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  • 03/05/15--11:00: Chris Colwell
  • Interview

    Chris Colwell

    by Amber Creswell Bell

    Today we’re thrilled to feature a Sydney based furniture designer/maker we’ve long admired – Chris Colwell of Chris Colwell Design.  I first spotted Chris’ effortlessly understated pieces in the wonderful Small Spaces in Redfern… finally, almost two years later, thanks to our Sydney writer Amber Creswell Bell, we have gotten around to profiling Chris in more detail!

    Having gathered a loyal local following for his timeless designs and quality workmanship, Chris’ practice has recently expanded to include slightly bigger design projects, such as designing a new fit-out for much loved Sydney patisserie Flour & Stone.  Still, his business remains a genuine ‘one man band’ – Chris still makes every piece from scratch himself, in his Leichhardt workshop.

    Sydney based Chris Colwell of Chris Colwell Design in his Leichhardt workshop. Photo – Nikki To for The Design Files.

    Handcrafted furniture by Sydney based Chris Colwell of Chris Colwell Design. Photo – Nikki To for The Design Files.

    Chris Colwell of Chris Colwell Design in his Leichhardt workshop. Photo – Nikki To for The Design Files.

    Chris at work in his Leichhardt workshop. Photo – Nikki To for The Design Files.

    Handcrafted furniture by Sydney based Chris Colwell of Chris Colwell Design. Photo – Nikki To for The Design Files.

    Handcrafted wall hooks by Chris Colwell Design. Photo – Nikki To for The Design Files.

    Handcrafted furniture by Sydney based Chris Colwell of Chris Colwell Design. Photo – Nikki To for The Design Files.

    Details from the workshop of Chris Colwell Design. Photo – Nikki To for The Design Files.

    In a world of disposable, mass-produced furniture and cheap replicas – it is so delightful to find someone doing things the right way. I think of it a bit like the slow-food movement, but here we have a ground swell of appreciation and interest in things made lovingly by hand, and time taken to do things with an honest artisanal approach.

    With his burgeoning business just 18 months old, Bondi boy Chris Colwell is genuinely a one-man-band. Every piece of furniture that comes out of Chris Colwell Design is 100% made by Chris himself! Passionate about simplicity of design, he is recognised for his fuss-free aesthetic and admits that he could almost ‘pare it back a bit more’. His furniture is noticeably devoid of colour – instead Chris chooses to venerate the nuances, hues and grains of the timber he works with, and the shapes and lines of the products he makes. Chris believes that colour in a room should come from other things – like ‘art, and window views’! Furniture need not compete.

    Working out of his workshop in the Inner-West suburb of Leichhardt, it is ultimately Chris’s hope that his pieces will transcend trends and of-the-minute tastes to become treasured heirlooms handed down through generations. Longevity of form, and of function, are both important guiding principles in his work.

    Making everything with his own two hands, Chris describes each day as an exercise in learning, and honing his chosen craft.

    Producing a broad range of products including beds, desks, benches, stools, tables, lighting and coat hooks – Chris says that his personal favourite pieces are the bookshelves, for their simple, light design and honesty of material.

    Tell us a little about your background – what did you study and what path led you to what you are doing today?

    I grew up in Balmain, and didn’t really have an interest in woodwork nor design while I was at school. Balmain was more about music, bands and surfing. It seemed like there was always a lot of creative people around me.

    After school I studied carpentry, and then worked with my Dad who is a builder. I suppose, thinking back, the path that lead to where I am now started when I was doing restoration work at Sydney Uni.  On the way home one day I noticed a furniture store that had some beautiful hexagonal Frank Lloyd Wright chairs and a matching table in the window. I would look at these everyday, admiring all the beautiful joints. This spurred my journey into furniture design. I found a few books on Frank Lloyd Wright designs at the local markets – I think his Prairie table was one of the first pieces of joinery I made!

    Later, seeking out something a bit more creative than building, I went on to set building, which is a lot more like joinery. One week we would be building boats and the next spaceships! During this time I was always making furniture for my friends, family and myself. I suppose I got to the point where it was time to try it out full-time! I injured my hand at work one day, likely when I was dreaming about making a piece of furniture, and thought ‘now is the time!’. Daydreaming and machinery are not a great mix! I decided if I could recover and still use my hand, I would start making furniture. And I did.

    What has been one of your favourite projects in recent months?

    I was asked by the lovely Nadine Ingram to do the new fit out for Flour & Stone patisserie. This was great because Nadine knew my style from seeing my pieces in Small Spaces, and had total trust in what I would deliver! Plus, I really love everything in Flour & Stone.

    Tell us about your work?

    I work mostly with American oak and American walnut. I like these iconic timbers as they both have really beautiful grains and colour. They are also sustainable timbers, which is a good thing. With my designs, sometimes I start with a very rough sketch that I have hastily scribbled on the back of a envelope.

    Most of the time however I have just been visualising something in my head for days, working out the different joins and angles. When I get to work I just work it out as I go! Some pieces only take a day, while others sit in my workshop for two months because I am not quite sure of something… and then suddenly down the track it all works out just the way it was meant to be! I would say my style is very simple and understated. I have always admired the designs of Hans Wegner for their timeless simplicity.

    What does a typical day for you usually involve?

    A typical day is to grab a coffee from The Shop in Bondi and head off to work. If I don’t have any projects on I play around with different ideas and test out new designs, make some prototypes, pick some timber out for the next day do some finishing-sanding. At the end of the day I head home, picking up my little boy Zen along the way. Usually Zen, my partner Kai and myself will head to the beach for a swim before dinner and a wine at home! Simple.

    Can you list for us 5 specific resources across any media you tune in to regularly?

    1. Instagram is good because you can pick up some tips from other amazing craftsmen from around the world.

    2. Habitus magazine is great for beautiful interiors.

    3. Pinterest for general browsing of all design.

    4. Triple J on in the background everyday, to get me through the day!

    5. I love to relax on Saturday morning with The Sydney Morning Herald and just catch up on what’s happening in the world.

    Which other local artists, designers, creative people do you admire?

    I admire anyone who follows their dream really! I love the work of Kenny Yong-soo Son from Studiokyss – he has such a beautiful, simple aesthetic. I admire the skill and patience it takes to make his objects.

    I really respect Sarah O’Neill from Small Spaces for setting up her own beautiful shop. I don’t know where I would be without her support. My furniture fits perfectly in with her aesthetic for living.

    What would be your dream creative project or collaboration?

    My dream creative project would be to design, build and furnish my own home. You always have to compromise when you renovate, so it would be so great to start completely from scratch! I really love the Scandinavian style barn houses.

    What are you looking forward to?

    Always looking forward to working on new designs and holidays! And maybe one day owning my own little furniture shop.

    SYDNEY QUESTIONS

    Your favourite Sydney neighbourhood and why?

    For me it has to be Bondi because of its relaxed feeling and the ocean. Walking around in board shorts all summer long, and not having to drive anywhere is the best! I also like Balmain as I grew up there, and always enjoy going back to catch up.

    What and where was the last great meal you ate in Sydney?

    House Thai in Surry Hills because of the spice, the authentic food and relaxed style. Best som tum, BBQ chicken, and I do love a good boat noodle!

    Where would we find you on a typical Saturday morning?

    Typical Saturday morning – grab a coffee and a croissant and head to the beach!

    Sydney’s best kept secret?

    Burning Palms Beach in the Royal National Park is such a great day trip just to get away from the city. A walk through the bush, and down the mountain to a beautiful uncrowded beach for a surf, or a swim. So close but feels mile away!

    Sydney based Chris Colwell of Chris Colwell Design in his Leichhardt workshop. Photo – Nikki To for The Design Files.


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  • 03/08/15--12:00: Dining Details
  • Shopping

    Dining Details

    by Lucy Feagins, Editor

    Our stories often focus on the talented designers, makers and artists in our midst – but we don’t always get a chance to bring together a broader round up of cleverly designed objects, beautiful pieces that perhaps point to an overarching trend, and which can be purchased locally.  It’s time to dip our toe into this new territory, with a new monthly ‘market round-up’ column!  Each month we’ll feature our own edit of beautifully designed pieces which we’re loving right now, linked broadly by function or theme.

    We’re kicking off with a feature on creative cutlery.  Yes. Really!

    Clockwise from left to right: Handcrafted Sterling Silver Small Loop Handle Spoon by Anna Varendorff ($160.00), Sterling Silver Long Spoon by Anna Varendorff ($210.00), Sterling Silver Circle Line Circle Spoon by Anna Varendorff ($210.00), Sterling Silver Medium Spoon by Anna Varendorff ($170.00), Sterling Silver Small Spoon by Anna Varendorff  ($140.00), Sterling Silver Long Circle Handle Spoon by Anna Varendorff ($240.00), Sterling Silver Twisted Handle Spoon by Anna Varendorff ($180.00), Sterling Silver Long Spoon by Anna Varendorff ($210.00), Sterling Silver Circle Circle Scoop by Anna Varendorff ($240.00), Cutipol Dinner Knife from Francalia ($26.00), Sterling Silver Large Serving Spoon by Anna Varendorff ($310.00), Dome Basalt Spoon by Anna Varendorff ($210.00 sold separately). Styling – Lucy Feagins, styling assistant – Natalie Turnbull, photo – Eve Wilson.

    Clockwise from left to right: Oslo Matte Black teaspoon from Third Drawer Down ($8.95),  Oslo Matte Black tablespoon from Third Drawer Down ($10.95), Black butter knife from Cibi ($18.00), Wooden small spoon from Mr Kitly ($40.00) , Oslo Matte Black fork from Third Drawer Down ($10.95), Oslo Copper Pink tablespoon from Third Drawer Down ($10.95), Oslo Copper Pink teaspoon from Third Drawer Down ($8.95), Wooden large spoon from Mr Kitly ($70.00), Oslo Copper Pink fork from Third Drawer Down ($10.95), Oslo Copper Pink knife from Third Drawer Down ($10.95), Hovenia Wooden Spoon Large from Mr Kitly ($45.00). Styling – Lucy Feagins, styling assistant – Natalie Turnbull, photo – Eve Wilson.

    Clockwise from left to right: Tam spreader from Country Road ($7.95), Brass Muddler from Lightly ($15.00), Brass square spoon from Lightly ($10.00), Cutipol GOA 24 Carat Gold Matte coffee spoon from Francalia ($14.00), Cutipol GOA 24 Carat Gold Matte dessert knife from Francalia ($38.00), Cutipol GOA White 24 Carat Gold Matte dinner knife from Francalia ($40.00), Cutipol GOA White 24 Carat Gold Matte dinner fork from Francalia ($22.00), Cutipol GOA 24 Carat Gold Matte table spoon from Francalia ($22.00), Cutipol GOA 24 Carat Gold Matte dinner fork from Francalia ($22.00), Cutipol GOA White 24 Carat Gold Matte dinner knife from Francalia ($38.00). Styling – Lucy Feagins, styling assistant – Natalie Turnbull, photo – Eve Wilson.

    Clockwise from left to right: Alessi Tibadabo Spaghetti Serving Fork from Make Designed Objects ($44.95), Alessi Coffee Spoons Mixed (set of 8 various) from Make Designed Objects ($119.95), Face teaspoon from Daiso ($2.80), Styling – Lucy Feagins, styling assistant – Natalie Turnbull, photo – Eve Wilson.

    Three-piece picnic cutlery set from Mr Kitly ($65.00). Styling – Lucy Feagins, styling assistant – Natalie Turnbull, photo – Eve Wilson.

    Phillip Wave Cheese Knife Set from Make Designed Objects ($69.95). Styling – Lucy Feagins, styling assistant – Natalie Turnbull, photo – Eve Wilson.

    Clockwise from left to right: Cutipol GOA White Stainless Steel Moka spoon from Francalia ($10.00),  Cutipol GOA White Stainless Steel Dessert Spoon from Francalia ($16.00), Handcrafted silver Paddle Spoon by Sydney designer Alison Jackson (set of four $1300.00), Cutipol GOA White Stainless Steel Dessert Fork  from Francalia ($16.00), Cutipol GOA White Stainless Steel Dinner Knife from Francalia ($28.00), Handcrafted Cheese Tools by Sydney designer Alison Jackson ($230.00). Styling – Lucy Feagins, styling assistant – Natalie Turnbull, photo – Eve Wilson.

    Clockwise from left to right: Brass Serving Spoon by Studio Kyss ($180.00), Fine Silver Sugar Spoon by Rowsaan ($138.00), IHADA fork from Mr Kitly ($64.00), IHADA Muddler from Mr Kitly ($70.00), IHADA knife from Mr Kitly ($98.00), Brass Table Spoon by Studio Kyss ($130.00), Fine Silver Coffee Scoop by Rowsaan ($225.00), Brass Tea Spoon Studio Kyss ($70.00),  Fine Silver Tea Leaf Spoon by Rowsaan ($145.00). Styling – Lucy Feagins, styling assistant – Natalie Turnbull, photo – Eve Wilson.

    Clockwise from left to right: Jam Factory Curved Salad Servers made in Adelaide, available from Make Designed Objects ($94.95), Cutipol Salad Serving Set (2 pieces) from Francalia ($70.00), Stelton Ribbon Salad Severs from Resident GP ($109.95), Stelton Salad Servers from Resident GP ($99.95). Styling – Lucy Feagins, styling assistant – Natalie Turnbull, photo – Eve Wilson.

    Stelton Norstaal E M (four piece set) from Make Design Object ($129.95), Moma Ramen Spoon and Fork from Make Designed Objects ($24.95). Styling – Lucy Feagins, styling assistant – Natalie Turnbull, photo – Eve Wilson.

    The humble table tool can be more of a statement than you might think. When planning for a special meal, perhaps a significant birthday dinner or holiday feast, we might shop for new plates, table linen or serving dishes, but utensils are often overlooked. Necessities like knives, forks and spoons so often fall into ‘oh that’ll do’ territory, either bought in a crazy just-moved-house daze at Ikea, or handed down from some sympathetic family member when you first fly the nest.

    I get it. Purchases for the home fall into various priority levels, there are things worth spending decent money on from the get-go (a good bed, TV, and super fast internet connection) and there are things that sit waaaay down on the priority list.  And if a fork functions efficiently enough to get your pasta from table to tongue in under .05 of a second, you’re unlikely to demand a whole lot more of it.

    But, dear readers, as with many things in life, the magic that sets the most memorable experiences apart from, well, everyday unremarkable-ness is always in the details. And the most unassuming, unexpected details can be the talking point of an entire evening – like serving each guest an espresso after dinner with a different silver spoon, from Alessi’s amazing set of 8 various sugar spoons (which we found at Make Designed Objects in Carlton – so great!).

    We found some real gems in this line up, sure to illicit a smile next time you feed someone special.  Like the BEST ramen ‘Spork’, which, as the name suggests, perfectly combines a soup spoon and noodle fork in one elegant instrument.  Or Daiso’s genius ‘resting spoon’ which perches perfectly on the edge of your glass or cup.

    And whilst a meal is generally better when shared, don’t be misguided into thinking that an investment in excellent cutlery is about impressing other people. If you start anywhere at all, I’d buy one perfect knife, fork and spoon for personal use only! Because even if it’s just you snuggled in your doona with a bowl of porridge, any meal can be made truly special if eaten with one of Cutipol’s exquisite 24 carat gold matte finish dinner spoons (which at $22.00 really is a very affordable moment of luxury to be savoured every morning!).

    We’ve rounded up over 80 beautiful foodie utensils from a mix of local makers and retailers, established international design brands and even the odd unexpected discount store discovery.  There is rather a LOT to admire, but once we got started sourcing, we just couldn’t stop…!

    TOP PICKS from team TDF include everything and anything by Portugese brand Cutipol, designed and made in Europe and available locally through Francalia, the entire range is so understated and just insanely beautiful. We also swooned with delight over the perfectly imperfect silver spoons from local artist and maker Anna Varendorff (an excellent keepsake gift for a wedding, engagement or christening), and the Oslo matte black and pink copper cutlery ranges from Third Drawer Down (so striking, and starts at just $10.95).

    Special thanks to our amazing styling assistant Natalie Turnbull for the epic sourcing and captioning effort for this story! TOP EFFORT.

    We’re taking requests for our next product round up – let us know what you’re looking for, and we’ll put our feelers out…!

    Clockwise from left to right: Kobo Aizawa White cutlery set from Cibi ($80.00), Resting Spoon from Daiso ($2.80), locally made Pot Heads stirling silver knife and fork set by Kim Jaeger ($380.00), Copper Tip spoon from Cibi ($22.00), Copper tip fork from Cibi ($22.00). Styling – Lucy Feagins, styling assistant – Natalie Turnbull, photo – Eve Wilson.


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  • 03/09/15--12:00: Industria X
  • Shopping

    Industria X

    by Lucy Feagins, Editor

    For many years one of Melbourne’s best loved sources of industrial furniture was Industria X, run by Quenton and Sue Buckley. After more than 14 years in business, selling both second hand, salvaged and custom made industrial pieces, Quenton and Sue were keen on a change of pace, and last year they finally handed the reins to a new husband and wife team.

    Mornington Peninsula based Mark and Emma Cleine have been at the helm of Industria X since late last year.  They share a passion for local manufacturing, and plan to build on the robust foundations of this much loved local furniture brand.

    UT Long Shelving unit and spun aluminium pendant lights, made in Melbourne by Industria X. Styling –  Aimee Tarulli, photo –  Armelle Habib.

    Highbar stools made in Melbourne by Industria X. Styling –  Aimee Tarulli, photo –  Armelle Habib.

    GP Trolley made in Melbourne by Industria X. Styling –  Aimee Tarulli, photo –  Armelle Habib.

    WK Table and spun aluminium pendant light, both made in Melbourne by Industria X. Styling –  Aimee Tarulli, photo –  Armelle Habib.

    A couple of years ago, one of my favourite Melbourne stores sadly closed their doors after more than 12 years in business. I’m talking about Industria, which was then on Gertrude st in Fitzroy, and was run by husband and wife team, Quenton and Sue Buckley.

    Quenton and Sue were both pretty amazing creative visionaries, they really started the whole industrial salvage trend way before the rest of us caught on! They also created a market for custom-made industrial style furniture which they designed and made locally under the name ‘Industria X’, to complement the one-off vintage finds in their popular Fitzroy store. Their robust range of tables, chairs, steel trolleys and shelving quietly gathered an immense local following, and can still be spotted in so many Melbourne cafes and restaurants.

    In 2012 Quenton and Sue moved to the Mornington Peninsula, and their store closed.  For some time, they relocated their business to the Tyabb Packing House, but last year they were keen for a change of pace. Luckily, they found an opportunity to pass the baton on to a likeminded local creative couple already known to them – homewares designer Emma Cleine and her partner, carpenter Mark Cleine. Just like Quenton and Sue, Emma and Mark are a husband and wife team who live on the Mornington Peninsula, with their two sons, Lenny (4 years) and Beau (9 months).

    ‘I have known the Buckley family since my school days, as Quenton was my Woodwork teacher and Sue, my Art teacher’ explains Emma. After catching up with Quenton last year to borrow some props for a photo shoot for her homewares label, Lumiere Art + Co, Quenton mentioned that he and Sue were keen to slow down a bit. Having been admirers of Quenton and Sue’s business for many years, Emma and her partner Mark jumped at the chance to take on the business.

    ‘We thought it was perfect for us. We have always loved Industria X, and are extremely passionate about Australian manufacturing, so we ordered 8 new Canteen chairs for ourselves, before putting wheels in motion to buy the business’ says Emma.

    Emma and Mark have been running Industria X only since late last year, and spent all summer working hard to have a complete furniture range ready for relaunch. ‘We are respectful of the existing industrial aesthetic, and we want to expand on this range and offer more options for colour and stain’ says Emma. The pair are also keen to broaden the existing furniture collection and portfolio with project based jobs, such as commercial and shop fit outs. Mark also has an exciting range of metal handles, hardware and fittings in the works, to be released very soon!

    It’s set to be a big year for Emma and Mark.  The pair will exhibit at Den Fair, a new furniture design fair in Melbourne in May.  Over the coming months they plan to open a showroom in Melbourne for both trade and retail, they are also keen to stock their range through select other local and national retailers, enquiries welcome!

    Canteen low stools made in Melbourne by Industria X. Styling –  Aimee Tarulli, photo –  Armelle Habib.


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  • 03/09/15--20:00: Easy Banh Mi
  • Tasty Tuesday

    Easy Banh Mi

    by Lucy Feagins, Editor

    Michael Pham of Phamily Kitchen is back with us today, sharing another classic French / Vietnamese classic lunch snack – the ‘Banh Mi’!

    Banh Mi is the name given to the super tasty filled bread roll often found at your local Vietnamese bakery – you know, the crispy baguette with super fluffy centre, spread with French paté, asian meat of some description (roast duck or pork, usually), sweet pickled carrots, coriander and chilli. Possibly the best cross-cultural flavour explosion ever invented.

    Easy Banh Mi by Michael Pham of Phamily Kitchen, photo – Sean Fennessy for The Design Files.

    Kitchen details at Phamily Kitchen, photo – Sean Fennessy for The Design Files.

    Banh Mi and rice paper rolls at Phamily Kitchen, photo – Sean Fennessy for The Design Files.

    Honestly, if you haven’t ever had one of these you’ve probably been living under a rock. It’s the favourite on-the-go Vietnamese bakery lunch that usually costs a fiver, and leaves you one hand free to make some phone call while you’re on lunch break.

    If you’re in the mood to give this a crack, it’s easily compiled at home, and is perfect for an easy snack, picnic, packed lunch or dinner party appetiser. You can use meat from the local Chinese restaurant, leftover KFC, that freaky grey Vietnamese ham-style pork loaf wrapped in bamboo that used to get me in fights over lunch at school, grandma’s meatballs…whatever you’ve got. It’s the pickles, paté and herbs that will make it pop. Not to mention the crispy, fluffy French-style Vietnamese baguettes.

    Ingredients

    • Decent quality store-bought paté (we prefer Maggie Beer cracked pepper)
    • Mayonnaise (we prefer a whole egg, or hell, do it well… use Kewpie)
    • Butter (Lurpak, c’mon)
    • Half a roast duck, or a nice chunk of roasted char-siu pork from your local Chinese butcher or restaurant, nicely sliced to fit into a sandwich
    • Maggi seasoning (or soy sauce)
    • Cucumber, sliced long and thin
    • 2 carrots, grated
    • 1/2 white daikon, grated
    • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
    • 1 teaspoon sugar
    • 1 cup water to cover
    • Coriander
    • Banh-mi rolls from your local Vietnamese bakery, or a French stick.

    Method

    Make some quick pickles. Grate the carrot and daikon, and let soak in the fridge in vinegar, water and sugar for at least ten minutes.

    Cut the roll open, but not all the way… you want to make a neat hinge to hold it together.

    Spread! Lay down the butter, then paté on the floor of the roll, drop the mayo on the ceiling. Lay down the cucumber slices, well drained pickles and sliced meat. Give it a good squirt of Maggi. Garnish with coriander, chilli if you like.

    EAT! Make another one, eat that too. You’re a hungry person!

    Michael tucks into his Banh Mi at Phamily Kitchen, photo – Sean Fennessy for The Design Files.


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    Melbourne Home

    Kate Stokes and Haslett Grounds

    by Lucy Feagins, Editor

    SUCH A goody today, people!

    This is the gorgeous Fitzroy apartment of Kate Stokes (of local design studio of Coco Flip), her husband Haslett Grounds (an architect, of Grounds Architecture, who also runs Kate’s business with her) and their four month old daughter Mariko (aka ‘Kiko’!).  Perched high above the shopfronts on Gertrude st in Fitzroy, their spacious inner city apartment is pretty special.

    The incredible Fitroy apartment of Kate Stokes of Coco Flip, Haslett Grounds and their baby  daughter Mariko (also known as ‘Kiko’!). Kilim rug from Loom, hanging sculpture by Sophie Moorhouse Morris, weaving by Hanne Ibec, Bucket coffee table and Puku ottomans by Coco Flip, lounge from Grandfather’s Axe, floor cushion from Camberwell Markets, Cacti floor stand from Mr Kitly, sideboard made with friends from Archier. Photo – Sean Fennessy, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

    Loungeroom details. ‘Themis’ mobile by Clara Von Zweigbergk, artwork by Sophie Moorhouse Morris, weaving by Hanne Ibach, who uses rope collected from WA beaches, Micheal Hirst Safari Chair, kilim rug from Loom. Photo – Sean Fennessy, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

    Kate, Haslett and little Mariko in their Fitzroy apartment.  The happiest, most relaxed and photogenic little family ever! (Sean took this gorgeous family portrait  in just one take!). Photo – Sean Fennessy, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

    Kitchen with amazing indoor jungle!  ‘You can never have too many plants!’ says Kate. Oak dining table & chairs from Grandfather’s Axe, hanging sculpture by Sophie Moorhouse Morris. Photo – Sean Fennessy, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

    Loungeroom. ‘Pigmelon’ artwork by Joel Wynn Rees, kilim rug from Loom, Puku ottomans & Bucket coffee table by Coco Flip, lounge from Grandfather’s Axe, Safari Chairs by Michael Hirst that belonged to Haslett’s grandparents. Photo – Sean Fennessy, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

    The sideboard made with friends from Archier, ‘volcanic’ glass sculpture – a wedding gift from Haslett’s parents, ceramic vase from Pan After, copper bowl from Muji Found in Tokyo, and Native American ceramic vase by a Paula Estevan – a wedding gift from Kate’s brother. Photo – Sean Fennessy, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

    Mariko’s little cubby house room built in a corner of the lounge room by Haslett.  Poster from Third Drawer Down, blanket on bed in foreground by Uimi. Photo – Sean Fennessy, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

    Mariko’s room built by Haslett – artwork by Sophie Moorhouse Morris and Charlotte Swiden, Tivolivat sculptures by Swiden, Puku ottomans by Coco Flip. Photo – Sean Fennessy, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

    Master bedroom. Bed from Mark Tuckey, bed linen by Scholten & Baijings, little red lamp from Camberwell Market. Photo – Sean Fennessy, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

    Inside Mariko’s room – chair from Grandfather’s Axe, Ikea rug, Leander cot, stars made by Sophie Moorhouse Morris. Photo – Sean Fennessy, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

    Designer Kate Stokes and her architect husband Haslett Grounds have been living in their bright and enviably spacious Fitzroy apartment for just one year.  They’re renting, so haven’t made any permanent changes – though when they found out they were expecting, they did build a mini cubby-house inspired bedroom for Kiko in the living space! (Genius!).  They’ve also softened the space with the most impressive collection of indoor plants – it makes such a difference in a lofty space like this!

    As is evident in these pics, despite having only one bedroom, Kate and Haslett’s apartment is of rather EPIC proportions.  The building is a beautifully converted multi-level Victorian warehouse, designed by respected local architecture firm Kerstin Thompson Architecture in 1996. The resulting layout is a generous open plan design which optimises natural light and city views, and provides the perfect backdrop for Kate and Haslett’s pared back, scandi-inspired interior elements, and that incredible indoor jungle.

    Amongst treasured furniture pieces from Grandfather’s Axe and Kate’s own studio Coco Flip, and a much loved rug from Loom, the space is also dotted with artworks and handcrafted elements by the couples’ many creative friends. Favourite pieces include the hanging woven sculpture by their friend Sophie Moorhouse Morris, as well as the Safari chairs by Australian furniture designer Michael Hirst, which were inherited from Haslett’s grandparents.  The rope weaving on the wall in the lounge room is another treasured piece by the couple’s Danish friend Hanne Ibach –  a gift for their wedding. ‘Hanne collects all of the rope she weaves from on beaches in Western Australia’ says Kate.

    Both Kate and Haslett are originally from Perth, thought they’re very much permanent fixtures of Melbourne’s Northside now! With Kate’s business based in Collingwood, and a new bub at home, the central location suits them perfectly.  They love a morning stroll down Gertrude street with Kiko in tow, and they can’t get enough of the incredible views from their rooftop, across Fitzroy and the city. ‘We especially love waking up to the sunrise and watching the hot air balloons drifting by overhead’ says Kate.

    Kate & Kiko on the roof terrace overlooking the city. Photo – Sean Fennessy, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.


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    Small Business

    Abigail Crompton of Third Drawer Down

    by Lucy Feagins, Editor

    It’s been a little while but today we’re back with another SUPER inspiring Small Business feature, profiling well known and much respected Melbourne businesswoman Abigail Crompton, proprietor of multifaceted creative retail enterprise and product design studio, Third Drawer Down.

    Details from Third Drawer Down‘s Prahran store. Photo – Kate Ballis for The Design Files.

    Third Drawer Down proprietor Abigail Crompton outside her Prahran store. Photo – Kate Ballis for The Design Files.

    Third Drawer Down in Prahran. Photo – Kate Ballis for The Design Files.

    Abigail commissioned French artist Camille Walala to create the geometric exterior mural at Third Drawer Down in Prahran. Photo – Kate Ballis for The Design Files.

    On face value, Third Drawer Down may appear as a simple retail offering – a fun and colourful gift shop (now in two locations), stocking all kinds of wonderful and slightly wacky gifts, homewares and other goodies. In fact, this is just the tip of the iceberg.

    Third Drawer Down is both a retail company and a design studio, specialising in the design and production of art and museum merchandise.  Abigail Crompton and her team work extensively with both local and international artists to produce an enormous catalogue of products such as homewares, prints, tea towels, bedlinen, tableware and giftware. They work on bespoke projects for specific art museums such as the Tate in London, and also create their own brand of products which they distribute globally. Beneath that cute and crafty facade, Third Drawer Down is a seriously impressive international operation!

    Abigail launched her business in 2003, and these days the company employs 10 staff.  She has two stores in Melbourne (Fitzroy and Prahran), an office adjacent to her Prahran store, and an international office in Edinburgh, Scotland.

    As any excellent businessperson will usually tell you, a huge part of Third Drawer Down’s success comes down to its brilliant team – Abigail is especially forthcoming in singing the praises of her two incredible managers who operate the retail division and the product design / production division respectively. Both Brittney Bennett and Kathryn Foster commenced working with Abigail six years ago – Brittney manages the design studio, including and all the bespoke projects with artists and museums, whilst Kathryn is the company’s retail and wholesale manager, with responsibility for the ‘ocean-liner’ of wholesale stockists globally; ordering and management of the retail staff for both stores.

    ‘As any small business owner knows, the reality is that a business throws up many diverse situations on a daily basis and Brittney and Kathryn are like the Wonder Twins from Super Friends animation (but more like sisters)’ says Abigail of this hardworking duo.

    Below Abi shares the most generous and valuable insights into the running of her business – including lessons learnt from experience, her top tips for other entrepreneurs, and the top three e-resources that keep her business ticking. THANKYOU ABI for sharing so many golden nuggets of wisdom!

    Third Drawer Down 
    93 George Street Fitzroy
    155 Greville Street Prahran

    Open 11am to 5pm Monday to Saturday (Both Stores)
    11am to 5 pm Sunday (Prahran only)

    THE WHO, THE WHAT, THE WHERE

    I am more of a ‘thinker’ than a ‘director’.

    I own and run a company facilitating collaborative design and licensed contemporary Artist merchandise, and a retail arm that offers artist related products and exclusive global brands.

    My offices are based in Melbourne and Edinburgh.

    Our business goal / mission / reason for being is to make art affordable, accessible and a part of the everyday. This mission statement has not changed over the past 11 years.

    THE INS & THE OUTS

    What was the first major turning point for your business?

    Buying a round-the-world ticket and door knocking with my metallic gold sample bag showing Third Drawer Down products to overseas museums. This is how I met Helena Lawrence, Head of Commercial at the TATE, where she offered me the chance to create merchandise for their Louise Bourgeois Retrospective. This opportunity put Third Drawer Down on the international map as a leading product design studio in the museum market.

    Best thing about running your own business?

    Having autonomy in making decisions, and flexibility with time so I can enjoy hanging out with my family and travel overseas when I like.

    The most challenging thing about running your business?

    Making sure that everything is running smoothly, as there is such a fine art in negotiating people and operational areas including the financial, production and market fluctuations.

    SMALL BUSINESS TOOL KIT

    What are the top three e-resources your business can’t do without?

    Basecamp, which is a project management platform. Brittney implemented this program after we expanded into two sites. We use Basecamp for everything project-wise, retail and structural, even when someone needs to buy light globes!

    Xero, our accounting system. I almost feel sane again after implementing Xero, and having cloud base access so everyone in the team can work on files efficiently.

    Skype, my international communication tool, with the advantage of presenting concepts to clients from afar using the share screen option. To be able to use Skype on my phone gives the extra advantage of being anywhere and at anytime I can communicate, it makes the world a smaller place!

    What is one regular ritual you employ to enhance your office productivity?

    Since opening the second store and moving the studio to a space next door in March 2014, we have been trying different ways of connecting as a team. We are implementing monthly staff meetings so everyone can catch up together, and more social events, as we also all really enjoy each other’s company!

    LESSONS LEARNED

    What do you know now about running a small business that you wish you had known when you started?

    In a way I was fortunate to grow up in a family where my Mum had five retail stores, and back then I had to ‘painfully’ listen to the daily aspects of owning and operating a small business at dinner time! This has proven to be grounding for me as I certainly didn’t have a romantic vision when I started.

    Top three lessons learned?

    1. Never feel comfortable, as market demands can shift overnight.
    2. Always listen to the people you employ.
    3. It’s okay to fail in ideas as they give you knowledge for greater things.

    SHARING THE LOVE

    Who is one local small business owner you admire and why?

    I have been watching Tamara DiMattina quietly build her career in the sustainable marketing area since 2006, when she and I shared a studio in St Kilda. Tamara is the brainchild behind The New Joneses and Buy Nothing New Month. Both social campaigns examine the need for people to question where things come from and where they end up, and the global movement for collective, conscientious consumption.

    She has amazing endurance, intellect, collaborative values and the knowledge that you can be instrumental in making the world a cleaner and sustainable place. All you need to do is to try, and don’t take no for an answer!

    The Third Drawer Down team in their Prahran store. Top row, left to right – Brittney Bennett, Abigail Crompton, Tegan Davies, bottom row, left to right -Kathryn Foster and Brianna Martin. Absent – Olivia O’Donnell, Kelly Larkin, Eliza O’Donnell, Helena Lawrence and Lisa Baum. Photo – Kate Ballis for The Design Files.


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  • 01/08/17--11:00: Skeehan
  • Uncategorized

    Skeehan

    Lucy Feagins

    There are a lot of cool things happening in Canberra right now, and Tom Skeehan is one of them!

    Tom is an industrial and furniture designer with a sleek, contemporary aesthetic and a strong commitment to local manufacturing. Since launching is own design studio in 2011, Tom has amassed a seriously impressive portfolio of work and commissioned projects, and has gathered a loyal local following.

    Furniture by Canberra-based furniture maker Tom Skeehan of Skeehan. Photo by Charlie White.

    Hup Hup Chair by Skeehan. Photo by Charlie White.

    Hup Hup Chair by Skeehan. Photo by Charlie White.

    Tom in his Canberra studio. Photo by Charlie White.

    Tom in his Canberra studio. Photo by Charlie White.

    Design sketches by Tom. Photo by Charlie White.

    Tom Skeehan of Skeehan in his Canberra-based studio. Photo by Charlie White.

    Canberra based designer Tom Skeehan of SKEEHAN studio specialises in commercial furniture, lighting and product design. It’s all designed by Tom and his small team, and manufactured by a network of local manufacturers who Tom works with closely.

    Having been exposed to the world of furniture making from a young age through his father, Vince Skeehan, a cabinet maker, Tom fondly recalls childhood memories of learning to draw cubes and make his own wooden toys.

    After studying Arts and design at Canberra Institute of Technology, Tom began working for furniture designer Craig Harris, who had completed his masters in Tasmania and was running a furniture studio in Fyshwick just outside of Canberra. Craig quickly became an influential mentor to Tom, and under his guidance, Tom was inspired to establish his own furniture design studio.

    Amongst Tom’s greatest influences are Japanese Designer Naoto Fukasawa and Architect Tadao Ando. ‘They have a very honest design approach, and really consider the purpose of a project and the materials used’ Tom explains. In his own work, Tom aspires to a similar philosophy. ‘I want to design furniture that has a purpose and a strong material narrative’ he says.

    Having recently taken on a massive new studio space, and with a number of projects currently in development, Tom is infectiously enthusiastic about the future. ‘I think it is a great time to be an Australian designer’ he says. ‘We have a very supportive local industry that is genuinely supporting Australian design’. He hopes 2017 will bring more opportunities to continue working his key national stockist, Stylecraft, to exhibit his work in Milan and New York later in the year, and to continue to build on his all important relationships with local manufacturers.

    Hoshi Chair by Skeehan. Photo by Charlie White.


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  • 01/09/17--11:00: Willie Weston
  • Textiles

    Willie Weston

    Elle Murrell

    Today we introduce the work of Willie Weston, a local textiles business going to great lengths to support Indigenous Australian art, by bringing expressive Aboriginal artwork to contemporary furnishing fabrics.

    The Melbourne-based label is lead by Jessica Booth and Laetitia Prunetti, a driven and conscientious duo who confess they ‘side-stepped’ their way into textile design.

    This excellent story is the first contribution from our newest TDF team member, Elle Murrell. Please make her feel very welcome!

    Fabrics from the Ampilatwatja and Tiwi Collections. Photo – Lauren Bamford.

    Rosie Ngwarraye Ross’ Sugarbag Dreaming in ‘Desert Rose’ from the Ampilatwatja Collection. Photo – Lauren Bamford.

    Willie Weston x Koskela Indoor / Outdoor Beanbag featuring Rosie Ngwarraye Ross’ Sugarbag Dreaming in ‘Saltbush’ and ‘Desert Rose’ prints. Photo – Lauren Bamford.

    Fabrics from the Ampilatwatja and Tiwi Collections. Photo – Lauren Bamford.

    Fabrics from the Ampilatwatja and Tiwi Collections. Photo – Lauren Bamford.

    Rosie Ngwarraye Ross’ Sugarbag Dreaming in ‘Saltbush’ from the Ampilatwatja Collection. Photo – Lauren Bamford.

    Launching a textiles brand wasn’t on the horizon for young Melbourne art curators Jessica Booth nor Laetitia Prunetti when they crossed paths in 2005, as University of Melbourne Masters of Art Curatorship candidates.

    Laetitia first majored in art history and went on to freelance as an art writer and curator, co-directing the Melbourne Art Fair in 2012. Meanwhile, Jessica, with a background in fine art, specialised in Indigenous art, working as a curator, lecturer, researcher and advocate of the Association of Northern, Kimberley and Arnhem Aboriginal Artists.

    ‘Our love of art and design has always been part of our decade-long friendship, and we always had a desire to shape flexible working lives for ourselves,’ explains Laetitia. ‘It seemed inevitable that we would one day develop a business together that combined these things.’

    In 2015, this ambition materialised, and Willie Weston began connecting with Indigenous artists to develop commercial grade furnishing fabrics. ‘We saw this model as a way to continue working in the arts, albeit in a different guise, offering artists an additional income stream alongside their art practice, and bringing sophisticated Indigenous art to the interiors sector,’ Jessica says.

    To develop a collection, Jessica and Laetitia first consult with artists and remote art centres across Australia to select artworks, leading to a varied array of motifs – from flora and fauna of the desert, to ceremonial body painting designs – that honour diverse regions. Next, they create design layouts for each artwork and collection colour schemes, before the sampling phase begins. As each textile design take shape, ‘artworks come alive in a whole new way,’ describes Laetitia.

    Willie Weston recently branched out into beanbags, creating a limited run in collaboration with Sydney furniture brand Koskela, which feature the botanical artwork of Rosie Ngwarraye Ross. Offering outdoor canvas, indoor weave and natural linen, upcoming collections will also be available on velvet, Belgian linen, and soon-to-be wallpaper. The duo is also planning for larger-scale projects in public spaces.

    Laetitia and Jessica are devoted to attracting more people to contemporary Indigenous textiles, at home and abroad. ‘We pay artists for every metre of fabric produced,’ says Jessica. ‘Our big hope is that Willie Weston will grow to a point where it can provide meaningful income streams to many more artists across Australia.’

    See more from Wille Weston here. Designs from the label are on show as part of ‘AT HOME: Modern Australian Design’, an exhibition inserting the work of contemporary designers into the Georgian interior of the Old Government House in Parramatta, until January 22.

    Laetitia Prunetti and Jessica Booth of Willie Weston. Photo – Eve Wilson.


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  • 01/09/17--19:00: Pink Grapefruit Spritz
  • Tasty Tuesday

    Pink Grapefruit Spritz

    Lucy Feagins

    This month we’ll be highlighting your FAVOURITE Tasty Tuesday recipes of 2016, kicking off with our debut video recipes series, created last year in partnership with CAPI!

    This ‘Sparkling Sips’ recipe series made quite an impression – it seems we’re not the only ones who appreciate a good cocktail! Today we revisit our Pink Grapefruit Spritz – the perfect summery, pink drink.

    As with all our video projects, this film series was created in collaboration with our clever pals at SIRAP.

    Film Credits

    Director – Paris Thomson / SIRAP
    Creative Direction – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files
    Camera and post production – Jason Tseng
    Styling – Nat Turnbull
    Studio Sets – Gordon Johnson + Huw Smith
    Graphic Design – Annie Portelli
    Animation – Frank Souter
    Sound Design – Lachlan Harris

    Voiceover – Dierdre Rubenstein
    Hand Model – Annie Portelli

    Props kindly on loan from CultThird Drawer DownLucy Folk and Wink Optometrists.


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  • 01/10/17--11:00: Simone and Rhys Haag
  • Australian Homes

    Simone and Rhys Haag

    Lucy Feagins

    Like many of you, we’re just three days in to our working year and still dreaming of summer holidays, so it seemed only fitting to kick off our ‘Australian Homes’ for 2017 with one of Victoria’s sweetest beach shacks!

    This beautiful getaway spot in Phillip Island belongs to well known Melbourne designer / stylist Simone Haag, her husband Rhys Haag and their two young daughters Goldie and Clover. This is relaxed Australian beachside living at its best!

    The holiday home of Simone and Rhys Haag and family on Phillip Island. Living room with original fire place, hearth tiles from Anchor Ceramics, rug from Kulchi at Criteria CollectionThe lamp is by Rubn at Fred International, ottoman from Pony Rider, and sofa from IKEA with tasseled Kip & Co throw, and H&M cushions. Styling – Simone Haag. Photo – Derek Swalwell.

    Living room detail featuring linen chairs from Objekto at Hub, wall and tiled table from Roger Capron at Angelucci. On the wall, flag from Pony Rider, woven mirror via Etsy, and Norsu portrait poster. Styling – Simone Haag. Photo – Derek Swalwell.

    The black stained plywood kitchen with string shelves from Great Dane and Moroccan rug. ‘I wanted it to feel very much like the old place, so I deliberately kept the old oven and sink,’ explains Simone. Styling – Simone Haag. Photo – Derek Swalwell.

    The dining room centres around the Bumling pendant purchased in Sweden, IKEA dining table, and Carl Hansen vintage chairs from Modern Times, pictured with blanket from Scout House,  vintage stool by Clement Meadmore, and cactus print from Middle of Nowhere. Styling – Simone Haag. Photo – Derek Swalwell.

    The dining room has an original, in-built wall shelf that’s perfect for vintage finds and collectables. Styling – Simone Haag. Photo – Derek Swalwell.

    Dutch vintage table from Modern times, Terracotta vessel purchased in Portugal and lock set from The Society Inc. Styling – Simone Haag. Photo – Derek Swalwell.

    Plant pot by Hunting for George x Pop & Scott, beside String shelf from Great Dane. Bowls from HK Living, IKEA planters, assorted knick knacks and surf books. Styling – Simone Haag. Photo – Derek Swalwell.

    Hallway runner from Pampa, weaving from Three Queens Interiors, and flag from The Society Inc. Styling – Simone Haag. Photo – Derek Swalwell.

    The master bedroom featuring wall shield from Scout House, hooks from The Society Incprint from Warranbrooke, and pendant from Telegram. A magazine rack from Design Stuff sits beside an IKEA cork stool with lamp from Design Stuff. Simone sourced canvas bed linen from ACE Hotel, Palm Springs. Styling – Simone Haag. Photo – Derek Swalwell.

    Clover’s bedroom includes Eames Hang-It-All, curtains from Anthropologie, Glen Waverley Antiques chair, and rattan bassinet from The Woods Folk with linen from Kip & Co. Styling – Simone Haag. Photo – Derek Swalwell.

    A room for guests, with wall lights from Schoolhouse Electric, ceramics from West Elm, and bed linen by In Bed x Tribe. Styling – Simone Haag. Photo – Derek Swalwell.

    In the bathroom, lighting is from Schoolhouse Electric, and basin by American Standard. There’s also another IKEA cork stool – ‘I have these everywhere,’ admits Simone. Styling – Simone Haag. Photo – Derek Swalwell.

    The front exterior of the house features deck built by Rhys, and oars, planters and camping stools from Waverley Antiques Bazaar. Styling – Simone Haag. Photo – Derek Swalwell.

    Tank, the rescued Great Dane x Irish Wolfhound, flanked by Fifty lounge chair by Ligne Roset from DOMOStyling – Simone Haag. Photo – Derek Swalwell.

    Simone Haag is a talented and versatile creative who knows precisely how to make a house a home! A long time ago we featured her supremely photogenic Ringwood home, and today we follow up with this unique weekender – a rugged, relaxed beach cabin in Phillip Island on Victoria’s Southern Coast. As with any space Simone turns her hand to, the ‘Angler’s Shack’ is full of unexpected details, and the perfect combination of designer and vintage finds (plus, in this case, the best of IKEA!).

    Though it’s been given Simone’s distinctive touch in recent times, this property previously belonged to Rhys’s parents, so Simone and Rhys have a strong personal connection to the place, and have been coming here for close to decade.

    Over the years, as Simone and Rhys made regular trips here, Phillip Island became very close to their hearts. The pair even got married on ‘The Island’, and would often scout the area for a beach house they might one day put their own stamp on. SO, when the in-laws decided to upgrade to a house around the corner, Simone and Rhys jumped at the chance to purchase the property and keep their much loved beach shack in the family.

    With a decade of ‘thinking’ behind them, the reno was, in Simone’s words, ‘swift and enjoyable’ – lucky, since she was heavily pregnant with her youngest, baby Clover, during the entire renovation process!

    The pair kept the bones of the place ‘as is’, making primarily cheap and cheerful updates rather than big structural changes. Rhys worked with Greener Kitchens to re-do some internal cabinetry, choosing to stain plywood doors black for a bold, dramatic look. Kitchen benches were tiled with simple white square tiles, taken right up to the ceiling to maximise a sense of height. All the floors were painted white, and all lights replaced – Simone’s all-time favourite find is the Bumling pendant from Sweden, which hangs over her dining table.

    Pine lining boards stained black were added for warmth and texture in the living room, whilst the hearth was re-tiled with a beautiful handmade tile from Anchor Ceramics. The guest rooms were also layered up with lining boards, sea grass matting and wall lights from School House Electric.

    Simone shared the renovation journey with her Instagram friends and followers – ‘so many of the decisions were ‘design by committee’ which was really enjoyable!’ Simone says.

    With a laid back ‘Californian cool’ vibe, this place has an entirely different  sensibility to Simone’s more Scandinavian inspired Melbourne home. ‘You really feel the shift in gears when you come here’ she says. ‘The place lacks in any form of amenity such as wifi, a dish washer or heating, microwave or air con – but we always make do!’

    Simone Haag in her dining room with daughters Goldie and baby Clover. Curtains from Weylandts, and thrifted khaki ceramic bowl and woven tray. Styling – Simone Haag. Photo – Derek Swalwell.


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  • 01/11/17--11:00: Pip Spiro
  • Art

    Pip Spiro

    Jo Hoban

    We love the vivid watercolour paintings of Brisbane artist, Pip Spiro. Her painterly works on paper are inspired by her lush surrounds in south-east Queensland, including meticulously detailed botanicals, fresh produce and contemporary still life scenes.

    Our Brisbane duo, Jo Hoban and Mindi Cooke recently stopped by Pip’s home studio to find out more about her work.

    Brisbane artist Pip Spiro‘s watercolours are quintessentially Australian. Photo – Mindi Cooke for The Design Files.

    The artist at work on an initial sketch. Photo – Mindi Cooke for The Design Files.

    Paint palettes in the artist’s studio. Photo – Mindi Cooke for The Design Files.

    Pip layers rich colour to create her vibrant works. Photo – Mindi Cooke for The Design Files.

    Tablescapes of produce, flower arrangements, and the natural world inspire Pip. Photo – Mindi Cooke for The Design Files.

    The artist’s light and airy work space. Photo – Mindi Cooke for The Design Files.

    Detail of paintings by Pip. Photo – Mindi Cooke for The Design Files.

    ‘These are simple scenes, but it’s the memories they stir that make people connect with what I paint,’ says Pip. Photo – Mindi Cooke for The Design Files.

    Artworks on thick, French cotton rag paper. Photo – Mindi Cooke for The Design Files.

    People often remark that Pip Spiro’s watercolour paintings are very ‘Australian’. ‘This is lovely to hear, although I’m never quite sure what it means!’ Pip says. ‘I think it comes down to my take on watercolour being quite bright and vibrant, and that I paint things that feel like home to me, so perhaps it feels this way for others too.’

    The artist draws her inspiration from ideas of familiarity and nostalgia: ‘I’m drawn to painting from the world around me, for instance, breakfast about to be served, or blooms in nature. These are simple scenes, but it’s the memories they stir that make people connect with what I paint.’

    Starting her career in advertising, following a Business Management degree, Pip couldn’t deny a stronger creative pull. Having studied art throughout school, she reconsidered her career possibilities and then made a slow transition, working part-time while she established an art practice. ‘I took the plunge to do it full-time about three years ago, and it’s been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made,’ she explains.

    Pip’s photorealistic watercolours are deftly rendered on thick, French cotton rag paper. ‘My style is quite realistic, so I work from life and lots of photos!’ she explains. Over the past couple of years, Pip has been involved in a number of group exhibitions. Outside of that, she’s worked largely on commissions, enjoying the challenge of working collaboratively with her clients on theme and subject matter.

    The arrival of her first baby in June last year has marked a change in direction Pip, who isn’t taking on any new commissions just at the moment. ‘I’m really looking forward to letting the next phase of my work evolve on its own, and I’m aiming to have an exhibition this year,’ she says. Watch this space!

    To see more of Pip’s work and see what is currently available in her stockroom, visit her website here.

    Brisbane-based artist Pip Spiro in her home studio. Photo – Mindi Cooke for The Design Files.


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    Extraordinary Routines

    Extraordinary Routines · Anna Ross

    Madeleine Dore

    Today our monthly columnist Madeleine Dore of Extraordinary Routines shares the daily routine of local manicure and skincare maven, Anna Ross of Kester Black.

    It’s no revelation that super organised people get a whole lot done. Yet unlike many, whose pursuit of strict routines is often short lived, Anna’s found some inspiring ways to make the model sustainable.

    Saying no to meetings, overtime and the icy-boss trope, this early-riser allots time for exercise, meditation and connecting with her staff – who all enjoy a three-day weekend, every weekend!

    Early-riser Anna Ross in her Collingwood office. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

    Products from Anna’s brand. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

    Anna is dedicated to using time efficiently. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

    Anna is a fan of business books, reading every night before bed. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

    ‘One thing I do weekly is walk to Loose Leaf and buy flowers,’ mentions Anna. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

    Anna Ross’s routine resembles a well-oiled machine. From rising at 5:00am and answering emails in bed before scooting off to yoga, to twice-daily meditation and daily reading, the founder of local manicure and skincare brand Kester Black values a strict regime that ensures her time is purposefully spent.

    ‘It’s taken a while for me to find my rhythm, but it works so well. I have three hours in the morning completely to myself and I can do whatever I want.’

    This morning routine is the glue that holds everything else together. ‘I find that if I don’t go to yoga or meditation, I can totally feel how behind I am in my day-to-day work’ she says.

    Often we associate a strict routine with overwork, but Anna is an advocate for work-life balance. ‘There’s never going to be a point where somebody doesn’t want something from you, so you need to learn to manage your time so that it’s efficient for you.’

    Such efficiency carries over to the daily operation of her business – Anna has a ‘no meeting’ policy, and Kester Black staff also benefit from having Fridays off, afternoon meditations, and a ‘morning cuddle’ ritual where everyone shares what they enjoyed the day before and how they are feeling.

    ‘I’ve worked at some bad businesses, so my goal with Kester Black was to make it an awesome place to work that people want to stay in.’

    Creating a lovely environment for staff reflects Kester Black’s general ethos. Last year, Anna won the Telstra Australian Young Business Women’s Award, and it’s not hard to see why – the brand is sustainable, Australian-made, vegan, cruelty-free, inclusive, and gives back through initiatives such as YGAP’s ‘Polished Man’ to support ending violence against children.

    ‘I want my business to be successful, lovely and make money, but I also don’t want to work myself into the ground over it. I believe that you can have that.’

    Daily Routine

    5:00

    My body clock is pretty on track to wake me up early – otherwise my cat King George Von Whiskers II will wake me up!

    The first thing I do is I grab my phone and check the Sleep Cycle app. Then I’ll reach down for my laptop and start to check all my emails and pretty much do all of my accounting and invoicing in bed. It’s an actual addiction – but I have an hour before I go to yoga and I think it makes everything as easy as possible for when I finally get to work.

    6:00

    Then I get up and whip on some clothes like a mad woman, make a smoothie and ride my bike to yoga. I meditate for twenty minutes at the studio after class and then I ride my bike to my office.

    8:00

    I’ll shower at the office and get back to my emails. I get 100 emails a day, so it’s emails all the time. My inbox is super-systematic. Everything is left in my inbox until it’s answered and I file it into a folder when it’s done. At the moment, there’s a lot of stuff lingering in my inbox, which gives me panic attacks.

    I use Google calendar for payments and that sort of stuff. My personal to-do list is in my email draft, and then we have a project management to-do list which is always in Asana (management software).

    8:30

    When Sophie arrives we have a short catch-up and for a while we would have a ‘morning cuddle’ where each of us would say five things they liked from the day before and how they are feeling today. It just helped us to be on the same page, but we’ve been bad at remembering to doing that lately!

    Jacinta works remotely, so I’ll have a chat to her as well and then we all work on GChat and Asana.

    My day consists of answering emails and liaising with Sophie and Jacinta. If I’m doing the product development, I’ll be speaking to our manufacturer first thing in the morning and seeing where we’re at with our orders.

    10:00

    I’ll also check in with Sophie and make sure the Instagram schedule is going okay. We schedule social media posts in advance, which takes such a long time because we have a strict colour theme, but I think it’s totally worth it.

    13:00

    Often I bring my own lunch, but lately I’ve been quite lazy, so I’ll walk up Smith Street and usually go to Smith Street Alimentari.

    14:00

    In the afternoon the list-ticking slows down, but I’ll get back to the computer and do the trickier things leftover from the morning.

    Another thing to note is that I hate meetings – they are often so unproductive. I would do anything to avoid a meeting, and often ask someone to just call or email. If I do have to have a meeting, I try to make it a walking or standing meeting.

    15:00

    We co-share a space, and all of us meditate for twenty minutes in the afternoon. Well, if they’re not doing meditation, they’re napping. It doesn’t matter because naps are awesome, too.

    15:20

    I’ll wrap up all of the tasks that I didn’t get done and we finish by 5:30. I make sure nobody does overtime here – I don’t think it’s productive.

    If there is a lull period where we don’t have much to do, often we will knock off early and either go for a drink or go plant shopping.

    17:30

    I usually ride home, make dinner and check my Instagram. I often go out for dinner with my boyfriend or friends, and in that case I ride from work to the restaurant.

    If I’m doing a speaking gig, it is usually after hours too, and I’ll have spent the afternoon freaking out about how I haven’t written the speech and finally print off some notes and head straight to the talk.

    21:00

    Before bed I’ll read a book – usually business books like The E-Myth, Good to Great, or anything to do with communication styles.

    21:30

    I go to bed pretty early because I get up at five o’clock. The second my head hits the pillow, I am out. I don’t drink coffee because it can cause you to have disruptive sleep and it’s harder to get up in the morning. Then you need a coffee to get going, so I have never gotten myself into that trap.

    No work Fridays.

    I believe in three-day weekends so we don’t work on Fridays. I’m still available though, but I’m going to start going away camping or something and actually switch off my computer.

    When people get an out-of-office response from us on a Friday, they can sometimes get a little upset, but I think more companies are going to adopt this approach to work soon enough. It’s so important to look after staff wellbeing and this is one way we manage this.

    It’s important not to work yourself to the ground. I want to have a nice life where I spend lots of time with the people that I love, my cat and my boyfriend, but do meaningful things with the time that I do have – give back, continually learn and grow, and work really efficiently.

    This story is part of our monthly collaboration with Madeleine Dore of Extraordinary Routines.

    Anna Ross at her Kester Black office. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.


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    Plant / Life

    Natasha Morgan of Oak & Monkey Puzzle

    Georgina Reid

    It’s hard to believe that little more than one year has passed since landscape architect and urban planner Natasha Morgan made the tree-change to Oak & Monkey Puzzle with her young family. At the foothills of the Great Dividing Range, just south of Daylesford, Natasha has nurtured a rundown, rural property into a hub of growth, abundant creativity and community collaboration – there’s even a cricket pitch!

    Our gardens columnist, Georgina Reid of The Planthunter is treated to a tour by this insightful experience maker.

    The property has had many incarnations over its lifespan – from post office to pub, general store, recreation ground, and now a much loved family home. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

    Old sieves sourced from garage sales and markets hang on the wall of the old garden shed. The red poppies scattered through the garden just popped up – Natasha reckons that they’d been lying dormant in the soil for years. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

    Natasha has used foraged elm branches as a trellis for peas growing in her vegetable garden. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

    I like to grow things you can’t just get everywhere,’ says Natasha. She grows heirloom vegetables and fruit trees, and reckons she can never have enough space for weird and wonderful edible plants. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

    While it doesn’t look it, the garden is only around one year old. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

    The house at Oak & Monkey Puzzle was built in the 1860s as the Spargo Creek post office. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

    The grey foliage of dusty miller (Senecio cineraria) contrasts with the blue delphinium flowers. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

    Saffron and Oliver and one of their (very tolerant) chickens. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

    Kids, chooks, and fruit trees. What a combo! Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

    Saffron is already following in her flower loving mother’s footsteps. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

    Strawberries. Yum. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

    There is absolutely nothing in the world better than a bowl of freshly picked, home grown strawberries. I die. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

    Peony Poppy ‘Double Coral’ sourced from Lambley Nursery in Ascot. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

    The cutest little roadside produce stand ever. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

    Detail of Natasha’s roadside produce stand. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

    Stonemason Josh Bowes working at Oak and Monkey Puzzle. Josh teaches workshops on the art of drystone walling with Natasha on the property. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

    Stonemason Josh Bowes working at Oak and Monkey Puzzle. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

    My mum cried when I bought this house,’ landscape architect and flower lover Natasha Morgan tells me. It was a derelict old building, complete with bats flying through open windows, an overgrown garden pruned only by horses nibbling on new growth, and lots of old trees.

    ‘I was elated, though, because I could see that everything I wanted to do with my life could take place here,’ she says.‘The first time I saw it I just stood under the big trees and thought how can I make this happen?”’ And happen, it did. Natasha bought the five-acre property in 2013, and moved in a year later.

    Whilst Natasha hadn’t originally intended to move to the country full-time, the move wasn’t without foundation. She tells me of her previous house in Melbourne – an old scout hall with blackboards lining the walls. She used these walls to write down the things she loved, and wanted to do.

    Finding a weekend property was high on that list. ‘I wanted to find a place with high rainfall, good soil, proximity to Melbourne, and a strong artistic and cultural life,’ she says. ‘Soon after, I found it.’ All the things Natasha listed on the blackboards had found a home. She named the property Oak & Monkey Puzzle, in reference to the 150-year-old oak trees and monkey puzzle tree growing in the garden.

    The property, located between Daylesford and Ballan, has a long history as a hub within the local community. It started off as the Spargo Creek post office in the 1860s, then when the pub across the road burnt down it became the temporary drinking hole, and at some point it also became the recreation reserve and the general store.

    Interspersed with its periods of public life, the property was also a home. The wife of the previous owner was a great gardener, but after she died the garden was untended for many years. Natasha and her family moved in in winter, and the second day they were there it snowed. Then spring happened, and all of a sudden the garden was full of bulbs – Jonquils, bluebells, grape hyacinth, daffodils and more. ‘It was magical,’ Natasha says.

    Being a landscape architect, Natasha got stuck into the garden immediately. ‘I always start with the garden because it grows while everything else is being built or fixed,’ she tells me.‘I began with a masterplan. It was very much about aspect – getting an idea of where it’s sunny or not, and pragmatic concerns like making sure I can fit wheelbarrows between beds etcetera.’

    The resulting garden is a series of formally arranged long raised beds, overflowing with edibles and flowers, as well as an orchard and berry patch, surrounded by wild grasses Natasha cuts paths through on the mower, leaving whats left to do its thing. It’s beautiful and abundant, overflowing with enough vegetables and fruit to feed her family, workshop participants and lucky neighbours.‘I’m always giving veggies away,’ she says.

    The garden is Natasha’s laboratory.‘I’m not precious about it,’ she says.‘I’ve invested a lot of time into building the formal bones of the garden, but it’s always changing,’ she says, as she tells me of the beans and peas growing up a sculptural elm frame built from foraged suckers she found growing on the side of the road.‘I don’t want the garden to be static. I want to be able to walk through it and feel and see the changes in movement, texture, and seasonality. Change keeps me fresh!’

    The garden also forms a backdrop to the workshops Natasha runs at the property. Working with passionate local craftspeople and artists, she offers a range of hands-on workshops including edible gardening, dry-stone wall building, garden design, floral design and more. It’s a gorgeous, changeable, flowery feast.

    Like a crisp autumn morning after a long hot summer, Natasha and her family are breathing fresh life into Oak and Monkey Puzzle. Fuelled by Natasha’s vision, passion and generosity, the property once again is becoming a community hub – a place to share the enjoyment of the best, and simplest, things – food, flowers, and connection.

    We’ll be seeing inside Natasha’s very special home a little later this week! In the meantime, do check out Natasha’s website to learn more about the wonderful line up of workshops and events she hosts at her property.

    Natasha Morgan and her two children Saffron and Oliver. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.


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  • 01/16/17--11:00: Made by Northwood
  • Craft

    Made by Northwood

    by Elle Murrell

    Today we take a closer look at some masterful, tessellated timber artworks by Made by Northwood in regional Victoria.

    The self-taught maker behind the brand, Emma Nasifa, swapped a science lab for the timber workshop, keen to get her hands dirty and take in the comforting smell of sawdust (*via safety respirator, of course!)

    Emma Nasifa in her workshop. Photo – Georgie James.

    An artwork from Made by Northwood – the back looks just as good! Photo – Georgie James.

    The geometric designs come together organically, through experiments in the workshop. Photo – Georgie James.

    All Made by Northwood artworks are created from reclaimed hardwood flooring. Photo – Georgie James.

    ‘Eventually I combined my background in plant sciences and my timber artworks to also create living botanical artworks,’ explains Emma. Photo – Georgie James.

    First completing a science degree in botany (she really knows her raw materials), woodworker Emma Nasifa of Made by Northwood began making her distinctive timber artworks in late 2015. It wasn’t so much a lifestyle choice, as a matter of creative necessity. ‘I found that my creating hands couldn’t really commit to a laboratory lifestyle,’ she explains.

    Woodwork wasn’t a completely new interest though. The artist has fond memories of visiting her uncle’s furniture shop in Tasmania, and working with hand tools as a child. The hobby grew from assembling artworks for friends, into a mentorship with respected Brunswick woodworkers, and a budding, occasionally-‘nomadic’ career.

    Made by Northwood’s aesthetic is rooted in symmetry, and the fractal forms of nature; patterns within patterns. ‘Balance, repetition and contrast. These are the elements that I try and express,’ Emma explains.

    A piece typically comes together organically with a little direction from the client, although, mock-ups are created on design software for large installations and those incorporating plants. ‘Once I get an outline of an idea, I’ll set aside workshop time to cut up timber and rearrange it, and rearrange it again… and probably seven times more until I can feel a pattern falling into place!’ admits the maker. Finally, each artwork is assembled and carefully hand finished.

    Made by Northwood hopes to do more oversized projects, and move into furniture fabrication next. ‘I’d love develop the innovative aspect of my brand,’ says Emma. ‘…so many ideas, only two hands!’

    She’s also invested in raising awareness and promoting respect for our ecosystems through her craft. ‘We need to incorporate more plant life into our daily work and living surrounds, shift our focus from consumerism to remind ourselves of the impermanence and fragility of the natural world.’

    Emma’s artworks are inspired by concepts of balance, repetition and contrast. Photo – Georgie James.


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    Tasty Tuesday

    The Tastiest Tuesdays of 2016 · Free to Feed’s Persian Nougat

    Hamed Allahyari and Julia Busuttil Nishimura of Free to Feed

    Today we’re continuing our recap of the TASTIEST Tuesdays of 2016!

    One major culinary highlight of the year was our collaboration with Free to Feed. Free to Feed is a not-for-profit cooking class and workshop program hosted by asylum seekers and refugees in Melbourne.

    We were lucky enough to have Hamed Allahyari of Free to Feed and Julia Busuttil Nishimura of OSTRO introduce us to some of Iran’s most popular sweet and savoury dishes. This Persian rosewater and pistachio sticky nougat, known as ‘Gaz’ to locals, is simply outstanding!

    Persian nougat. Recipe by Hamed Allahyari and Julia Ostro for Free To Feed. Props: Plate by Valerie Restarick, linen napkin from Mr Draper, Cutipol gold cutlery from Francalia, green condiment dishes from The Establishment Studios. Surface from Fibonacci Stone. Photo – Eve Wilson. Styling – Lucy Feagins, assistant styling – Natalie Turnbull.

    Persian nougat. Recipe by Hamed Allahyari and Julia Ostro for Free To Feed. Props: Flat plate by Shiko. Surface from Fibonacci Stone. Photo – Eve Wilson. Styling – Lucy Feagins, assistant styling – Natalie Turnbull.

    Nougat ingredients. Recipe by Hamed Allahyari and Julia Ostro for Free To Feed. Props: Linen napkin from Mr Draper, glass mug from Muji, flat bowl by Sophie Harle. Surface from Fibonacci Stone. Photo – Eve Wilson. Styling – Lucy Feagins, assistant styling – Natalie Turnbull.

    Persian nougat, also known as Gaz, is super sticky and famously originates from the city of Isfahan, where people flock from all over Iran to purchase the freshest Gaz. Hamed recalled times when he would travel to Isfahan, simply to buy the sweet sticky candy. The more pistachios, the more expensive and prized it would be. If you were trying to impress someone, you would come back from Isfahan with some Gaz, seriously loaded with pistachios.

    While the most commonly found Gaz contains only pistachios, we’ve added barberries into the mixture to give a little hint of sourness. We’ve also made a batch with sour cherries, which are a little sweeter than the barberries, but work really well. Persian nougat is quite soft, so if it’s a warm day, keep it in the fridge to avoid it melting. The nougat isn’t too difficult to make, however, it’s so important to have everything ready as once the sugar syrup has reached temperature, you need to work fast.

    Ingredients (Makes approx 20 x 20cm square)

    • 200g raw unsalted pistachio kernels
    • 80g barberries
    • 360g caster sugar
    • 110ml liquid glucose
    • 210g honey
    • 60g egg whites (approximately two)
    • 1 tbsp rosewater
    • Zest of 1 orange
    • Two sheets of edible rice paper
    • 100ml water

    Method

    Line a 20cm deep square cake tin with one sheet of the edible rice paper, shiny side down. Alternatively, line the tray with baking paper. The mixture will be super sticky, so you want to do your best to prevent it sticking to the tin.

    Preheat oven to the lowest temperature. Place the pistachios and barberries on a tray and keep warm in the oven until ready to use.

    Place the sugar, liquid glucose, honey and 100ml water in a medium saucepan and over a medium flame heat to 135C on a candy thermometer. This should take around 10 minutes.

    While the sugar is reaching 135C, place the egg whites in a very clean bowl of an electric mixer with a balloon whisk attachment. When the sugar syrup reaches approximately 130C, begin to whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks. Once the sugar syrup reaches 135C, with the mixer on medium speed, slowly pour the sugar syrup into the egg whites. Increase the speed and beat until thick and glossy (approximately two minutes).

    Working quickly, fold in the warm pistachios and barberries, the rosewater and orange zest. Spoon mixture into the prepared tin, smooth the surface, and top with the second piece of edible rice paper, shiny side up.

    Allow to cool completely overnight or for at least 4 hours. Cut the Gaz into pieces using a very sharp knife and serve with sour cherry tea.

    Hamed Allahyari of Free to Feed and Julia Busuttil Nishimura of OSTRO. Photo – Eve Wilson. Styling – Natalie Turnbull.


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  • 01/17/17--11:00: Natasha Morgan and Family
  • Australian Homes

    Natasha Morgan and Family

    Fiona Killackey

    Transforming a dream into reality, landscape architect and urban designer Natasha Morgan left behind her career and life in Melbourne to create Oak & Monkey Puzzle, a design, event and horticultural-focussed property just outside of Daylesford in Victoria, where she now lives with her two children.

    Beneath 160-year-old oak trees, Natasha Morgan spoke with Fiona Killackey about home renovations, fulfilling dreams, the magnificence of nature and the delight that comes with living off the land.

    TDF’s gardens columnist, Georgina Reid of The Plant Hunter, also took a tour of Natasha’s property earlier in the week. You can read her story on the beautiful grounds here.

    The house sits in a quiet locale, back from the road. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

    The moody central dining room features the original Post Office earth wall. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

    Natasha selected Dulux Vivid White for internal walls. Aboriginal painting is Women Body Paint by Audrey Brumby, alongside 1800s French ladder-back rush chair, timber benches from Leonard Joel, assorted wooden chopping blocks from Fryerstown Antique Fair, and vintage chest with assorted vintage stoneware. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

    An assortment of hats at the front entrance. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

    The lounge room features a wall of vintage and contemporary artwork including paintings by Betty Mbitjana and Patsy Rossi, a vintage ship painting from Kabinett in Kyneton, as well as one of Natasha’s favourite pieces, The Old Lady painting (1859). Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

    Loungeroom dresser detail, with assorted vintage stoneware bought at markets, Vintage French stamp set from a French flea market, vintage stoneware mould from Mill Markets Daylesford, and pewter pieces from Manteau Noir, Daylesford. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

    Natasha’s lounge room showcases an antique French provincial dresser from  L J Tuddin Antiques, Inverloch. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

    ‘One of the first parts we completed was this small alcove in the kitchen’ says Natasha of the area above the existing vintage woodstove, ‘I would stare at it and think, at least one part of this renovation is done!’ Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

    Assorted vintage copper pots, Sophie Moran teapot from Bokeh, Daylesford, and kitchen cupboards from IKEA. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

    The mudroom houses Natasha’s preserves, including the popular Elderflower Cordial (see her site for stockist details). It also features a vintage dresser, vintage fruit baskets from Mill Market, Daylesford, Fowlers Vacola jars inherited from her grandmother, and Falcon Enamelware. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

    The bathroom offers one of the most spectacular views from the house onto the sprawling garden and workshop areas. It features a vintage mirror, assorted vintage stoneware, antique pewter candlestick holder from Tyabb Antique Market, Carrara marble bench sourced from stone yard in Brooklyn, and sink from Schots Emporium. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

    Creative corner in Natasha’s master bedroom. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

    Natasha used Dulux Vivid White in Low Sheen for her bedroom. The antique timber corbel is from Camberwell Market, with antique rush seated stool, Iosis velvet cushions, Bedouin Society linen, vintage rice canisters and Haby Bonomo Pour Genevieve Levy Edition pillow slips all from Manteau Noir, Daylesford. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

    An ornamental bird cage sits atop a vintage chest in a bedroom. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

    Cute curios and handmade creations adorn walls. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

    Large windows provide vantages of the spectacular grounds. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

    Colourful paintings and drawings feature in the children’s room and playroom. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

    The bright and airy bathroom. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

    Exterior detail. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

    The purpose built Oak & Monkey Puzzle workshop area, in the sun-drenched top corner of the garden. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

    Landscape architect and urban designer, Natasha Morgan with her two children Saffron and Oliver.  Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

    Breathtaking. That’s the first word that comes to mind when you pull off the seemingly endless Ballan-Daylesford Road and into Oak & Monkey Puzzle, a property renovated by Natasha Morgan. Set back from the bitumen, the stark, white weatherboard home stands out against a backdrop of soaring gums and age-old oaks. Acting not only as a home for Natasha and her two small children, Oak & Monkey Puzzle is also a buzzing place of business. In collaboration with other local creatives, Natasha hosts events, workshops, shoots and even weddings on the property, as well as utilising the spectacular garden to grow flowers for a local florist collective, and a host of produce for her popular  preserves.

    ‘I had dreamt about owning a place in the country since my early days at Uni, and had been passively looking for about eight years,’ says Natasha. Initially searching for a weekender, Natasha changed her mind when she and her partner stumbled upon an almost derelict property, housing what was originally the Spargo Creek Post Office, built in the 1860s by Swiss-Italian builder, Mr Spargo. ‘I stood there under those towering trees, and felt the dream had to happen somehow’ she says.

    Utilising her skills as a landscape architect and urban designer, Natasha created all the drawings for the new home, with work carried out by herself, her partner, and various tradespeople. ‘It was so rundown… we had gaps in the walls where bats would fly in’ Natasha recalls. One of the renovation highlights was discovering the original post office walls. ‘You can actually see the builder’s fingerprints in the earth… I love to put my own hands on this and imagine it back then.’

    Merging the best of a Gold Rush-era structure with a crisp palette of white, black and charcoal, the home brings together an endearingly ad-hoc edit of vintage collectables and contemporary details. ‘I like to think of the home as an experience you inhabit, rather than a collection of things’ says Natasha. 

    At one end of the home is a master bedroom with new parquet flooring and artwork from Josh Bowes, alongside an all-white bathroom with a spectacular view to the garden via an oversized window. At the centre of the home is a dramatic dark dining room, featuring that original exposed earth wall from the original post office. An all-white kitchen leads onto Natasha’s mudroom, where she stores her preserves. At the front of the house is the lounge room, featuring a wall of vintage and contemporary art, as well as Natasha’s collection of vintage pewter and stoneware. Her children’s room is a mixture of vintage and new, bursting with colourful paintings and wooden toys.

    ‘I love it here,’ says Natasha. ‘What started as a dream has turned into more than I could imagine!’

    Natasha hosts workshops and events at Oak & Monkey Puzzle throughout the year, click here to see upcoming dates and details. This year the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival’s Regional Longest Lunch – Daylesford will be held on the property, with proceeds going to the Daylesford Primary Kitchen Garden Program.

    Home frontage. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.


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