Location: 354 Bourke St, Surry Hills
I was given 4 days to turn this place around. The bones were fantastic & previously designed by Thomas Jacobsen- although through neglect, there now existed a cold, badly lit, unloved interior.
Inside we took out an existing banquette & glass doors and outside removed large metal circular seating that was austere & cold.
Considering the time frame, I had to order furniture that was in stock & ready for immediate delivery, which was tricky. For the exterior, we removed a large portion of the existing furniture & added low-slung cushioned seating & vintage garden furniture which was all painted a neutral charcoal. Large communal tables are paired with a mix of green Tolix chairs, slated white metal chairs and caramel safari-style director’s chairs. This would be a high traffic area (although we did not anticipate the instant success that it was!!) so this had to be taken into consideration.
Daniel Baffsky’s skills were employed for planting. We ordered enormous oversized pots as well as a plethora of various sized pots for a-mass of planting. Plants included large lilly-pillies, limes, figs, geraniums & monstera amongst many others.
In the front bar, we added floor lamps, potted greenery & vintage lamps both on & behind the bar and additional seating with Thonet high tables and bentwood stools as well as rearranging the furniture.
For the transitional thoroughfare from back to front, I added a long rectangular metal table with a higher industrial round table that was largely covered in potted greenery and chairs to be used as seating & display.
In the original ‘restaurant area’, tables were replaced with a mix of industrial & rough turned leg both in round & rectangular, and all tabletops were replaced with wood. The existing display cabinet was converted into a green growing cabinet of glass & plants. We encourage people to eat wherever they like in the pub, so low slung furniture was placed on the far side of the cabinet to invite different areas for different experiences both inside & outside.
I don’t think I have always noticed floors in the detail that I do now. Though I have always considered how a material feels underfoot. As I scroll through my pics from the past ten years, I notice how I often I look down & take the time to photograph these textures & materials from around the world. From the geometric, almost optical marble floors of churches through Italy to the pebbles of Greece, the wooden parquetry of Parisian maisons & even the white & blue glass terrazzo of the LAX airport! I have taken this interest to the next step (no pun intended) and have embraced the threshold.
Not only am I intrigued by the material but also how a pattern can change & a threshold become a useful tool. No longer does one have to sit in a doorway. This area can be designed to break up a space, differ its function, allow for a floor pattern change or just for aesthetic. Instead of worrying about which way the floorboards run, don’t hesitate to change them with a threshold at the appropriate place. It can be the same material as the floor or perhaps a way of introducing another material or even colour.
Thresholds can be applied to both your interior & exterior. Lay a sleeper into the turf or use a crushed shell that makes up your garden or outdoor area. They have a way of creating intimacy & subtlety.
Years ago there was an exhibit at the Tate Moderne of Dion’s Urban Archaeology installation. I was intrigued & hooked, and this went on to be the inspiration for my ex-BIG LOVE’s short film. I delved into his world & have managed to catch his fascinating installation in other London, Paris & NYC galleries. He has an impressive amount of books, with extensive recording of his works & process.
Dion portrays through installation & display of personal belongings, the identity & personality of the ‘space’s’ owner.
Mostly, the process is as important as the finished piece. Like me, he is curious & attracted to museums, markets, field study, display, taxidermy, oddities, natural history & all the paraphernalia that comes with it.
I was thrilled to come across his signature in the Musee de la Chasse et de la Nature on the top floor in the far corner: a replica log cabin interior reflecting the life & passions of creators, collections and owners, Francois & Jacqueline Sommer.
This must be one of the most considered curations I have ever experienced.
It has all the things I admire in an interior: a sense of humour, artisan-made functional pieces, custom joinery & hardware, a refined colour palette, attention to detail, consideration of the vista, a mix of old & new in furniture & art, the use of superior materials & the interaction of a space welcoming the visitor to be an integral part of the space & journey.
Each room is dedicated to a salon: trophy birds, dog, owl, wolf & stag etc. The consideration & ‘theme’ of each room is clever & sophisticated in its aesthetic, history & humour. There are subtle references everywhere and the clipboard (that sounds pedestrian- this clipboard was accented with the most beautiful brass hardware & illustrations) reveals some, however, it is up to you to work out many of the clues. I am sure the more times you visit, the more detail you notice & the more that is revealed. Here all your senses are heightened: sound, sight, touch..maybe not scent! Perhaps that’s one for the suggestions box.
My favourite room is The Stag & Wolf Salon, with its pickled oak floors & panelled walls, brass antler installation dagger-like on the panelled ceiling, a huge antlered stag casually standing in the corner, tapestries lining the walls & two modern B&B Italia-esque blue wool, very square sofas sitting opposite one another, complete with coffee table & floor lamps- so very residential.
It is of course, the hunting and nature museum where guns & swords are very much a large part of the installation & sit comfortably beside a menagerie of mounted animals: polar & grizzly bears, wild boars, sleeping foxes, tigers & lions.
Location: Stitch, York St, Sydney CBD
On a very tight budget in a room within an existing bar, I had to express the glamour that is Moet, whilst also considering how it would sit in the quirky space that is Stitch.
I removed all existing elements of the room, to start afresh, all except for 2 existing built-in wooden daybed-like structures, that they use for storage & seating.
The infrastructure included: cut-foam for seating, oversized back cushions, electrical elements made, tradesmen, stencils, lampshade skeletons & shade.
Materials: commercial velvet in the perfect shade of Moet red, The Society inc. black chalkboard paint & Gypsy Gold, burlap for shades & thick upholstery fringe.
Props: gold framed mirrors, bentwood chairs, 5 occasional tables & 3xlamps.
I painted the 2mx5m room in Pirate Black paint. My signwriter (Will) then painted my design of paneled walls & sconces to surround the room, with white chalk pen. To maintain the small space, nothing could protrude from the walls. Will then stenciled gold crowns as a dado design & the ‘Moet Chandon’ logo in some of the panels.
I had Moet Magnum bottles converted into lamps and ordered skeleton shades that I made burlap shades for. The ceiling we painted in a soft metallic called Gypsy Gold (from the Society inc. paint range) and securely fixed 30 vintage gold-framed mirrors to the ceiling. I had scoured markets, auctions & shops for weeks to source these mirrors, as well as some of the small turned wood wine tables.
I kept the existing cement painted floor, and added a jester diamond pattern in Moet red with a ribbon of the est. date and logo to make up a rug.
The foam that was perfectly cut to fit on the existing daybed was firmly covered in red velvet as were the front of the structures. Each panel had to separately covered to allow the owners assess to their storage areas. The oversized back cushions were loosely stitched to give a softness to the upholstered seating. To finish off I added thick upholstery fringe at the bottom for the effect of luxurious couches.
I added the two Moet magnums converted into lamps with burlap covered shades on either side of the daybed, and a vintage light I had picked up with a gold bird stem on the other side of the room.
I wanted loose small furniture that could be versatile and easily moved to suit the occasion. I used a mix n’ match of old & new and a variety of finishes to neatly co-exist with the existing interior of Stitch. I choose 6x classic Bentwood chairs in a dark stain (so slim & neat) that could be easily arranged with occasional tables at different heights. I found 2x folding dull gold metal folding tables and at auction, a vintage wine table with turned leg & drawer (that I added black fringe to) as well as a shorter walnut turned wood table. And finally, 2x new metal silhouetted tables. These could be grouped together, used as a table for 2 or pulled up to the sofas for drink tables.
The final touch was some gold-framed mirrors around the room, one with a handwritten message on it, reading ‘Mirror Mirror on the wall’.
Location: 80 Bay St, Ultimo for Toby’s Estate
I created a café in an empty space that is shared with Readers Digest reception, located in the majestic old Grace Bros building on Broadway, once the hub of shopping & activity located on the central tram line. The existing finishes of old floorboards, high ceilings & large bright double frontage shop windows offered a beautiful shell to base my design. I used oak, zinc, marble, linen, smoked mirror, industrial lighting & bentwood chairs to create the feeling of times gone by.
The final design is a floating coffee bar with a 2 leveled 12m long bar. The standing bar is oak paneled with a zinc lined bar top, embracing the patches & joins. This leads to a lower front take-away bar, clad in classic cream hexagon tiles & a Cerrarra marble top, married by a curved brass foot rail. Behind the bar sits cabinetry work in oak and 3 central smoked mirrors with curved tops, that are echoed in the adjacent built out banquette setting. Pigeon-holes on the cabinetry sides are available for retail display.
To create a sense of intimacy & warmth within the high ceilinged space, I created a built out banquette that is oak paneled. On the paneled wall sit glass ball wall sconces and framed sepia photographs from owner, Toby Smith’s newly released book: Coffee Trails. The street end of this cabinet acts as a retail display area. A 9m upholstered banquette lines the cabinet covered in commercial navy linen and button backed. Loose marble topped Parisian café tables sit in front with bentwood chairs.
I mixed old with new by softly restoring a large cabinet that sits pride of place on the back wall. In the front window, a large old industrial sewing table sits for communal capacity with singer-style stools, a nod to the history of the building. Two industrial-style shelving units act as retail display as part of this setting. All furniture was sourced locally for this project.
For the lighting above the bar, seven vintage pressed glass art-deco hang, brass & copper industrial wide-brimmed pendant lamps appear throughout the space and 2 oversized copper lampshades overhang the front communal table.
Perhaps it should be a wine bar!!!