Selecting a space that was much smaller than the Melbourne showroom, jewellery designer Cushla Whiting wanted the new venue to convey her brand in terms of the experience, but stand apart as a bespoke offering.
To this end, and working in collaboration with interior designer Prue Dabelstein of Dreamers & Shakers, the long narrow room has been arranged to accommodate appointments rather than general shopping.
Moreover, there is a pre-appointment consultation to ensure the right pieces are available to view, with special pieces brought to Sydney as needed.
As such, the room details could remain minimal without the usual need for display cabinets or shelving. Instead the space is warm and inviting with bold and soft elements punctuated by moments of unexpected delight.
The pair of pale pink Murano wall sconces on a paler pink French-washed lime wall, for example, is both a reference to the building’s heritage and a simple but delightful sculptural interruption to the wall. This pink in effect ties back to the Melbourne showroom where she discovered pink pigment in the concrete floors as they were being polished back, and stopped the polishing soon enough to allow the dusky pink and grey to remain as a feature.
Gold however is the dominant, with subtle gold elements in the brass plate signage, curtain, rug and cork flooring. “The studio is in this beautiful Art Deco Trust Building with some really nice features. In the entry foyer, there’s beautiful brass detailing everywhere and the elevators. Those brass doors!” says Cushla Whiting.
The room decoration is in fact an exercise in balancing exuberance, scale and tonal variations. A small vintage console in travertine marks the entry, however, the room itself is simply a table and chairs, a rug, an artwork, curtains and a light.
The beauty of the design lies in the arc of the oval being repeated across the main elements. That is, the arcing motif of the gold and cream Catherine Martin rug (Designer Rugs) has the same ratio as the large pill form table from DesignByThem, which in turn has the same curve as the Sarah Ellison chairs. While making the space bigger and providing a full reflection, a large wall mirror shares the arch form. Yet as each inhabits a separate plane their shared form is harmonious rather than repetitive.
Moreover, the furniture is comfortable: “When you sit there you feel like it’s a family dinner table, it’s very intimate. I think people are really relaxed in the space. Because most of what we do is bespoke jewellery, you want the customers to feel really comfortable to share their ideas,” says Whiting.
The room is also tall with a high ceiling and end window. This last is vital as diamonds tend to look their best in natural light.
To augment this to necessary conditions a complex lighting system has been designed with spots providing the focused layer, while a diffused light that can be brightness and warmth adjusted provides the natural.
“Daylight temperature washes are what we produced, but nothing beats the real thing. We try and emulate it as best we can. But the lighting was definitely the most challenging part,” says Whiting.
The only distraction to the room is a framed Justin Ridler photograph of two semi-entwined ballet dancers. Interestingly, this is from a photoshoot Whiting commissioned for the range: “They just moved so well in the photos. It feels really romantic and it’s not like a typical jewellery photo,” says Whiting, who notes the colours of the showroom and artwork have gentle compatibility.
In keeping with her design acumen, Whiting knows exactly what she likes. Designing the space remotely however, required some tweaking. Having reached completion with all furniture including the massive safe in place, Whiting arrived and saw instantly that the floor needed to be changed. “I knew instantly that we had to change the flooring. It didn’t feel right. I didn’t feel like it was reflective of the brand,” says Whiting who took the advice of her interior designer: “Prue [Dabelstein] recommended the cork flooring. And I really love it. It’s a really beautiful texture added to the space,” says Whiting.
To some degree, all interior design projects are a collaboration between the client and the designer. However, as a designer herself and a former architect, the project partnership between Whiting and Dabelstein operated with Whiting, while fully leveraging Dabelstein’s expertise. Indeed, each has brought an exceptional level of design acumen to this challenging space with remarkable results.
Dreamers & Shakers
Led by Prue Dabelstein, Dreamers & Shakers is an interior design studio specialising in creativity that constantly asks “How does a space make you feel? And “How can we change how you feel within a space?”
Cushla Whiting as the creator or fine jewellery is the joint partnership of siblings, Cushla, Anna and Hamish. Each bringing a wealth of design aesthetics and gemmology to the brand with Cushla in particular spearheading a new Jewellery aesthetic: “Cushla’s path to fine jewellery wasn’t traditional, and neither are her iconic designs. As a former architect, she possesses a finely-trained eye for geometry, form and the study of light.”
Cushla Whiting Sydney showroom
Design – Cushla Whiting + Dreamers & Shakers
Photography – Hamish McIntosh