Review: Alleyway bar, Sydney

By Penny Craswell

Alleyway is a new micro whiskey bar tucked in a laneway behind 200 George Street in the centre of Sydney. Interior designers Angela Biddle and Shehani Kumarasinghege from Scott Carver had to make use of every millimetre in a tiny space with a width of only three metres.

Alleyway, with bottle shelving made of apple crates, interiors by Scott Carver. Photo: Luc Remond

Everywhere you look in this little spot, there is an interesting detail or pattern. Recycled Tea Grey timber was used for the bar front, contrasted with Bronze Verdigris metal finish for the bar serving ledge – this will patina with time. Read more

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

Melbourne house, with cloister

By Penny Craswell

While the word “cloister” evokes images of monks roaming crumbling monasteries, in fact the term merely refers to a covered walkway, usually with garden connections. Melbourne-based practice MRTN Architects has used the architectural device in a new alteration of a Victorian-era single-fronted terrace house in Carlton.

Carlton Cloister House by MRTN Architects. Photo:
Connecting old and new at Carlton Cloister House by MRTN Architects. Photo: Shannon McGrath

The addition to the house is placed at the back of the site, with the cloister connecting the two buildings. This layout has a number of benefits, offering an internal link between the two buildings while retaining valuable garden space. By orienting the cloister at the south of the site, the property also gains access to northern sunlight. Read more

Review: Little Creatures Hong Kong

By Penny Craswell

Little Creatures is the latest Hong Kong restaurant by Charlie & Rose, a Hong Kong-based creative studio led by Australian designer Ben McCarthy. The venue is the first Little Creatures outside of Australia and is situated in Kennedy Town, where the cuisines range from seafood to Italian, to Mexican-Japanese fusion, all situated within a stone’s throw of Hong Kong Harbour.

Front facade of Little Creatures Hong Kong by Charlie & Rose. More on The Design Writer blog
Front facade of Little Creatures Hong Kong by Charlie & Rose. Image: supplied


Previously a warehouse space, the restaurant interior retains some of the original’s industrial grunge, overlaid with blonde timber joinery, bespoke furniture and some big, decorative red pipes that run through the space. Part of the brief was to create facilities for an on-site brewery and the gleaming metal brewing equipment takes pride of place behind the bar. Read more

Review: Eat Burger interiors by Amber Road

By Penny Craswell

Cronulla’s latest destination is a casual burger bar that nevertheless boasts a sophisticated interior with bespoke detailing by Sydney interior design and landscape studio Amber Road. Eat Burger is the latest venture of chef Paul Camilleri who wanted to veer from previous highbrow dining and create a causal venue serving a sophisticated burger.

The bar at Eat Burger, design by Amber Road. Photo: Cole Bennetts

The space, serving 40+ clients within 120sqm,  is a masterful combination of white and pastel elements, including a sandy colour used for the formed concrete bar and bar stools with pink cork seats and grey concrete bases. Read more

Review: Timber crafted bar and sauna by Partisans

By Penny Craswell

Founded in 2011, Partisans is an architecture studio run by Alexander Josephson, Pooya Baktash and Jonathan Friedman in Toronto, Canada. Two recent projects use innovative digital technologies to create beautiful interiors in wood: Bar Raval and Grotto Sauna.

Bar Raval, bar at night. Photo: Jonathan Friedman
Bar Raval, bar at night. Photo: Jonathan Friedman

The brief from Bar Raval’s clients Canadian chef Grant van Gameren and mixologists Mike Webster and Robin Goodfellow, was to create an enduring institution that is also an “art piece”. Partisans developed a highly detailed digital model of the space and then enlisted the help of fabricators MCM and software engineers Mastercam to create prefabricated components, crafted in sinuous lines. Over 9km of engravings on 75 panels of wood created the final bar interior.  Read more

Design and performance: scenography

By Penny Craswell

Truly multi-disciplinary, scenography is design for performance environments – encompassing set design, lighting and more for the theatre (and musicals, dance). Also related is design for catwalk shows, as well as other temporary experiential designs – installations for events or festivals for example. As more environments are designed to be experiential, the skill of creating “scenes” is more applicable across disciplines.

Teatro Olimpico by Palladio in Vicenza. Image: Penny Craswell


The discipline is on the periphery of design – part interior design, part styling, part costume, part art, part lighting, part construction. Architecture can also play a role, such as in the oldest existing closed theatre, the 1585 Teatro Olimpico by Vicenza architect Palladio which features a beautiful facade with arches, behind which a false perspective creates the illusion of a streetscape. Read more

Review: Bavarian bierhaus interiors by Techne

By Penny Craswell

When Techne Architecture + Interior Design was given the brief to convert a South Wharf goods shed into Melbourne’s first bustling bierhaus, the Munich Brauhaus, the challenge was clear: to design a space that can pack 900 beer-lovers into what is essentially a large warehouse, while maintaining a contemporary, fresh design.

The Munich Brauhaus with design by Techne. Photo: Tom Blachford.
The Munich Brauhaus with design by Techne. Photo: Tom Blachford.

In order to achieve this, the design team split the cavernous space into a number of areas, including a large dining hall, Jager Bar and Wunder Bar, with a mezzanine floor and private function room providing more private, quieter zones. Timber is used extensively and creatively, with major joinery elements in a pale American Ash that creates a refined, bleached finish. Read more

Design writings: a workplace for extroverts too

Design writings: a workplace for extroverts too

“But even extroverts get worn out by the amount of stimulation everyone faces. We’re bombarded with information: according to The Happiness Advantage author Shawn Achor, people receive over 11 million bits of information every second, but the conscious brain can only effectively manage about 40 bits. Our technology allows work to follow us everywhere, even into places like the bedroom and bathroom that used to be non-work sanctuaries.



“We’re collaborating with teammates for longer stretches of time – sometimes the whole workday – requiring longer hours to handle our individual tasks. Even in countries like France and Germany that have long valued the separation of work and life, our jobs have seeped into nights and weekends. The pace of work has intensified everywhere. Which means that everyone – including extroverts – needs access to private places to get stuff done, or simply take a breather.”

This article in the Harvard Review discusses how Susan Cain’s book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking has changed how we think about workplace design, and how extroverts need privacy too.

Great article by Steelcase’s Christine Congdon in the Harvard Business Review.


Reproduction, Replica or Rip Off? Launch sparks furniture debate

Reproduction, Replica or Rip Off? Launch sparks furniture debate

“Replica, reproduction or rip off? It’s likely what you call a fake piece of designer furniture depends on if you would have one in your house or not. Over the last few years designer fakes have been seen as big issue in the Australian interior design industry. For example Authentic Design Alli ance was set up a couple of years ago to petition government for change and educate both the design industry and consumers.

“The topic of fakes or copies came up last week I attended the launch of Penny Craswell’s The Design Writer blog at Stylecraft. The panel consisted of 3 Australian furniture designers – Keith Melbourne, Helen Kontouris and Greg Natale. The issue of copying was raised by Penny as part of the panel discussion and certainly dominated the audience comments at the end of the night. Whilst none of the designers present had yet had the (dubious) honour of having their pieces copied, all are aware of how prevalent cheap (and even not so cheap) reproductions are – and that they seem to be are comprising a growing segment of the furniture market in Australia.”

Interior designer and blogger Ceilidh Higgins has published a fantastic article sparked by the debate on replicas at the launch of this blog last week.

Thank you Ceilidh for the thought-provoking article from an interior designer’s perspective.

Read more here.