Sarah Ellison is well travelled when it comes to Australia. She was born in Byron Bay, grew up in Perth, and spent the past 20 years living in Sydney’s Bondi Beach. Just recently, she and her family moved back to Byron. So when she says her second collection of furniture, Golden, under the moniker Sarah Ellison Studio, is her take on contemporary Australian design with a coastal edge, you can trust she knows what she’s talking about.
Add to that the eight years she spent as the style editor for a leading Australian interior design and lifestyle magazine, and her background and education in fashion design, and you really know you’re in safe hands.
Sarah began Sarah Ellison Studio officially in 2017 when she decided to take the plunge and to commit to ideas that up until then seemed like cloudy, aspirational dreams. She had a sound knowledge of the industry and knew exactly the niche she wanted to fill.
“I [was] using all this incredible high-end furniture in my photo shoots that I wanted for myself but it was so expensive. And I found that for good Australian designers the entry level for their pieces was still very high. I wanted to try and design something that was of that calibre, but more affordable,” says Sarah.
There was plenty of design at the top of the market, and it was just as healthy at the bottom, but no one really spoke to design-conscious consumers somewhere in the middle. “I felt like there was nothing cool on offer in that middle market, so that was where we started with the brand,” she adds. Despite a background on the creative side of things, her business plan was textbook.
Golden is a small series of furniture designed by Sarah and manufactured by specialists in Indonesia. In that way, Sarah Ellison Studio is governed by practicality. Sarah isn’t an industrial designer and nor is her business partner who comes instead from a fashion PR background. So they outsource that aspect of the business. And while Sarah investigated manufacturing locally, economically it wasn’t conducive to the price point at which she wanted to her pieces to sit.
The use of rattan champions the collection, a material Sarah always had in mind to work with but in a very specific way. Brass accents elevate the designs and bypass ‘trend’ territory. Channelling 70s glamour and the work of Milanese designer Gabriella Crespi, the second collection intentionally makes a louder statement than that of the first.
The New Ware Collection was Sarah’s debut to market, so is understandably more pragmatic in approach. “For the first collection, I felt I couldn’t really show my style by doing just one line of things, so it had to be a little bit of everything sprinkled together to create the whole look.” Interestingly, it’s strikingly different both in aesthetic and material choices. As is The Beach Club, her collaboration with Terranova tiles.
It’s a unique – and refreshing – point of difference, one Sarah attributes to her background as a stylist and style editor: one week’s project could be so vastly different to the next. And given there are no plans to set aside her styling jobs, her third collection could very well be vastly different again in style or materiality from her first and second.
For some designers, materials are chosen for their functional attributes or visual suitability to a design. For Sarah, it can be the other way around. “Material is really key for me: finding a material that I love and then working out what I can do with it within the restraints of our brand,” she says, citing coloured concrete, limestone, onyx and glass as areas of interest.
Clearly, it’s of no consequence where Sarah is located, her ability and desire to design and create is often inspired by her surrounds. In that way, a change of scenery might be a spark in the ignition of the next chapter of Sarah Ellison Studio – whatever that may be.
Sarah Ellison Studio
Photography by Dave Wheeler
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