The Playoust Churcher Team

Playoust Churcher - Brett Churcher

Brett Churcher


Brett Churcher combines his degree in architecture with his Associate Diploma in Property Valuation to be the business mind of the team.

It is likely that Brett is the first person you will meet with when you contact Playoust Churcher. And that is because he is the value-add every client needs.

Great architects in Sydney are plentiful, but what most don’t have is a Brett. That is, someone who can use his skills in property analysis and market knowledge to ensure your investment in your property is protected.

He is a registered architect, so he knows good design – but more than that, he brings a practicality and business mind that you don’t often find in an architect.

Spending a day doing high school work experience with a dentist was enough to turn Brett off that as a career path. Truth be told, the appeal of dentistry was because dentists go sailing every Wednesday. A family friend planted the idea of architecture in Brett’s mind and he took off from there.

Brett is driven by seeing happy clients who are amazed at what the team can create. He supports the team to achieve this by always taking the perspective of the client. Brett leads his clients on the exciting journey of designing and building their dream home, aligning himself with their vision and acting as a sounding board.

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Luke Playoust - Playoust Churcher Director

Luke Playoust


“I’m interested in changing the way people live, which is what we do with our designs. I’m about enhancing people’s lives through the integration of light and space – inside and outside – to suit the Sydney climate that we live in.”

Luke Playoust followed in his father’s footsteps, initially tempted into a building degree, before realising he was more interested in the intersection between buildings and art. Particularly, how good design in buildings is a form of art in itself.

Starting from his conceptual view of art and architecture, Luke applies this philosophy to the work he does for his clients.

It was at university that he met John Hooghuis, both a few years below Brett Churcher who Luke had known from school days. The rest is history.

Luke loves to see his vision for a design enacted and coming to life. But it is the SEPP Seniors work he does that has become a clear passion and specialisation. For Luke, it is a good alternative to unit development in terms of providing housing choice for downsizers. He is a clear expert in the field. It is his expertise in cost effective development, combined with his passion for good design resulting in unique functional spaces for his clients, that makes him stand out from the pack.

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Marielise van der Merwe

“Most people struggle to know what they want to do when they grow up… but I never wanted to be anything else other than an architect.

My father was an architect, and from a very young age, I was given an appreciation of good design and beautiful aesthetics.Until I was older, I didn’t realise how much of an influence that had on my life.”

Marielise van der Merwe never had any doubts that she would follow in her father’s footsteps to become an architect.

She lives, eats and breathes design. Architecture isn’t a job for Marielise… it is pure passion.

“I love getting to know my clients and their families. As an architect, I want to surpass their expectations. I want to help them realise their dream… and make it better than they ever imagined it could be. It is actually a great privilege to design a home for someone that you know they will love.

I was drawn to Playoust Churcher because it is an established firm with an excellent reputation and solid values. They’ve produced quality buildings for years – they don’t just jump on new design bandwagons which won’t have any longevity.”

Playoust Churcher is committed to good design… and that is a value that Marielise shares. But she knows that good design itself is not enough… as an architect, she needs to first and foremost listen to her clients.

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John Michael - Playoust Churcher Associate Architect

John Michael


Over 40 years, John Michael has built an extensive portfolio of experience as an architect, furniture designer and master planner of new cities.

His experience spans across Egypt, where he first started his career, over to Saudi Arabia, and then in Australia since the late 1980s.

He started with the Playoust Churcher team in 2003 and since then has become a valued technical member of the team.

His expertise in both residential and medium density projects sees him leading many stages of the design and build process.

John loves a challenge and the opportunity for creative problem solving that present when working with new clients.

“Every project brings a new challenge. Every site has its own challenges and it is about applying the technology and techniques to come up with the best solution for the client.”

With a variety of interests outside of work, including music, painting and computer programming – did we mention that John is also the Playoust Churcher unofficial ‘IT guy’? – there is nothing he loves more than spending time with family.

John’s two adult children are both recently married and make the most of their dad’s expertise to help with kitchen and bathroom renovations, painting and handyman work. John loves what he does as an architect and knows that he is so fortunate to be able to use his skills to support his family.

Playoust Churcher - Ken Van Brandwijk

Ken van Brandwijk


“Working as a team towards the end goal of a beautiful home that someone has worked their whole life for is the greatest reward.”

As a kid, Ken van Brandwijk aspired to work in a marine environment but he quickly realised that his career path was headed towards the building and construction industry.

His father was a builder and he had always spent time around building and construction sites.

After moving from the country to Sydney and completing his architectural draftsman qualifications at TAFE, Ken started in the industry designing banks and houses. He then moved into interior design and then into residential design, which is what he has been doing at Playoust Churcher since joining in 2007.

Ken’s role is to work across the design documentation, managing projects and contract administration. He enjoys working in a happy environment, with a flexible and down to earth team. And it is this teamwork resulting in the end product for clients that gets Ken out of bed each morning.

“The best result for me is a happy client who is appreciative of the role we have played.”

Ken and his wife have two teenage children. As a family they love to spend time at the beach, usually surfing at one of their local haunts on the northern beaches or further afield down the south coast. Ken also enjoys mountain bike riding with his son and a spot of fishing. The outdoors is where he loves to be.

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Toni Phillips

When she was 13, Toni Phillips was making cardboard models of buildings and sometimes getting into trouble at school for drawing house designs in class, rather than listening to her teacher.

“I always knew that I wanted to do architecture. I’m fascinated by space and how that affects human emotion.

When you open up a room by removing a wall, or when you let in more natural light it can completely change a person’s mood.

The best architecture of all surprises and delights the mind as well as providing safety, security and protection. Architecture has the ability to improve a person’s life with the implementation of good design.

Architects are in a unique position to make the world a better place, both physically and emotionally… and that’s what drew me to the profession.”

Throughout her career, Toni has worked across various aspects of architecture… after starting in residential work she moved to commercial projects including hospitals, cinemas, schools and interiors. Working at Playoust Churcher, she continues her passion for residential design.

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Playoust Churcher - Alex Santoriello

Alex Santoriello


Completing his architecture degree at Rome’s La Sapienza, in his home country of Italy, Alex Santoriello is fascinated by the architectural process in Australia compared to Italy.

“In Australia, the process is focused on how to combine timber and steel, mixing techniques to get different results. The use of timber in Australia, compared to terracotta and tiles in Italy, really gives homes a warmer feeling. It’s more naturalistic and connected to the environment.”

Alex joined the Playoust Churcher team in early 2018 after spending time in Australia to build international work experience.

He fell in love with Sydney, and as Playout Churcher’s Project Architect he is involved in every step of the architectural process, supporting the Design Director to bring client visions to life.

On the weekend you’ll find Alex bushwalking, riding his motorbike or discovering new cafes and places around Sydney with his wife. He loves visiting museums and art galleries, enjoys playing the piano at home and credits his move to Australia as the best decision of his life.

John Hooghuis - Playoust Churcher Design Director

John Hooghuis


John Hooghuis thought he was destined for a career in engineering, like his father who was instrumental in the Snowy River Scheme in Cooma.

When his father gave him a book on what engineers do, he dived in, reading it from cover to cover.

He was left feeling uninspired.

What did inspire John was building and creating spaces and places.

And this is still what inspires John in his design work today.

“Architectural design is like a puzzle with lots of pieces and potential paths. I’ve had a fair bit of experience so I have a sense for what works well for a comfortable family home environment – light, view, outlook, all of the things that come together to make a beautiful space.”

As a pragmatist, practicality is always at the forefront for John, but he will never compromise on good design. His work is about interesting design that does its job well.

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