She knew from a young age that she was destined to work in Architecture and Interior Design. Today, Blainey North is at the helm of her namesake company in Australia, Blainey North Architecture & Interior Design, creating dream spaces around the world, one project at a time.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I always thought I would become an environmental lawyer, and then at the age of 16, my art teacher asked me if I had considered Architecture. While the rest of the class had been painting their friends, I had been painting bridges and stairs! It was like a bolt of lightning hit me, and I knew that was my destiny.
Did you have an influence in your youth that shaped your career path?
I’ve always been on my own path, and really quite single focused. I don’t look around much to see what anyone else is up to. I’m a bit of a lone wolf in that regard. However, I’ve had the most amazing people working with me to create the practice we have today. Tim Browne, my Architectural Director, has been with me for twelve years and really been integral in shaping the practice.
You started your firm Blainey North Architecture & Interior Design at the age of 21. What and who inspires you?
I’m inspired by beautiful creative in all disciplines. It’s rare for really well-executed, considered creative these days, given the pace of life.
It’s quite unique to have an architectural and interior design service; usually, it’s one or the other. How do you manage to ‘marry’ the two concepts successfully?
When you’re creating a project, it’s important to have one person lead the creative vision if you want to develop a holistic integrated approach. This combination, of both Architecture, Interior and now our custom furniture and lighting, allows us to be in creative control of the project. Anyone who has ever had experience with construction will know there are so many variables and risks, so it’s a great benefit if you can mitigate some of those in the design area of the project, through having one person accountable.
Prior to the 1900s, it was typically one lead architect who was the creative director of a project. In fact, most of the grand scale buildings and palaces have been built this way in history. It’s not a new idea to combine the practices, in fact, it’s an old one. We believe that it is impossible to really separate the design of the interior and exterior.
What are/have been the biggest challenges in your career?
One of the things that keeps me interested in the challenges of what we do. The complexity of design and construction is intellectually very stimulating and certainly never boring. It’s the challenge of the next job that keeps me alive, however, it’s always a learning curve working in remote areas. Working on a five-star resort on a remote island in the Maldives certainly had its logistical challenges to bring all the products by plane and sea.
Important lessons along the way?
My mantra is to never let your standard slip, in your work or in your behavior. If you let your standards slip you will never be fulfilled.
The favorite part of your job?
I really love spending time with my clients and being able to design a space that realizes a dream, that they might not even know they had!
What is the best thing about being at the helm of an architectural interior design service?
To be able to guide the process of the creative vision is really the best part. Having my own practice means I am able to work directly with the client and my teams to develop a unique vision for every project. I then have the luxury of seeing it come to life, which is just the best feeling in the world.
And the worst?
When you are attempting to do something truly original, it means that no-one, the builder, the tradespeople, and even you, have done it before. That means that there are challenges which you aren’t anticipating throughout the process. It’s hard to do something new, that’s why it doesn’t happen every day, however, the reward is definitely worth the effort.
Is your home / are your homes as stunning as those of your clients? I’m thinking of the old proverb of the shoemaker’s children that have no shoes …. hopefully, that’s not the case with your abode(s).
The truth is, I change my interior once every year or two. I feel strongly that the environment around you needs to reflect the way you are feeling about your life, or indeed the way you want to feel in your life. For example, after I had a baby, I wanted to feel quite calm and comforted, so I created an interior in the palest blues and greys and quite textural, yet minimal. Then a few years later, I felt like my life needed to feel more glamorous and decadent, so I recreated the space to be more luxurious in velvets and aged bronze and just generally more decorative. My husband likes to joke that on any given day, he has no idea where he will put his keys, as the furniture moves around so much.
What are your favorite rooms in your own home(s) and why?
I love my bedroom. I’ve been inspired by a Yves Tanguy surrealist painting called the ‘Furniture of Time’. Which is a beautiful, endless sort of landscape full of strange objects? At the moment, I look at this painting every day, and so decided to create my bedroom to have the same feeling as the painting. The Bedhead is in black silk velvet.
What key pieces in your home can you not live without?
My waterfall artwork by the photographer Simon Chaput. It sits above my bed and makes me feel incredibly calm.
Talk us through a timeless interior design style.
Timeless interiors are about good design and good bones. In my opinion, things should line up and feel considered as a whole, not just a series of walls or rooms.
How important is it to accessorize?
When designing a truly bespoke home or interior space, accessories are an incredibly important layering tool, adding character and creating personality to any space whether it be a grand residence or ultra-luxury hotel. It is these small pieces that often have the greatest impact on those who interact and use the space.
Is there a right and wrong when it comes to decorating? Please explain.
When styling and decorating a luxury interior, it is important to reference the occupier of the space and from that, develop a strong scheme of highly detailed sculpture, lighting, art and small decorative pieces that speak to the personality of the owner whilst yet acting silent and creating mood versus overpowering an interior.
How does one keep things modern/timeless without having to break the bank?
Invest in great pieces that are of good quality, and then re-accessorize or reupholster when you want to change your look. It’s really no different for clothes. If you buy well, you can have the pieces for life.
Do you believe in repurposing dated pieces or should one just shop for new ones?
As above, I think repurposing is really important. Good design will always stand the test of time.
Have there been projects that you have declined? If yes, why?
Every week! We only take on a certain number of projects in the Studios to ensure that I can be personally involved in each project. It means we have to turn away some jobs and we have a waitlist for the projects we can’t live without doing!
You travel for business and hopefully pleasure too. Which have been your favorite places to travel to that have left a lasting impression?
I’m crazy about it. Really, I’ve been lucky enough to travel to so many places all around the world with my work and every place inspires me in some way, if I’m honest. We were recently re-fitting a superyacht in Italy and I found both the working port and the nearby Amalfi coast so inspiring. I just love the way the buildings are nestled into the hill and that everything exists on so many different levels.
Your daughter accompanies you on your travels. That must be a wonderful experience for both of you to see the world through her eyes – seeing things through a child’s eyes is simply magical.
I have an office in London and New York, so we are constantly moving around. It’s only been made possible through the fact that she loves traveling and loves new places as much as I do! She’s five now and we have favorite spots all around the world that we look forward to going to together.
What do you do for fun?
Work! My life and my work are really one, and I have little time outside of that. I’m always visiting galleries and exhibitions, craftsmen, which all seem to be integral to my work, but quite fun. I do love a long lunch with my friends and I’ve also been known to hit the dancefloor at any opportunity!
Any exciting plans on the horizon?
After a 5-year long process, I am very excited to launch my new furniture exhibition “Man & the Machine” in early June, so the coming months are a very exciting time for us as we personally invite our VIP clients to view the new collection as well as work closely with local and international galleries to showcase our work. Inspired by my affinity with the city and its ever-present tension with humans. The starting point was the contrast between the hardness of the city and the softness of the human body. Cities are resistant, edgy, repetitive, with a multiplicity of levels and scales, whereas human bodies are delicate, fluid, idiosyncratic; the contrast between the two is where the aesthetic life of the city really lies. It is the tension between these two aspects of modern life, the mechanical and the human, that forms the basis for the new furniture ranges.