My Uncle saw the future

Dario Amara July 2019

As a young teenager, in the 1960s, I made a discovery that has remained with me ever since.
Feeling bored on a particular weekend, I took to surfing the television channels. The available options were immediately exhausted-back, then we only had two channels. 

What I landed on was a foreign language film, which seemed to me like a comedy in a unique setting.

From the credits, I noted the film was by Jacques Tati. Tati, I later discovered was a legendary director, actor and filmmaker.

The film, which is now a classic that I found was Mon Oncle (My Uncle) and what a lucky find it was.

At the time, my comprehension of the work was rather youthful. I only saw a thin veneer of the film’s enormous depth of social commentary. What I saw back then, was a quirky French comedy set in the late fifties. The featured ultra-modern home; the centrepiece of the plot, seemed uber cool.

The sparse dialogue, the distorted background sounds, and Hulot’s awkwardness shone. What I got completely wrong was that Monsieur Hulot was the brunt of the situation.

Hulot, portrayed by Jacques Tati himself, parodies the abundant materialism and modernism. He also exposes the central characters human frailties.

Tati’s work plays on the notion that transformational change is inevitable and good.

The movie, made in 1958 became much acclaimed, winning an Oscar for the Best Foreign Language Film in 1959.

”Mon Oncle” and “Ferris Bueller’s Day off”-(refer my previous blog; ( Ferris Bueller’s High Art  ) for me, expose the sensibilities surrounding home design.

The film engages on a subliminal level, like an impressionist painting. It prefers minimalism to connect and in so doing delivers its message with potency.

Monsieur Hulot’s lives a simple life in a not so trendy part of town. His sister lives a lifestyle that seems futuristic. Her ultra-modern home, with automation, minimalist spaces and the latest tech are her life. Hulot struggles with the advances in home living and serves as the counterpoint.

As a second-generation custom home builder, my observation is that we could still be in 1958.

There is still a drive for; modernism, automation and the latest shiny new tech. The result; a dysfunctional and irrelevant built form. Disconnected, surreal and alienated from the wider community. Homes should celebrate our life experiences, our culture, tradition and diversity. They should mirror our aspirations and should become the cues for our children.

Spaces should flow, connect and calm. Technology should liberate us from the tedium of repetitive tasks. It should not create an existence that borders on virtual reality.

The enemy is expediency and the drive for the mass-produced homes.

By our creativity, we aim to build timeless and relevant living spaces that connect us.

Lucky for me that My Uncle spoke to me of the future during my formative years.

At Collier Homes, we aim to translate our clients ideas into thoughtful reality.

Dario Amara FIEAust, CPEng, NER, APEC Engineer, IntPE(Aus) is a second-generation builder, experienced construction, and engineering executive and chartered professional engineer with some 40 years’ industry experience. He has also served as Chairman of the Art Gallery of Western Australia, Chairman of the West Australian Opera Company and Chairman of Heritage Perth amongst other positions.

He is chairman of


Why we bought the brand.

I confess to having been asked several times-why we would buy a building brand and relaunch it at a time when the industry is possibly at one of its lowest ebbs.

My response, is always quite impassioned.

First and foremost, we are quite confident that the industry will rebound in the near to medium term.

The rebound will certainly not be to the same levels that were experienced during the Western Australian resources boom, but to more sensible and sustainable levels that will see the best builders return to healthy work volumes.

Already, the resources sector is showing positive signs of recovery this together with some other significant mega projects that should be given the green light, in the short term will propel our sector.

Additionally, I believe that there will be structural and transformational changes in the industry which will see opportunities for those who are prepared.

Secondly, there is a family history in building, it runs in our blood. My father Frank Amara was a custom home builder in the 60’s and 70’s and it was the reason why I decided to study civil engineering and embark on a career in construction which now spans close to 40 years.

It was during my formative years of working for my father on his building sites that I first came across Collier Homes.

What I saw and what always stayed with me, was a well organised and proud builder that clearly had a professional ethic.

Having recently had the opportunity to speak to a Ossie Simmonds, who was a close colleague of the founder of Collier Homes, the late Mr Ray McCarthy, this comes as no surprise given the founders strong values.

The “Collier Homes” brand to me consequently has always represented a bit of an institution and a benchmark in the building industry-like a couple of other old brands that also continue to this day.

So when the opportunity presented itself to acquire the brand we moved quickly and decisively-this is my third reason.

My fourth reason, is that I have sons who have already cut their teeth, quite independently in building, construction and property, with one son Alberto already leading the business-and doing quite well at it.

There you have it, my four reasons why we purchased the brand.

I have to say that I am very proud that we are now into the third generation of a family tradition and also have some visibility to the fourth generation!

Our vision is to become a pre-eminent quality custom home builder, developer and innovator.

I am also very satisfied that our clients have selected us because of who we are and that the homes that we have under construction or about to commence, underscore that we are on track.

I have observed over the years that great brands have resilience for a reason, Collier Homes is such a brand, in addition it is now proudly family owned and Western Australian.

Giorgio Armani Nailed it!

“The difference between style and fashion is quality.” – Giorgio Armani

This quote is as relevant to designing and building a new home as it is to the apparel industry. Building a new home requires a creative phase. Here, knowledge of the owner’s lifestyle, aspirations, budget, and aesthetic preferences are paramount.

In his quote, Giorgio Armani firstly differentiates the concepts of ‘style’ and ‘fashion’, and secondly, provides the sageness that quality is the by-product of style over fashion.

Style is an expression of how intelligent and thoughtful human beings present and represent themselves. It’s not meant to be an act of showing off, but more a way of finding accord and alignment and also a way of achieving everlasting and sustainable creations or impressions. It’s timeless in appeal, attracts value and inspires all of us to better ourselves in the way we think and behave. It’s reflective of the best human experience.

Fashion, on the other hand, represents a trend and is very transient and superficial. In the late 60s and 70s, building designers all jumped on the Spanish bandwagon and mimicked haciendas, by adding an assortment of arches with bagged rendered finishes – more akin to a kitsch wedding cake, than a true depiction of Spanish culture and style. Thankfully, not many of these creations have endured as stylish examples of the built residential form.

The era was not all bad, especially when you consider the achievements of local architects such as Geoffrey Summerhayes, Iwan Iwanoff and Peter Overman just to name a few. Their works are renown for their sheer style, longevity and for inspiring the architects and designers that followed. The master works by the greats such as Frank Lloyd Wright, LeCorbusier, Mies van der Rohe and current day Starck, have all been responsible for a body of work that has inspired for decades. The works are of such significance that they gain classifications which protect them for future generations. The works all have style.

In creating stylish and everlasting buildings, all of these architects made use of durable and natural materials and design themes that respected minimalism, just as an impressionist artist would. Thus, enabling the observer to imagine and contemplate what is possible and to fill in the perceived absent elements, using their own life experiences as cues.

When designing a home, irrespective of ones budget, it’s important that style is placed above fashion. As the iterative creative phase develops, ensure that the budget parameters are met and that an eye is kept on quality – this is a key indicator that it’s on the right track.

At Collier Homes, we’re passionate about the creative phase, and regard it as an important, exciting and integral part of building a new home. We have longstanding relationships with leading designers, architects and engineers who can translate your aspirations and functional needs into something stylish and everlasting. We can even commission artists to create unique and original works to complement your new home.

I personally project manage the creative phase, so you gain the benefit of close to 40 years of building and engineering experience to ensure that style prevails over fashion!


The classic 1986 movie “Ferris Bueller’s day off’’ is much more than a hijinks school comedy heroising some quick witted kids.

By Dario Amara, 26 March 2018

The classic 1986 movie “Ferris Bueller’s day off’’ is much more than a hijinks school comedy heroising some quick witted kids.

Like many, I am occasionally drawn to re watch and relive a time of relative innocence where truancy was considered the high-water mark for rebelliousness, and the resulting adverse school record serving more as a “diploma” to reflect your individuality as a high school undergraduate.

The movie resonates on another, more sublime level, quite separate from the sociological one that evokes the nostalgia.

This subliminal level is given an overture, when Ferris, his girlfriend and buddy visit the Art Institute of Chicago, where they appear to pay solemn homage to masterpieces that include works by Picasso and Pollock.

This of course is incongruous for truants.

The movie actually presents us with two pieces of high art.

High art to me is exemplary human expression which inspires us to see what is possible. It is timeless, and reconnects us to our humanity.

The first piece is the Carrozzeria Scaglietti sculptured1961 Ferrari 250GT California Spider-arguably one of the best that Ferrari has ever created.

This sports car, is an undeniable masterpiece that is prized by collectors. This is proven by the massive value it is ascribed at car auctions.

In studying its sculptured presence, one notices that apart from meeting the needs of aerodynamics and projecting a powerful dynamism while being idle, it also, from its anterior exhibits a humanistic persona.

In the film, the Ferrari 250GT peacefully resides, for most of the time, at Ferris’ best friend Cameron Frye’s fathers home.

The home seemed inspired in the way it not only showcased the iconic Ferrari but also in the way it seemed to be in total harmony with its setting.

Of course, this made me research its provenance to understand who was responsible for the second piece of high art.

I was not at all surprised to find that it was designed by A.James Speyer, who was a student of the great modernist architect, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. The residence, built in 1953, is known as the Ben Rose House and is located in Highland Park, Illinois.

Apart for being an example of mid-century architecture at its finest, it spurs us to contemplate what it is that makes a residential building so much at peace with its setting.

This contemplation is timely, as too often these days we hear about “sustainable housing”, which in my opinion, for the most part only addresses a fraction of what sustainability is really about.

The conversation surrounding sustainable buildings appears to pivot around energy efficiency, with little to no consideration given to the carbon footprint or the way that a building harmonises with its environmental setting.

Traditional bulk building materials such as masonry and concrete are some of the biggest offenders as far as the carbon impact that they have on the environment.

Industry custom and practice and materials supply chains tend to impede the shift to more sustainable building materials, which would provide architects a richer palette.

The Ben Rose House is low impact to the environment. The design adopts a beam and column structural frame to raise it above the sloping site without resorting to cutting, filling or retaining walls. Its design has been in harmony with its setting since 1953.

Its carbon footprint has been spectacularly low.

Its design, reaches out and invites the surrounding beauty to become part of its interior design, while at the same time paying homage to its setting by way of its architectural and structural design.

We should pay more attention to high art and learn from its subliminal messages.

Ferris was without doubt worthy of a distinction grade, for having a day off!

Getting stuff done with Evernote

The book; “Getting Things Done” often abbreviated and referred to “GTD”, by David Allen has motivated many to become better organised. The popular book has also given rise to countless applications, some of which integrate with Evernote to varying degrees.

David Allens book was inspired in the way it succinctly expressed a natural workflow and how if applied with diligence can lead to high creativity and productivity.

I say “natural” because most productive people have always been inclined to have an approach that included many of the principles of GTD.

Most of the applications that seem to have flooded the market have leveraged off the GTD workflow and the ever increasing focus towards productivity, to market themselves as the best new shiny solution.

In doing so the app developers have an unenviable challenge in my opinion as they try and cater for consumers all with varying needs; from a simple to do list to a system resembling a project management system.

Often the result is an app with an incredible UI, that tries to serve too many masters.

Often task management apps take on a dynamic that resembles more of gaming experience, which in my honest opinion, only reduces productivity by the obsession and complication that it creates.

For me, Evernote, which I like to think of as my second brain, is my go to system.

With my background in project management, I recognise that teams need to collaborate effectively, in realtime, with granularity and have access to contextual data.

Some of the approaches that I have studied (including one known as ” The Secret Weapon” or “TSW”) make extensive use of tagging. To me this adds complication and drives unnatural ways of connecting our brains to information.

My task management approach is based on David Allen’s GTD philosophy and uses Evernotes built in task management functionality in concert with a couple of other apps for projects that may need to be done collaboratively with others or that need a tactical framework.

In summary my set up:

  1. I use “GTD” to prefix my notebooks and stacks to highlight a call for energy and action.
  2. I review my GTD notebooks regularly but no less than once daily.
  3. I move notes to the appropriate GTD notebooks or to my reference notebooks.
  4. Evernote is a powerful tool to capture information inflows which come via many pathways. For email, I use outlook, which integrates well with Evernote to the extent that I can direct an email, (and even tag it) to a specific GTD notebook or reference notebook (Spark email is also very good in this regard). Outlook provides the added capability of linking an Evernote reminder to the Outlook calendar. Alternatively , by using the Cronofy Evernote connector or Taskclone, reminders can be sent to any calendar.
  5. My GTD notebooks are in my shortcuts for easy access and to give prominence.
  6. My stacks/notebooks naming convention utilises numerical prefixes to create the appropriate GTD hierarchy.
  7. I limit my tagging to people, or standing meeting names, so that when I turn up my agendas notebook for example, I can quickly attend to the matter at hand and have all the contextual information right there.
  8. For projects, I utilise the power of MeisterTask (Kanban system) or Smartsheet (gantt and kanban system) MeisterTask offers the uniqueness of being able to accomodate a team or solo brainstorm exercises using the companion mind mapping tool MindMeister. These tools all integrate with Evernote. As an added bonus, Outlook integrates with MeisterTask and Smartsheet.

For me, minimalism adds to high productivity and Evernote, as ”my second brain” takes care of business.

Collier Homes, the art of building.

For nearly 60 years Collier Homes has been a builder that West Australian families have turned, to build their homes.

It is not uncommon to meet people who make mention of the fact that Collier Homes built their parents or grandparents home, this is very special to us as it instils a strong sense of  family tradition in what we do.

An enduring brand, such as Collier Homes, when applied to the building of a new home automatically ascribes value.

From very humble beginnings, in 1959, the Collier Homes story begins when Mr Raymond McCarthy registered the business.
Raymond McCathy’s colleague and former General Manager until 1978, Ossie Simmonds recalls that Ray’s values were based on truth and loyalty.
Raymond McCarthy lived on Collier Street, Ardross which is where the name of his building business came from.
The relationship with the suburb continued with the first display home called the Norwood being built on Riseley Street in 1967.
In 1969 the business was sold to a national land developer and then in 1981, it was purchased by one of its senior executives, Mr Ron Smith.
In 1996, the business was acquired by national home builder; Home Australia.
Collier Homes is now owned by Dario Amara, who is a second generation builder, who purchased the business assets in 2016 as a part of a strategy to build on a family tradition of building quality custom homes, commenced in the early 1960’s by his father, Frank Amara.
Dario Amara LinkedIn Profile, has been a registered builder since 1984. He is also a chartered professional engineer with experience gained over some 40 years in Australia and internationally, spanning the building, infrastructure and property sectors.
Dario, is active in the business and supports his son, Alberto Amara, who as operations director takes the family building tradition into the third generation.
Collier Homes, is a custom builder that is passionate about the creative process associated with building a home.

Because of this, a home built by Collier Homes not only looks stylish, but it also harmonises the lifestyle and aspirations of their owners.

This is the art of building.

Dario Amara, is a builder, civil engineer and arts patron.

He has served as Chairman of the Art Gallery of Western Australia, Chairman of the West Australian Opera Company and Chairman of Heritage Perth.

He is the Owner and Chairman of Collier Homes (1959) Pty Ltd (