First up, Phillip Nielsen – we got to pin Phillip down before he jetted off for the 2019 Dulux Study Tour! Phillip is the design director of Regional Design Service, a young practice that is breaking new ground in Corowa. Here Phillip shares what it’s like to practice regionally, what his design process is and a building that has left an indelible mark.
What inspired you to study architecture?
From a young age, I was curious about how buildings and cities were built with a real interest in all the different ways a house could be planned. From the age of six, we lived in the first home of a housing estate in Townsville and I would wander through the various construction sites trying to work out how everything went together.
What is life and work like in regional Australia, what are you finding that’s different and what might people not be aware of?
There is a cliché that ‘people in the country move slower’ and that you can’t expect things to change so fast in regional Australia. What I have found since moving back to the ‘country’ is that this sentiment could not be further from the truth – in fact, I am starting to believe it is the city that is in the slow lane… how was your commute today? Many of our residential clients are current or former farmers and when you see how much innovation is taking place to responsibly manage the impacts of climate change, drought and rehabilitate the land it is truly remarkable.
Morgans Lookout, competition. Render by Regional Design Office.
What’s something you wish you had known when you started your career?
One of the best pieces of advice I was given as a young graduate was ‘don’t become good at something you don’t want to do’. It made absolute sense but I wish I had known how I could use architecture to give back to the community earlier.
What inspires you?
I have lost count of the times I have been stopped in the street and thanked for the contribution we are making to our rural community. The happiest moment was having a local woman show me how a Kartell Generic C chair could be lifted and balanced on the edge of a table to then mop the floor. The look on her face when she realised we specified it for this exact reason and that good design could make life easier was priceless. Reflecting on these moments inspires me to get into the office every day and make meaningful change through design.
Docs, a local café in Corowa, designed by Regional Design Service. Photo by Georgie James.
Can you talk through your design process – is it always the same or different, do you hand draw, research, come back to old ideas?
Our design process is founded in talking about how and why we’re doing something. One of our first residential clients approached us with the brief for a Mid Century Modern inspired home on their rural block. Rather than replicate the ‘style’ of MCM houses we worked with our client to explore what influenced the era from the Eames moulded ply leg splint through to construction techniques of the Case Study Houses.
How do you see the design industry changing?
Leaving Melbourne and viewing the industry from afar has offered time to contemplate and reflect on my experiences. I’m comforted to see more of the industry standing up to unpaid work or internships. As a student, I dreamt of working for one of my design idols but being from a lower socio-economic background I would have never been able to afford the luxury of being unpaid. I believe the industry is moving towards more equitable practice.
Federation Cinema, Corowa, designed by Regional Design Service.
What is your favourite building/interior fit-out in the world and why?
The Eddie Koiki Mabo Library at James Cook University by James Birrell is one of the first buildings I fell in love with. I was 11 when I first visited the Library on a grade seven trip to use the Internet for the first time – I researched the Spice Girls on 1997 dial-up! The library is formed from board-marked concrete with the most incredible arched forms that truncate from diamond-shaped columns into beams for the mezzanine level of the library. I love going back to the library when I visit home.
Which projects are you most proud of?
I’m most proud of the opportunities we have to engage and share our skills with various community-led projects around regional New South Wales and Victoria. We are currently working pro-bono on a masterplan for a village of around 100 residents with the aim to inspire current and past residents to get involved more in their hometown and attract tourists to the region.
Library at the University College of Townsville, Queensland. The library was designed by James Birrell and constructed in 1968. The building later renamed the Eddie Koiki Mabo Library, and The University is now known as the James Cook University. Collection 6523 RAIA photographs, 1968-1975. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.
A modern take on traditional club chair styles, the Fat Tulip Sofa and Fat Tulip Armchair are spectacularly comfortable show-stoppers. Strong intersecting curves create immediate graphic interest – a no-fuss design that needs no embellishment. The generously proportioned seat volumes are made with engineered foam for stability of form and comfort and sit firmly on low-profile timber legs.
This Art Deco-inspired drinks trolley known as “Adularia” is an ideal piece which is both “stylish and practical”. The structure is in solid Beech, the tops in solid poplar, the wheels are in chromed metal and plastic. Available in a number of different finishes and Made in Italy.
The Bloom ottoman, designed by Keith Melbourne, adds colour and vitality to any workplace, hospitality or domestic environment. Featuring gentle round corners, it is available in single or two-tone upholstery detail.
The Twist vase from BoConcept offers an easy pop of colour for your sideboard or dining table, in this blue on-trend shade. This glass-and-aluminium vase is teamed with a touch of brass for a look that’s spot-on this season.
Manufactured on a commercial scale the design of the new Proust chair is based on the “Poltrona di Proust”, designed by Alessandro Mendini in 1978. This new version of the Proust Chair is suitable for outdoor use and comes in various colours to complement any outdoor or indoor space.
The striking thing about so many of today’s newest Australian kitchen designs is the way they more closely resemble a living or dining room, rather than an actual kitchen. Statement ovens and fridges may still be popular, but the trend for concealing appliances and services is growing, to the point where integration is so seamless no one can tell if the kitchen even has a dishwasher or stovetop.
It’s an indication of the scheme’s innovation and ingenuity and also a testament to the craftsmanship of the joiner, whose handiwork is being given centre stage. With joinery being treated as a high-end sculptural insertion, it would appear that form has finally won out over function. However, the exact opposite is true. These built features are working harder than ever and where they used to only serve one purpose, now they’re serving two, three or four. And there’s perhaps no harder working element in the kitchen than the island bench, with its bespoke multi-purpose shape anchoring the space and bringing friends and family together in far more social ways.
While long since first doubling as a breakfast bar, it’s also serving as desk space, accommodating the relatively recent increase in personal device usage and growth in remote working practices. Now the island is the place for dining too, with architects and designers integrating a table at one end, giving rise to a new hybrid kitchen typology.
The trend was evident at Eurocucina 2018, with manufacturers like Italy’s Cesar presenting the Maxima 2.2, which combines a generously sized dining table with a kitchen island. Closer to home and the concept is taken to the next level by Adelaide-based practice Sans Arc Studio in their recently completed Plaster Fun House. This addition to a family home in Torrensville incorporates a strong curve motif in playful homage to austere Art Deco stylings. In the kitchen, the rounded corners serve to maximise space within a tight footprint and the island not only incorporates a breakfast bar, it also extends into a dining table that comfortably seats up to eight people.
Certainly, the all-in-one unit brings everyone together in the one place, but it’s also logical, intelligent planning for a long narrow space. As Sans Arc Studio’s Director Matiya Marovich explains, “The trend for treating kitchen islands as a piece of furniture is, in part, a result of smaller living spaces. And it seems that the appropriate design response is a multi-functional island that can serve a much more compact area.”
The kitchen as the heart of the home is a concept that may very well never go out of style. And in championing the island bench/breakfast bar/desk/dining table as an integral piece of furniture, it’s safe to say the kitchen’s role as the linchpin for family socialising and gathering will continue to be pivotal.
With joinery being treated as a high-end sculptural insertion, it would appear that form has finally won out over function.
“The trend for treating kitchen islands as a piece of furniture is, in part, a result of smaller living spaces.”
On a spacious lot of green land in rural Bansberia, approximately 45 kilometres from Kolkata, India, Abin Design Studio recently completed a design intervention on a residence, transforming the entire property into something contemporary and extremely unique.
When Abin Design Studio first engaged with the clients on this project, they noticed that the site was split in half: one half of the land was the client’s residence, and the other was primarily bare with a 2-storey structure and a brick-lined pond.
Designed as a bold, curved louvred structure, the nondescript existing build was updated with the aim of retaining the space and creating a leisure zone for the family. Aptly named the House Of Sweeping Shadows, the modern façade of the residence encases the form and anchors the building within it by casting a succession of shadows inside. As the sun moves across the horizon throughout the day, the rectilinear punctuations along the new build lend to the idyllic views outside while sheltering the interior from the harsh southwest sun.
Internally, to balance with the dark and striking exterior, whitewashed walls and geometric furniture are placed on a vivid epoxy orange-red floor. Inspired by a typical Bengali village, the upper levels of the house are demarcated with a Bamboo threshold, allowing the interiors to be flooded with natural ventilation as well as natural light.
The empty structure perpendicular to the house now contains a gym, several changing rooms, and guest entertainment lounges that overlook the pool and lawn. By incorporating a barbeque station, a rendered concrete sunken sit-out lounge and a small aviary, the built environment juxtaposes with the natural one.
Far more than simply visually impressive, House Of Sweeping Shadows creates a unique experience for the residents. Between the masses of the structures, verdant landscape and colour palette, Abin Design Studio ensures that the entire site functions as a serene escape.
After a bit of trial and error, Tom found himself following his curiosity for design, which has led him down the road to where he is today – a senior designer at Melbourne’s DesignOffice. We find out about Tom’s design journey.
Oscar Niemeyer’s MAC. Photo by Iñigo Bujedo-Aguirre.
What inspired you to study design?
Tom Reid: I have always had a keen interest in art and design but it took me a few years to settle on design as a career choice. Prior to studying interior architecture at Curtin University (where fellow Saturday Indesign ambassador Jess Humpston also studied), I had tried advertising, mass communications and journalism.
Feeling defeated and not knowing what I wanted to do I deferred for a year and worked at a bookshop. I would spend as much time as I could devouring all of the architecture and design books and magazines. An absolute fascination with Oscar Niemeyer started there so the following year I enrolled in interior architecture.
Tell us about your life outside of design, is there anything (hobbies, interests) that you’ve stumbled on that feed’s back into your practice?
I think when you work in design everything outside of the studio feeds into your practice. Travel, street signs, driving under a bridge, film everything can be a resource for analysis and inspiration. The Bertolucci film the Conformist and Italian cinema was a big influence for Palace Cinemas in Sydney. I do have a particular love for magazines though. I still have all of my Monocle and Wallpaper* magazines since 2007. I love to flick through old back issues – especially the ads.
Palace Cinema, Raine Square Perth. Photo by Dion Robeson.
What inspires you?
I am inspired by multiple sources across architecture, furniture, fashion, art – again I think my inspiration is generally project or client related. Oscar Niemeyer, Joe Colombo, The Bouroullecs, Donald Judd, Raf Simons these people are always inspiring… along with a healthy dose of Pinot! I also have a group of close friends and old colleagues from the design industry who meet for monthly breakfasts, they are also an endless source of inspiration.
In your opinion, what makes for an outstanding project?
I think the most outstanding projects are usually the simplest and most courageous in their convictions. The boldness of simplicity and being able to have a really considered and thoughtful approach.
What’s something you wish you had known when you started your career?
That you don’t need to know everything from the start. Sometimes the naivety of being a graduate without experience can be a total asset.
Palace Central, Sydney. Photo by Terence Chin.
Can you talk through your design process – is it always the same or different, do you hand draw, research, come back to old ideas?
I think my process is relatively project and client specific. In the studio, we generally try to define a set of principles that are informed by the client, their brand and the site to create a narrative that becomes compelling and intriguing. Hand drawing is a must.
What is your favourite building in the world and why?
Tough question, I would either have to say the Stahl House in LA by Pierre Koenig or The Glyptotek in Copenhagen but for very different reasons. The Stahl House represents such an optimistic version of modern design – it is pure Californian modernism, and that view over LA is unrivalled. The Glyptotek is a total study in colour and progression. The series of rooms that lead from one to the next is so simply choreographed through the use of intensely saturated colours, which are the most perfect backdrop for the amazing collection of sculptures. Plus the central courtyard garden and bar are incredibly charming.
I love projects where I feel like we have left a mark on our client and their long term business objectives, like Little Bean in Shanghai. Our client there is amazing, and incredibly supportive and trusting. He is going from strength to strength with his coffee roastery. A significant part of the project was creating the physical design language for his brand, showing how this can be implemented into various sites and formats. I find this kind of work really exciting and rewarding – being able to be a part of a clients journey, in creating a considered and authentic business and brand, and also watching its growth and success.
With a firm grip on the design industry, our Saturday Indesign Ambassadors are advising on the most interesting and insightful topics – talks and workshops to be released soon. In the meantime, register for Saturday Indesign now. Make sure 22 June is marked in your calendar!
Fondly remembered as a hot ticket item in years’ gone by, we’re pleased to announce that Stylecraft Melbourne will be welcoming designers once more for Saturday Indesign – this time into its completely revamped space on Flinders Lane and Russell Street in the CBD.
Right from the very beginning, Stylecraft has been involved with Saturday Indesign. “We’ve been represented in every location that the event has been to – Singapore, Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne. We’ve always been a strong supporter and we can’t wait to once again show clients, and new faces, the ‘Stylecraft Hospitality’ that we’re known for,” shares Tony Russell, Stylecraft’s brand director.
Unfolding over all four floors of the Stylecraft and StylecraftHOME showroom, the space will be curated into a special selection of HOME/WORK/LEARN settings. Among these typologies there will be more than 20 new products to take in, some being brand-new to the Australian market.
As a showcase of everything that’s newly released, Tony says this is just another reason why Stylecraft didn’t think twice about being involved. “It’s a great opportunity to showcase the newest innovations and freshest products in design – both from Australian designers and abroad,” he says.
At its core, Saturday Indesign is about recognising design from here and the world. It’s a true “celebration of design” and as Tony understands from experience, it’s “one of the few times that the industry comes together as one.” Now that is something truly worth celebrating!
It’s the weekend we wouldn’t miss for the world. On Saturday 22 June, the design community across Australia unites in Melbourne for the long-awaited Saturday Indesign. Design aficionados and long-standing members of the industry alike will remember 15 years of former incarnations of the nation’s premier design event.
Word to the wise from an insider, this year’s event is set to be bigger, brighter and bolder than ever.
In true Indesign spirit collaboration headlines the event as associates in the industry become allies. A condensed footprint means the industry’s finest have buddied up to showcase in duos, and it also means it’s easier for us to get from A to B.
So who is on our hit list? Scroll and see…
Where: Stylecraft, 145 Flinders Lane
Why: As if the newly renovated Stylecraft showroom by HASSELL Studio isn’t enough of a drawcard – you may remember the stunning space from the inaugural Habitus House of the Year Cocktail Event last year – Stylecraft’s collection of exclusive collection of international and Australian brands and designers surely gets us over the line. In the heart of Melbourne’s CBD Stylecraft is high on the Habitus hit list.
Where: VOLA, 94 Wellington St, Collingwood
Why: VOLA was established more than half a century ago with the first mixer designed by the Danish architect Arne Jacobsen. Their 50-plus years in the design industry has seen trends come and just as it has seen design theory and material options completely revolutionise. VOLA remains an iconic brand within the industry and dedicated to design that places equal weight on form and function.
Where: Gaggenau, 192-196 Coventry Street, South Melbourne
Why: A global leader in the space of home appliances, Gaggenau is a regular – yet completely coincidental – feature in many a Habitus house. Gaggenau champions the use of unfussy materials such as stainless steel and glass, and manages to do so in way feels traditional and avant garde.
Where: Gaggenau, 192-196 Coventry Street, South Melbourne
Why: Cosentino began in the 1940s as a small, family-run operation processing marble from the Sierra de los Filabres Mountains in the Spanish province of Almeria. It wasn’t until the 1970s that the company enjoyed global expansion following its commitment to research and development in the area of manufactured stone.
Today, Cosentino’s suite of products includes Dekton®, Silestone® and Sensa® available in multiple colours, tones, finishes and applications.
Who: Next Level Elevators
Where: Next Level Elevators, 456 Smith Street, Collingwood
Why: Residential elevators are often seen as a luxury in Australia, and Next Level Elevators are selective with the suppliers they work with to ensure their functional elevators always exude a certain level of comfort. Luxury though they may appear, architects design for ageing clients, or future-proofing for younger generations, can be grateful for practical designs that don’t sacrifice style.
Who: King Living
Where: King Living, 569 Church Street, Richmond
Why: Established in 1977, on paper King Living may seem like the new kids on the block relatively speaking. But don’t confuse youth with naïveté; the furniture brand has been consistently designing and manufacturing award-winning furniture since conception.
This year, at SaturdayIndesign, Habitus and King Living are teaming up to talk about some of their recent design collaborations with local, well-respected faces in the design community Charles Wilson and Neale Whitaker.
Six months after establishing Studio -Gram with Dave Bickmore, Graham Charbonneau was browsing an architecture blog when he came across a post titled “25 Things Not To Do When Starting Your Own Architecture Practice”. Laughing, “We’d already done 23,” he recalls. “And to this day, I don’t know if it was a bad article or if we just got lucky.” Five years later and it’s pretty obvious luck has nothing to do with the small, Adelaide-based architecture practice’s success. Yes, their timing couldn’t have been better and they were certainly in the right place to make the kind of impact they did. But the friends and business partners – who met while studying architecture at the University of South Australia after Graham relocated from a small town near Montreal – simply produce outstanding work, with a freshness that has reinvigorated Adelaide’s design landscape and contributed to the broader dialogue on a national design identity.
They decided very early on in the friendship they were going to do something post-graduation and actually began working together before that date. In the fourth year, they developed a series of units for a local caravan park under the name Grad and also designed Norwood House. However, it wasn’t until Graham was engaged to renovate Hotel Harry in Sydney’s Surry Hills in 2014 and he asked Dave (who was working at HASSELL at the time) to join him that they made it official.
Their practice is defined by a desire to avoid a one-size-fits-all design approach and they pride themselves on being able to elaborate on a client’s ideas and deliver them with clear resolve. The thought of cultivating a signature style doesn’t appeal to either of them because it’s all about giving people what they want, rather than being prescriptive. “This particularly reassures our Adelaide commercial sector clients in that we’re not repeating the same aesthetic over and over,” says Dave, who grew up in South Australia’s Riverland. “We’re not delivering another Osteria Oggi or Abbots & Kinney and it’s important for them to know that for the sake of the studio’s longevity.”
In many ways, these two projects are the perfect example of what Studio -Gram does. The two eateries sit side by side on Pirie Street in the heart of Adelaide’s CBD and their fit-outs could not be more different. The former is an elegantly refined interpretation of the classic Italian piazza, while the latter is all angles, lines and dynamic configuration. But what’s apparent in both is a high level of craftsmanship and exquisite detailing and this can be found in their residential work too.
The practice’s first official residential project as Studio -Gram was a three-year labour of love completed in 2017. It resulted in the Millswood House extension, a bold volume distinct for the ‘cat’s ears’ profile of its roof and a robust material palette comprising timber, concrete and blackened steel. This project also stands as a punctuation mark in the studio’s portfolio; a quietly confident reminder of the diversity of their œuvre. As Graham explains, “I think Millswood House changed people’s perception of our practice because up until that point, we were largely recognised for our hospitality interiors. So this has been an opportunity for us to put our hand up and say we’re architects and these are our capabilities in this space.” They’ve also recently completed the restoration of a 1971 Woods Bagot house in Stonyfell, which allowed them to address a local example of Modernism with both sensitivity and playfulness. And an ambitious new build on a ruggedly challenging site at Port Willunga is currently in progress.
Both Graham and Dave believe in using narrative to deliver a design that simultaneously engages and compels. In their hospitality work, they tell stories reflective of the experience they want the end user to have. While their residential work is almost exclusively informed by the narrative of the clients themselves. Shobosho (which translates as firehouse) in Adelaide’s West End is characteristic of their storytelling in the way they took inspiration from elsewhere and used it as the conceptual framework upon which the aesthetic hangs. In this instance, it finds expression through the use of the ancient Japanese technique of shou sugi ban (charring timber with fire), a direct reference to the restaurant’s offering of Asian-inspired ‘fire cooking’.
Indeed, materiality is just as important to them as a narrative. Each tends to favour materials they’ve had a longstanding affinity with; Graham has been building things with timber since he was little and Dave’s father was a panel beater as well as an equestrian showjumper, so steel and leather structures and details are recurring. But at the core of Studio -Gram’s DNA is a vision to create spatial experiences rather than just creating spaces. To this end, their work is evocative, immersive and so tightly resolved there’s a feeling their next project couldn’t get any better (although it invariably does).
There’s nothing forced about any of their projects though, and this could have something to do with their laidback personalities or perhaps the practice’s relaxed positioning within the context of a national design industry. “Adelaide is a good place for a young studio like us because it’s allowed us to build our brand quickly,” reflects Dave. “We operate nationally and internationally and we’re able to celebrate the fact our studio is from South Australia.” Certainly, Studio -Gram’s rise has been swift, aided in part by the State’s introduction of the small venue license in late 2012, and their output prodigious, with some 40 projects completed in the five years since establishment.
Studio -Gram is one of a number defining the very best in Australian architecture today and Graham and Dave are quick to acknowledge their peers. Both have great respect for Kennedy Nolan’s portfolio and admire the recent residential work coming out of Queensland. Their own studio is currently a team of six and while they don’t have any plans to grow much bigger so everyone still has a hand in each project, they’d like to set up shop in New York one day. But, for now, they’re quite content where they are.
Salone del Mobile this year was truly a year of refinement. Designers across the globe flocked to one of the world’s most highly regarded design capitals, Milan, Italy, for what is certainly the world’s largest annual design fair. Exhibiting for their third time in Milan, was Australian design brand SP01, whose stand this year contrasted the feel of a underground bar with a relaxed vibe of an outdoor garden, both offering a palette of rich colours and materials
The new release designs by Rundle and Fereday focussed on adding further finesse and variations to strong, pre-existing collections.
Drawing on the success of SP01’s Jeanette outdoor chair designed by Tom Fereday in 2016 for the Australian-born, Italian-made brand’s first collection, the new pieces includes a lounge chair, sofa and coffee table to complete what is now the Jeanette family, along with a further versatile coffee table named Louie.
SP01 Jeanette Collection. Armchair, Stool, Lounge Sofa and Tables
Like the original Jeanette chair, the outdoor lounge is sculpted from wire with soft cushions for a textural contrast, however lounge chair and sofa’s low seat and high back, elude to the fact that one may simply sink in, finding themselves wrapped in the chair’s comfort.
SP01 also tapped into one of popular materials that emerged from this year’s fair – terracotta which featured on both their Jeanette and Louie coffee tables.
The Jeanette’s machine grooves on the top adds interest aesthetically, but also functions as a clever water drainage.
Moving inside, Tim Rundle has likewise added new pieces to his collection of indoor furniture, including a two new dining chair designs and a stool.
SP01 Michelle Table Mirror
The Michelle dining chair, available with a high or low back or as a stool, draws from the iconic figure of Tim’s 2017 Michelle table and wall mirrors for SP01. Viewed by the designer as an exercise in clean architectural geometry, the Michelle chairs are here to offer a simple yet impactful interior statement.
Subtler still, the Caristo dining chair is a stackable dining chair of minimal form and a lightness of presence. The crushed tube-form bracket that characterises the back of the backrest takes inspiration from the Caristo lounge chair, from where the design originates. Likewise, the comfort of the lounge is transported to the dining chair.
SP01 Caristo Chairs
It shows great constraint and self-control when designers resist the urge to design from the ground up where there is opportunity to refine or develop their existing portfolio. Matt Lorrain and the creative team at SP01 have shown that discipline in design can be far more artistic than one might initially expect.
Not Just a Shop is a lifestyle concept store renowned in Shenzen, China for its eclectic assortment of fashion, home and lifestyle products, collected from around the world. And so, when the owners – both well-travelled and design-conscious – decided on a new space for their next retail outlet, they decided to tread an unconventional design path. Their idea was to create an authentic brand and in-store experience for visitors and buyers, in turn promoting stronger brand recall. To bring their interior vision to fruition, the duo engaged Yatofu Creatives, a Helsinki-based creative studio working across product and spatial design.
Not only does the store’s aesthetic reflect the brand’s core values and philosophy, but there is also an artistic slant that shines through in its interior design. The 64-square metre retail space references a lot of monumental architecture and abstract sculptural forms.
Interestingly, the design challenges the density typically seen in many departmental stores. While there is a sense of consistency within the larger context, the interiors present a visible contrast to the polished and uber-finished interiors of the neighbouring stores. “Due to their nature, department stores are usually organised with a strong sense of logic, which can often become very cold and clinical. We wanted to disrupt this sense of artificial perfection by evoking emotions and memories through an artistic and sculptural approach,” adds Angela Lin, Yatofu Creatives.
The design also sought local inspiration, specifically designer Jini Chu’s research project on makeshift concrete bases and barriers and the beauty of their necessity. The display fixtures appear both artistic and with a strong sense of proportion, but also with lots of functionality built in.
To foster a sense of emotional connectivity, the designers chose to address physicality and tactility in the store’s surface treatments. They’ve covered the surfaces of the sculptural forms with a rock-like stucco material. Neutral earth tones dominate the store’s colour scheme, accentuating the rough appearance of these forms.
With a disruptive design approach, this lifestyle store makes for a unique case study in retail design.