Everyone knows everything is bigger, bolder and better in Sydney, including interior design. Here’s our top 10 list of movers and shakers in the design world, from the big names, to the emerging practices, as well as a few hidden gems.
Natale has been running his own practice for more than 20 years now, which has grown from residential design to include a mini empire of rugs, soft furnishings and tiles to tableware and decor items such as vases and bookends. He has released three books, the latest, The Layered Interior, is about to be released. Expect pattern, colour and, above all, glamour as he leans into everything from old Hollywood to European Art Deco.
Picture: Anson Smart
This young practice, headed up by design ingenue Yasmine Soleh Ghoniem, has built a reputation for out-of-the-box interiors that experiment with colour, shape, pattern and texture. Not an aesthetic for the faint-hearted, the YSG look has nonetheless garnered considerable interest with its youthful, innovative approach. At the moment, the look is rich earth tones of terracotta and sage green but expected the unexpected from this exuberant studio.
ARENT & PYKE
There’s a reason why this dynamic team of Sarah-Jane Pyke and Juliette Arent keep sweeping the awards pool every year. Their colour-rich spaces perfectly balance to-die-for aesthetics with the practicalities of family life, creating spaces that are at once classic and utterly contemporary. Celebrating their 15th anniversary in 2022, they continue to demonstrate that they are masters of manipulating space and light.
Picture: Anson Smart
Her name may not be so familiar, but this talented designer knows a thing or two about creating classic interiors that are neither conservative nor dull. With a thorough understanding of colour, pattern, and texture, Akers knows how to listen to her clients and respond to their briefs with wonderfully grown up spaces that feel both inviting and invigorating.
It’s no wonder gifted designer Alexandra Donohue Church is in demand with architects such as Luigi Rosselli with her creation of seemingly effortless spaces that are both subtle and sophisticated. While the mood is often one of exclusivity and lashings of style thanks to her love of natural stone and judicious use of jewel-like tones, there’s also an element of the surprise. Expect to fall in love.
Picture: Anson Smart
ALEXANDER & CO
Popular with the eastern suburbs set, architect Jeremy Bull has created a design studio that understands natural light incredibly well, perfectly walking the line between drawing it in and keeping it at bay when the sun is beating down. With extensive experience working with older properties as well as more contemporary home, he knows how to champion original architecture while creating beautiful spaces perfect for modern living.
HORTON & CO
Ok, so strictly speaking, this design practice is based in Newcastle, but director Stewart Horton sharpened his skills in Sydney interior design firms before heading north in 2010 to open his own practice and realise his clients’ dreams of beautiful, classically designed homes. A champion of heritage homes under threat, Horton has breathed beautiful new life into grand old homes with his own definition of coastal luxe. Think smart, sophisticated spaces that embrace that indoor/outdoor lifestyle and you’re on the right track.
Biophilia might be all the rage now but Sarah Davison was doing it before it was cool. This Potts Point-based designer knows how to create stunning homes that embrace their environment without missing out on the best that city living has to offer. Natural materials such as stone, timber and leather create a palette that doesn’t just look beautiful, but feels incredible as well. With a thorough understanding of the design rules, Davison isn’t afraid to weave in the unexpected to surprise and delight.
Another firm of designers who are no strangers to awards, the team at H+K are perhaps best known for their mastery of the neutral palette, with depth and weight coming from their deep understanding of the textural qualities of materials. Just as at home with contemporary beachside homes as they are with older, industrial buildings, their work is a masterclass in managing space, light and materiality.
Picture: Shannon McGrath
This multidisciplinary firm is possibly the largest firm on our list but there are few studios better equipped to meet the needs of a complex design project. From individual residences to hotels and commercial spaces, the SJB team love diving into the detail to create environments that you love being in, even if you don’t fully understand why. Materials are familiar, and yet used in ways that are wonderfully contemporary and perhaps even charming.
How much does it cost to hire an interior designer in Sydney?
Costs vary but expect to pay $50 to $90 an hour for a less experienced designer, up to $100 to $300 an hour for a more established name. If that seems like a lot of money, designers often have access to trade discounts and can be formidable negotiators. Clients regularly discover that the money they have saved on materials has more than paid for the design services.
Why Hire An Interior Designer For a New House?
There are so many reasons to hire an interior designer for a new build, not least because of the stress it will take off your shoulders. Anyone who has built their own home knows that there are dozens of decisions that need to be made on a daily basis. Having someone who has existing relationships with suppliers and is across every detail of your project will not only save you time but will result in a fully considered design that meets the needs of your whole family.
When should you engage an interior designer?
Most interior designers will tell you that it’s best to engage them as early as possible in the build and design process because it places them in the best position to create a cohesive space that looks beautiful while still being highly functional. They can provide expert advice on aspects of design like where to specify custom made joinery and the best ways to integrate everything from curtain tracks to kitchen appliances.
Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’
Outdoor furniture is not what it used to be. Long gone are the rickety timber settings and faded plastic chairs. Thanks to innovations in surface development, outdoor furniture and fabrics can now be hard to distinguish from their indoor counterparts. Water, UV and mould resistant, they have been engineered to withstand weather conditions while still maintaining their good looks. With summer almost here, we’ve assembled our best 10 outdoor furniture retailers to ensure that when the sun comes out, you’re ready to enjoy your own great outdoors.
Susan and Gordon Tait started their outdoor furniture business in 1992 with a commitment to Australian designed and made outdoor furniture created to withstand local conditions. Thirty years later, they have an enviable reputation for sustainability, offsetting 25 tonnes of carbon dioxide and diverting almost a tonne of soft plastic from landfill each year, as well as continuing to manufacture out of Melbourne. Oh, and their ranges of steel and timber chairs, tables, benches and accessories have a timeless beauty and durability that makes them incredibly desirable.
Another business committed to sustainable practices, Mamagreen furniture is manufactured using materials that are either recycled or can be recycled. More than 90 percent of the teak Mamagreen uses is sourced from old buildings, with the remaining timber from managed plantations. If you’re looking for that resort feel at home, this is the place to go. In fact, their products can be found in hotels around Australia. We love the circular Begonia lounge, which is perfect for hosting friends while, for shade, you can’t go past the flexible Sombrero shade.
This Australian business headed up by Anthony Spon-Smith has been making great strides with its outdoor furniture ranges in recent years. Perhaps more than any other of the leading brands, the outdoor furniture looks and feels like the indoor equivalent, with upholstered seating (designed to get wet and dry off quickly) and chunky timber or stone-look tables and pedestals. Taking inspo from Mediterranean resorts like the French or Italian Riveras, this is one brand worth staying home for.
Founded in 2008 on an ethos of Live Life Well, Cosh Living offers a comprehensive range of products for outdoor use, from pots, tables and chairs, through to outdoor lighting, rugs, daybeds and more. With leading brands such as Manutti, Tribu, Dedon and Coast at their disposal, the look is one of relaxed sophistication, whether it’s a bean bag poolside or an oversized sofa on the deck. With such an extensive range of products, this is one company where a visit to the showroom is useful, to help coordinate your look.
Equally well known for their range of outdoor building supplies such as pavers, walling and pool surfaces, Eco Outdoor’s selection of outdoor furniture is just as popular, thanks to its focus on European styling and durability. Specifically designed for outdoor living, there’s everything from outdoor dining tables and chairs in teak, wicker or aluminium through to lounges, beanbags and umbrellas. With showrooms in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth, you can drop in and assess the quality for yourself.
Whatever you need to furnish your outdoor space, chances are Satara has it. From lounge chairs and barstools to outdoor rugs and pot stands, this retailer has everything you need to create a comfortable and stylish outdoor space. With showrooms in most capital cities, you can experience the quality for yourself before making a final purchase. Designs range from classic Australian style through to contemporary Euro.
If it’s flexible outdoor furniture with modern lines you’re after, check out the range of sofas, coffee tables and dining suites from GlobeWest. Materials range from teak and aluminium to woven resin and ceramic in contemporary styles suited to a variety of architectural styles. Available direct to trade, the website also has an easy stockist search option to locate your nearest retailer.
There’s a reason why this legendary outdoor furniture supplier has been in business for more than 40 years. Known for its classic, durable outdoor furniture, Cotswold has longstanding associations with brands such as Vincent Sheppard and Fast Outdoor Lifestyle, as well as Cotswold Teak. While their loyal client base loves the classics, including Lloyd Loom and teak Adirondack chairs, this company has continued to evolve and innovate with contemporary ranges designed to stand the test of time.
It’s hard to go past Ikea for knockabout, versatile outdoor furniture that retains a sense of style. If you have an outdoor space to fill, chances are Ikea has the chair, lounge, outdoor table or accessories to fill it. We particularly love the classic moulded frame of the Skarpo chair (pictured) but could be persuaded by the highback woven Hogsten chair. For smaller spaces, the Torparo is a great shelf or mini table you can attach to the railing or fence.
This largely online furniture retailer initially sought to provide adaptable, compact furniture for the apartment market in Singapore. As it turns out, it’s a great fit for the Australian market too, as backyards and balcony spaces decrease in size. The range of dining and lounge suites is classic, with slimline armrests and legs. Colours are limited to greys and beiges but could easily be brightened up with accent cushions if that’s your style.
How do I choose the right outdoor dining setting for me?
While many of the same principles apply whether you’re dining indoors or out, the big difference is the weather. Outdoor furniture can take a beating if it is exposed to UV and rain for extended periods of time, so your choice will depend on whether your furniture will at least have some covering or will most likely be completely in the elements. Aluminium furniture can be a great option because it is lightweight and easy to move around, while teak ages to silver grey when left in the sun. If space is a factor, folding or stackable chairs can be useful.
What’s the difference between indoor lounge cushions and the ones on outdoor lounges?
Outdoor cushions are specially designed for the weather conditions, with quick dry foam inserts to allow water to drain away relatively fast. They’re also covered with UV, water and mould resistant fabrics specified for outdoor use. Sunbrella is the market leader for outdoor fabrics in Australia and uses solution dyed acrylic to create fabrics that are almost indiscernible from their indoor equivalents. Interior designers have been known to specify high quality outdoor fabrics for use in high traffic indoor spaces, such as family and rumpus rooms.
I have an outdoor space I want to furnish. Should I choose a lounge suite or a dining setting?
It’s really a lifestyle decision here. If you enjoy entertaining friends regularly, a dining setting might be the most useful option. In some homes, outdoor dining might also provide a bit more room to move, making it a great option for hosting bigger groups. However, if you already have an indoor dining setting facing onto the outdoor space, there’s not much point doubling up. An outdoor lounge can create a flexible space for casual relaxation, or somewhere to sit to enjoy coffee or drinks with friends before or after dinner.
Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’