DESIGN TALK WITH DESIGNOFFICE

As we gear up to re-open our extended Flagship Sydney Showroom later this month, we take a moment to sit down with the maestros behind the interior design - DesignOffice directors Mark Simpson and Damien Mulvihill - to chat about all things design. Read on to discover their favourites when it comes to people, places and things.


WHAT ARE YOUR TOP SOURCES OF INSPIRATION?

 

Damein Mulvihill: Art, travelling and walking through great pieces of architecture. I find when I'm travelling and I'm removed from my usual routine, not only do I see the world with fresh eyes but I'm also much more aware of my reactions to places, spaces and experiences which is incredibly useful to bring into the spaces which we design.

 

Mark Simpson: Travel mainly, but also just being curious and observant about life in general I think. It tends to be the strangest things in unexpected places that I find inspiring and that stay with me. Be it a curious traffic bollard in Japan, the ventilation outlet on a plane, or just the quality of light which falls across a building at a certain time in a particular place.


WHEN DO YOU FEEL MOST CREATIVE?

 

DM: At the Fitzroy pool - doing laps is the best way for me to work through design problems.

 

MS: It tends to be the in-between moments that are as valuable as studio time: cycling to meetings or a middle of the day swim can work wonders. And Damien and I do have a shared and strangely productive way of working on planes - maybe it's the altitude but we often crack the most complex briefs on the shortest of interstate flights!

 

Fitzroy Pool in Melbourne, photography by Kate Ballis. 

WHAT DO YOU DO ON YOUR DAYS OFF?

 

DM: What are they? Having a small business, our work lives are so intertwined with our lives, but we are trying to get better at those. I'm currently spending many of my days off re-designing my apartment, so it's not really proper down time. Quiet things like going out to breakfast, swimming and drinking Negroni with friends are my favourite down time activities.

 

MS: Design wise, a day off is a slightly difficult entity to quantify, but that is part of design being a passion - and at the end of the day that's the joy in loving what we do. But, there are definitely less creative aspects of work to have firm boundaries with! Time out for me tends to involve people, food, drink and music - ideally all at once.

 

Downtime usually involves negronis with friends. 

ALL-TIME DESIGN HERO?

 

DM: It's far too difficult to choose just one; Marcel Breuer for institutional buildings, Craig Ellwood for residential buildings and both Barber & Osgerby and the Bouroullec brothers for furniture and objects.

 

MS: That's a tough one! There are so many amazing architects and designers whose work I love for different reasons across different scales, typologies and time. It's not easy to distil to one but overall I'd probably say Dieter Rams for his clarity in fundamental design principles (and he did of course design the Vitsoe Universal Shelving System which it's fair to say we are fans of!)

 

Minimalist design hero Dieter Rams in his studio, photography by Ged Carroll. 

FAVOURITE DESIGN ICON FROM THE CULT COLLECTION?

 

DM: Carl Hansen CH28. This is a piece I've grow to love as I've gotten a bit older. It's a stunning piece of sculpture but its also the most comfortable timber chair I've even sat in.

 

MS: I'd go for Jasper Morrison's Low Pad for Cappellini. It was released when I was studying; I fell in love with it then and its still a favourite 20 years later. I have a couple at home - incredibly resolved, visually light and comfortable (and possibly tinged with a little nostalgia for that certain period in 90s design if I'm honest!)

 

CH28 chair by Hans Wegner for Carl Hansen & Son -  a design classic since 1951. 

FAVOURITE ARCHITECTURAL SPACE?

 

DM: The garden at the Met Breuer (the old Whitney Museum) in New York. It has an amazing and unexpected sense of calm, by just dropping down from the street level. It's brutal and playful - like sitting at the bottom of a drained moat in a modernist castle. And the relatively recent introduction of the Palissade furniture range by the Bouroullecs for HAY works beautifully.

 

MS: On balance I think I'd go for the Barbican Centre in London. There is so much to love on so many levels, from the urban planning and architectural massing through to the material detailing and emotionally resonant interiors.

 

Overgrown green brutalist perfection at the Barbican Centre in London. 

Met Breur in New York - the Metropolitan Museum of Art's contemporary extension showcasing modern art. 

THE MOST TREASURED PIECE IN YOUR HOME IS... 

 

DM: Our AJ floor lamp. It's simple, elegant and functional and it's one of those piece I'd always desired from my very early years at design school. 

 

MS: A photograph by Vincent Fournier from a series called Space Project. My partner and I saw it in a gallery in New York years ago and it stayed with both of us. Several years and a bit of lay-by later and we have it at home. It was the first piece of serious art we'd bought and I love it. 

 

AJ Floor Lamp by Arne Jacobsen for Louis Poulsen

FAVOURITE TRAVEL SPOTS? 

 

MS: Northern Europe generally is a regular repeat for me: Germany, Belgium, Scandinavia. And Japan also - there is something about the curious tension between the traditional and the futurist there which fascinates me. Taipei is next on the list for this year for places I've not made it to yet and Damien and I have been talking about a Palm Springs archi-tour to get away one winter shortly.

 

DM: Anywhere I can swim! The Therm Vals in the Swiss Alps by Peter Zumthor is my favourite holiday location. I've only been twice, once in winter and once in summer, but it's a life plan to make regular visits. Also out of season visits to Byron Bay beaches. I always forget how beautiful the water is there. 

 

Therm Vals in the Swiss Alps by Peter Zumthor. 

Palm Springs photographed by Kate Ballis. 

WHICH AUSTRALIAN CREATIVES DO YOU ADMIRE AND WHY?

 

DM: Outside of our immediate design bubble, I admire the creators and design team behind Jac+Jack. Their clothing is a long standing personal favourite and I admire their curation and evolution of a modern, iconic Australian brand. As a peer - and a segue; I enjoy the work of George Livissianis. His stores for Jac+Jack are beautifully detailed and a big part of their brand. Cho Cho San is one of my favourite interiors in Australia and The Apollo has a level of deft restraint and conviviality which is difficult to achieve. I also admire his adage of staying small and staying hands on.

 

MS: There are so many disciplines over so many years. Architecturally, and presently, I think that studios such as Edition Office are doing some beautifully elegant work. Historically, I'm a big fan of the humanity of the work of the greats such as Seidler and Boyd. There is also a great collective of photographers such as Scottie Cameron, artists such as Cameron Robbins and furniture and product designers like Adam Goodrum. It feels like a really great time in Australia's creative journey - there's a lot of really good stuff going on and I love that we are all talking about it and working together. 

 

Jac + Jack store in Bondi by George Livissianis, photograpy by Rachel Yabsley. 

Pyrenees 03 by Scottie Cameron. 

The Cult Sydney Showroom and new NAU Gallery - both by DesignOffice - open in late February. Stay tuned for more updates!