Defining the character of Australian architecture and design

By Penny Craswell

Australia’s relaxed outdoor lifestyle, unique natural beauty, history and culture are reflected in our approach to architecture. Seven architects and interior designers reflect on the character of Australian design.

House at Big Hill by Kerstin Thompson. Photo: Trevor Mein. Read more on The Design Writer blog.
House at Big Hill by Kerstin Thompson. Photo: Trevor Mein

Australian architects are influenced, like all architects, by the context of their project – whether that’s a bush setting, an ocean view or an urban laneway. In Australia, this sometimes means taking account of proximity to the bush, potential floods and fires, access to fresh water. Our tendency to spend a lot of time in the great outdoors has also had a huge influence on our design choices. Architect Peter Stutchbury believes this has an impact on our architecture: “Recreation permeates our thinking. Verandahs, gardens, courtyards, swimming pools, ponds, clothes lines, tree swings and vegetable gardens were all, until recently, integral to the design brief.” Read more

Object stories: Etched memories by Penelope Forlano

By Penny Craswell

The work of Perth-based designer Penelope Forlano explores memories, heirlooms and intergenerational meaning. En_Case (Engraved Casegoods) is a modular furniture piece with a series of patterns laser engraved to form texture on timber. These patterns act as visual snippets of memory; new combinations can be selected from a wide range of patterns to create a personal, customised version.

Hong Kong pattern by Penelope Forlano engraved on timber. Read more on The Design Writer blog
Hong Kong pattern by Penelope Forlano engraved on timber. Image: supplied

For this particular piece, Forlano conducted an interview with a family about their personal and ancestral past, going back as many generations as they knew about. Recurring or overlapping themes and stories, including significant places and experiences, were then translated into patterns. Read more

Top 10: Ethical design gift guide

By Penny Craswell

Design isn’t just about aesthetics, and to prove it, this ethical gift guide lists a few of the many designers and brands now donating to charity or committed to ethical practices. So, read on, this is your chance to give back this holiday season – not just to families and friends, but also to those in need.

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The Pretty Fly pin by Annie Hamilton. Photo: supplied


1. Increasingly, community-minded makers and sellers are donating a portion of their profits to charities. Sydney-based multi-disciplinary designer Annie Hamilton donates 10% of sales from her pins and art prints to the Asylum Seekers Resource Centre to help support and empower people seeking asylum in Australia. With a focus on insects and patterns inspired by plants, including the Pretty Fly enamel pin set consisting of venus fly trap and matching fly, Hamilton’s work also includes clothing and scarves, made locally and ethically in Sydney by a small team of makers in Redfern. Read more

Top 5: Conceptual rugs

By Penny Craswell

Rugs don’t have to make a big statement to be beautiful – many of the best rugs are designed to be subtle, with one concept differentiating it from the crowd. These five new rug ranges are made from a range of materials and with a variety of design ideas, all of which are successful in their originality and soft concept.

1. Armadillo&Co is an Australian company, founded by Jodie Fried and Sally Pottharst, producing hand-made, fair trade and sustainable rugs. As well as benefiting from the long tradition that their weavers in India, Nepal and Pakistan bring to these hand-knotted rugs, Armadillo&Co is also committed to social responsibility, supporting their weavers’ communities through building schools and other social programs. More on Armadillo&Co

Heirloom Collection, Persian Knot Rug, Babylon in Sterling Bronze by Armadillo Co. The Design Writer blog.
Heirloom Collection, Persian Knot Rug, Babylon in Sterling Bronze by Armadillo&Co. Image: supplied
Latitude collection, Berber Knot rug, Savannah in Chalk by Armadillo & Co. The Design Writer blog.
Latitude collection, Berber Knot Rug, Savannah in Chalk by Armadillo&Co. Image: supplied


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Design and Indigenous Australia: Lucy Simpson and Nicole Monks

By Penny Craswell

As a source of inspiration for designers and architects, Australian Indigenous culture should not be underestimated. At a recent talk on shield carving by Andrew Snelgar and Simon Penrose at the Art Gallery of NSW, I saw first hand the beauty of traditional shields, tools and weapons made by hand. I also learnt about practices such as the harvesting of timber from trees – up to two thirds of a tree can be removed without killing it.

 

Dhina digital print scarf. Image: courtesy © Lucy Simpson
Dhina digital print scarf designed by Lucy Simpson. Image: courtesy © Lucy Simpson

Two contemporary Indigenous designers drawing on Indigenous Australian traditions in their practices are Lucy Simpson, a textile and graphic designer who sells scarves, textiles, jewellery and objects under the name Gaawaa Miyay, and Nicole Monks, a designer working across art, interiors, fashion, set and surface design (Lucy and Nicole are both participants in the Arts NSW 2016 Indigenous Design Mentorship scheme facilitated by the Australian Design Centre). Read more

Review: Connecting creators at Factory Design District

By Penny Craswell

It was bad luck that the worst storm to hit Sydney in decades happened to coincide with the most exciting new design event to make its debut in the city this year. Factory Design District is the brainchild of Kobe Johns who brought her previous experience on DesignEX and London Design Festival to the event, which ran over three days as part of Vivid Ideas.

Johns now runs joinery workshop JP Finsbury with her partner (in work and in life) Adam Price and envisaged Factory Design District as a way for manufacturers and makers to connect with the design industry and the design-loving public.

Factory Design District, held in Sydney in June 2016. Photo: Fiona Susanto
Factory Design District, held in Sydney in June 2016. Photo: Fiona Susanto

The mission of the event, which included stands by some 30 exhibitors, was to start a dialogue between those people who work in timber, metal, fabric etc. and those who are curious about the process of making, or who may want bespoke or off-the-shelf Australian-made and designed goods. Read more

Object stories: Hoshi lounge by Tom Skeehan

By Penny Craswell

The new Hoshi range, including lounge, armchair and bench, is the latest work by emerging Canberra-based designer Tom Skeehan, working with furniture supplier Stylecraft. Loosely translating as “star” in Japanese, Hoshi is inspired by the designer’s travels in Japan: “I have personally experienced their deep attraction to materials and process, combined with a rich understanding of how an object is made and the purpose / life cycle of the work.”

Hoshi lounge designed by Tom Skeehan for Stylecraft. Image: supplied
Hoshi lounge designed by Tom Skeehan for Stylecraft. Image: supplied

“Aesthetically, I admire the restraint and often minimal approach to many aspects of Japanese culture,  placing a strong emphasis on the overall process and individual daily ritual,” he adds. Read more

Five designs from Milan (from afar)

By Penny Craswell

This year I’m reporting on the fair from home in Sydney, but thanks to email and social media (hello Instagram), there is plenty filtering through already from the world’s largest furniture design event, the Milan Furniture Fair. Here’s five designs that have instantly caught my attention, from designers near and afar, even before the fair begins.

1. Ross Gardam’s Polar Desk Lamp

Since launching his studio in Melbourne in 2007, Ross Gardam has launched several furniture and lighting pieces and his Polar desk lamp is being shown at Ventura Lambrate in Milan this year. These photos by Haydn Cattach show a variety of colours and backdrops – it will be interesting to see how these translate to different environments.

Polar desk lamp by Ross Gardam. Photo: Haydn Cattach
Polar desk lamp by Ross Gardam. Photo: Haydn Cattach

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Object stories: Carafe Table by Charles Wilson

By Penny Craswell

The Carafe table has a visual and structural complexity to it that is characteristic of the work of Charles Wilson, a Sydney-based designer who worked in close collaboration with Herman Miller over a period of years to complete the project.

Living Edge_Carafe table designed by Charles Wilson for Herman Miller_009-5
Carafe table with drawer designed by Charles Wilson for Herman Miller


The underside features a series of compartments in moulded plywood including open shelves as well as a closed, sliding drawer that opens both ways, sloping inwards to create a geometry that is tucked in under the tabletop. The leg structure spans to the corners of the table, supporting the shelves but visually forming a third layer underneath that is drawn together at the centre in a distinctive T cross-section which Wilson says references industrial structures. Read more

Object stories: Macadamia wood design by Quench

By Penny Craswell

Quench is a group of Queensland-based designers who have been coming together each year for five years to exhibit their work both in Australia and overseas. In 2015, for the first time, the designers of Quench decided to take a more unified approach, deciding on one material – macadamia wood – and one theme – objects relating to food. The result is a series of objects that are handcrafted and beautiful, creating a truly Australian collection that tells a story. The name of the exhibition, which was shown at Tokyo Designers Week in 2015, is “Table Stories”.

Dr Crunch by Marc Harrison for Table Stories. Image: Supplied
Dr Crunch by Marc Harrison for Table Stories. Image: Supplied

For Table Stories, each designer has created a different story to tell. Marc Harrison, known for his Husque tablewares made of processed macadamia shell, has designed a macadamia nut cracker called Dr Crunch. Alexander Lotersztain, an Argentinian-born multi-disciplinary designer working under his brand Derlot, handcrafted Sclpt, a series of four spoons; Jason Bird, who sells furniture and objects under his brand Luxxbox, designed three objects called Vessel; Surya Graf, whose work spans architecture and industrial design, created Hex, a mortal and pestle grinder for fresh spices; and David Shaw, who designs furniture and is founder / director of the Street and Garden Furniture Co, created Prop, a sculptural object for holding hot food as well as a tea candle. Read more