For the most part, the design world in Australia is small, especially given the size of the country. That’s not to say that it doesn’t have one; it does, it’s just not quite so obvious as other areas of the world. The two key elements that influence Australian design are its Indigenous heritage, and love of and access to the coast – pervading interiors, fashion and textile design.
Whilst Australia was only colonised in 1788, Indigenous peoples had been around for at least 50,000 years – the oldest continuing culture in the world. Indigenous design is rich in its culture, the people being strongly connected to the earth and nature and passing down stories from their dreamtime and history through paintings, drawings and carvings. Indigenous peoples have more recently used design to share stories about the colonisation of Australia, with the country’s population now working to reduce the inequality they continue to face. (There’s a lot to say about this, but not in this post.) As a result, Indigenous design has become more widely respected and Indigenous designers have been given a bigger platform to share their stories, culture and history.
Prominent Indigenous artist Nicole Monks is one such designer. She’s a storyteller, working to connect the past with the present and the future, using a conceptual approach, with her designs often built around narratives. She creates (in the interiors sphere) furniture, objects and textiles, reflecting Indigenous philosophies of sustainability, innovation and collaboration, combining Aboriginal history and Western thought processes.
We love her Walarnu chair, designed for bseated – a design inspired by the boomerang (Walarnu being ‘boomerang’ in her native language). As Indigenous culture is increasingly respected in the design world, wonderful pieces that reflect many aspects of these peoples are making their way into the homes of non-Indigenous residents.
Coastal/Byron Bay design
A design style began creeping out of Byron Bay (on the East coast) a few years ago and is now seen throughout the country.
The style incorporates various elements; it’s Boho/Island in feel, with almost Spanish elements in the colour palette of red, earthy tones, light neutrals, and splashes of ocean blues. Elements of Indonesian design are also evident, particularly in furniture and light fixtures.
Natural textures such as linens, straw, raw timber, and dried flora such as Eucalyptus and Banksia feature strongly. Patina-rich leather furniture, hide carpets, fur throws, raw stone and woven hanging textiles are also frequently used creating an overwhelming feeling of being surrounded by nature.
This design style values sustainability and therefore the reuse of older pieces – aged, heavy furniture is common, perhaps in a solid timber sideboard or an old leather trunk, and leans towards minimalism.
Both interior and exterior are always heavy with greenery – fiddle leaf fig plants have recently been difficult to source due to extreme popularity!
Australian design and the UK
Indigenous design is little known in the UK, though is slowly making its presence felt. A key platform is Bay Gallery Home, a small organisation that has been representing artists from communities in the Northern Territory since 2008. The company features indigenous artists and collaborations, supplying wallpaper, tiles, rugs and artworks designed by creatives from rural Australian communities.
While Australian design is still developing as a style of it’s own even in the the country itself, elements are likely to make their way throughout the world as it grows and develops. Here in the UK, outdoor design trends have started to take inspiration from Australia for example, through outdoor furniture and the use of native Australian greenery indoors.
We’ve put together a little moodboard below to inspire you if you’re considering introducing aspects of the style into your home. If you need any help, planning and sourcing is what we do….contact us here!