March 27th, 2012

Just hanging out with four of the country’s top interior designers, as you do…

(L-R) Greg Natale, Jason Grant, Interiors Addict Jen, Thomas Hamel and Darren Palmer. 

I’ll tell you the story behind this shoot next month…

February 27th, 2012

"A great reputation is only as good as your last job,” says interior designer Hamel

Award-winning interior designer Thomas Hamel was born in the States but has called Australia home for years, giving him a truly international viewpoint. He recently added another string to his bow as a furniture designer. He told Interiors Addict all about it.

“I feel the world and our clients are now looking for more bespoke and special pieces as the world becomes so much smaller by means of the internet,” says Thomas. “We are striving to create show-stopping furniture pieces that bridge the gap of traditional and contemporary interiors.”

It seems sensible for an interior designer to get involved in furniture design. Like Greg Natale having a thorough understanding of architecture and art, the joined up approach makes sense. Creative director Dylan Farrell designed the new collection in collaboration with Thomas, who has had his business in Sydney for 21 years.

In order to create integrated and seamless homes there has to be a harmony besides the “shell” of a home and its interiors. “We spend a great deal of time trying to create cabinetry and furniture to suit a specific home,” says Thomas.

His international background too, gives him a very broad perspective. “I call myself a cross-pollinator. I am in a very fortunate position to give all of my clients and staff ideas that I gather from our international projects. It is wonderful to see products developed in one market and how we can translate then in another. For example, I found better wrought iron lighting in LA for a house in Provence, France.”

It’s perhaps no surprise then that Thomas tries hard not to have a signature style. “Besides the fact that my work has a common thread of quiet sophistication and subtle detail, I strive on each job to develop the client’s personality and style, not my own.” He adds: “My goal was always to build my reputation on impeccable service and I think this has been crucial to my success. A great reputation is only as good as your last job.”

On the subject of trends, he has seen more than enough of the ‘French Provincial’ look (“a few pieces of it are great but not entire homes,”) and while he tries to ignore them, he admits it’s hard. “In this media driven world it is impossible not to be influenced by trends but I do try to keep them more towards the back of my mind rather than at the front.

“A timeless interior should always be a harmonious mix of elements – too much of a good thing always becomes tiresome eventually. Mixing styles and finishes will never stop being the most timeless.” Likewise, while it’s tempting to plump for style over function, Thomas says function, and importantly proportion, is key. “I would never specify very low slung sofas or chairs. Who wants to sit on the floor? It is not a flattering proportion for anyone.”

He describes his own home as a calm oasis with a mixture of styles and furnishings to match his personality. “I love having everything remind me of an adventure somewhere on earth. I keep the palette neutral so the objects all speak for themselves and are the stars.”

His biggest advice is to be confident and buy items that speak to you in some way. “They always seem to fit into an interior and usually in a fun, unexpected way.”

Come back tomorrow for a look inside Thomas’ own home and to read about his favourite things (and people).

The Soleil Server and (below) the Ramblas Credenza from the Dylan Farrell for Thomas Hamel Collection.

October 14th, 2011

Reality TV was a huge learning curve for interior designer Darren Palmer but one he will never regret.

Now running the successful Darren Palmer Interiors, with his work published in respected magazines, a regular interiors column in GQ and teaching at Coco Republic Design School, he’s come a long way since growing up in country Queensland and just quietly, we think he could be the next big thing.

At 27, after working in graphic design and advertising, Darren decided it was time for a career change. Around the same time, he bought and renovated his first apartment. “A dear friend who is an interior designer really loved what I’d done with the place. His business partner was overseas for three months and I asked if I could work with him and learn the ropes. He was really happy to include me in some projects. Belle Magazine published my apartment in their renovation issue and it all grew from there.”

Darren caught the public’s attention on Channel 9’s HomeMADE and also appeared on The Block this year. Wisely, he has focused on making the most of the exposure from HomeMADE, which even he admits, didn’t do brilliantly. “I came out of the reality TV world with a really positive experience. TV exposure helps you to build rapport with people that you haven’t met and it’s a great pre-qualifier as they’ve seen your work and feel comfortable with you because there’s credibility that comes along with exposure.”

Since the show, his business has grown, along with his personal style. “I’ve been featured in Belle’s kitchen and bathroom issue and named as one of their Mood Makers for 2011. I’ve had work featured in Luxury Homes Magazine and taught at the Coco Republic Design School. I was also fortunate to be a part of this year’s hugely successful The Block, which all probably would’ve been a lot harder had I not been given a start on HomeMADE.” Humble Darren is no celeb though. “Generally people forget who’s been on TV and for what within six months. You stop being recognised after a while!”

He simply describes his interiors style as natural, drawing from the colours and textures of nature.“Things like a sunset when the sky is those beautiful muted, desaturated colours after the sun is gone, to the textures of wood, stone, leather and sisal. I love anything that’s textural and real, not synthetic. I really like to create spaces that are inviting, relaxed and texturally diverse and layered yet refined, slick and sophisticated.”

Darren thinks this year’s reality renovation TV verged on overkill. “I think people only have enough space to care about a few shows at a time and fortunately the one I was involved with was that show, though I really feel for The Renovators’ contestants as this was a big deal, that would’ve taken a lot of energy and effort, with not as big of a reward after it finished as they might have enjoyed.

“In terms of the industry it’s a double-edged sword with the up side being that the viewing public are more literate in design, exposed to new ideas and are in some ways able to see how much work goes into design. On the flip side it does make design accessible which can make people think “Oh I can do that” which can tend to make it a little harder to sell your level of skill.

“I think as long as there’s integrity behind the way the genre is managed, and the products that are used, it’s more good than bad, and it’s certainly a great way to get noticed and get experience from a participant point of view. It was certainly my steepest learning curve to date.”

What’s next? “I have loved the direction that my career has taken in terms of speaking and writing so that’s definitely somewhere I will be putting energy and I would really love to be back on the box again. There’s a few focuses there but I’m confident I can manage it.”

Outside of work, he’s a self-confessed “massive dork”, married with a two year-old son, two dogs and a cat. “I like to train at the gym and generally be one of the least interesting people you’ve met. My big goals personally amount to trying to get a sleep in and being a good dad. Pretty boring but kind of wonderful.”

He recently bought an apartment in North Bondi which has new paint and floors but will one day have a major overhaul, plans for which are constantly ticking away at the back of his head. “For now it’s a really nice cosy home for my family with high ceilings and nice big 1930s proportions. I intend to make it the ultimate kid and pet-friendly designer house - an interesting brief but I have a good insight into how to fuse functional and beautiful.”

Tomorrow: Mistakes people make with decorating, how to get it right, why he hates feature walls and who he admires.

September 15th, 2011

Looking forward to publishing my interview with Belle Coco Republic Interior Designer of the Year 2011 Greg Natale soon. In the meantime, here’s a video of him and his home. Enjoy!

September 10th, 2011