Why I became a designer.
I became an interior designer because I loved being outdoors.
When I was growing up, most of my time was spent in nature. Or playing on a building site – one of the two. The town that I lived in was on the edge of Melbourne, and it was a cross between being native Australian bush and one of the fastest growing cities in Australia during the 80’s.
There was not a lot to do in this town, and as the eldest of four children I had ready-made playmates. We mostly amused ourselves by being active outside. My sister and brothers and I would spend entire days riding our bikes, only coming home when we were hungry. We’d explore under railway bridges and along creeks, attempting to find undiscovered land. We dug holes, trying to get as far as the centre of the earth and then out the other side. We’d play cricket in the street, have intense water fights (when there wasn’t a drought) or dig up the sandpit and pretend we were on cooking shows. We tried, unsuccessfully, to build a cubby house.
And we played on building sites. Hundreds of new homes were being built during this time, and there was very little security. On the weekends and after school, once the builders had gone home, we’d ride our bikes to the ‘new estates’. We’d walk through houses when they were just the frames, stepping along the timber studwork, figuring out which rooms were the bedrooms, living spaces, kitchens and bathrooms. We’d make judgement on the layouts too, and their effectiveness or lack thereof. And I would imagine what these spaces would look like once they were completed, with furniture and people and life in them.
The 80’s was also a time that was relatively low tech. Personal computers were only just emerging in schools, and at home we had a video recorder, a Nintendo and a television that we were rarely allowed to watch. We mostly enjoyed these things on rainy days or when it was too cold to go outside, which according to my mother, was never very often.
This outdoor, low tech, ‘under construction’ childhood had a huge impact on me. I loved the freedom it afforded and I loved being able to roam, to explore and to dream. Although I didn’t quite realise it at the time, this lifestyle would have a huge impact on my future.
As I started to become older and move through high school I began to get those inevitable questions. You know the ones. ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ ‘What job do you think you’ll do?’ ‘What subjects will you do to get into the university course you want’; these questions made me increasingly anxious.
You see, I didn’t know yet what I wanted to do but I had the feeling I’d end up doing some sort of 9-5 job. I was pretty sure I’d do something creative, but I was also pretty sure that I’d end up working in an office. And this is what scared me.
I had seen the places where the grown-ups worked, and it wasn’t pretty. I’d seen their dreary, drab offices, and to my mind they were no better than prisons. These places, where adults spent a third of each day, had no natural light and no connection to the outdoors. They were untidy, cluttered and institutional. They were completely uninspiring, devoid of inspiration and personality. Any plants or greenery to be found were half dead and the lighting was harsh, fluorescent and artificial. The only colour was a usually on a wall at reception featuring the business’s logo. And rather than being exciting, I found this sort of display quite sad and depressing. Worst of all, no-one really seemed happy to be in these spaces, and there was an obvious lack of energy and joy.
This is not the type of place I wanted to end up, especially after I had spent much of my childhood outdoors. Seeing where the adults worked, and comparing my present to theirs, was a powerful motivator for me.
This is when I first made the connection between people and the impact of their surroundings. I began to form the belief that the spaces we inhabit can have a profound effect on our physical and emotional wellbeing. This outdoor, low tech, ‘under construction’ lifestyle that I had enjoyed so abundantly as a child, and the dread of ending up in a soulless office, led me to want to influence the built environment. It gave me the desire to create spaces centred around our humanity, not only for myself, but for others too; this is what led me to become an interior designer.