Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Creativity is the spice of life

Original pastel, William Forth
I developed my artistic flair when I was young, my grandfather was an artist and I always admired his work adorning the walls of his home and ours. He loved to experiment with multiple mediums like charcoal, pastels, oils and even ceramics.
Creased Kurt Cobain, charcoal, circa 1994
It wasn't until high school though that I really became hooked on drawing and painting, it was a great expressive outlet for me and with the encouragement of my teachers at the time I produced some work I was really proud of including a poster sized charcoal sketch of Kurt Cobain, my great love of 1994.
I continued to pursue the arts after I finished school, becoming a journalist in a small newspaper I was able to combine photography and graphic design as part of my role. Later I started my own graphic design business from home producing marketing materials while my day job focussed purely on writing.
Acrylic on canvas, 2005
After travelling through Europe and moving to NZ I began working in the advertising industry and was exposed to some seriously talented people. I worked alongside, mentored and was inspired by them everyday but I myself wasn't a creative, I was management.
Black and white sketch, 2013
So I decided to retrain in interior design, to spend 2 days a week being inspired to create my own work, learn some new skills and gain my own creative confidence again.
I studied with Nanette Cameron in New Zealand for 2 years which was the best 2 years of my life. 
I gained new confidence and started combining advertising and interior design techniques into my work, producing branded environments and experiences for great brands.
Drafted 3D perspective, rendered 2012
I moved to Melbourne almost 3 years ago to continue my advertising career and fell in love with the city. From the historic and modern architecture to the street art, everything here inspired me. Being the hub of creativity in this part of the world I decided to get amongst it and enrolled in a Diploma of Commercial Arts to again indulge my passion and hone my craft.
3D Sketch-up model, 2013
In the past year I have learned so much outside my day job managing an agency: drafting, sketching, rendering, 3D Sketchup and now I'm working on my ArchiCAD and Photoshop skills, I have to say I'm loving it and I'm starting to feel really proud of where I am at right now.
I believe its never too late to learn a new skill, have a dream and go for it.
The challenge I have set for myself is to wake up everyday loving what I do and living my dream...its a big ask but I'm going for it.

Friday, 22 February 2013

Barber Black Sheep

Barber Black Sheep is open for business

My most exciting achievement this year was designing my first solo retail environment - Barber Black Sheep.

Located inside Collingwood's Sircuit bar, the traditional barber shop was the brain child of friend and barber Gus Lundt who wanted to offer customers quality service and convenient opening hours within a unique environment.

My brief was to transform a disused rooftop space on the third level of the bar and bring to life the brand in a physical experience.

The bones of the space were the perfect inspiration for the design. The rusted corrugated iron immediately reminded me of my childhood staying on sheep farms and the rustic shearing sheds which were both functional and beautiful at the same time. 

The concept was to work with the existing space and play homage to the beauty of shearing sheds through use of materials including stencilled hessian, exposed rusted corrugated iron and timber. 

To further build on the design story, the building was built in the 1880's as a furniture retailer to complement the local flourishing wool textiles industry, Sircuit bar still has many original features from this time including an amazing stencilled staircase.

With a small space and budget creative solutions were a key focus of the design. An old door was used to mount crates and create a display area for hair product, hessian was hand stencilled for drapes and cushions and the sink and barbers chair were both second hand finds. My favourite feature however is the ceiling mounted clippers, playing homage to shearing traditions.

Barber Black Sheep officially launched 2 weeks ago with customers enjoying traditional barber services including cut throat shaves and was just featured in Melbourne's Time Out magazine

I loved collaborating with Gus on this project and wish him the best of luck with this exciting business venture.

Please check out Barber Black Sheep located upstairs at 103 Smith Street from 4-9pm Wednesday to Sunday and follow Gus on facebook

Friday, 28 September 2012

I'm not afraid to admit...I'm a Kevin McCloud fan

For many visitors to the 2012 Grand Designs Live event in Melbourne the show offered a chance to see a range of new products and services aimed at homeowners housed under one roof...but for me it was about Kevin McCloud.

I have followed the TV show closely for the past 10 years, watching barn and water tank conversions, glass, timber and straw new builds and of course the trials and tribulations of the self-builder.

Kevin has always given a no holds barred critique of the design and build process of these ambitious projects, often at times appearing a bit harsh in his criticism.

But for those of us who listened to his presentation in Melbourne last weekend we got a very different impression of the man.

The fact the theatre was bursting at the seams an hour before he arrived showed the level of celebrity Kevin now has, he is no longer just a guy hosting a design show, he commands a crowd because you can really learn something from him.

He was genuinely taken back by the support he received and gave a down to earth presentation which was both personal and educational.

He talked about the risk in creating a grand design, despite the known facts of budget and schedule over runs, stress level increases and difficulty in getting it 100% right, ultimately its human nature to want to create your own haven and the reward at the end of the process is well worth it.

Kevin also shared his own passion for sustainable housing, now in his 5th social housing development in the UK, Kevin allowed the first project to be filmed but says the process was horrible and an invasion of privacy for the home-owners and for that reason her won't be doing it again. His honesty in admitting where he went wrong was to be admired. 

During his `slumming it' program where he went to live in Asia's largest slum for 2 weeks to learn about the sense of community, his research uncovered an alarming statistic that it is estimated by the time the world's population reaches 9 billion, 3 billion people will be living in slums.

When it came to discussing some of his favourite episodes Kevin didn't just talk about the buildings, architecture and design, in fact in most cases what he talked about was the people. We discovered many of the owners had become friends and Kevin continued to be a part of their lives long after the show.

In terms of the future of moden architecture he believes we are starting to create new design languages rather than re-labelling traditional styles from past eras like the 50's.

This current project of a stacked box style design with camouflaged windows was given as an example of the type of exciting design he is starting to see.

Following the 30 minute presentation I left the theatre inspired and wandered the show floor to soak up all I could, it was great to see so many Australia companies and designs of world-class standard and it was evident the celebrity of Kevin McCloud had attracted a high standard of exhibitors.

If you get a chance to attend this event in the future I highly recommend it and of course watch Grand Designs for your Kevin fix.

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Viva Las Vegas

I truly believe there is no other place in the world quite like Las Vegas.
My first time to Vegas was in 2003 for a holiday where I was dazzled by the intense lights and 24 hour buzz of the place.
This time around was for business and I was determined to try to discover more to Vegas than the flashy casinos and crazy characters on every street corner.
Arriving in my hotel New York New York started the trip with a familiar feeling of being transported into a movie set where nothing seemed very real.
New york style streets, restaurants and monuments set the scene and a few goes on the slot machines got me into my part.
Jumping on a bus outside the hotel heading toward Fremont Street was a great adventure and an opportunity to experience the less touristy part of  Vegas and soak in some of the history.
My first stop was the Arts District, living in Melbourne I am always attracted to street art and so this place really appealed to me.
A small cluster of abandoned buildings, boarded up with tumbleweed rolling by had been transformed by artistic designs and bold use of colour.
Fremont street is best experience when the sun goes down the reveal a retro neon light show like no other.
Many of Vegas's original signs have been restored here and unlike the glitzy Vegas strip, this part of town feels more authentic.
The Golden Nugget casino is a great example of an authentic casino exterior with light bulb facade and red carpet entrance, with this type of authenticity you don't mind the slightly dated interior or faint scent of stale cigarette smoke...its cool. I was even lucky enough to see Jim Carrey existing the casino after shooting part of his latest movie which was a thrill.
I then discovered one of the most crazy restaurants I have every experienced, something only Americans would come up with - Heart Attack Grill.
As the name would suggest this is not for the healthy eating fanatics, this restaurant concept is based on the idea that gigantic fatty burgers are a good thing and if you weigh a lot because of this you will be celebrated by eating for free.
Staff are dressed as nurses and doctors and you are encouraged to put on a hospital gown on arrival. If you are game you can weigh in and if you are lucky to exceed the weight limit you will hear cheering from across the room.
Burgers are cleverly named bypass, triple bypass and quadruple bypass for obvious reasons...
Perhaps my greatest discovery in this part of town was the Neon Museum, also known as the Neon Graveyard.
This place is a non for profit wonderland full of signs which have been saved from ruined casinos since 1996.
You are met by a volunteer tour guide who has a great passion for the rich history of neon signs in vegas and are given the chance to wander through a giant lot of hundreds of discarded original signs.
The boneyard features all the great signs and is a living museum full of stories of days gone by.
As you walk around and discover the beauty behind the signs you are told the stories behind them to and you can't help but feel a little sad that the hotels which once held these signs so dear are no longer on the strip, instead have been replaced by newer model.
The new Vegas isn't a bad place, in fact some of the interiors of the new hotels like the Wynn, Encore and Cosmopolitan are a thing of beauty in an extravagant kind of way of course. 
The wedding chapel tradition has even been given a modern twist with the introduction of a Pop Up Chapel/Retail store. You can drop by and get married with tourists peering through the shop window then as you are on your way out you can pick up a few gifts for romantic.
And finally to the real reason I was in Vegas, CES - the world's largest consumer electronics show. over 2,500 exhibitors, 100's or thousands of visitors and kilometres of exhibition halls to walk through and discover the latest and greatest in technology.
Vegas was a great experience, one that my feet are still recovering from but a place of inspiration, excitement and discovery all rolled in to one.

Friday, 2 December 2011

The World's First Androidland

Today marks a big day for my team at Retail Engine...we made history by launching the world's very first Androidland in Melbourne, Australia.

This project really showcases what can be achieved when you are truly passionate about what you do and are allowed to let your creativity run wild.

I'm still buzzing from the day's events...sure I was tired, stressed and very anxious for most of it, but as I sit back and look at the environment we have created and see the smiling faces...I feel very proud.

From an interior design point of view this project was complex because it was never just about the design. It was about creating something which was new and exciting, something which enticed customers to interact within the space and showcased a number of brands, products and messages in an integrated and innovative way.

Technology played a big part in the design, with projected touchscreen zones where you can play Angry Birds or browse Google books, scent machines using freshly cut grass and gingerbread scents, video walls controlled by a 3D mouse to zoom through Google Earth and an augmented reality window display.

Its not everyday you get to create a spaceship inside a store or specify custom clown machines and skill testers and design collectible pins but perhaps that's why this has been such a great project. 

Our clients Telstra and Google are the real stars here because without them we wouldn't have had the chance to create what I feel is our best brand experience work yet.

If you are in Melbourne please head down to the Telstra Icon store in Bourke Street and experience this `Androidified' environment for yourselves...and please tell your friends.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Nanette Cameron Interior Design Tour - Crown Metropol

Director of leading Melbourne architect firm Bates Smart - Jeffery Copolov is not only an awarded interior designer but also a very generous man with his time.

During the 2 hour guided tour this week, myself and the NZ Interior Design Tour group were given amazing access to every key area of the huge commercial interior project consisting of 658 guest rooms.
This large hotel, the newest of the Crown Casino complex, from the outside seems like any other large hotel, but inside is quite a different experience.

In fact this project can be best described as a `boutique hotel' which has been achieved through clever design and details throughout.

We started the grand tour in the foyer of the hotel where the detail begins with a beautiful blue stone floor flowing from the outside pavement in using a diamond pattern.
As we step out of the elevator on the 28th floor the design starts to reveal itself with   custom designed carpets, textured wallpapers and beautiful artworks adorning each surface.
Level 28 itself showcases not only the best view in the property but the unique s-shape of the building maximising the outlook. Screens have been inserted into the large bar and restaurant space to create lovely positive and negative spaces throughout, each with their own identity.
The boutique feel becomes apparent with the custom carpets flowing throughout each space changing colour as you enter each zone, feature bookcases showcase a collection of colour matched classics and low and comfortable seating of different shapes and sizes is placed to maximise both views and conversation.
It is difficult to make such a large hotel space feel boutique, but this space certainly has achieved it. 
We next head into the leisure zones of the day spa and pool areas where the beauty of this design seems to reach even greater heights.
The first feature which strikes you in the pool area is the amazing oversized feature lights which accentuate the ceiling height of this space.
The pool itself is of course beautiful, covered on 3 sides with floor to ceiling glass and a solid ceiling, enabling use all year round.
As we walk toward the first of 3 different guest rooms, the hallway reveals a clever use of lighting, led lighting behind a patterned grate throws shadows and interest onto the ceiling, as well as tree like art installations around unexpected and often forgotten corners creating interest in a space which is often dull.
The best room in the hotel is The Apartment, a huge space featuring a large living and dining room, entrance hall, kitchen, walk in wardrobe, plunge bath and amazing views.
The interior has been designed to feel more like a home away from home than a hotel room, with lots of personal touches throughout.
Priced between $2,500 and $5,000 per night this room is available for exclusive guests who clearly have alot of disposable income.
There are a cluster of rooms connected by a private staircase straight to the spa in the hotel also which allows guests to come and go without needing to integrate with the rest of the hotel which is a nice feature.
What I found most interesting during this tour was understanding the process the design firm goes through to finalise a design for a project of this scale. A prototype of each room is created and reviewed by up to 50 different people to ensure it functions to the highest standard. Imagine having 50 clients all with feedback which you need to incorporate into the design...nightmare.
I will never look at a hotel in the same way again and am definitely going to book in to stay at this one very soon.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Nanette Cameron Interior Design Tour 11 - Cloud House

I was lucky enough this week to take part in the Melbourne leg of the Nanette Cameron Interior Design Australia Tour. I studied interior design with Nanette in Auckland between 2006 and 2008 and took part in this fantastic tour in 2007 where myself and 26 others were inspired for 10 days straight, getting access to some of the countries leading architects and designers because of Nanette's amazing connections.

This years tour was no exception...the first house I visited was designed by leading Melbourne architect firm McBride Charles Ryan - Cloud House, Fitzroy North.
From the exterior the house appears a typical Australian heritage home, almost plain and simple, if you drove past it you wouldn't think twice or ever know what amazing creativity lies inside.
As you open the door you immediately are greeted with something very unexpected and know you are at the right address...the most amazing carpet adorns the entrance hall. The bright coloured floral design picks up the purple hues from the original glass in the front door and beckons you further inside to see whats next.
The original part of the house has been restored with simplistic beauty but it is the extension on the back where the real creativity and vision of the architects comes to life.
As the name would suggest, a Cloud shape, inspired by the owners love of the outdoors, forms the extension architecture of this property which can be enjoyed from every angle both inside and out.
With no gutters, the curved shape not only looks good but functions well to capture rain water run off into a tank.
Connecting the old and new aspects of the home is a red cube structure housing the kitchen. The linear shape contrasts the extreme curves of the cloud, creating a real wow factor.
The joinery shapes create a pixelated effect, with clever use of stained and laquered timber finishes and a comcork floor. The red certainly is striking, perhaps not to everyone's taste but as Nanette says it is exciting to be bold with colour.
The Cloud shape really does create some amazing spaces and views within the home both above and to the sides of the cube. The shapes inside are also accentuated with the use of spotted gum battons with a black backing underneath which flows inside and out creating a seamless finish.
You really do have to admire people who embrace architecture in this way, truly trusting the creative mind.
I was lucky enough to meet Debbie Ryan during my tour in 2007 when I visited 2 of her homes in Mornington Peninsula including the Letterbox house, her bold designs and use of colour are a signature which ensures her work stands out from the rest.