Wednesday, 26 November 2014


Melissa Collison is not what you would call a regular interior designer. Take her approach to the design of Sake, a Japanese restaurant. She convinced a staff member to get naked, be painted head-to-toe in a dragon tattoo design by make-up artist Wayne Chick, and have her photograph taken by fashion photographer Paul Westlake for the project. The image became the muse and artwork throughout the restaurant. For another commercial project Melissa art directed a photo shoot with photographer Anson Smart that involved a pig carcass and traditional butchery tools so that they could then become the visual touchstone for Swine & Co in Sydney’s CBD. Residential clients themselves haven’t had to go through such rigorous processes, but her interior designs for their homes have been equally memorable.

Which five words best describe you? Brave, determined, empathetic, inquisitive, adventurous and glamorous - oh, is that six?

How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? With a mother who is an artist who worked with oils plus and always changing our home around, painting, wallpapering, new furniture, picking flowers, I was surrounded by it. When I decided to begin my own business I worked around the clock to get started. I just keep going. I see life as a surprise: I see the good in most or I turn everything I can into something good, but I also know when to let go. 

The path I have taken is determination. You can’t teach that. I never try to make a client live in what I like to live in or design. Our work isn’t cookie cutter. When I meet with a client, I take on board snippets they can tell me about themselves, their life and work with what they have. I take the brief they give me to the next level - I hope it gives them more than what they imagined.

What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? Listen, learn, explore: repeat. Be brave. Smile.

What’s your proudest career achievement? My proudest career achievement is that I am doing what I love. Also, that I work with an amazing team. That I have wonderful clients. To have achieved getting here, being here and still loving it.

What’s been your best decision? Travel for inspiration. Never stop travelling and learning and experiencing. Remain open.

Who inspires you? I'm inspired by life. Every day holds something new. However, if I could have the talents of Louis Kahn, the style of Catherine Deneuve, have a home in Palm Springs, vacation in Corsica with Alain Delon, and live between New York and Patagonia, then I’d be truly inspired.

What are you passionate about? I am totally passionate about creating for my clients, whether I am designing a restaurant, home or a block or apartments. Also the experience of travelling and seeing life. One of my secret passions is cooking. I cook a lot for friends. It’s pure joy seeing everyone happy around the table.

Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? Hanging out with Peggy Gugenhiem in Venice could be fun.

What dream do you still want to fulfil? I feel like I've only just begun. I have no idea what life holds. But I am totally open to it. Right now, I’m working on establishing a series of outdoor events that promote health and vitality for young girls and women that allows them to be brave. And, there is something else in the pipeline - can’t reveal it just yet.

What are you reading? These interview questions, and Blink by Malcolm Gladwell.

images courtesy of melissa collison

Friday, 21 November 2014


Having a conversation with Katie Lockhart is like falling down a rabbit hole. Her story gets more fantastical at every turn. After graduating from design school in New Zealand she showed her final year project to fashion designer Karen Walker and became her first design assistant. Two and a half years later, Katie decided to go to Milan. While there she met Francesca Taroni and Silivia Robertazzi who were leaving Italian Vogue to set up Case da Abitare. Katie became a regular contributor and continues to style for them. The magazine ships furniture to her studio in New Zealand such fans are they of her work. Since returning to live in Auckland, Katie has continued to work with Karen Walker - styling shows and designing stores. Five years ago Katie also launched Everyday Needs, a shop that focuses on beautiful utilitarian objects. Most recently she has opened a capsule collection in a pop-up shop at Poepke, a fashion shop in Sydney.

Which five words best describe you? Hawk eyes, gardener, mama, working.

How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? When I graduated from the School of Architecture and Design I showed my final year project to Karen Walker and she hired me as her first design assistant. This was a defining moment for me and I only left to live abroad in Milan where I turned my attention back to interiors and started to style for Italian interior magazines. After a few years of living and working as both a stylist and interior designer in Milan and London I returned home to New Zealand to open my own practice. Five years ago we extended our offering to open Everyday Needs as well.

What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? To trust my intuition. Sometimes the scariest times are the most defining creatively.

What’s your proudest career achievement? Having my own practice.

What’s been your best decision? To return home to New Zealand.  

Who inspires you? Family and friends. Especially my husband.

What are you passionate about? Interiors that reflect their owners, gardening, handmade furniture, my husband and kids.

Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? I would have loved to have walked Derek Jarman’s garden with him.
What dream do you still want to fulfil? I really feel like I am living it.

What are you reading? In praise of shadows by Junichiro Tanizaki.

images courtesy of katie lockhart and, from top, mark smith, tash hopkins, sait akkirman, darryl ward and todd selby

Wednesday, 19 November 2014


Fifteen years ago photographer James Houston decided to start all over again. He had established a successful career in Australia, shooting editorials for Vogue Australia and Black and White magazine but he wanted to work in New York. It took a while to break through but when he did, James did it with style - landing Donna Karan and Clinique as clients. Since then he has carved out a niche in beauty photography and celebrity portraiture. More recently he has launched James Houston Design, showcasing a series of his prints in an online gallery. 

Which five words best describe you? Driven, conscious, activist, visionary and creative.

How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? I was modeling in Tokyo and happened to stumble onto photography as a hobby while I was there and I started shooting my friends. When I came back to Australia I decided to work towards an exhibition and publishing a book of my work. This helped get my name out there and from that point I started to work with editorial magazines and advertising clients slowly working my way up to be a leading photographer in Australia. 

I then decided to move to New York which was initially challenging. I worked hard to break into the market and build up my client base internationally. While in New York I discovered my passion for beauty, hair and skin and that became my focus allowing me to become one of the worlds leading beauty photographers working for clients such as L’Oreal Paris, Donna Karan, Hugo Boss and Givenchy, and celebrities such as Hugh Jackman, Emma Watson and Jennifer Lopez.

I believe in evolving as an artist and I am now at a point in my career where I am moving into design with photography as the inspiration under the banner of recently launched James Houston Design. We launch our first home product range in the Spring 2015.

What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? Stay connected and committed to the result you want to achieve in your life not attached to the journey and how that will play out. 

What’s your proudest career achievement? I have created and worked on many community projects utilising my photography to raise millions of dollars for various charities and organisations. Sir Elton John called me a hero at the launch of my Move For Aids launch in Australia when he attended and spoke at the event. 

What’s been your best decision? To move to the US.

Who inspires you? I’m inspired by people who are living their dream and really enjoying their journey. 

What are you passionate about? I’m passionate about expressing myself through my work and capturing and sharing beauty. I’m also passionate about inspiring others to connect with their own potential and dreams.

Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? I would like to meet and shoot Beyonce, Obama and Buddha.

What dream do you still want to fulfil? To successfully build James Houston Design and my design philosophy brand MindSpaceDesign. The vision of these brands is to share beautiful products with an international audience and inspire people to create a home that connects them to what they want their life to look and feel like. 

What are you reading? The mastery of love by Don Miguel Ruiz.

images courtesy of james houston and james houston design

Friday, 14 November 2014


Although Shane Willmett studied to be an architect - and continues to practice in this field - his passion for form extends to applying Indian ink onto paper. Many of his artworks feature elements from nature - such as flora and fauna, insects and animals, and he has also created a series dedicated to architectural structures too. While Shane grew up near Cairns in Queensland, he has spent many years travelling for both enjoyment and study. Prior to returning to live in Brisbane, he completed his Masters of Architecture in Lund University, Sweden.

Which five words best describe you? Creative, persistent, honest, eclectic and impatient.

How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? I don't think there was a defining moment; I have practiced my creative endeavors for as long as I can remember - it's been a process. I have continued to pursue and practice multiple disciplines as it is the greatest source of inspiration for me to bring back any knowledge gained from one and apply it in another.

What's the best lesson you've learnt along the way? I think the greatest lesson I have learnt so far is to not be afraid to ask for help even if it has been challenging for me and that commitment is the most direct way to achieve any goals. I still have a lot of lessons to learn and in how to apply them!

What's your proudest career achievement? So far, it would have to be that my first solo exhibition sold out earlier this year.

What's been your best decision? My best decision has had to be in choosing to use the India Ink my aunty gave me for a Christmas gift one year to draw/paint with because my writing/calligraphy with it was horrible. And still is.

Who inspires you? Too many to name. The people around me, my family, my partner, my aunty Ann and cousin Sophie Cape, and other figures like Dieter Rams, Norman Ackroyd, Tim Burton, Peter Zumthor, Matthew Bourne, Jun'ichirĊ Tanizaki, John Pawson, Jonny Johansson, Lars Von Trier, Wes Anderson. So many more!

What are you passionate about? Creating.

Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? There are a few. Norman Ackroyd – an artist, a master of light, form, atmosphere and Space. Olafur Eliasson - an artist dealing with spatial phenomena and experience. Steve McQueen.

What dream do you still want to fulfil? I don’t think my dream has changed since I was a child, it is to build my own house and fill it with works of every artist, designer, author and creative that I admire.

What are you reading? I am currently reading The hare with amber eyes by Edmund de Waal, a British ceramicist. It is a kind of memoir told through the journey of a collection of Japanese netsuke.

images courtesy of shane willmett

Tuesday, 11 November 2014


In March this year Sarah Neilsen decided to take her business in a new direction. Up until then she had been running Penny Farthing Design House with her sister and co-founder Alice Flynn. When Sarah took over the reigns, she decided to give PFDH more of a physical presence. Now she runs the business out of a gallery space in the Sydney Harbour suburb of Balmain, a short walk from where she lives. While PFDH continues to wholesale and retail online, as well as liaise with designers and stylists across the country, the bricks 'n' mortar store allows Sarah to interact more with customers, something Sarah has really enjoyed. PFDH continues to work with a range of artists and photographers to create unique large-scale works of art, as well as producing its custom-made fluoro lighting range.

Which five words best describe you? Energised, happy, content, creative and disciplined.

How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? My career has been largely unplanned. I started in interior design and have worked in corporate real estate in both design and leasing while starting Penny Farthing with my sister Alice in 2011. Today Penny Farthing is a true passion and I love how it pushes us all creatively. It is amazing to look back and review the threads to a career path that looks accidental at best but essentially has lead to the creation of the brand today.

What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? Close your eyes in order to see! I learnt to meditate with Tim Brown five years ago and it is my secret weapon in staying focused, energised and calm.

What’s your proudest career achievement? Opening the gallery and bringing Penny Farthing beyond the screen has been really satisfying. It is great to have more contact with our customers and really see how trends and people’s needs shape us as we move forward. On a much smaller scale we get a real kick out of the many and varied corners of the world where our artworks find new homes.

What’s been your best decision? To marry Paul, he is one funny man. Sixteen years on he still makes me laugh a lot.

Who inspires you? Heidi Middleton and her amazing seemingly endless creative talent.

What are you passionate about? I am passionate about making many little contributions to the people I meet along the way.

Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? I would like to meet Anna Wintour. It is her innate ability to see timeless elegance and lasting style.

What dream do you still want to fulfil? I would really love to live in New York for a few years.

What are you reading? I have just finished Big little lies by Liane Moriaty, which was fabulous and have Think like a freak on the go with JK Rowling’s new The cuckoo’s calling next to start, but my favourite read this year was Jojo Moyes's Me before you.

images courtesy of penny farthing design house 


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