Wednesday, 4 March 2015


While she had only been working as an interior designer for just over a year, Aleisha Lancaster was getting frustrated that she couldn’t source the types of products she wanted for her clients. They were either too expensive, mass-produced or replicas. And so she set herself a challenge. The result was opening Shop U, selling beautiful yet affordable handcrafted wares. Initially it was set up as an online space, and since December it has been open to the public as a bricks and mortar store in Sydney’s Bondi Beach. “I wanted to surround myself with only beautiful items that mean something and have a story to tell,” she says. “I wanted to meet and converse with like-minded creatives and designers who are also passionate in this field.” As well as her stable range of homewares, Aleisha is exhibiting a “Locals for Locals” art exhibition until March 9. It features the work of boat builder Elise Cameron Smith, furniture designer Frag Woodall, illustrator Dana M Johnson, weaver Rachel Hannah Wright of Willow Brooke Design, textile designer and maker Grace Wood and furniture maker Elliot Holdstock.

Which five words best describe you? Impatiently patient, ambitious, creative and passionate.

How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? Before pursuing my interiors dream, I actually joined the navy as a sailor working in administration. During my eighth year, I decided that I had enough business background and understanding of myself that I would finally commence schooling in interior design and decoration.

My interiors career really began when I started working for myself under Unleished Interior Designs in early 2013 designing and decorating interiors for residents in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney. By March 2014, I had launched an online store Shop U to sell the local and international pieces I was also acquiring for my clients. Now I’m happy to say that in only eight months, Shop U has now opened its boutique doorway to the locals of Sydney in it’s first bricks and mortar store selling unique handmade, customised furniture and homewares and providing services in interior design and decoration. 

Shop U is my chance to focus on helping local and international designers and creatives bring their beautiful products to the retail scene.

What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? I have learnt many lessons. But the best and probably the worst is to understand that not everything happens at once, all good things take time. 

What’s your proudest career achievement? I have been proud of every move I have made in my career; every step has been a progression to where I am now. I am a very lucky person.

What’s been your best decision? A career change and opening up my own storefront.

Who inspires you? All business entrepreneurs; it takes guts to get out there to pursue an idea that started small and to make it work. I also admire stylists, designers and architects who are distinctive, creative and who push boundaries.

What are you passionate about? Unique product, people and places.

Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? Coco Chanel for being an independent woman who influenced many. 

What dream do you still want to fulfil? I would love to travel more for work, especially Europe and to be a part of an interiors TV series. So far in the area, we have Bondi Vet, Bondi Rescue… maybe Bondi Interiors is on the way!  

What are you reading? Countless emails and interior magazines.

images courtesy of daily imprint

Tuesday, 3 March 2015


“No two projects are ever the same,” says interior designer Fiona Lynch. The unexpected nature of her work is part of the reason why she steered away from a career in fine arts and diverted towards interiors. But the two disciplines are often at play in her designs. “I love bringing my fine art background into my interiors through my exploration of materials and details,” she says. Over the past 15 years Fiona has worked at a range of practices and last year went solo after working in partnership with Mardi Doherty (interview here) for four years under the the name Doherty Lynch. Since then Fiona has worked on a range of interior projects, including the restaurant Prix Fixe, which received a high recommendation at the 2014 Eat Drink Awards. It’s the project she’s most proud of. “Given the difficult space we had to work with I think we have delivered a project that is wonderfully unique and beautiful.” Fiona has also recently released her second range of rugs, Shard, which are made in Australia.

Which five words best describe you? Creative, organised, ambitious, fun, intuitive.

How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? I first completed a fine art degree (honours) in painting before going onto study interior design, also at RMIT. I was fortunate to land an intern job at Geyer Design, a high-end corporate and retail firm. I was at Geyer for the four years of my course, which was a great foundation before following my partner to Canberra for a year. MGT Architects - an American firm that designed our iconic new Parliament house - offered me a job and this was a wonderful experience, working on projects such as the Finnish embassy, State Library of South Australia and multi-residential projects in Hong Kong. A move back to Melbourne lead to a new job at John Wardle Architects where I worked on projects such as the wonderful Vineyard House, City Hill House and Yarra Bend House. This cemented my love of residential projects. A small period followed at Bates Smart where I worked on Victoria Gardens, a high-end project in Beijing. Ultimately by 2004 I was ready to launch my own business, which was just over 10 years ago.

In 2009 Mardi Doherty and I joined forces for four successful years. However, I found myself yearning to go back out on my own to focus on my own style and approach to business. This was a huge leap of faith launching the Fiona Lynch design office at the end of 2013. Leaving behind the security of a set-up office with systems was terrifying but also a liberating experience. I now have a small team of three senior designers and a senior architect we only run a small range of projects at any one time so we can give each project our complete focus and attention. In the past 16 months we have designed numerous residential projects, a restaurant Prix Fixe, a shoe shop for Habbot and two butcher shops. We have some wonderful opportunities coming up this year with a rural project in Holbrook designing a guest house, a renovation of Cannings original store in Hawthorn and assisting with two upcoming exhibitions at Tarrawarra art gallery, French installation artist Pierre Huyghe and Australian painter Howard Arkley later in the year.

What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? Listen to your inner voice. If something is bothering you about a design you are working on it will most definitely bother you when it is built.

What’s your proudest career achievement? Prix Fixe received a high recommendation at the Eat Drink Awards. The brief was based on the concept of “the theatre of food” where the food would be the star, complemented by an intimate, dining experience. The design concept was to create a beautiful and elegant interior whilst referencing the original 1980s architecture and style but at the same time a recessive backdrop to the food, and the response has been so rewarding. In the last few months I finally feel I have created a studio which has a definite and clear design language. This is a wonderful feeling.

What’s been your best decision? Following my dream of integrating my fine art background and interiors. My friends from art school are my biggest supporters as they can see that all of the elements that I was interested in when studying fine art painting have been drawn across into my interiors. I have always been inspired by artists who explored materiality such as Eva Hesse and Rachel Whiteread. I finally feel I have an understanding of materials and colour and how these are paramount to the experience I wish to create in my interiors. Relaunching my own design office was a big leap of faith, but it has been completely empowering. We recently celebrated our first birthday, which was an amazing moment to pause and reflect on an incredible year. And 2015 is already off to a flying start with many past clients returning and new client opportunities.

Who inspires you? Ilse Crawford has a design language very much in tune with my own approach. Her focus on materials and tactility is something I have always placed great importance.

What are you passionate about? I am passionate about many things. Firstly, beautiful original design. We see design as the expression of a story through materials, so we strive to create spaces of warmth, emotion and livability, always striving to deliver outcomes that are completely resolved and authentic. I’m also passionate about relationships. Relationships are at the core of every successful project and interior design is in essence a service industry, therefore we invest time in understanding the needs of our clients, working in collaboration with our suppliers, and nurturing a positive environment for our team.  

Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? Artist Ricky Swallow. His recent Bronze exhibition of vessels work is incredible. A very different understanding of materiality to his large-scale slick Dark Vader head I saw at the Ian Potter many years ago. I have a book on his Bronze exhibition and am inspired by the way he works texture into this body of work. He has somehow made bronze look ceramic and hand built but these works also remind me of Picasso’s Guitar collage series, which I also love. I studied fine art and it is an incredible influence on my work to this day, reflected in our interpretation of colour, materials, texture and lighting. 

What dream do you still want to fulfil? Designing a boutique hotel. To have such a vast blank canvas with so many possibilities would be a dream. It also combines our three core divisions of hospitality and commercial – all with a residential flair. 

What are you reading? Apart from design blogs and magazines really poor attempts at a stack of novels on my bedside table. Most exciting though is Ilse Crawford’s A Frame for Life, which just arrived on my desk. I’m looking forward to getting into that.

images courtesy of fiona lynch; photography brooke holm, styling marsha golemac; photography gorta yuuki (second kitchen)

Monday, 2 March 2015


Styling is a part of Bettina McIlwraith of Appetite for Decoration - thanks to the way she was brought up, she says. “But it runs deeper than that, now styling is a vital communication tool for better ways of living and always in support of sustainable, ethical art forms. My work too has always been about a massive appreciation of tribal culture, especially ritual and ceremony... a celebration of life in the everyday.” Bettina enjoys the collaborative elements of it: exchanging ideas with photographers, retailers, designers, artists, models, and other creatives. She is based in Sydney after living for many years in London where she consulted on trends and prints for fashion, lifestyle and interior brands. Since returning to Australia, she has worked with companies such as One Another (interviewed here). “What I do is not just about creating beautiful images but communicating better ways to live, specifically an ethical, sustainable, more fulfilling and forward-thinking way of life.” As for the styling that was in her blood? “Style just oozes from my mumma’s veins and both my grandmothers too; their lust and sense of colour and flair for design in all things was super inspiring to grow up in,” Bettina says. “That was my leg up into this world, you could say.”

Which five words best describe you? Creative, optimistic, adventurous, extremist, naughty (but nice).

How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? Justin Abrahams of the Husk stores fame gave me my first break back in the year 2000, I had moved to Melbourne to study fashion at RMIT and I started working in the flagship store in Malvern, which led to a role in buying, particularly the introduction of new brands into the fold. Also, the concept and styling of each seasonal campaign and the curation of seasonal wardrobes - personal styling sessions - for our VIP customers. It was a really exciting time for me, personally and professionally. Justin’s unique vision for retail was way ahead of its time - so strong and authentic in its approach and in support of labels that embodied the brand’s ethos. This is where I became passionate about really great retail. He was an awesome mentor and introduced me to the people and brands I’m still incredibly passionate about - especially Pam and Lydia of Easton Pearson

What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? Fight the good fight. I use these words a lot, it’s about staying true to your vision and having belief in yourself, no matter what. Sometimes life/work is difficult but you have to keep on keeping on. It’s also about fighting the mainstream for me, fighting for fair trade, keeping fit physically and mentally and being a warrior for the eco. Gloves on then. 

What’s your proudest career achievement? Consulting on trends and print for fashion, lifestyle and interiors brands in London when I managed the Beyond Retro print and textile archive; travelling between London, Paris and New York; and from there setting up my own business in London’s East End - BlackDot World Archive - an archive of vintage garments, textiles, objects and artefacts from around the globe that enabled travel and to consult on print, trends and aesthetics with a very strong graphic, mostly African and global point of view. 

What’s been your best decision? Moving back to London in 2004 and bringing that knowledge/life experience back here with me to Sydney. Learning transcendental meditation. 

Who inspires you? Li Edelkoort, Iris Apfel and Vivienne Westwood: strong women with strong vision who have stood the test of time. How long have you got? The list goes on... I’m constantly shouting out about those I love and those who inspire me on my Instagram. Also, my sister, my friends and the awesome creative community that is Instagram.

What are you passionate about? Sharp edge. Big heart. Celebrating life, telling my friends and family that I love them.  

Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? I wish for a long, lavish seafood dinner at Ricky Ricardo's in Noosa with lots of wine and loud conversation after a day surfing National Park beaches with my Dada, who passed away almost two years ago. I miss him/us.  

What dream do you still want to fulfil? Continuous travel and eyes open, working with cooperatives, smart brands and people with an inspired vision for better ways of living. To still be working and collaborating well into my 70s.

What are you reading? Magazines - The Hand of Fashion, a digital magazine created by Black Magazine in support of the ITC Ethical Fashion Iniaitive. Print-tastic wise - Bite Me magazine, Nourished Journal, Majestic Disorder, Riposte and GUP. Grew up with Vogue Living and still love it. Books - Vivienne Westwood’s biography by Vivienne Westwood and Ian Kelly.

images courtesy of bettina mcilwraith; (ritual series) photography christopher phillips

Friday, 27 February 2015


“I always knew I wanted to be creative, working with nature gave me the tools to explore where this would take me and over time the path crossed over to a more sculptural form of my floral sculpture practice,” says Tracey Deep, a florist turned sculptor and installation artist. She exhibits consistently in her hometown of Sydney and has a base of regular clients who commission her for work to place in public spaces, including Sails in the Desert in Uluru and the Wolgan Valley Resort in the Blue Mountains. Tracey says she started to get private commissions for her wall pieces and sculpture installations through her work with interior designers and architects. The Macquarie Group has also acquired works for its collection. “When I had my first exhibition it created a perfect avenue for people to discover my work and see it on a larger scale,” she says. Tracey will hold her eighth exhibition in September at The Depot Gallery in Sydney.

Which five words best describe you? Passionate, sensitive, playful, whimsical, happy.

How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? Worked in different flower shops, firstly with Susan Avery who decades ago gave me my first opportunity to play with flowers. Secondly, with Alison Coates who gave me total freedom to play with nature and explore all possibilities. Then I took off and decided it was time to take my floral practice to another level and started floral sculptures, which is now in its second decade. Through my exploration with nature, my sculpture has evolved over the past decade, inspired by nature and using found industrial, organic and recycled materials, I create works through weaving and transforming pieces from their original state to something totally new. They tend to have a light, playful and whimsical nature, and throw beautiful shadows.

What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? If you love what you do, you will find your path.

What’s your proudest career achievement? My very first exhibition and every one that followed. My eighth exhibition opens in early September at The Depot Gallery.

What’s been your best decision? To always stay true to yourself.

Who inspires you? Mother Nature is a source of huge inspiration, and a list of wonderful sculptors and artists: Bronwyn Oliver, Rosalie Gascoigne to name a couple.

What are you passionate about? Sourcing materials, playing with ideas, making new works. This is what feeds my heart and soul, and gives me inspiration every day.

Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? Frida Kahlo, such an amazing spirit and soul, produced such inspirational work and was so passionate.

What dream do you still want to fulfil? To travel internationally with my art. Would love to create art in different parts of the world, from materials found and rescued in these areas.

What are you reading? Gustav Klimt: drawings and watercolours. I love all artists that have an association with nature in their work.

images courtesy of tracey deep

Thursday, 26 February 2015


Tara Wilcox, left, and Nicola Grey

While furniture maker Tara Wilcox and product designer Nicola Grey appreciate great design and craftsmanship, they also understand that not everyone can afford it. As a result in 2011 they decided to make furniture at an accessible price point. “Both being determined to fill our houses with beautiful furniture but not quite having the budget to do it we began designing and making our own,” they say. “This, of course, caught the attention of friends and family and it just grew from there.” Redfox & Wilcox is based in Nicola’s Collingwood studio where pieces are handcrafted from timber salvaged locally. Originally the business was set up for made-to-order production but more recently it’s expanded to produce customisable pieces for domestic and commercial uses.

Which five words best describe you?
Tara: Optimistic, kind, brave, determined, resourceful, honest. 
Nicola: Pessimistic, realistic, impatient, creative, stubborn.

How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? 
We started out as a backyard business. Tara found something that she loved to do and with the help from Nicola, who is by trade an interior designer, we slowly progressed our business. We have had so many learning curves along the way but without them we wouldn’t be the company or people we are today.

What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? 
Communication is key! 

What’s your proudest career achievement? 
Seeing people interact with our products at the most recent Menske project.

What’s been your best decision? 
Starting the business and sticking it out. 

Who inspires you?
Tara: Powerful strong women such as Beyonce, FKA Twigs, Serena Williams, my mother and both grandmothers.
Nicola: Friends and family.

What are you passionate about?
Tara: Music, design, family and friends.
Nicola: Creating things.

Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet?
Tara: Ray Eames

What dream do you still want to fulfil? 
We've been talking about planning a work trip to California, our work is heavily inspired by mid-century architecture and design.  

What are you reading?
Tara: Monkey Grip - Helen Garner 
Nicola: Arrivederci! - Italian for English speakers

images courtesy of redfox and wilcox


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