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Ian Schrager: Trailblazer

I admire great figures that broke the rules to shape the future of design based on understanding human behaviours.

American designer Ian Schrager is probably one of the main designers to drive the idea of incorporating design into the travel experience, creating an electrifying new standard.

Ian Schrager became famous thanks to the unique vision iconic Studio 54 – the hottest nightclub in in the 1970s in Midtown Manhattan, where Michael Jackson, Mick Jagger and many other creatives used to hang.

One of the main revolutions he made in the field of hotel design is to develop the concept of the “boutique hotel”. Small, well-designed hotels with a focus on great attention to detail have been around for a while but the boutique hotel phenomenon associated with exclusivity, superstar designers and renowned chefs was shaped by Ian Schrager and his Morgans Hotel.

I admire his revolutionary style, shaping ways how people party, travel and live in a space.

After designing Morgan Hotels, he is now focusing on designing boutique hotels with Marriot International and PUBLIC hotels, creating boutique unique experiences in an intimate and seductive environment. This is all in addition to the new rules to accommodate social distancing and smooth the entire process of checking in and out, as well as implement the latest technologic innovations into each experience, from the time you enter the hotel to the time you leave.

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Gabrielle Chanel's Manifesto

I have recently been to the Gabrielle Chanel Exhibition in Melbourne at the National Gallery of Victoria. It was impressive being surrounded by the energy of this powerful distinct woman and her creations from the 20th century.

Gabrielle Chanel rewrote the rules of fashion and style. Her fashion manifesto was a design style based on streamlined simplicity and ease of movement, this manifesto shaped the definition of fashion and became guidelines for elegance and style that is still relevant today.

At the show, I noticed that many of the colours used for the looks were similar to the colour palette that I used for The Lobby in 2017, a whisky bar at Le Montage developed by Navarra in Sydney’s Inner West. I noticed shades similar to the soft black of Dulux’s Domino shade, the crisp white of its Lexicon shade, and the warm, creamy tone of its Crewelwork shade. All the key colours of the whisky bar’s décor.

I always try to stay ahead of the times and incorporate colours and combinations that are a little different in my projects, and a little different from the current colour trends, so that the design is less likely to look outdated, several years down the line.

“We always begin by making the dresses of dreams. The new have to cut, trim and remove, never add” Gabrielle Chanel, 1957

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About Brutalist Architecture

A trend that is very popular lately is the Brutalist style. Polished concrete, natural stone, and reclaimed timber work in harmony to create a calm yet cosy feel to the home and offer a style unlike any other in the area.

By utilising clever design, material selection, lighting and layout in the Brutalist style, it is possible to turn a small footprint into a larger-than-life property, while still delivering a family home that will be admired for generations. 

I particularly admire this house in Costa Brava, Spain. Featuring exposed concrete, the home has two levels. The lower level is against the cliff that the house is situated and provides a more sheltered area, as the area is prone to strong winds from the sea. The top level takes advantage of the house’s location on the coast and includes windows that look out to the sea, as well as outdoor areas. Thus residents in this home get the best of both worlds — areas to enjoy the views and cosier areas that shields them from the cold, windy weather.

Inside the home, oak was used for custom-made furniture to add warmth to the space, providing a soft counterpart to the concrete. The architects, Marià Castelló and José Antonio Molina, managed to design a house that showcases the best of its location and makes a statement, all while being a home suitable for a family of six.

Read about this home in Costa Brava on Wallpaper.

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Tantalising Textiles

The practice of treating fibres, colours and textile have been around for thousands of years.

Textile Arts — which encompasses weavings, embroideries, tapestries, fibre arts, carpet design, and more have been revolutionised in the past decades and the quality is on another level altogether.

These arts have been associated with women and were not recognised as a significant form of the art industry for a long time as they were mainly related to hobby crafts and reparation work.

There are many artists nowadays that requires recognition. One artist that I love is Trish Andersen, who specialises in the art of tufting. Coming Dalton in Georgia in the US, said to be the carpet capital of the world, must have had an influence on her craft and shaped her passion, even before she started studying and travelling around the globe. She is a master in combining flora and fauna with vibrant textiles. Her work has been sort after by Coca-Cola, Google and Kimpton Hotels, one of the hotels brands under the IHG Hotels & Resorts group. Do you love it?

If you want to check on more female artists that does amazing work with textiles, do not miss Xenobia Bailey, Vanessa Barragao and Nnenna Okore.

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Studio Gallery

Australian art galleries – especially the ones in Sydney and Melbourne — are an absolute must. You will always find a good selection of incredible International and local art on display.

I love visiting the 3 galleries in Melbourne and Sydney that are run by the Studio Gallery Group. Their galleries display more than 60 Australian, Aboriginal and international artists.

For an interior designer, staying focused on the purpose of the project and letting a space be what it is meant to be, whether it is a corporate office or a creative loft, is an important key to success and one that can be surprisingly hard to achieve at times. I find that Kerry Armstrong, the founder of Gallery Studio, is the perfect example of a creative professional who always keeps her eye on the prize. Her message and purpose are strong and related to mine, and she is a role model for female artists or creatives who want to achieve success in their career. It is important to have female role models that can inspire and encourage the next generation of creatives.

Studio Gallery hosts exceptional talents such as Kerry Armstrong, Annelie Vandendale and Matthew Butterworth, to name a few, so they always have a wide selection of stunning artworks. The gallery is also spectacular for the way it combines art with technology to create fantastic solutions for its clients.

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Light Up a Room

Lighting features in a house should create more than just ambience – they should add a sculptural aesthetic to a room.

The lighting choices made for a space can completely alter how it looks and feels. From the warmth of the lighting to its direction and spread, you can give a space its character, change the atmosphere and accentuate other features like the artworks or architecture, all from well-chosen lighting fixtures. However, the lighting itself can also serve as a central feature in a room and be a sculptural fixture in its own right.

One of my favourite brands is Canadian company Bocci. The company has a great portfolio of contemporary light installations that will elevate the look of any room. They also offer custom design services for you to create your dream lighting fixture — whether it is modest or monumental.

I’m also in awe of the stunning crystal chandeliers by LASVIT, the same brand often chosen to create jaw-dropping light installations for hotels and corporate office buildings. And if I’m looking for something more industrial, I would usually go for a Lee Broom or Tom Dixon Studio piece. Their designs are a perfect mix of industrial and elegant and I love using them when I’m designing for an F&B establishment. 

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Reffstrup's House: a pastel dream

I recently read about Ditte and Nicolaj Reffstrup’s house in Copenhagen and can’t stop thinking about it.

The couple are the founders behind Ganni, a popular Danish clothing brand that takes pride in creating pastel fashion clothes, accessories, shoes and much more. Their city home is quirky and colourful — I love the combination of pink and blue shades across the home, matched with coloured tiles and an eclectic collection of art. Ditte and Nicolaj choose art and furniture from fellow creatives who are friends or whom they have collaborated with. I am inspired by the way they chose to curate their collection of art and furniture for their home — it’s very personal and they didn’t limit themselves to a certain look. It allows them to create a home that is a true reflection of their distinctive style.

Nicolaj told Vogue that people in the Nordics tend to invest more in their home as they spend so much time in it during the winter, in comparison to people living in other European countries who might spend more on eating out and other experiences. I feel like the rest of the world is catching up to this ethos now that we are spending more time at home because of Covid.

Read more about their home on Vogue UK

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The Cherner Chair: an icon from the 60s

A chair can be so much more than just a chair and this is how I feel about the Cherner chair because it is a prime example of 1960’s design and comes with an intriguing back story.

If you love all things to do with furniture design, you surely would have heard of the Cherner chair. Made from moulded plywood, this simple but elegant chair is up there along with the Eames chair as an iconic design from the 1960s.

This chair was created in 1958 by architect and designer Norman Cherner. At that time, Cherner had his design stolen and attributed to fellow designer Paul Goldman. Luckily, after several months and a lawsuit, Cherner was able to get the recognition and ownership of his design back.

The chair grew in popularity, but production of the chairs stopped in the 1970s. Luckily, Cherner’s sons joined the business and created The Cherner Chair Company in 1999 and now the chair is back in production. In addition to bringing back their father’s much-loved design, the sons have made sustainability a key aspect of the production.

I feel that the chair is such an elegant representation of the mid-century modern style. I love using it for smaller kitchen and dining areas — the distinctive design of the Cherner chair is a very efficient way to introduce a point of interest to the space.

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Maria Sharapova Home

I love Maria Sharapova’s home in Los Angeles, a sun-filled residence with views of the Palo Verdes and Malibu. While the home was inspired by Japanese architecture and aesthetic, it is mixed with mid-century furniture and whimsical details to give it character and warmth.

Sharapova herself came up with the design vision for the entire home and was involved in all aspects of the interior, working closely with the professionals to bring her vision into reality.

Here are some of my favourite features from her home:

1. Concrete homes tend to feel very industrial, but her house achieved a fantastic balance between the use of raw materials and warm features by decorating it with earthy and soft furnishings.

2. Sharapova considers herself a minimalist but introduced lots of character in the form of lighting, art, and sculptural yet functional pieces of furniture.

3. Lastly, I love how the spaces vary from double height and large open spaces to intimate corners. That is a really good use of space because most modern homes tend to feel like galleries. The living and dining area was also designed to form one big indoor/outdoor area with not just the garden but the pool as well. Having the pool so close to the living and dining area — just a few steps away from the sofa —adds a strong visual surprise and wow factor to the space.

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David Hochney: so much more than a pop art extraordinaire

I have always been an art collector and my designs have always been influenced by great people, great artists and innovation.

I love David Hockney’s pop art-style paintings. The British artist divides his time between the UK and the US and California’s sunny climate, as well as the “California modern” aesthetic, greatly influenced his work. Having spent a big part of my life living in the sunshine state, I am particularly drawn to his style.

I also admire him for his extensive creativity. In addition to pop art, he does photography, stage design and more. And while he is 80-plus years old, he keeps himself up to date with the latest technology and uses devices such as an iPad to make his art appealing to new generations. One of his coffee table books — titled My Window and published by Taschen — is a collection of 120 drawings done on his iPhone and iPad that records the changing of the seasons as seen from the window at his home in Yorkshire.

Despite his age, he continues to produce great work, which I find incredibly inspiring. Creativity fuels the soul and keeps us young.

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Roman Vlasos: Visionary and Dreamer

I’ve always admired people that think outside the box and stretch their imagination to create designs and concepts that showcase new possibilities and new ways of thinking beyond what already exists.

In the field of design, being a visionary and a dreamer is part of the creative process and the work of Roman Vlasov, to me, is the epidemy of this.

He’s most known for his futuristic home designs that appear to defy physics while at the same time seem perfectly suited to their surroundings. He recently made headlines for his PUTIN HOUSE design – an expansive mansion set atop the trees of a forest in Russia. It immediately conjures images of Bond villains or the Russian leader himself assessing his empire from the lofty heights it affords.

I’m equally impressed with his other work and feel inspired by his multicultural workplace. This is also at the core of my business and the way I build my team, which is full of diversity and people from different backgrounds, cultures, and perspectives. I believe this is so important for the creative process, as this diversity creates a universal aesthetic in the work we produce.

I’m inspired by architecture, and like many architects out there, I enjoy the ability to take on very ambitious projects. Roman, to me, is incredibly ambitious, and I truly respect his work.

We have to be progressive in the way we design for today’s market and culture. Seeing his work is liking looking into the future, and I hope we all get to enjoy his concepts in real life.

I’ll leave you here with some images of his amazing vision.

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Denise Scott Brown

Many women have fought both loudly and quietly over the past 50 years so that we could achieve the rights we have today. I thoroughly admire and love each one of them for their courage and determination to confront the discrimination, judgement, and prejudice to achieve the recognition we all deserve.

One woman who truly inspires me is the American architect Denise Scott Brown. She’s fought sexism in architecture since the beginning of her career in the sixties and continues to do so.

She’s become a symbol of change for how women are perceived and treated within the world of architecture. She’s written essays highlighting the blatant and comprehensive inequality suffered by women in the industry, including a lack of recognition for their ideas, designs, and achievements. In one of her essays, she recounts a talk she gave in 1973 to the Alliance of Women in Architecture in New York. She describes it as an awakening of sorts as the hundred or so women who attended realised they all shared the same experience of sexism within the profession and frustration at being forced to endure a man’s world. 

Although great strides have been made towards equality, the sector is still strongly male-dominated, despite women accounting for around half of those graduating from architecture schools in the U.S. Shamefully they still earn about 20% less than their male counterparts and many leave the profession shortly after graduating due to the limitations imposed on their careers.

These factors and the overrepresentation of men in the property and design sector is what prompted me to launch Gallies in Sydney this year. It’s a platform that gives women more control over their careers and time. It connects talent with developers needing designers to create renders and other marketing collateral, including social media content, and other digital assets to promote their projects. It’s designed to give women more flexibility, and also reduce their reliance on one employer or company which may not have their interests at heart. It’s also beneficial for developers as it’s a one-stop-shop for their creative and marketing needs.

I often think of Denise Scott Brown and her strength and determination to level the playing field for women in architecture as I pave my own path in a male dominated industry. I would love to hear who inspires you!

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Ashton Kutcher & Mila Kunis' Sustainable Farmhouse

Celebrities play a strong role in influencing consumer behaviour in any market, and when their personal spaces are shared publicly people often feel inspired to imitate or replicate some of their design decisions. Not everyone can afford a celebrity designer or designer furniture, but when publications such as Vogue tastefully describe the inspiration behind a celebrity’s custom home and the decision-making behind the beautiful spaces, it humanises the process of selecting home décor. Combined with gorgeous photography it gives consumers lots of inspiration and an opportunity to imitate or recreate a similar look for themselves.

What I love about this home is how it’s a reinvention of a time-honoured structure and a diversion away from a typical farm homestead. The proportions pay homage to a barn, but despite the exaggerated dimensions the space feels very warm and inviting.

The use of reclaimed materials means that despite the fact it’s a brand-new home, it has a certain aged charm to it. This, combined with the use of fabrics, metals, and concrete gives it character and sets it apart from anything else on the market. There’s a certain eclectic charm to the way it’s all been pieced together, which provides flexibility to include some items which would typically look out of place in a barn-style dwelling, such as the crystal chandelier. Its opulence is somewhat juxtaposed against the reclaimed timber, but it works perfectly as the space does have an undeniable grandeur to it.

I love this home for the standard it sets in reimaging something that’s not traditionally thought of as an architectural style for a home, turning it into a unique family space.

The innovative design of this home will allow people to visualize how you can still make an old structure feel glamourous, sophisticated, and unique. We don’t have to teardown well-lived structures and can instead celebrate the aging nature of materials. The building industry plays a huge part in waste and energy consumption so the more we can re-use and recycle the better. This is something I really admire in this home — sustainability with impeccable style.

As a designer, having this reference as an example on how a rustic look can still be glamorous, warm, modern, and edgy totally inspires me to promote this look because it showcases beautifully how renewable and recyclable materials can look fab.

I think it sets an exciting precedent and elements of this project will flow into property design across the world.

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Furniture Made for Humans: The Nalgona Chair by Chris Wolston

Sometimes a chair’s just a chair… and sometimes it’s a focal point, sculpture, status symbol, bastion of social responsibility, and also… a chair.

Sculptural furniture provides an aesthetic purpose and an opportunity to interact with art. Chris Wolston is a New York Based, critically acclaimed artist whose work displays a playful adaptation of high- and low-end technology processes.

One of the biggest trends in 2021 is the use of natural materials and Chris Wolston’s Nalgona Chair collection is made from 100% ethically sourced Colombian mimbre (wicker) which has been masterfully woven into chairs resembling the human body. The ‘bodies’ almost beckon you to sit on them, with their comical or even grotesque forms. Like them or loathe them, there’s no denying you’ll remember them.

I love this chair because it’s a functional piece of art that ties the sophistication of New York with the earthiness of Colombia and it echoes his ethos of creating artful works of high and low-end combinations.

The unique pieces he created in the Nalgona series are sold-out. Chris Wolton has become a renowned named in the art world and people are starting to collect his works. Some of the unique ceramic functional furniture pieces start at AUD$10,000 and are available to purchase here. 

The trend for sculptural and custom-made furniture pieces is here to stay because they represent a sense of fashion couture due to the artistic qualities they deliver. Many artists have risen due to this bespoke trend in the luxury sector and just like art does, furnishings like these literally display emotion and an artful life of their own.

The Nalgona chair could easily suffice as an art feature because of its commanding presence. Let it be a focal piece in a corridor, a centrepiece in the courtyard, or a whimsical single chair in the dining room. It is bound to be a conversation starter.

These chairs are unique, not only because of their design, but for the multifaceted function they can have within virtually any space.

Bravo, Chris Wolton. LG Loves!

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Framework Studio Office

Often, designers do not promote other design companies. At Lorena Gaxiola, we’re competitive individuals, but we also believe in celebrating other people’s creativity because studying what other creatives give birth to is a great way to keep up with innovation and excellence.

I find Framework Studio, an interior architecture firm based in Amsterdam, one of those studios that brings together a sense of modernism, simplicity, and minimalism which is curated in a very poetic way. They create beauty and style without compromising on function in any space they design.

Right now, people see minimalism as a way to keep things so simple that the design gains its beauty through the use of materials, shapes, and colours, but people do not really live like that. Framework Studio brings the quietness and poetic design that minimalism requires and makes it very liveable and easy to connect with. It’s easy to imagine yourself living in one of their spaces and utilising them rather than just admiring them like an installation at a museum or a display home suite.

I found them through their Instagram feed and they’ve been an inspiration for me ever since as I strive to improve my craft. They deliver colour, tradition, and differentiation in all their designs through a uniform yet diverse style. This studio design for example, is warm and inviting. It tells a story about the company, their branding, and their aesthetic. Through a great combination of furnishings and neutral and muted hues it’s clear bold creativity is encouraged there. The sculptural lighting and statues are welcoming and start a conversation in any room. As an art collector, seeing a studio that invests so much in its art is inspiring.

RETIREMENT VILLAGE RESIDENTIAL/
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Partisan Lights

Lighting in a room should create more than just ambience. It should add new dimensions and character to a room – it should be sculptural – and that’s exactly what the Gweilo light is.

As an art collector and designer, I am always looking for unique and creative lights that change the mood of a room. The Gweilo lighting collection, by Canadian architecture firm Partisans, is a spectacular manifestation of whimsical flair and sophistication. 

Their work reminds me of what Frank Gehry did with deconstruction. He started this trend decades ago by deconstructing organic shapes to create unexpected architectural movements. Partisans deliver a modern take on Frank Gehry’s approach; they grab something that is structured, and break it down to create smooth lines with exciting, unexpected movement. The collection represents an elegant way to break away from the ordinary.

The technical elements of the collection are also fascinating. The lights are crafted from molten acrylic sheets that are moulded into place by hand at a workshop in Barcelona. LEDs are then distributed across them creating luminescent silhouettes that emulate natural movement in solid form.

I love how each one is unique and can be customised for each client. The Gweilo light is a piece that transforms an interior into a magical theatre that you will never get bored of.

Eclectic light design that shows individuality and a timeless appeal can never be forgotten.

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living room with artwork, glass window and view