Where in the world do we find you?
I live in Perth, Western Australia. We are a small city, and to reference the philosophy of “Small is Beautiful”, the famous 1973 book by author and economist E.F Schumacher, I’d say that big isn’t always better.
What is your favourite room at home?
It would have to be our living room. We live in an unusual 1958 mid-century house in the hills, purportedly Perth’s first rammed earth house, which is almost entirely open plan - with sleeping booths rather than bedrooms. Contemporary Australian living today is more compartmentalised and materialistic (in that people generally have more ‘things’), which means this kind of house has its challenges today. Because of our home’s unique layout, family activities tend to occur together in the large multipurpose living room. Ultimately it has been good for the human spirit. Every available piece of wall is covered in art.
Any must read books?
“Designing Design” by Kenya Hara, art director at minimalist Japanese retailer Muji. Kenya Hara is pro books describing them as “word sculptures”.
“The Anarchy- The Relentless Rise of the East India Company” by William Dalrymple. An amazing history of the Indian subcontinent which is mind-blowing.
“The Invention of Sicily: A Mediterranean History” by Jamie Mackay. I have always loved Italy.
"We live in an unusual 1958 mid-century house in the hills, purportedly Perth’s first rammed earth house, which is almost entirely open plan - with sleeping booths rather than bedrooms."
Where do you like to eat out?
My wife Sarah is an artist and a very good cook. At various times of the year she spoils the family with mouth-watering Peranakan food, courtesy of recipes handed down from her Singaporean mother, so we don’t have the desire to eat out often. However when we do it’s usually good neighbourhood Korean, or Malaysian Chinese. Di Stasio Citta in Melbourne is my favourite Italian restaurant, but this could also have something to do with the atmospherics!
What is on your playlist?
I’m a jazz fan - anything from Charlie Parker and Miles Davis to Brazilian bossa nova. My favourite all time track is Miles Davis’s “Sketches of Spain” (1960). Billie Eilish’s sound is fresh, particularly “Billie Bossa Nova”. Pomplamoose’s rendition of Daft Punk’s “Something About Us” is also good chillout music.
An up- and-coming designer to watch?
Tom Reid at Design Office, Melbourne. Tom has a clear open mind and an insatiable curiosity for design in all its forms.
Some of the designers and movements that inspire you?
I decided I fitted into the modernist camp, however I learned early on that it is difficult to subscribe to one particular ‘style’ alone (something I tend to avoid at all costs!). Architect Harry Seidler, who I had met during the development of QV.1, had denounced the postmodernism of the 1980s and 90s as regressive architecture - that is design which looks backwards rather than forward.
The work of the postwar European émigré designers to the USA has remained influential to me, but have been under attack from mainstream design trends. Florence Knoll and Charles and Ray Eames are enduring standouts.
Scandinavian designers such as Hans Wegner, Arne Jacobsen, Poul Kjaerholm and many others have been lifelong heroes. As a counterpoint, another huge influence for me has been the Italian design thinkers like Ettore Sottsass, Carlo Scarpa, Michele di Lucchi, Achille Castiglioni, Mario Bellini and Gio Ponti, people who have been instrumental in challenging established design rules, therefore making the world a richer place.
Your favourite building or architect?
I have several favourites, however Jørn Utzon’s 1976 Bagsvaerd Church in Copenhagen is one of the most sublime spaces I have ever visited (Le Corbusier’s Notre Dame du Haut Ronchamp in France is a close runner up). It was Utzon’s first building after returning from Sydney (where he designed the Sydney Opera House). The Danish Architects Association had banned Utzon from practising commercial architecture as punishment for soiling the image of Danish architecture, so he was relegated to small civic buildings and housing. Utzon’s Fredensborg cluster housing of 1963 is still a huge masterpiece today. I visited Utzon’s Can Lis in Mallorca, his seminal home atop a limestone cliff, a building with a clear sense of place, designed and built using Danish, Arabic and Catalonian influences. This house drove home to me the meaning of craft, function and simplicity in architecture. Finally, no one could fail to be impressed with Mies van der Rohe’s final building, Berlin’s Neue Nationalgalerie for sheer bravado.
A piece of furniture you own and love?
Though attacked by the cat, our tan leather B+B Italia Diesis sofa by Antonio Citterio has a special place in my heart. Citterio was a teacher of mine at a Domus Academy Winter School in the mid 90s so it has extra special relevance. It is so well-made it will last for several generations of the family.
An important Iconic furniture piece you covet.
The PP Mobler PP225 Flag Halyard chair designed by Hans Wegner.
Three designers you would take with you on a deserted island?
What comes to mind when you think of Australia?
A kind of freedom, I think. I’ve always been interested in what outsiders think of Australia. Checking into a hotel in Milan once, the desk manager looked at my Aussie passport, rolled his eyes upward and said “ahh....Australia!…tutti biondi!” (Many blonds!)
Can you share what you are working on at the moment?
A resort in Western Australia’s Kimberley region.
"...Jørn Utzon’s 1976 Bagsvaerd Church in Copenhagen is one of the most sublime spaces I have ever visited (Le Corbusier’s Notre Dame du Haut Ronchamp in France is a close runner up)."