From billowing smoke-filled stacks of replica furniture to glamourous showrooms abuzz with activity, Surry Hills and Darlinghurst set the bar high for a celebration of design at Sydney Indesign 2015. Sophie Davies reports.
This bonfire of the vanities – albeit one using dry ice, not real flames, with interior design students as pyre attendants – took place in gentrified Surry Hills. One of Australia’s most iconic design boroughs, it’s the home of glamorous showrooms, but within them lurk serious industry influencers. If Sydney’s design precincts were a football team, Surry Hills would be the captain, and this shaming of the copyright-busters typified that leadership.
At the Hills Street Precinct, Arthur G’s showroom referenced the company’s past, on the eve of its 35th birthday, with a piece from each decade showing its aesthetic evolution. At Luxmy Furniture, new Australian and Danish designed products from renowned brands Woodmark, Lux Studio and Paustian drew admiring crowds, while at Workshopped it was all about the latest releases from Australian and New Zealand designers.
Making interactivity sexy, Euroluce teamed up with architects The Uncarved Block to create a dark, sensual experience within their showroom. Monastic music, flickering candles and undulating corridors of black vinyl curtain allowed you to encounter its graphic new lights from Flos in a memorable, peek-a-boo way. Highlights included long-flexed, sculptural lights by Brit talent Michael Anastassiades and the surreal ‘Shade’ lamp by inventive UK designer Paul Cocksedge, which uses underlighting to invert the usual expectations of light and shadow.
International design was front and centre at Spence & Lyda’s stunning showroom too, where Spanish designer Alvaro Catalan de Ocon presented his PET Lamp phenomenon. The project began with indigenous artisans in Colombia and Chile weaving colourful pendant lamp shades around recycled plastic bottle fixtures. Its latest incarnation is the ‘Abyssinia’ lights, created by marginalised Ethiopian women, with distinctive patterns and shapes. Plans are afoot to collaborate with Australian indigenous weavers for an NGV PET project next year. Their Project collaboration saw the CATC Design School pose interactive environmental questions on the showroom windows to attract graffiti responses. Spence & Lyda also held a talk on creative intersections.
Experiencing wellbeing through design was explored in Interface’s showroom in a former railway workers’ building. Visitors chose between two divergent journeys – Refuge or Prospect. The first took you through zones dedicated to relaxing, meditative spaces; the second was more high energy, interactive and playful. Expressed in carpet-tile designs from the new ‘Beautiful Thinking’ collection, each involved nests, lounging zones, screening rooms and creative spaces, with weaving and yarn trending, all part of their Project collaboration. Interface hosted a talk with the six participating design groups: DJRD Architects, Emma Elizabeth Designs, He Made She Made, Interface Design Studio, Maaike and The Design Residency.
Folded pink paper cranes, pretty floral cupcakes and cloud-like lights set a serene scene at SeehoSu’s recently launched showroom, which filled with delighted visitors as each festival shuttle bus drew in. ‘It’s beautiful,’ cooed one guest, savouring minimal wooden chairs and benches by Naoto Fukasawa and Jasper Morrison for Japanese brand Maruni, and tactile pendant lights by Denmark’s New Works. The origami window installation was created with SUMU Design, the studio that SeehoSu collaborated with for The Project. SeeHoSu was also packed for a DQ RoundTable talk on ‘Power Personalities: The Heavy Hitters’, with designers including Paul Hecker, Tim Giles and Alexander Loterzstain discussing what personality types succeed in the industry.
Demonstrating sassy Surry Hills showmanship, Special Lights’ new designs included its maverick ‘Drylight’, a waterproof chandelier by Italian brand Masiero. A bathers-clad gentleman in the window drenched the light repeatedly with a watering can, surrounded by a jaunty paddling pool, beach ball and swimming towels. Taking the Venetian chandelier outside, it borrows from the automotive industry to ensure it remains rust-free, with safe borosilicate globes. Expect to see it on tropical hotel and restaurant terraces. The showroom also hosted a DQ RoundTable talk on Emerging Design Personalities, discussing ways to express and brand your identity.
In sister district Darlinghurst the Own World showroom drew on the acrobatic strength and suppleness of two male contemporary dancers to animate Los Angeles-based Bend Goods’s collection of wire seating. Michigan-born designer Gaurav Nanda, who was also in attendance, took inspiration from family holidays in Palm Springs to create his graphic mid-century modernist-influenced chairs, which come in vibrant colours, white and gold. Geometric wildlife wall art also got our vote.
Foregrounding local Australian talent, the Side Project at The Stables curated innovative designs by some of the country’s best independent designers and artists at a retail pop-up, including duo Daniel Emma, Blakeborough + King, Jonathan Zawada and Page Thirty Three. It featured furniture, accessories, lighting, art, ceramics and fashion, as well as statement surfboards.
Staple&Co x cm studio foregrounded the artisan craft behind its furniture in its intimate store (think tools on walls and displays of materials). Visitors got the chance to meet Staple&Co’s new Sydney-made family of furniture; lean sofa ‘Louis’ (Kahn), the ‘Harry’ (Seidler) coffee table and ‘Norman’ (Foster) ottoman, all with a modernist architecture-inspired look.
International design heavyhitter Hub featured the latest launches from 2015’s Milan Furniture Fair, including Michael Anastassiades’s graceful ‘Mobile 9’ pendant and Patricia Urquiola’s limited-edition ‘Fjord’ armchairs updated with one-off African tribal silk fabrics for Moroso. Amid the global glam, humble ceramic planters by Melbourne’s Anchor Ceramics made the cut.
Ergonomic qualities ruled at Chairbiz’s airy white showroom, which introduced the award-winning new ‘Coza’ task chair by German designer Martin Ballendat for UK brand Boss Design. Fittingly, Chairbiz also held a WorkLife talk about workplace diversity.
Watch for updates on Hong Kong Indesign, to be held from 19 – 20 November 2015.
Photography by Fiona Susanto Photography