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Miriam Fanning On Living Design, Rather Than Doing It

Accomplished interior designer and Gaggenau Kitchen of the Year Design Contest judge, Miriam Fanning, talks to us about the increasing focus on life-enhancing design, the appeal of collecting – and creating – art, and why trends are something to be avoided.

With over two decades of design practice fueled by the ambition to produce bespoke results that enhance her clients’ lives, Miriam Fanning is one of the most respected and influential figures in the Australian design industry. Sparked by the enduring love of drawing nurtured throughout her childhood, Miriam’s remarkable career has seen her involved in a broad range of Australian and international projects, which – alongside her travels throughout Europe and America – informed her interest in retail and hospitality environments.

Today, the renowned designer, keynote speaker and recipient of some of the most prestigious international industry awards heads up a multi-disciplinary studio, Mim Design. As the Founder and Principal Interior Designer of the practice, Miriam seeks a profound sense of design and rational use of purpose for each project, be it a commercial interior, a high-end hotel or a multi-residential dwelling.

The Bowers, Manly| Interiors | Mim Design

With a broad array of magnificent designs within their portfolio, this year the award-winning studio commemorates its 21-year legacy with a publication celebrating its most memorable projects and collaborations. With hand-drawn sketches, interviews with Mim Design collaborators and essays by acclaimed design author Karen McCartney, “Works” provides a glimpse into the intimate relationship between the studio and their clients and offers a suggestion on what the future holds for the Australian design industry.

While we eagerly await the release of the retrospective, Miriam talks to us about the most pertinent turning point of her career, how the pandemic has given us a greater understanding of our needs – and what “living” rather than “doing” design means.

Habitus: Tell us about what led you to where you are now.

Growing up, I was always encouraged to keep busy and enjoy life rather than sit still, and this family value manifested itself in a love of drawing, which opened my mind to the visual world from a very early age. This is where it all started, from studying to then working in a large architectural firm and then starting my own practice, which was the most significant turning point in my career.

I had a young child at the time, and my intention was to work as a design consultant, affording me the freedom of flexible hours and the diversity I craved. It’s always a risk going out on your own, so it was a leap of faith, however I was very fortunate and within weeks I landed my first project working on a resort in North Queensland. Before I knew it, my independent consultancy grew into a studio — we’ve continued to grow incrementally since then, and now have a team of 30 dedicated professionals.

The Bowers, Manly| Interiors | Mim Design

How does your home reflect your passions, interests and creativity?

I “live design” rather than “do design” and am a big believer in loving what you do and doing what you love. I’m fortunate enough to be in a position where that’s possible, and, as such, my home certainly reflects my passions, interests and creativity.

I’m an avid art collector and quite enjoy picking up a brush when I have a moment of spare time — I love to surround myself with beautiful pieces that bring me and my family joy. I also take pride in helping to guide my clients through their own art-collector journey because I know what a wonderful experience it is to understand what kind of art moves you and how to use it within a space. Our home is comfortable, relaxing, and most definitely not precious.

Coastal Pavillion | Interiors | Mim Design

How do you see kitchen design changing?

Trends are something to be avoided as they come and go with little long-lasting impact or

substance. However, design — including kitchen design — will, of course, continue to evolve, and in the next five to ten years, we’re sure to feel the impact of the pandemic in the way we experience the world through design.

From a residential perspective, it’s safe to say we value our homes more than before, and this alone will see an increased focus on life-enhancing design. This could be as simple as creating more spaces for leisure and quiet time, or conversely, more productive environments. The pandemic has given us a greater understanding of our needs, and our homes will need to work harder as a result.

Why are kitchen spaces so important to the home?

Kitchens often act as a central axis or ‘heart’ of the home, connecting to other spaces effortlessly and fostering a sense of togetherness and warmth. These are spaces that help define a personality within a home as they can be customised, crafted and planned to suit and reflect the philosophy of the home and the way we live.

NNH Residence | Interiors | Mim Design

What trends came out of the Gaggenau Kitchen of the Year awards?

I would not say we saw trends this year. I would like to say that we were immersed in an array of leading-edge design projects. Each was original, authentic and holistic in their approach to deliver a strong philosophy connecting with the interior and external environment, whilst ensuring the technical and practical application was paramount in delivering a strong design standing the test of time. In turn, creating designs for now and the future, defeating all trends.

View the full shortlist of Gaggenau Kitchen of the Year 2021 projects here. 

And if you’re interested in the publication that celebrates 21 years of Mim Design’s practice, Ahead of it’s launch on September 20, “Works” is now available for pre-order at mimdesign.com.au/works-by-mim-design