen again and to stick it out with a mouse and computer.


Q: My favourite finish is?

A: There are many, but my favourite would have to be natural stone and timber used in contemporary forms. Natural materials simply do not date.


Q: The architectural style of the home I grew up in?

A: 70’s flat roofed rectangle with great views and lots of glazing – however all the glazing was southwards!


Q: I joined the BDAV because?

A: I met Sean Hamilton ex BDAV President back in 1996.

Sean was inspirational and it was an obvious choice to join a professional body with other like-minded persons. I was one of the first Tasmanians to join.

Q: My favourite Australian building is?

A: A residential building! ‘Berman House’ Harry Seidler

Q: My favourite international building is?

A: Walt Disney Concert Hall Frank Gehry


Q: My words of wisdom for a student building designer are?

A: Never say or accept “you can’t do that” rather explore options and see where that may lead you.

Ask yourself, is there another way and keep an open mind together with respect for other views.

Chilled Form, Positive attitude, passion and good work ethics will take you where you wish to be – it’s up to you.

Why not take the vibe and give it no less than 100% (all in 3D BIMx mode I hope!)

Q: When I was a child I wanted to be?

A: A builder and a rock star.

Well I started playing guitar in pubs for various rock bands at 14 years old for 20+ years (aiding to my deafness). Early in my building career, it wasn’t long before I realised there must be an improved way to produce “better functioning buildings” that are responsive to suit our Australian climate zones and how I can make a difference on Australian soil.


Q: Outside of work, I am passionate about?

A: Contemporary design of all forms.

Q: At the moment I am reading?

A: My reading has recently switched to digital online architectural and design mediums.


Q: My life in 4 words?

A: Explore, chocolate, passion and design.



Never say or accept "you can’t do that" rather explore options and see where that may lead you.
Mike Cleaver