Léo Terrando joins my video call from his Bells Beach home on the Victorian coast. A Brett Ferry artwork hangs behind him on the vertical wood-panelled walls of his sunlit 1970s house. Nearby is a potted Kentia Palm and a white Brumbury Lamp by Luigi Massoni.
This isn’t the only Bells Beach property that Terrando is familiar with. Since launching his eponymous design practice just a couple of months ago, Terrando has already landed a large residential project in the area.
Over the course of his career, Léo Terrando has carved out a niche for himself by drawing on an interest in layering and bringing depth to design spaces that tell stories through their complexities. With two decades of industry experience under his belt in both Australia and France, the architectural interior designer will bring this knowledge to his practice and continue to specialise in hospitality, commercial and residential interiors.
Prior to establishing his own practice, Terrando worked at SJB Interiors’ for over 14 years, designing award-winning hospitality and residential interiors.
“Leaving SJB is still very difficult. I shared a lot of really great memories with my business partner. I learned a lot from him, we travelled together and we did some pretty great things,” says Terrando, who had been a director at SJB for five years.
Despite the shared history, it felt like the right time to leave SJB. Terrando began his practice at the start of June, something he had never dreamed of doing.
“I had absolutely no idea of what was involved to start my own business,” says Terrando. “To run and design a project, I can do it with closed eyes. But to start a business from the beginning, that was a big challenge.”
Leaving SJB meant Terrando client list also had to start from scratch. The challenges though, says Terrando, have paid off.
“As soon as I started my own thing it just opened the door to new opportunities and that’s pretty exciting,” says Terrando. “Suddenly I’m facing all of these people with amazing projects and amazing opportunities.”
Dinner with friends from France a few months back, for instance, led to new introductions to a few friendly acquaintances — two of whom soon became his first clients as a solo designer. One needed assistance on a large residential project in Bells Beach, another was looking for a designer for their brand’s Melbourne flagship store. Just as Terrando finished the documentation for the first store, the client let him know that they’d also need his help on their stores in Sydney, London, Paris and New York. He’s also working on a hotel and a restaurant, both in Melbourne.
According to Terrando, a lot of people prefer to work with smaller design companies rather than the large firms, because of the personalised feel.
“By doing my own brand, I still want to have people working for me and with me. But I don’t want a lot of projects, I just want a few. My dream office would have one of each project: one hotel, one bar, one house, one commercial project,” says Terrando.
He aims to keep the company small in order to maintain the bespoke and personalised element of the work. At the moment, Terrando has employed an interior designer and a rendering and visualisation expert.
“When I have another project come in, we’ll have to employ another person. I’m planning to have maybe in total five or six people, but no more,” says Terrando.
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