Can you tell us about how your obsession with design began, and what career path led to establishing Showroom in Brisbane?
About a year and a half ago I opened a concept store called Showroom. Showroom trades in beautiful, artisanal design wares gathered from makers and brands from here in Brisbane, across Australia, and around the world. It’s curated like a magazine, ever changing like a gallery, and of course we’re in the business of selling things like a shop.
I came to Australia from Canada nearly five years ago in support of my partner’s career. I had no idea back then that it would be here in Brisbane that I would create a dream and a business of my own.
I started blogging when I first moved to Australia almost five years ago having met my Brisbane-born husband when we were both living in England. Through taking photographs around my home and kitchen I discovered it wasn't possible to find the styling props I wanted here, like cast iron skillets and mason jars and kraft paper shipping tags. From there I started a little online store and a market stall. That went well so I opened a pop up shop for about a month, and that's what sparked the idea for Showroom.
I’m a professional historian by training; I’m a lover of stories with a soft spot for nostalgia. Although history may seem like an unlikely background for a retail entrepreneur, researching and teaching about the past enhanced my natural curiosity and honed my inclination to seek meaning and connection in ideas, relationships and material objects. This is at the core of what I, and by extension my business, am about.
When and how did the concept for Showroom come to you? Can you tell us about your business ethos?
With a little experience as a blogger and a few seasons of running my own market stall and online shop under my belt, I decided to see what I could do about re-thinking bricks and mortar retail.
Here’s what I find so fascinating about retail: It’s clear to me that in 2015, our consumer brains have been significantly rewired by the internet and social media. Consciously or unconsciously, we’re all more design literate, more selective, and our appetite for content has grown. We’re more interested in the stories that give objects meaning, and more invested in the notion that our possessions reflect and shape our identities.
This has largely come about because of the way incredibly innovative brands have rewritten the rules of online retail over the past 10 years. But here in the real world, where we all still mostly live, the way stores operate has stayed pretty much the same, and we’re seeing the impact of that with vacant signs up and down our high streets.
This is worrying, because I believe that traditional shop-fronts are essential gathering places that keep our neighbourhoods vibrant and connected. I also believe that it’s important for our communities culturally and economically that artists, artisans and local businesses can afford to work and thrive.
You just moved into a new location. Can you tell us a little about that? Have your offerings changed?
Curation and a strong point of view are paramount to Showroom's identity and success – this is something I’ve realised and prioritised in the new space. I have a clear sense of how I want the store to look and feel, and I seek out artisans, brands, and products that fit my vision. We're not to everyone's taste, certainly, but people who love what's presented in store and online love it in its totally, and that's what I'm going for.
I make most decision about the editorial content of Showroom on the basis of what I personally like the stories behind the things. My style is quite paired back and referential. I love quality materials worked in an unfussy way. I love clean-lined, heritage designs that feel warm and modern. A simple Falcon enamel camping mug is my idea of design perfection both for its aesthetic qualities and all that it evokes. Of course there are lots of things being made in the Brisbane community and further afield that I really like or find interesting but don’t fit into the aesthetic point of view I’m cultivating at Showroom. In those instances I think it’s important to be super edited and unwavering. In the old shop I think I was more eclectic than I am in the city, and what we’re cultivating here has much greater impact.
How would you describe your new space, and what is it about the space that makes it special and personal project for you? Do you have any favourite aspects of the space?
I love the character of the new space best. The new shop has huge windows, soaring ceilings, wide floorboards, and crisp white painted brick walls. I didn't want to erect anything that would compete with the character of the building, so our fit-out is all about white painted shelving and simple trestle tables. Everything can be easily reconfigured to suit the mix of products in store at any one time. I love rearranging the shop and never leave things as they are long enough to get bored!
Tell us about a typical day at Showroom?
I’m not sure there’s any such thing as typical which is one of the things I like about this self-made gig as CEO and editor-in-chief of my little empire. Still, certain routines do punctuate my days. I don't set an alarm but tend to naturally wake up quite early. I always start my morning with a cup of builder's tea. I check in on social media. I check in with my team. Most days I head into the store to spend the day helping customers or crack on with behind the scenes projects from WORKROOM. If I'm feeling overwhelmed, which I often do in times like this when so many elements of the business are expanding, I try to work a bit more from home so I can concentrate, eat well, and make sure I take the time to rest.
Where do you find inspiration?
I'm Canadian and was raised between the city and the woods. I think if you look closely you can see that background in the mix of products I place in store. I do spend a lot of time following inspiring brands, stylists, and content creators on social media, but I find it’s equally important to step away from that and immerse yourself in art, photography, and film. I switch off to read personal essays and novels as much as I can.
What is a trend you can identify in bathroom design and what does it reflect in a cultural, economic, social or environmental sense?
There are a few trends that represent a cultural shift in how clients treat the family bathroom. Double showers for two kids to shower together and a single elongated vanity basin for kids to brush their teeth or get ready at the same time are now design ideas commonly received very well. Gone are the days when kids just got the basics, we’re now also looking at functional bathroom spaces that meet the needs of the whole family, not just the adults. I think this is reflective of the broader social phenomenon of ‘busyness’. Even the kids have to be multitasked.
How is Australian bathroom design conservative and in what ways is it becoming more adventurous?
Australians are obsessed with being practical in the bathroom, which means that we often end up with spaces that are purely utilitarian without much in the way of aesthetics. Our bathrooms all tend to look the same. Big-mirrored cabinets with acres of storage over a long vanity are still the norm. It’s rare to get a timber floor through or a finish more at home in the French countryside that would create character like a rough brick wall. Instead, we’re still tiling all surfaces for easy cleaning and easy care but this has robbed us of the opportunity to create real personality in the bathroom.
Australians are slowly embracing decorative lighting in the bathroom to create mood as well as having some fun in the powder room but we’ve got a long way to go if we want to create bathroom spaces that are a joy to hang out in and be truly restorative.
What product in the bathroom can provide the greatest design impact?
Nothing beats a great layout first and foremost with all those tricky junctions between showers, baths and toilets fully resolved. I think of design as a product that way – what can it deliver? Next is a beautiful palette of finishes with some incredible tiles and a vanity design fit for your living room [see Zuster’s Issy range for Reece below, taking furniture design into the bathroom].
Beautiful tapware and sanitary-ware that are a joy to use and clean is key. Natural light is the holy grail but often very difficult to incorporate in many bathroom spaces that are either landlocked or concerned with privacy [see the Binnie House image with round skylight over shower, below].
How can bathrooms respond better to environmental concerns through design?
I’m always focused on how I can create a beautiful design that will stand the test of time, that’s how I think of sustainability. If you intend for something to exist for a long time, you are more than likely to resolve the design well and choose materials that are not fashionable or of the moment. We rip out far too many bathrooms that are not old but just haven’t been designed well. Then I think its selecting finishes that have a sustainable pedigree, I’m thinking of Mutina’s Tierras range by Patricia Urquiola [see below].
Where is bathroom design heading in the future?
Tiles that breathe, multifunctional tapware integrated with accessories [see Agape Sen tapware, below], and beautiful baths for two that you can really enjoy [see Marcio Kogan bath, below]. Decorative elements like artwork, lighting and rugs will go a long way to softening hard bathroom spaces. Upping the ante on colour and personality will also slowly make their way into bathroom design [see the image of the green ceiling, below]. And for kitchens, the inclusion of a secret bar [see Binnie House with claret bar behind sliding door, below].
What is your favourite memory that takes place in the kitchen?
My mum chopping up hot barbecued pork bought from Chinatown and stealing bits off the side of the chopping block.
What is the most important item or product in your kitchen and why?
My Louis Poulsen Panthella table lamp. It gives my kitchen personality as well as much-needed task lighting. I leave it on every night for the warm glow after the kitchen has closed down for the night. Adding decorative features into kitchens and bathrooms to soften them is key.
What are the three things you always have in your refrigerator?
Three things that are a staple in my fridge are full cream milk, parmesan cheese and eggs, you can whip up quite a few things with these three.
What's your favourite cooking aroma?
Onions and garlic cooking off, it’s often the start of something.
What's your least favourite kitchen chore?
Cleaning the oven, biggest mistake I made not getting a pyrolytic oven.
Chelsea Hing chelseahing.comabc
Melbourne Indesign 2016 will be an immersive, highly-curated design experience, brought to you by Indesign Media Asia Pacific. Whilst maintaining all the features of Indesign: The Event that people have come to love, Melbourne Indesign 2016 will also offer a host of new features for visitors and exhibitors.
A renewed curatorial approach will see each of the three precincts (Collingwood, Melbourne CBD and Richmond) boast a unique identity. These identities will be reflected within pop-up spaces, transformed showrooms and design trails, available to architects, designers and specifiers, exclusively during Melbourne Indesign. Visitors can also expect fantastic installations, game-changing talks and a true immersion in the design life of the city.
The Project, a crowd-pulling injection of creativity, will also return in 2016, benefiting from this curatorial approach. Each precinct will have its own unique Project theme, ensuring diversity and excitement in the collaborations. With 2015’s projects including everything from a colourful and child-like ball pit to a live dance presentation, The Project keeps getting better and better.
Our seminar series will also be returning by popular demand, with topics announced early next year. In 2015 the seminars were a stunning success, with incredible panellists from around the world and insightful and accessible topics.
When: Friday 12th and Saturday 13th August 2016. Where: Collingwood, Melbourne CBD and Richmond Cost: As always Melbourne Indesign will be free to attend, with guests receiving plenty of bonuses for attending. In 2015 tens of thousands of dollars worth of prizes were given away. Reach: 7,500 visitors / 45,510 total audience
Principle architect, Simon Perkins together with principle interior designer, Kanako Nakanishi have created a striking home that captures the spirit of its surrounds.
The dwelling includes a double garage, four bedrooms and a lounge, as well as an open plan kitchen, meals and living space that opens onto a lush green lawn and surrounding bushland. A long lineal roof plane caps the entire building, and a striking vertical timber screen protects the deck that extends the length of the northern exterior. Large full height black aluminium doors connect the living areas and master bedroom to the deck and garden beyond, allowing sunlight to drench the internal spaces.
White oiled oak floors add a contemporary but rustic sensibility to the interior palette, as well as stainless steel and marble bench tops, oak joinery and a white mosaic tiled splash back.
Photography by Hilary Bradford and Derek Swalwell
Styling by Heather Nette KingInForm informdesign.com.au abc