Diagnosed with dyslexia and ADD as a child, Neil Hipwell struggled to stay focussed at school. But what he lacked in classroom application, he more than made up for when he discovered a latent passion for carpentry. “When I was 14 years old, I did work experience with a local carpenter and absolutely loved it! The next day, I began my carpentry apprenticeship and never returned to school,” says Neil, the director of Sydney’s Sutherland Shire based design and construction company FutureFlip.
Always ambitious, Neil went out on his own after completing his carpentry and building apprenticeship at 19. “It was one year after the GFC and it was tough to stay on top as a new business. I worked as hard as I could to build the best reputation for FutureFlip and 10 years later, we have defined ourselves as one of the area’s most reputable construction companies,” says Neil who completes just under 20 projects per year – a mix of single and duplex residential. “We have created a signature design style that we love just as much as our clients,” says Neil.
No doubt key to the company’s success, Neil has developed systems that allow his projects to be completed within an amazing 12-16 weeks, without compromising on quality. At three times faster than the industry standard, it’s a pretty impressive feat. “I did my apprenticeship with a traditional building company and worked on luxury architectural homes. Throughout my apprenticeship, I saw so many ways to improve on the old fashion systems and procedures as there were so many down days, mainly due to poor communication,” says Neil.
“As our business developed, we introduced new processes in the way that we communicated. We adapted a style of project management that you would see in commercial development, and applied it to residential construction. Essentially, Futureflip’s model sits within a niche pocket between boutique builder and project home developer however we can do custom designs quicker than anyone,” says Neil.
While FutureFlip’s design signature incorporates beautiful raw materials and exposed timber detailing (all of which certainly don’t look cheap), Neil is intent on making it relatively accessible. “I take a lot of inspiration from the materials and design accents that are incorporated into extremely expensive projects. We develop similar methods and materials so that our clients can have the sort of luxury that we would normally only see on 20 million dollar projects,” says Neil.
A project that was years in the making, Neil’s own home (pictured throughout) is his personal favourite and I can see why – aside from its stunning view (it’s located on the water in Lilli Pilli, coincidentally on the street where my mum grew up!), it’s brimming with beautiful details. “It took years of conceptualising, designing and planning to get each individual room of the three storey build to fit the way that I had envisioned, but I am so happy with what the team created. It’s the perfect family home that is a bold statement in the area. It truly is one of a kind,” says Neil.
Photography: Mitch Fong