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Interior design in Australia is getting the digital start-up treatment

A good tagline can tell you a lot about a business.

There are lots of reasons people don’t hire interior designers, but chief among them is perceived price.

“There’s a common perception of professional interior design as being something that’s totally out of reach on the average income,” says Emily Carding, co-founder of a new startup, Designbx.

Emily Carding joined two friends, Kylie Pratt and Kerena Berry, to launch Designbx, a fixed-price interior design service.

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“The other big one is time, whether it’s meeting someone at your house or finding the right person and also that idea that someone is coming to your house with a critical, judgmental eye. That’s very intimidating for most homeowners.”

Carding’s idea is supported by industry professionals.

“Australia is a young culture when it comes to embracing and commissioning design in any form,” said Melbourne designer Chelsea Hing in a recent interview.

Which is why Carding joined two friends Kylie Pratt and Kerena Berry to launch Designbx, a fixed-price interior design service.

The trio work out of Fishburners, the tech co-working space in Sydney, and say the environment there has been a big help.

“It’s accelerated our business substantially, we’ve been there for about three months and there have been collaborations with Google and Dropbox who have mentoring schemes.

Despite having a tagline, “it’s what’s on the inside that counts”, Designbx are very much concerned with appearances.

Self-funding this initial launch phase of the business, the three women have thrown everything into building a website they think will help demystify this “luxury industry”.

“There are similar platforms in the US, but we tried not to look too much overseas, we want to focus on the Australian market, which is very different.”

The website offers a quiz for people based on visual cues that will then translate into a “design style”, for example vintage, beach or contemporary.

“Then you select which room you’re looking to redesign, your lifestyle, functional things like dimensions and upload photos of the room and that brief goes out to our community of designers.”

Carding says they have 25 designers in the pool, a number which they hope to grow dramatically.

Then there’s a briefing process, and customers can choose a designer online and get started on work, which as we know, will be conducted at a fixed price, beginning at $299.

It’s a strategy that makes sense given how many risk-averse buyers there are in the market.

A 1986 study of fixed price versus spot price strategies in the US National Bureau of Economic Research found that the best results depended on how much risk buyers and sellers were interested in taking.

“What we are trying to do is create a new market and broaden the reach,” says Carding.

“It’s not necessarily people who would bring a designer in normally. It’s for people who would never have considered it before.”

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Bathrooms and laundries: two spaces undergoing rapid change

Stephanie Stefanovic

 

Australian residential buildings have seen significant changes over the past few decades, with the move from detached homes on large blocks to detached and semi-detached homes on smaller blocks, and growing numbers of apartments across the board. This shrinking of our residential spaces has required a significant reimagination of utility spaces such as the bathroom and laundry. 

While utility once reigned supreme, bathrooms have since become much more aesthetically pleasing and even inviting. And with advents in bathroom technology, designers are needing to become increasingly savvy with the items they choose for interior bathroom fitouts.  

“Nowadays, bathrooms are more about functionality, embracing new product technology and a focus toward the type of environment and feeling that is created,” says Darshan Nagarsekar, national 
marketing manager at Geberit. 

“It is also about personalisation and consumers are taking this up like they do with their bedrooms and living rooms. [At the same time] it is about being pragmatic, so consumers are looking at a bathroom with more space and less clutter, as well as ease to access things around the space and stress-free maintenance.” 

In terms of aesthetics, the traditional materials are changing. 

“There is a trend about fusion of different materials, surfaces and elements being elegantly blended together in the bathroom furniture,” says Nagarsekar. 

“Taking cues from what we saw [last] year, bathrooms are embracing matte textures, warm colour palettes, practical products and an aim to maximise the use of available space as much as possible.” 

SAVING SPACE

Toilets represent an opportunity to save space and improve a home’s sustainability at the same time. 

Saniflo’s Sanicompact, for example, uses water and space efficiently. According to Saniflo marketing executive Tarika Shetty, it’s the first all-in-one macerating toilet suite, and features a water-saving cistern-less flush and the ability to add a basin. It was designed to be added where space is limited, making it a good solution for a small ensuite or laundry addition. 

Geberit also offers a cisternless toilet suited for the modern bathroom. 

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Geberit’s concealed cistern. 

“The trend nowadays is, if you don’t need to access it every day you can hide it in your walls and just have the actuator on your bathroom wall to access your flush tank,” says Nagarsekar. 

“This product is also hygienic as back to wall pan installations means one can clean the floor underneath the pan.” 

Another drawcard is the product’s Sigma80 buttons, which use sensors for a hygienic touchless flush. 

AESTHETIC YET FUNCTIONAL

Speaking of concealing utility items, drainage is another area that has undergone significant change. 

Most people don’t give much thought to drains unless they aren’t working properly, and many architects don’t consider drainage solutions until after the bathroom or laundry has already been constructed, which is a mistake. 

According to drainage specialist Stormtech, this approach can have serious complications, and typically results in ineffective drains that will inevitably require a change of specification. Unfortunately, changing the drainage specification can also impact the selection of flooring materials, requiring quite significant redesign and potentially requiring repairs or replacement down the track. 

There are two main drainage styles: traditional drains with a single, centralised drainage point, and linear drains. Linear drains can be placed anywhere in the wet area and only require two-way floor grading toward the drainage channel, as opposed to the four-way grading required by traditional grates. 

With their discrete appearance, linear drains are a good option for bathrooms where aesthetics are a primary concern. 

BATHROOMS ARE CHANGING

Not only have bathrooms needed to change with building and design trends, but also with the population itself. As Australia’s population becomes increasingly older, accessible design 
is becoming a concern.

“As the Baby Boomer generation is entering retirement, the focus needs to turn towards bathroom accessibility,” says Dave Sayers, founder of Availcare.

“Builders will need to prepare bathrooms for future modification, which includes strengthening walls to allow for future grab rails and shower seats. Innovations like adjustable height toilets, electronic temperature control tapware, ergonomic bidet controls, sensor lighting and weight bearing bathroom accessories will allow retirees to continue living at home comfortably for years to come.”

In doing so however, designers need to ensure these products don’t look ‘clinical’. This is a primary concern for many people retrofitting their homes for accessibility. 

Sayers recounts a recent project where the client had this exact concern:

“Sharon’s mother had been coming to stay with her quite often so she contacted an occupational therapist to find out how she could improve access in their bathroom. Based on the occupational therapist’s recommendation, we installed four rails from Cabrini Health. We were able to add a 300x300mm angled rail by the toilet, making it much easier to sit and stand. We also added a toilet roll holder to the rail, making sure the toilet paper was within easy reach.

“For the shower we installed a vertical rail to hold onto as they walk into the shower and an angled rail on the main wall to help Sharon’s mum get in and out of her shower seat. Sharon since wrote to us and said she has been using the rails herself and was surprised how often she uses them and was so pleased they didn’t look clinical.” 

DISAPPEARING LAUNDRY ROOMS

These days, buying a new home with a dedicated laundry room is a luxury. And in the case of apartments, a rarity. 

There has been a growing trend of ‘European laundries’ in Australia. This is where the washer and/or dryer is incorporated into other rooms such as bathrooms or kitchens. Some traditionalists may find it strange, but considering the functional requirements of a washer/dryer, it makes perfect sense. 

According to Electrolux this is indeed the case, but not to fear – laundry machines can easily be concealed in a cupboard for a seamless look. This is exactly what the company achieved in a recent project, House 9 by Three Birds Renovations. 

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The Electrolux European laundry at House 9.

As space was a challenge, Three Birds opted for a hidden European laundry, tucking the appliances away in a kitchen cupboard. The Electrolux 10kg Washing Machine and 9kg Heat Pump Condenser were stacked using the Electrolux Stacking Kit, creating a stylish and seamless flow between the two machines.

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The five elements you need to create a timeless interior

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Victorian renovation is all about bold color

Ooh la la

The accent wall is flecked in gold paint.
Photos by Nicole England via Yatzer

A sophisticated palette of striking colors imbue this 19th century Victorian weatherboard house in the Camberwell suburb of Melbourne, Australia.

Designed by interior designer Danielle Brustman of the Stylesmiths, the renovation of the so-called Matlock House is the owners’ second one in eight years. This time, they wanted to transform the kid-friendly home into something more grown-up.

The result is a moody aesthetic characterized by color-coded rooms, a la the Victorians. In the living and dining areas, which are adjacent to one another, sky-blue walls pair with white molding and millwork. Contrasting this softness is a deep blue accent wall painted with gold flecks in the living room, which is furnished with dark wood furniture (to match the hardwood flooring) and jewel-toned sofa and chair.

The family room is simpler and features white walls, but a hallway leading to the private quarters are lined in magenta carpeting, and one of the bedrooms is a monochromatic dusty pink. Here, the walls, fireplace mantel, side tables and a vase are finished in the same hue, creating an art-installation effect. Take a look.

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COCO REPUBLIC MEETS TIMOTHY OULTON IN AUSTRALIA

Timothy Oulton is known for its vintage-inspired designs, hand-distressed leathers and often rugged style, but this light-filled Sydney home showcases a surprisingly sleek, modern side of the British furniture and interiors company. Featuring interior design by Coco Republic, a stylish yet family-friendly interior was achieved for the client using an array of Timothy Oulton’s authentically handcrafted designs.

The Coco Republic Design Centre

The Coco Republic Design Centre is one of the most dynamic and recognized international design showrooms in Australia. Timothy Oulton opened its first gallery in Australia at Coco Republic’s Sydney showroom in 2012, with two further galleries in Melbourne and Brisbane. Both companies are bonded by their shared passion for timeless yet innovative design and a quest to create unique, characterful interiors.

A Functioning Family Home

The client engaged Coco Republic’s in-house interior design service after moving into their newly built single-storey apartment in Five Dock, in the inner west of Sydney. As a young family with two boys aged 8 and 13, the brief required a striking space for entertaining guests while retaining a functioning family home.

Amanda Pocock

Experienced interior designer Amanda Pocock from Coco Republic took her cue from the client when choosing Timothy Oulton products. The client gravitated towards the drama and luxury of the Timothy Oulton gallery and with quality a high priority they also appreciated the intensive handcraftsmanship that goes into each piece. Amanda says: “My vision for the space was a dramatic, entertainer.s paradise whilst also catering for the everyday lifestyle of a family of four with a dog. Timothy Oulton’s dramatic and elegant designs make them a perfect choice for entertaining, while their robust materiality makes them suitable for everyday use.”

The Details

Working with the existing finishes of the property, a monochromatic scheme was realised with key statement features. The open plan kitchen and dining room offers a spectacular backdrop for hosting friends and family, anchored by the Zodiac dining table, handcrafted using individually polished pieces  of marble laid in an eye-catching Roman mosaic pattern. Angeles dining chairs add more drama, swathed in lustrous Old Saddle Black leather and hand-applied stud detailing.

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Pleasure island: the decadent interiors of Australia’s first lady of modernist design

Glossy surfaces, bright colours and futuristic shapes come alive in an exhibition of Australian design legend Marion Hall Best. Opening tomorrow and curated by Michael Lech, the exhibition ‘Marion Hall Best: Interior’ at the Museum of Sydney surveys the legacy of one of the most prolific Australian designers.

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