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Building a Happy Home

Ray McGreal was a resourceful, do it yourself type. In 1953, the panel beater hauled building materials down the dirt road at Opahi Bay, New Zealand, to build his family a fibrolite holiday cabin. The bay only had a handful of intrepid families at that time and the McGreal family started going there every year for their summer holidays. Ray and his wife Winifred had six children and numbers could swell to 30 when friends and extended family stayed for New Years. Theirs was the mythologised Kiwi summer holiday before sealed roads and cell phones made places like Opahi Bay feel a whole lot more accessible.

Family ties with the area have grown since the 1950s and 1960s, with three of Ray’s daughters now permanent residents. The youngest, Karena, has built her retirement home with husband Mike de Pont. They’re still a bit young to retire, but have engineered to live the dream early by selling their city home and moving to the bay.

A land subdivision provided three of the daughters with a parcel each, and a share of the family tennis court through an easement. Karena and Mike own the site of the original holiday bach, which is connected to the tennis court and the sisters’ houses via pathways and bush tracks. The tennis court has always been a social centre for the family. Today, four generations continue to play tennis, cricket and basketball on the court. Toddlers ride around on scooters and the dogs run freely up and down. “It’s like a big play pen!” says Karena.

The old bach became quite dilapidated and was pulled down about ten years ago. The couple engaged Mike’s brother, Pat de Pont, a director of Strachan Group Architects, to design a new home. “It had to accommodate a very active and gregarious live–work lifestyle,” says Pat. “Having been involved with the community for more than 50 years, the new house was to be part home, part workshop and part community facility. Karena paints and Mike is a jack of all trades, so the brief became a bit of a joke,” says Pat. “They asked for a three car-garage and art studio, and to fit the house around it. And so that’s pretty much what we did.”

In honour of the old bach, the main living space is located over its original footprint, set a metre higher to accommodate a new floor below. “When people come and visit, they say ‘oh, it’s still the same,’” says Karena. “That space has the same view and scale so it evokes old memories, which was really important for us.” The lower floor has two east-facing bedrooms for the couple’s adult sons, Karena’s new painting studio, and a dry store for the tractor and firewood. This two-storey block is perpendicular to the three-bay garage, and creates a T-shaped plan stepping east–west up the slope.

At the centre of the house is a multi-purpose atrium that formed part of the wider brief for a space to host large social events. At the same level as the garage, it also functions as the main entrance, sheltered outdoor living, internal courtyard, second dining room and a climate-modifying room for adjacent spaces. Designed with passive solar design principles, the atrium features concrete floors, large north- and east-facing windows for solar gain in winter, cross ventilation and high window vents. Exterior materials are used throughout the atrium and, combined with wide openings, create a strong connection to the outside.

Pat De Pont Whare Koa kitchen

Mike’s craft is evident in the fireplace surrounds and built-in window seats in the adjacent kitchen. He had to fell several trees to clear space for the new house which were then milled for counter tops, furniture, landscape steps, retaining walls and firewood. This was another important way for the family to capture details and memories of the site’s former occupation, to record them and give them new life in the modern building.

Overlooking the atrium is a private main bedroom on the third level. Set behind a balustrade wall, it can be opened or closed off with three large timber windows on counterweights. Despite being above to the main entrance, the bedroom feels like a hidden retreat with views of the bay through high-level atrium windows.

Behind the main bedroom, and providing access to it, is a second, smaller atrium. This weather-sealed room opens onto a small garden adjacent the tennis court. It contains a bay window, day bed and table tennis table, providing an indoor extension to tennis court activities for evenings and wet days. The requirement to dig in the garage had the added benefit of lifting the house up closer to the court and network of pathways to Karena’s sisters’ houses, strengthening the social spaces with the extended family.

The scheme effectively creates two pavilions on either side of a main atrium. With little space (and little privacy) for a northern court, the architect has connected the floors with a glazed stair along the northern face of the house. “There was this steep, straight pathway through the bush from the old bach up to the tennis court,” says Pat, “and it inspired some sort of recreation of it within the house. We’ve called it the gallery and glazed it to let in northern light and heat up the concrete floors.” With coloured glass used at intervals along its length, the gallery creates a delightful journey through the house.

Karena and Mike have named the house Whare Koa – translated from Māori as ‘happy home’ – after the name of Ray’s parents’ farmstead in South Auckland. Ray passed away 20 years ago, but Karena’s Mum Winifred – a fit 97-year-old – still travels up from Auckland every Friday night for a family dinner. “Proximity to extended family can work out depending on the dynamic of the family,” says Karena. “My sisters and I have always either worked together or holidayed together, which has made intergenerational living work really well.”

Photography by Simon Devitt

Pat De Pont Whare Koa bedroom

Pat De Pont Architect Whare Koa balcony

Pat De Pont Whare Koa exterior

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The Odyssey

What can I tell you about Marc Newson that you don’t already know? I can tell you he was once expelled from high school for dying his hair blue, red and silver. Maybe twice. I can tell you about that time in the late 80s when he drove me to a nightclub in his clunky Citroën DS 19. Backwards, through the darkened streets of Darlinghurst. I can tell you that when I proposed a Newson profile to my editor at The Australian in the early 1990s, she wanted my assurance that he wasn’t just a flash in the pan, another wide-eyed expat who would eventually fizzle into oblivion. He wasn’t and he didn’t, but you knew that already.

For anybody who’s spent the past three decades in a panic room, a recap. Marc Newson is one of the most prolific designers on the planet. He has devised luggage for Vuitton, cookware for Tefal, an aeroplane for the Cartier Foundation in Paris. He’s delivered a recording studio in Tokyo. A restaurant in London, two in New York, all three now defunct. Dish racks for Magis, ovens (Smeg), eyewear (Lanvin), sneakers (Nike), a shotgun for Beretta. An updated Riva speedboat in very limited edition. His 2007 exhibition at New York’s Gagosian Gallery – which made Marc Newson the only industrial designer to figure in the same stable as Marcel Duchamp, Francis Bacon, Andy Warhol and Jeff Koons – was described by The New York Times as “a new high” in the already frenzied design-art market. If you’re clever you can still spot a one-off Newson door handle on what was once a fashion store on Oxford Street, Paddington, Sydney. Don’t say I sent you.

Marc’s latest creation is his third iteration of the cultish Atmos clock for Swiss timekeeper, Jaeger-LeCoultre. The ultimate in geek chic, an Atmos is a torsion pendulum timepiece which derives its energy from changes in temperature and atmospheric pressure and can run for years without human intervention. It was invented in the early 17th century by a Dutchman by the name of Cornelis Drebbel who also, incidentally, built the world’s first navigable submarine – one of the few forms of motor transportation Marc hasn’t tackled. Watches and clocks he has a’plenty.

“Time,” he sighs. “It’s paradoxical really since I’ve designed so many timepieces, but the thing I would simply love to have more of is time. Not more time to do what I really love doing because in fact I’m already doing that. But today I’m having to do ten times more things in ten times less, um, time!”

In the weeks preceding our conversation, the 53-year-old designer Time magazine once listed among its 100 Most Influential People had been around the world – Milan, Tokyo, San Francisco, New York, Paris, Venice, Madrid and Geneva to be precise. When I finally get ahold of him, he’s just stepped back into his London studio which is housed in a red brick Edwardian building, a repurposed mail-sorting office ten minutes’ walk from Westminster Abby. “I’m back for a few days, which is about as much as I get to stay anywhere these days. It’s kind of non-stop.”

Except, perhaps, when he heads to his home on Ithaca. Home, in the sense that the tiny Ionian Island is where his mother’s family hails from. The cottage in which his grandfather was born is still standing, although said progenitor emigrated to Australia in 1923. His daughter Carol married electrician Paul Newson when she was 19 and pregnant with Marc. Newson père left by the time the infant was two, and Marc’s mother remarried to become Carol Conomos – an old Greek name – when he was twelve.

It was to granddad’s garage in the Sydney suburbs that young Marc Newson would retreat to tinker. By his own admission “a diabolical student”, he was interested in art, “though hardly a virtuoso draftsman”. He was apparently a deft hand with billy carts, anything with wheels. Still is.

His grandfather’s Ithaca cottage is still in the Newson family, though not on Marc’s estate. Not yet anyway. “We’ve had a house on the island since 2010 or so, and I’ve been buying up parcels of land adjacent to my property as they come up. Our house is a little bolt hole really, a teeny thing. We started construction on the big house two years ago.”

Marc’s grandfather, like many of his compatriots, emigrated to Australia after the First World War seeking a new life among folk his fellow Greek émigré, Nino Culotta (aka John O’Grady) would call “A Weird Mob”. Others left for Canada, South Africa or the United States, depleting Ithaca’s population to the point where today it peaks at a little over 3000. “I’ve no family left on the island,” says Marc. “But I do have a strong connection to the place. In summer it’s overrun with people from all the countries their ancestors emigrated to, heading back to their roots. You hear so many Australian accents you could think yourself in Sydney. In some ways it’s quite nice, in other ways it’s kind of weird.”

Marc Newson Design Hunters atmos clock

There’s something compellingly apropos about Marc’s roots being in Ithaca, legendary home of Homer’s Odysseus, the restless warrior we know as Ulysses. In the design world, Marc’s personal odyssey is the stuff of living legend.

Marc Newson was born in Sydney on October 20, 1963. He was raised by his mother, with his maternal grandfather and an uncle, Stephen, as male influences. Partial to working with his hands, in 1981 he enrolled in the jewellery design course at Sydney College of the Arts. Not because he had any intention of forging a career in bijoux but because, as he puts it, “it was the one thing in art school you could do that had a deeply practical nature. Everything else seemed to me so esoteric. If I hadn’t have gone to Sydney College of the Arts I would have been a perfect candidate for an apprenticeship or something.”

Inspired by the work of Ettore Sottsass and the Memphis movement, Marc became intrigued by the expressive essence of furniture. He seduced his tutors into conceding that furniture and jewellery were interchangeable, both existing in relation to the human body. And so his three Graduate Pieces were prototypes for chairs which combined the playful geometries of Memphis with the rugged materiality of High Tech. In doing so, he reconciled the parallel trajectories of, respectively, Post Modernism and Late Modernism. Though I’m not sure that’s what he had in mind.

“It’s important to bear in mind that all my work should not be taken too seriously, but enjoyed (I hope) for its beauty + witt (sic).” This is from a fax hand-written by Newson to Ute Rose, the recently retired general manager of Anibou, dated July 14th, 1989. It concerned his sensuous Wood chair, designed as a commissioned piece for the Crafts Council of New South Wales in 1988.

ST: Do you still think that your work shouldn’t be taken too seriously?

MN: I think so, yes. I think the comment about seriousness still holds for me today. I’ve always felt, philosophically, that one shouldn’t over-intellectualise. At the end of the day what I’m doing is offering a choice. Not in the case of a big luxury yacht, but certainly in the case of a piece of luggage or an appliance, a watch or you name it. It’s not about offering a solution, it’s about offering my opinion, my take on it. That’s one of the things I love about design, you’re not obliged to live with it if you don’t want to.

Marc made his mark as a savvy stylist early on. His graduate pieces were A-framed tubular metal struts supporting rolled aluminum volumes, easy on the eye but hard on the butt. His tripodal Insect chair – the precursor to his iconic Embryo chair – had a tendency to topple. That early Orgone shape, the rounded figure-8, became a de facto trademark, informing the Embryo chair of 1988, the Sine chair (1988), Wicker chair (1990), Felt chair (1993), Gemini pepper grinder (1997), door stopper (2002) as well as a string of things actually called Orgone (Chair, Lounge, Table, Stretch Lounge etc...).

It was also, of course, the foundation of the now infamous Lockheed Lounge of  ’88 and the less celebrated Pod of Drawers of the year before. He borrowed the Lockheed shape from the lounge upon which Madame Juliette Récamier reclines in her portrait painted by Jacques-Louis David at the turn of the 19th Century. (So iconic is David’s image that elongated sled seats are today referred to as ‘recamiers’.)

The Pod shape he appropriated from André Groult’s Chiffonier Anthropomorphique (anthropomorphic cupboard) of 1925. It’s interesting to think that a designer most often dubbed a retro-futurist for the Atomic era, sci-fi feel of his work actually drew inspiration from the history of French decorative arts. (Both the David and Groult works are on permanent display at the Louvre, Paris.)

Marc Newson Design Hunters rocky rocking horse

“There was a time Marc was trying to shoehorn that Orgone shape into every single project,” says one design commentator, who wishes to remain nameless. True, it did become a bit predictable for a while there. Marc parries: “That Orgone shape was like a tool that I used at a certain moment in time. A lot of the time it was unconscious, it would just kind of materialise in a design without me really thinking about it. I’ve never characterised my work as ‘organic’, it’s too general a term. But if it ever was, it’s not as organic now as it used to be. These days I’ve moved on to a more rational design.”

ST: Is that a result of the clients and projects you’re working on now, or is it coming from an interior drive?

MN: I think it’s both really. It’s coming from me, and it’s also a response to having to solve problems in a more rational way. In a more pragmatic way. It would be like the tail wagging the dog, to let a single motif like the Orgone shape drive the whole shebang.

Marc’s private clients these days tend to be the stealth wealthy, the nameless oligarchs and other captains of industries unknowable, people who sail and fly and otherwise rotate off the radar of we mere mortals.

ST: So, the yacht your working on for a private client, are they Greek?

MN: Yes. No. They’re Eastern European. No, that’s not correct. What can I say? I’m sworn to secrecy. It’s for a very wealthy private client, that’s about all I can say.

Newson most recently completed a BBJ (as in Boeing Business Jet, which seats between 25 and 50 passengers in a luxury configuration), and is currently working on 14 passenger and six passenger private crafts.

“What a lot of people don’t get about Marc is that he’s actually very hands on,” says Newson’s friend and colleague, Richard Allan. “He’s very much into the way things are made, as much as the way they look. He’s really curious about materials and how they can be used in new ways. He’s probably the most driven person I’ve met in my life, never sits still (except after a number of drinks).” (laughs)

Like Marc, Richard studied jewellery design though ended up becoming one of his generation’s most notable graphic designers. He collaborated on iconoclastic t-shirt label, Mambo, before joining forces with pro skaters Peter and Steven Hill in the formation of streetwear brand, Mooks. Marc became a de facto Mooks brand ambassador, sporting their signature overalls around the world, to even the most swanky events. Nowadays, Marc designs a line for Dutch denim brand, G-Star, with significant input from Richard.

“Philippe Starck made an interesting comment in the early 1990s,” recalls Richard. “He was a big fan of Marc, put the Lockheed lounge in one of his New York hotels, and he said something like ‘Marc is the first one to explore the interior of an object.’ And if you look at the Orgone, the Embryo, the Event Horizon and so forth, that’s true.”

ST: I was always a bit worried that the hollow legs of the Black Hole table would end up full of crumbs.

RA: I’ve got one of the Black Hole tables actually.

ST: Have you ever tried vacuuming the legs out?

RA: Well, in the original version the legs are totally hollow but in the later versions they’re more shallow.

ST: Problem solved then.

Marc Newson left Sydney for Tokyo in 1987 before moving to Paris in 1991. I would occasionally run into him in the street around République, unmissable in a bright orange leather biker jacket by Yohji Yamamoto. (A gift from the designer in return for Marc modeling in one of his Tokyo shows.) Lank ponytail hanging down to his waist, a seemingly eternal tan, he was like a samurai surfer boy let loose in the City of Light.

For the past two decades, he’s been based in London, where he lives with his fashion stylist wife, Charlotte Stockdale and their two daughters. Marc designed the interior of their 1340 square-metre apartment which sits in the same building as his 15-person-strong studio. It’s a cross between a streamlined Swiss chalet and a baronial hunting lodge, part Marc’s aesthetic, part Charlotte’s. (Her father is Sir Thomas Stockdale, 2nd Baronet of Hoddington, and her Colefax & Fowler covered sofas and zebra-print rugs, she’s referred to as “a little bit of Hoddington in London.”)

Marc Newson has spent 30 of his 53 years living beyond Australia’s fatal shores. He has a family in London, an estate on a Greek island, and is a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE). He retains his Australian accent, but has a penchant for the third-person singular pronoun. All those long weekends at Hoddington, one assumes. How apt is the moniker, ‘Australian designer’?

Even when I first interviewed Marc in Paris all those years ago, he was adamant that he was a designer who just happened to come from Australia, not the designated ‘Australian designer’. He retains that stance today.

“The design industry is completely and utterly global. There are no boundaries. You don’t see that in the music or film industries, even art is not so geographically non-specific. So you’ve really got to travel. That said, I think Australia was a very different place in the late 1980s early 90s than it is today. If I was doing the same thing there now I’m not sure I would have left, to be honest. Maybe there would have been enough stuff to sustain me. My desire to leave was not so much just to leave it was about exploring different ways of doing things.”

Marc Newson marc-newson.com

Photorgaphy by Richard Boll

As seen in Habitus #37

Marc Newson Design Hunters G-Star Doll

Marc Newson Design Hunters Yves Kleins Blue Venus

Marc Newson Design Hunters

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Joanne Gambale On Saving Heritage Skills From Extinction – Part 2

Deep within a ramshackle warehouse building is an unassuming Frenchman splitting straws and glueing them onto furniture. It’s not as rudimentary as it sounds. He’s one of only a handful in the world still practising straw marquetry and his pieces sell for thousands. The material isn’t valuable and the skill is, by his admission, fairly straightforward, but the time it takes makes for a precious commodity. As with the craft of passementeries, this method of decorating furniture is cost-ineffective and few are willing to pay the resulting value, especially when our idea of ‘value’ has been so warped by the era of cheap mass production overseas. Arthur’s father, Jean-Luc Seigneur, is another champion of an old craft: a rare embossing and hot stamping technique, and his own experience represents the downward spiral of the handmade. He established his workshop in 1979 near Bastille, Paris, but has slowly been pushed to the outer suburbs, forced to fire his team one by one until he was left on his own, despite collaborations with major luxury brands. He remembers the era when designers started to become more obsessed with making income than making things of beauty. He still collaborates with decorators, artists and artisans and watching him in action is an inspiration. A resurgence of the handcrafted is building momentum, so will that equate to a change in buying behaviour, which might, in turn, allow sole traders to hire young apprentices and keep their craft alive? Arthur’s recent collaborations in Australia tell of a demand from the upper echelons of interior design: Thomas Hamel, Burley Katon Halliday, Nina Maya, Jason Mowen, James Salmond and Adam Goodrum to name a few. He sees his future as creating more artworks than furniture, explaining that people are more willing to splurge on art. Arthur learnt straw marquetry in Paris from Lison de Caunes, a family friend whose grandfather, designer André Groult, had dabbled in it himself during the craft’s Art Deco revival, and had bequeathed her his stockpile of straw. Lison has single-handedly revived the craft in France and her mission shows what can be done with a personal investment in preservation. Arthur has had the occasional notion to teach his skills to young Australians (who often turn out to be French expats). He’s found trained bookbinders seem to pick it up most effectively. There’s another craft we’re in danger of losing. Arthur Seigneur Could some of the Gen Y and Z-ers who apply for ‘internships’ on Pedestrian TV and work for anyone for free doing anything be gently beckoned away from the overflowing digital industry and into Arthur’s workshop? Same lack of pay, but to become ambassadors of a centuries-old craft rather than digital minions. The revival of some ancient crafts via forward-thinking designers suggests we’re entering an era in which this wouldn’t be an impossible notion. British designer Simon Hasan’s work walks the line between ancient crafts and industrial design, practising what he calls ‘design archaeology’. For years he’s crafted leather furniture using a medieval technique once used to make armour, which alters the tannin and collagen fibres in the leather to make it rigid and structural. Ceramicist Joe Darling of The Pottery Shed, whose hand-throwing classes just keep getting bigger, has faith in our “natural balance” and believes we just won’t allow heirloom crafts to be rendered obsolete. Sydney-based stonemason Ted Higgins too says these skills have a habit of being passed down at the “eleventh hour”. He’s seen the cycle of ageing stonemasons who realise they need to pass on their skills just before they retire – indeed, they were his teachers. That said, he’s only had three apprentices of his own in 20 years. “You can’t learn this stuff from a book,” says Ted. “You need to sit there and watch and watch…” The eleventh hour must be pretty close; let’s hope TAFE sees a mad last-minute rush. Design Hunters Porte Paris door Design Hunters door [caption id="attachment_64693" align="alignnone" width="1171"]Arthur Seigneur Photography by Alastair Woods[/caption] [caption id="attachment_64692" align="alignnone" width="1170"]Arthur Seigneur Josh Purnell Photography by Josh Purnell[/caption] [caption id="attachment_64566" align="alignnone" width="1170"]Design Hunters Josh Purnell arthur cubes Photography by Fiona Susanto[/caption] [caption id="attachment_64564" align="alignnone" width="1170"]Design Hunters Fiona Susanto cabnet Photography by Fiona Susanto[/caption] Arthur Seigneur  abc
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Ain’t No Party Like a Gray Puksand Party

Guests enjoyed an unforgettable experience at level 55 of Melbourne's iconic Rialto building, where Gray Puksand was able to thank clients, supporters and staff alike on another stellar year. Managing Partner Robert Puksand and State Partner Nik Tabain were present to announce the acclaimed architecture and design practice's vision for a truly inspired future, and that’s something worth celebrating. Photography by Elleni Toumpas Styling by St Hakea Events [gallery columns="5" ids="64507,64508,64509,64510,64511,64512,64513,64514,64515,64516,64517,64518,64519,64520,64521,64522,64523,64524,64525,64526,64527,64528,64529,64530,64531,64532,64533,64534,64535,64536,64537,64538,64539,64540,64541,64542,64543,64544,64545,64546,64547,64548,64549,64550,64551,64552,64553,64554,64555,64556,64557,64558,64559,64561,64562,64565,64567,64568,64570,64571,64572,64573,64574,64575,64576,64577,64578,64579,64580,64581,64582,64583,64584"]abc
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It’s Sō Appealing! Franchise Restaurant Design Gets a Rethink

We all know the ingredients of chain restaurant design: identity, adaptability, cost effectiveness and efficiency. Things need to be smart but not overly simplified. You don’t want to be reinventing the wheel with every new opening, but neither do you want your charisma to be reduced to supermarket levels. You need a design framework that’ll allow for variation and a meaningful experience of the interior. That’s what Singaporean design studio Ensemble delivered with the Sō ramen restaurant at NEX mall – the first of five branches that have been rolled out in recent months around the island. Ensemble Director Leslie Seow believes it was Ensemble’s design method that won the studio the job. “We didn’t offer a signature look so much as a signature method,” he says. “We brought the client on a holistic design journey so they could understand how we interpret things – how we think from a design point of view.” Ensemble’s method involved the development of an oak and bamboo pavilion and screen system inspired by traditional Japanese architecture. For the first outlet, the pre-constructed modular screens were assembled on site within two weeks. Elements of the system have since appeared in subsequent Sō restaurants. To humanise the tunnel-like floor plan of Sō at NEX, Ensemble divided the interior into three dining zones. The facade and the first dining hall are defined by timber canopies, monolithic stone-like forms, and shoji-inspired screens. The second dining hall sits alongside the show kitchen. In contrast with the typically unforgiving glare of downlights and fluroros, this hall is illuminated by soft lighting that emanates through shoji-like screens. The third dining hall has the character of a private enclosure wrapped in oak and bamboo screens. Custom-made dining chairs were inspired by torii gates. “We wanted to use the wall and ceiling design to make each of the spaces feel different while preserving a common language,” says Seow. It’s an approach that is easily transferable to alternate locations with the backstop of efficient modularity. The expression of the Sō brand is not just about its logo or the treatment of its walls, as is commonly encountered in Singaporean chain restaurants. Ensemble has developed a three-dimensional character that can be enjoyed while it etches itself in the memory. Ensemble ensemble.sg Sō Ensemble design interior 4 Sō Ensemble design interior 7 Sō Ensemble design interior Sō Ensemble design interior 3abc
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Every Room Becomes an Eye-Catcher With 3D Vertical Waves

The combination of gentle color sequences and contrast-rich shadows in the 3D Vertical Wave system creates a wonderful depth effect that that brings a wall to life. From a flowing wave structure to a bulbous honeycomb texture, the design opens up exciting insights, changing as the viewer moves, creating new effects depending on the viewing angle. The 3D vertical wave system is an extension of Silent Gliss’ previous product – the Vertical Wave – and uses a representation of spherical shapes to create a series of unique cascading effect on the wall. The 3D Vertical Waves come in a range of colours to match any number of interior design aesthetics, and are precision printed using advanced 3D printers, ensuring smooth borders and flawless placing. Compatibility with the Silent Gliss Move app means the blinds are conveniently operated at the touch of a button from anywhere in the world. As with all new Silent Gliss products, the 3D Vertical Waves were developed with user functionality, elegant design and the highest quality window treatment in mind. Silent Gliss silentgliss.com.au abc
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Millennial 20/20 Sydney: A Global Summit For Thought Leaders

In today’s world of fashion faux pas and reality television, it seems millennials are to blame for many things. Beyond eating all the avocados, millennials are impacting other areas as well; most notably in business. Unpacking this concept comes Millennial 20/20, a global summit determined to understand the contemporary consumer, who – bolstered by modern technology and a 24-hour news cycle – is more difficult to please than ever. With previous residencies in London, New York and Singapore, Millennial 20/20 Sydney will mark the first time this groundbreaking event visits Australian shores. Shaped by the local marketplace, Millennial 20/20 Sydney looks to Australia’s own movers and shakers for answers posed by the next gen. Across two days of discussions and demonstrations, the global summit asks industry leaders for their take on consumers’ millennial mindset and how it’s transforming their businesses. Expedia’s ANZ Managing Director, Michael Pearson, AirBnB’s ANZ Country Manager, Sam McDonagh, and Patrick Schmidt, the CEO of Iconic, are just a the few of the speakers that will throw their hat in over the two days. Running Tuesday 14-15th November at Sydney’s iconic Carriageworks, Millenial 20/20 will also feature immersive showcases, a curated exhibition and bespoke networking events. Throughout the insightful two days runs the event’s core, founding belief: that millennial is a mindset rather than just a demographic. “This mindset extends into consumer patterns and behaviours that are having an evolutionary impact on businesses and brands across the globe,” says Rupa Ganatra, Founding Partner of Millennial 20/20. “Millennials are driven by authenticity, connection, creativity, trust, convenience and digitalisation – this will forever change how businesses attract and engage with their consumers,” adds Lauren Greschner, Event Head. Whether you’re a baby boomer or Gen Z – there is a little millennial in all of us, and when we speak, businesses listen. Millennial 20/20 millennial20-20.com Millennial 20/20 Millennial 20/20abc
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People

In Conversation With… Barber Osgerby

Stephen Todd: As a studio, Barber Osgerby has been around for some 20 years but you’ve not got a massive catalogue. I don’t get the sense that you’re churning out product. Jay Osgerby: That’s an accurate assessment and there are lots of reasons for that. Firstly, because we spend a lot of time researching our products. Secondly, because we like to put out products that have something to say and that have some longevity to them. Some companies take pride in the fact that they can produce X number of products in Y amount of time, but that’s not really our philosophy. EB: It’s not possible to be that prolific and be that good. Also, we retain a deliberately small design studio of six so we can focus on each product in an indepth manner. Yet you head up three separate studios. JO: Yes. One is an architecture and interiors company called Universal, the other is a strategy-based industrial design company called Map. Recently, we have manoeuvred those companies into positions where they can better run themselves. We’re founding directors but we’re not creative directors. Is there a disconnect between the design studios you founded and the output of Barber Osgerby? EB: Yes, I would say there is definitely a disconnect now. As they’ve grown and we’ve decided to move more deeply into furniture design we began parting ways two or three years ago. Does that mean that we’ll begin to see more – and more intense – products from Barber Osgerby? JO: Yes, but we’re not going to go crazy all of a sudden! EB: Maybe ten new objects a year, not eight hundred or whatever. We’ll want to be making one really great chair that will last say thirty or forty years, not 12 shit chairs because we think the market can absorb them.  The Pacific chair is not your first product for Vitra but it is your first office chair. That must have been a steep learning curve. JO: Like so many of these big projects, there is so much to learn. It’s like doing a master’s degree all over again. There are so many aspects of designing an office chair that are unique to that typology. Also, the people who buy it are probably not going to be the same people who use it, so you’re designing something that essentially has a list of options. Like a car really, it’s a system. Given that you’d not done an office chair before, why did Vitra ask you to design one for them? EB: They really liked the Tip Ton chair we designed for them in 2011. We’d worked out that if the skids were at a nine degree angle the chair would be functional in two distinct positions. Vitra were really very happy with that product because it opened up a new category in the chair market for them. Even though probably thousands of chairs are designed every year, to be able to say that there’s something completely new in a chair, that’s very difficult to do. They call it the new archetype. Is that two-positon tip sled something that shall forever more be identified with Barber Osgerby? JO: Well, the patent’s gone out with our name on it, so we imagine it will be, yes. So Vitra thought you might be likely to revolutionise the office chair sector in the same way? EB: Essentially, yes. But as soon as we began considering the project, it became evident that it’s harder because there are thousands of office chairs on the market and each one has its unique selling point. An arm, or back, or wheels that do something that another chair does not. It’s like a car, it needs its ‘thing’. In 25 words or less, what is Pacific chair’s thing? JO: It is a chair that offers all the functions of a task chair but it doesn’t look like it does because it’s so visually simple. Twenty-five words exactly! Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby were In Conversation With… Stephen Todd Portrait by Jessica Kingelfussabc
Design Hunters
DH - Feature
People

Peng Loh Is The Grand Hotel(ier)

I could never have expected such a litany of details. When I enquired off-hand about Loh Lik Peng’s earliest memories of  hotels, I received a story so furnished with particulars and wry observations of human oddities that, at times, it felt like I was interviewing E.M. Forster (sultry, colonial heatwaves inclusive).

You see, apparently, they wore white gloves. And in those white gloves, they – a small army of twelve year olds – diligently flitted about a (now extinct) Sri Lankan villa, barefoot and in long, Nehru-collared tunics crispened from litres of starch. In white gloves they carried telephones with rotary dials and heavy receivers between viewing decks and breakfast rooms; they silently turned-down beds; re-arranged mosquito nets; shuttled silver buckets of hand-cut ice up and down stairs. And in white gloves, greeted people with broad grins under the sub-tropical sun.

“It was all very colonial – this big, beautiful old place. It probably wasn’t very luxurious but in my mind it was a whole other world. This is one of my earliest memories”, Peng tells me. “It’s a strange fate, I suppose, that it’s one of a hotel my family visited when I couldn’t have been more than seven years of age.”

Fate indeed. That seven year-old sitting poolside an upper-shelf Sri Lankan hotel has, 38 years later, become one of the world’s most critically acclaimed hoteliers and restauranteurs. With a string of more than seven boutique hotels and 20 fine-dining restaurants in the major cosmopolitan cities of Singapore, London, Shanghai and Sydney (known collectively as Unlisted Collection), Peng has become renowned for reinterpreting tired, heritage sites into modern lifestyle concepts – always with a high  degree of finesse and stylish whimsy.

“In a way,” he tells me one morning, “I suppose I’m always turning back to that childhood memory of the Sri Lankan hotel – to that feeling of visiting a whole other world.

“Today I am drawn to refining an idea of hospitality into a deep experience of multiplicity – mainly because I enjoy that immersion so much. Travelling, seeing new places, sampling local neighbourhoods are all distinct but absolutely interconnected experiences. Each of my hotels or restaurants aims to provide that feeling of immersion and wonder.”

And wonderment, it would seem, is something that Peng has found in no short supply. Last year, a Forbes journalist categorically declared “Anything-Goes Loh with a Midas touch.” But I find that denomination a little wanting. Peng may very well be a little bit of a blithe oddball, but ‘anything’ will not necessarily always ‘go’.

Approaching even the most miniscule of details with laborious deliberation, Peng is a master of precision and intent. Not a single element – such as the length of fork tines in his Waterhouse Hotel in South Bund of Shanghai, or the embroidery on the laundry bags of his latest establishment in Sydney, The Old Clare Hotel – escapes Peng’s ruminative methods.

And the man himself is no exception. For almost two hours, Peng responds to each and every one of my questions with a fillet knife-sharp clarity and measured syncopation, never erring from his perfect metier of insightfulness and levity. It’s obviously a linguistic method he’s curated over many years and even more flyer miles.

The son of two Singaporean doctors, Peng is Dublin-born, Singapore-raised, and London-trained. Earning a law degree from the University of Sheffield before continuing in post-graduate business studies at the London School of Economics, Peng eventually left the world of practicing at a bar he found “rather boring”, to practicing at a bar of quite a different kind.

From jurisprudence to hospitality, he speaks to me today in his Singaporean apartment, enveloped in a decorative scheme I – ironically – haven’t the words to define. To his left is a family of industrial electric fans of similar sizes, each with that gloss enamelled tulip base and graphic wirework cage (the pewter has lost its lustre but the sheen of their lacquering has not drained one iota since manufacture almost a century ago). By a wall, antique advertisements for all manner of goods (or, indeed, morals) provide the backdrop for a system of atomic age furniture with sweeping vital lines.

“They were my avenue through to loving design and design history. I don’t know why, but I find them endlessly fascinating,”, he says. Whether it’s this rather chic apartment he shares with violinist wife Min Lee and their two small children, or his Bethnal Green Town Hall in London he shares with guests in more than ninety-eight rooms, there is no mistaking Peng’s characteristic orientation to design.

Mid-Century revival, eclectic minimalism, disruptive post-modernity… all buzzy terms fail to capture the dynamism, grace and joy of the Loh Lik Peng aesthetic. And potentially, this is because they are experiences more than mere sites.

“When scouting for a new location, I’m on the hunt for stories – for buildings that are a little unloved but that also have character and breathe the story of their neighbourhood. Each one of the Unlisted Collection’s hotels or restaurants is a reflection of its city, and I think that what makes them unique is that each location is alive, in a way, with the people who live there, or work there, or even just are passing through as visitors.

“The history is always the most important thing because it provides the narrative and the romance.”

This became all-too apparent to me a week earlier as I sat on a barstool drinking wine in The Old Clare Hotel – Peng’s recent hotel project in one of Sydney’s abandoned breweries. As I glance around the room, I can’t shirk the sensation that the structure itself is performing an act of seduction … a striptease, if you will. It has a coquette’s charm and a stripper’s bravado, teasing me nonstop by dressing and undressing.

Here, a spirited, modern interpretation of a barbershop chair sits beside a raw sandstone wall (divots and scratches from the original nineteenth-century masonry are exposed from having removed the pea green cladding slapped up in the 1960s). There, some ancient safes in the lobby are mounted in pride, illuminated by the aureated glow of ultra-contemporary lighting.

“That was a total surprise!” Peng exclaims mid laugh. “We uncovered these filthy old safes in the basement of The Old Clare where they must have been walled-in and sealed-up for almost a hundred years. We broke into them, as gently as possible, and discovered reams of old documents: a budget, receipts, contracts, all sorts. I thought that these relics of local history were incredible (even if the contents were a bit … what’s the word? Mundane?) so I couldn’t bring myself to throw them away. And there they are, in the lobby in pride of place, to celebrate the stories and the people who once brought this building alive.

“But those safe doors! They must’ve weighed three- or four-hundred kilograms each!”

With a curator’s sense of preservation and an enthusiast’s desire for discovery, the odd tale of the safes is but one of the jolly stories of learning to love the past hand-in-hand with the present which gives Peng’s creations an aura not of timelessness, but otherworldliness.

When visiting the High-Victorian council chambers in London’s East End (Peng’s Town Hall hotel), I discover that the walls are adorned with artefacts of bravery and pluck. Everywhere, sooty and tattered evacuation posters tell me that this is the correct way to wear my gasmask and I should hot-foot it to the nearest Tube station until the third siren.

“Now that I think about it, perhaps that experience of being seven in the Sri Lankan hotel has shaped my approach more than I thought. They might be mine or someone else’s, but the muse is always memory.”

Photography Caleb Ming

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Architecture
Homes

A Modern Home That Honours Its 1970s Foundations

The brown brick of this 1970s family home had become an indication of the house’s age and tired appearance. When the family appealed to Inbetween Architecture to rejuvenate their much-loved but visually lost home, architect John Liu chose to focus in on the material rather than to dress it up. The original house was a three-storey solid structure with the enveloping brickwork exuding a muscular and heavy presence. The house takes a prime seat overlooking Melbourne’s Ruffey Lake Park. The family wanted to take better advantage of the location and size of the block, while opening up interior spaces to welcome in more natural light and ventilation. The brown brick façade was retained on the ground and basement levels to honour the vintage architecture and heritage of the house. To tidy the bones of the initial house, Inbetween Architecture used contemporary styled windows and parapets to contour the exterior space with clean lines, modernising the appeal of the original material. Hit and miss brickwork is used to visually dissolves the boundaries between the old and new faces of the house. This brick effect clears to reveal the new charcoal cladding. The use of this material softens the street view of the house, visually concealing the first storey of the structure while delineating the texture and colour of the brickwork. The upper level was rebuilt and extended to enhance light into the interior spaces while orienting itself around the exterior to highlight the site’s remarkable views. The stepped levels were cleverly reworked to establish a more modern structure and reaches out over and interacts with its surrounding spaces. Skylights were introduced throughout to allow for maximum light, while continuing to better establish the relationship between the house and the natural elements and its location. It is important for a house to act as an artefact of its own history; to tell of the tastes and materials popular at the time of its creation, the lives and needs of its residents and the qualities inherent to the natural site. And while it is sometimes tempting to wipe the slate clean aesthetically, it is the enduring traces of the structure’s past that create an altogether more rich and interesting monument. Inbetween Architecture inbetweenarchitecture.com.au Photography Tatjana Plitt Inbetween Architects Ruffey Lake House lounge room   abc
Design Hunters
Conversations

Joanne Gambale On Saving Heritage Skills From Extinction – Part 1

Call me mad but two years ago I bought an Edwardian dress for my daughter, then four, to wear at a wedding. She still wears it now but a few months back two of the hand-crocheted buttonholes came undone. I knew my favourite tailor didn’t have the time to crochet buttonholes (and I didn’t have the skill) so after a fruitless search for help I posted the dress to my Mum in England, who did a beautiful job and posted it back. I’d bought the dress from Beth Armstrong, a filmmaker and avid collector of antique clothing in inner-west Sydney. She told me she used to work with a young Indian woman who learned her sewing skills from her grandmother. “Her work was exceptional and she could do any cross stitch, Victorian padded embroidery, invisible mends with the finest thread of silk.” When that seamstress moved on even Beth – with all the contacts you could hope for – couldn’t find anyone with the skills to repair an antique sheet. “I took it to be patched by a local tailor and she just machine-stitched a square onto it. The ladies of yesteryear would have rolled in their grave.” Our dexterous and meticulous ancestors will no doubt have grown tired of rolling in their graves by now, such has been the downward journey of ‘handmade’. Wheelwrighting, manual metal spinning, blacksmithing, coopering and saddle making skills are mostly confined to ‘historical towns’ such as Sovereign Hill, retaining only their novelty value. While it’s true we must continue to forge ahead in manufacturing, are we being too careless with our heritage crafts? ‘Old master’ of timber restoration, 74-year-old Heath Larke simply shrugs and says: “All these skills are going with us when we pass on.” Morrison Polkinghorn Nikki To studio 5 “Old master” is how a younger peer, plasterer David Hough describes him, but Heath insists on being called a “tradesman”. He’s semi-retired now but can count among his life experiences months spent alone on Fort Denison restoring doors and windows. Indeed he’s worked on his own for 40 years, never being able to afford an apprentice. He recalls “Big Pete” in the 1970s who “did the whole thing himself”; Patrick, who gold-leafed and Ivan who French polished. If their offspring weren’t up for it and the cost of an apprentice was crippling then how could they have passed these skills down? We almost lost hand-thrown ceramics in the 1990s, a decade that ironically began with Ghost and pop culture’s subsequent lust-affair with a potter’s wheel. Joe Darling, founder of The Pottery Shed in Surry Hills, remembers a stark dip in hand-thrown ceramics due to cheaper overseas mass-production and names one of its saviours as Danish ceramics company Tortus and its ‘rockstar’ founders the Landon brothers, along with a worldwide internet campaign. Now buying and making handmade ceramics only seems to gain popularity with time. A craft that can’t currently claim the same is upholstery. We need a Ghost equivalent Hollywood blockbuster to make upholstery sexy – cue the scene of a beautiful young couple unpeeling the moth-eaten velvet off an easy chair. Interiors veteran David Clark, who began his career selling textiles, doesn’t know of many learning the upholstery trade today. TAFE offers it but classes only go ahead if enough apprentices register, and though the average salary for an upholsterer is on par with a plumber’s, I find no jobs for the former advertised on Seek.com. Little encouragement for a school leaver, but perhaps we need to market upholstery as the acquired craft it could be; much sought-after by top interior designers. Apprentice upholsterers should learn the skill of not selling themselves short or ‘how to ask for more money’. Morrison Polkinghorn Nikki To studio 7 Morrison Polkinghorne skipped a career in upholstery to funnel his skills into an even tighter niche. The textile designer is one of only a few in the world to specialise in passesmenteries – hand-crafted French-style trimmings, braids and tassels. He’s created custom fit-outs for the Prime Minister’s residence and the Packers. Like many of these skills, passementeries is time-consuming and resource-heavy but, more importantly perhaps, can be taught to anyone possessing a little patience. It might be too early to sound the death knell for many historical crafts because each one I find seems to have a dedicated champion quietly beavering away in a corner of the world. And each heritage council across Australia knows at least a handful of craftspeople who help preserve and restore our protected built environment. It could be as simple as matching each master with a couple of eager apprentices, but then nothing is that straightforward – it took months just to fix a pair of broken buttonholes. Photography by Nikki To Morrison Polkinghorn Nikki To studio 8 Morrison Polkinghorn Nikki To studio 3abc
Happenings
Parties

Celebrating Schiavello in the UAE!

With the event hosted in Dubai's design district, also the home of the newly launched showroom, Schiavello were able to demonstrate their ongoing dedication to delivering innovative design to the region and abroad. The private event played host to the UAE's top architects and designers alongside representatives from the Australian Embassy and key guests flying in from Australia. Guests enjoyed a delicious selection of Australian canapés and drinks to the backdrop of a locally renowned jazz band. It was a memorable evening and a great way to see the design brand of Schiavello grow across the globe!   [gallery columns="5" ids="64117,64118,64119,64120,64121,64122,64123,64124,64125,64126,64127,64128,64129,64130,64131,64132,64133,64134,64135,64136,64137,64138,64139,64140,64141,64142,64143,64144,64145,64146,64147,64148,64149,64150,64151,64152,64153,64154,64155,64156,64157,64158,64159,64160,64161,64162,64163,64164,64165,64166,64167,64168,64169,64170,64171,64172,64173,64174,64175,64176,64177,64178,64179"]abc