In Conversation With: Lucy Feagins, The Design Files

Talking Local Design

As the founder and editor of The Design Files, Lucy Feagins has spent the past 12 years uncovering and championing the most exciting Australian designers, artists and makers, across a huge variety of creative disciplines, from furniture and lighting design, to handcrafted practices such as ceramics, glass blowing and weaving.

We stopped by for a chat with Lucy about the emerging local designers and creatives she’s inspired by right now, the trends she’s seeing in Australian interiors and her advice on how to build a collection of design pieces that will last a lifetime.

Who are some of the artists, makers and furniture designers that have stood out to you this year, and that you’ve been coveting? Why do you love their work?

Whilst many designers, makers and local manufacturers have struggled with the uncertainly of 2020, this has also been a time of prolific creativity for many. A time to experiment without restraint, to innovate and reach new audiences in new ways. Some of my recent favourite discoveries include:

Jean-Pierre Biasol

We’re really interested in the impressive debut furniture range from Melbourne-based interior designer Jean-Pierre Biasol of Biasol. Known for his sleek hospitality fit-outs and classy residential projects around the country, Jean-Pierre's latest offering is the ‘Comoda‘ sofa collection – their most ambitious furniture project to date, which launched in September this year.

“We wanted to create a statement piece with European flair, filtered through our Australian design sensibilities,”

he explains of the ‘Comoda‘ collection. Named after the feminine conjugation of the Italian word for ‘comfortable’, the Comoda sofa’s sensuous, curved design nods to the 1970s as the heyday of sculptural furniture, while simultaneously exuding a timeless look.

Lucas Wearne

Working out the back of his Thornbury home in Melbourne’s north, Lucas Wearne of Neighbourhood Studio makes functional, sculptural objects, hand-carved from Australian natural limestone. His refined designs and expert craftsmanship make it hard to believe he’s only been working with the medium for a little over a year.

From curvaceous Picasso-inspired vases, contemporary columns with precise hand-carved detail and mushroom-topped lamps, each series of objects references a different period of art and architecture.

“I like the idea of each piece being unique, it gives me room to keep challenging myself and my practice,”

says Lucas.

James Howe

Following a career in journalism, Adelaide-based James Howe came to furniture design in 2018. His interest blossomed after stumbling across the work of Danish designer Børge Mogensen, and completing furniture design training at Adelaide creative hub, The JamFactory.

James makes a small but distinctive product range under his eponymous brand name. His minimalist, handcrafted designs reference Scandinavian design principles, with their sleek, pared back aesthetic.

After spending so much time at home this year, we’ve seen a renewed interest in decorating, revamping and redesigning our home spaces. What trends (styles, colour palettes, and textures) have you noticed emerge?

Given the extra time we've all spent at home this year, it's no surprise to see people investing in new furniture, rugs, homewares and art. After all - that holiday money has to be re-directed somewhere, right? I think people are realising the importance of their immediate surroundings, and how our environment can really impact our mood, our relationships and even our productivity.

As far as trends go, we're seeing lots of texture in contemporary interiors - from wall treatments, to textiles, art and accessories. Creating a tactile, layered home is the focus. Textured wall treatments are everywhere, lending a natural, earthy warmth to contemporary Australian interiors. This is a real push away from minimalism - it's about bringing a distinct character to every surface of the home.

One of the texture trends were seeing most prominently is the use of Venetian Plaster as a bespoke wall treatment – a uniquely textured, polished plaster finish which can be pigmented in a wide array of colours.

Photography by Caitlin Mills

Beyond wall treatments, enhanced texture can also be seen across textiles and upholstery - we're seeing a lot of furniture and soft furnishings in plush velvet, and slubby boucle fabrics.

When it comes to furnishings, there's a lot of nostalgia for the ‘70s and ‘80s at the moment. Most notably, furniture is chunky, comfy, oversized and low to the ground. Iconic pieces like Ligne Roset's Togo sofa are back in the spotlight, whilst classic designs such as the Sofa Camaleonda by Mario Bellini for B&B Italia have been re-released under license this year, to keep up with the renewed demand.

With these in mind, what are some easy ways people can update/revamp their home?

Coming into spring, it's a great time to reassess your furniture placement at home. It may sound obvious, but you'd be amazed at how much moving furniture around can really refresh a space, and bring new energy in. Two things to think about when placing furniture are natural light, and interaction. People will always gravitate to natural sunlight in any space, so try and place seating where you know sunlight falls. Also think about the direction your seating is facing - position furniture to encourage face-to-face interaction, not Netflix consumption!

If you own your home, the most obvious thing you can do is give it a lick of paint. This is one of the most cost-effective ways to make a big impact in the home, and injecting some colour in this way always re-energises a space. If you can’t bring yourself to paint a whole room, there are still many ways to make an impact with colour on a smaller scale - consider painting internal doors, in-built cabinetry or kitchen cupboards as a starting point.

Finally, if you already have a space full of things you love, but which you feel needs greater cohesion, consider investing in a rug. A great floor rug ties a space together like no other item, connecting all your furniture pieces and accessories in one cohesive flourish.

We are so lucky to have such a wealth of incredibly talented makes and creatives in Australia. Do you have any tips for how to start building a collection of investment/statement pieces, that will last a lifetime, or ideas on where to start?

The first thing is to really consider your home furnishings as a collection that will never be ‘finished’. Homes are dynamic places, always changing to accommodate new people, new activities, new stages of life. When you start with this mindset, hopefully it will help you to feel more confident in your own intuition when it comes to choosing pieces for your home. Start as you would any collection, with one singular piece that real speaks to you, with a unique personality about it. A chair, a lamp, a small handmade object.

The other thing is to look for authenticity, and the story behind a piece of furniture or design. Aside from looking great and serving its function, a design piece should have a depth, a reason behind it. That’s why I’m often drawn to handmade objects, and also classic design pieces from previous eras, as they bring a sense of history and context to a space. Whenever I am looking to invest in a new piece for the home, I want to know who designed it or made it, I want to know where it came from, I want to know why it exists in the world.

Photograph of Lucy by Amelia Stanwix


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