You were born and raised in the countryside outside of Paris, and today you’re a Sydney-based interior designer. How does your background inform your practice?
I grew up on an old farm with a lot of history. Stone walls, solid timber windows and doors, terracotta tiles on the floor with a big dip in front of the entry door – so many people had walked on them over the centuries. Brass door handles that left this metallic smell on your hands for hours. As a little girl, I spent hours walking around the farm, building cabins and making things in my dad’s workshop.
Where did you study design, and how did you come to be in Australia?
While I was studying interior architecture and set design in Paris, I did an internship with Jacques Grange. One of his clients was Australian and I put out the word that I was interested in coming here to do a two-month internship. That lead me to SJB and the two months have turned into eight years. I completed an advanced diploma in interior design and a bachelor of interior design at TAFE Enmore before joining Akin Creative. That’s where my passion for hospitality really started, working closely with Kelvin Ho and Justin Hemmes on Merivale venues including Papi Chulo, Coogee Pavilion, The Paddington and the Newport Arms.
Tell me about Etic, the core ideas at the heart of the studio?
Etic was created to explore design in many different ways. While hospitality is the studio’s main focus, retail, residential, event and even industrial design are areas that interest me. To me, getting to know and understanding my clients is the most thrilling part of the project. “Etic” comes from the anthropology term describing a way of analysing a society from the outside so the human factor is at the centre of everything.
What are you working on at the moment?
I have designed a bbq in collaboration with Robert Plumb which will be shown at Denfair in June. It is exciting as it is the first project of this kind for me. I am just starting on the new Lee Mathews store in Brighton due to open in July. It is great to be able to work with the same client again. Another project I am thrilled about is a collaboration with Solotel on their new Barangaroo venue. It is the first hospitality project of this scale for Etic. Also florist stores for Hermetica in Darlinghurst and Poho in Potts Point.
What are some of the major difficulties of being a young design studio and how do you resolve them?
Having to juggle between the realities of running a studio (administrative, financial, etc.) and managing to remain creative despite that. I have found great support in some of my peers and to a greater extent in friends who have started their own business.
You seem to be most drawn to the hospitality sector, why is that?
I’m French, I love to eat! I come from a family of “bons vivants”. Meals have always been an important part of my life. It was always a happy and social moment, when there wasn’t the traditional French heated argument over lunch. Getting together with friends for a meal – minus the arguments – is still one of the most satisfying moments for me. So it feels really natural to design restaurants and bars.
What is your five-year plan for Etic?
More collaborations! With great clients but also with other designers and creatives. The studio is open to any challenge. More hospitality projects and retail are on top of the list.
Emilie Delalande was In Conversation with… Stephen Todd
Portrait by Wesley Nel