Australian Design

Cassandra Turner

Interior Designer

During a conceptual meeting with a client recently, we were discussing the design and fit-out of their new commercial space. I suggested, based on the fact that the client’s business and product offering is Australian, that we should represent Australian design in the interiors. The client’s response shocked me. A blank stare and reply of “Is there such as thing as good Australian design?” nearly made me fall off my chair. This was not an attempt at sarcasm or a response fuelled by the unfortunate tall poppy syndrome that some Australians subscribe to. This was a totally honest and innocent question.

Tribute-marble-1Tribute Round Marble Coffee Table by Zuster

After gathering myself and responding with a slightly over-enthusiastic, “yes!”, it got me thinking. How could anyone not realise the amount of design talent we have in this country?

It’s true that Australian talent has, in the past, often been overshadowed by the glitz and glamour that international designers and brands appear to offer. This is true of many industries beyond interiors including fashion, car manufacturing and jewellery.

Whether this is based on the association with international celebrity, the historical sense of luxury that comes from a well-established brand or perceptions that European design hubs like Paris or Milan are the only place to look for true inspiration, it is also true that Australia may not have, until recently, really valued its own talents in creative fields.

Take fashion. It was only 20 years ago that Collette Dinnigan became the first Australian designer to be invited to show at Paris Fashion Week. Prior to this, Australian fashion designers received little attention internationally and equally little recognition in Australia. The good news is, since Dinnigan’s coup, Australian fashion cred exploded, and now, our leading designers and their talents are recognisable across our country as well as on (and off) the catwalks of Paris, Milan, New York and London.

collette-dinniganImage via DailyMail


It’s been a similar story for Australian furniture and product designers.   Until recently, broad recognition by Australians of our own talents in these fields appeared to be limited to designers such as Grant Featherston and Marc Newson.

Featherston rose to fame in the 1950’s as a pioneer of mid-century Australian design. Best known for his R160 ‘Contour’ chair, his pieces will forever be considered design classics worldwide. His Sound Chair, a ‘talking chair’ that played 3-minute tapes of famous Australians discussing life and culture in Australia (through speakers installed in the headrest) was exhibited in the Australian Pavilion at Expo 67 in Montreal and its design remains today both innovative and classically beautiful.

Grant Featherston in his R160 Contour Chair
Image via

Visitors using sound chairs in the Australian pavilion at Expo 67 Montreal.
Image via National Archives of Australia, AA1982/206 45


An original R160 Contour Chair
Image via VamptVintageDesign

The Sound Chair
Image via National Archives of Australia, AA1982/206 29


Marc Newson, a Sydney College of the Arts graduate, became the poster boy for Australian design in the 1990’s. He is now one of the most recognisable and sought-after industrial designers in the world. His now iconic, award winning Lockheed Lounge, a riveted aluminium and fiberglass chaise made even more famous when Madonna poured herself over its sensual form in her “Rain’ video clip, recently gained the title of the world’s most expensive design object selling in April this year at Philips Auction House in the UK for £2,434,500 / AUS$4.69 million.

Marc Newson
Image via Dezeen

Event Horizon Table by Marc Newson
Image via DaniellaOnDesign

Madonna on the Lockheed Lounge in her 1993 video clip Rain
Image via Morethanjustfim

Extruded Chair in White Carrara Marble
Image via Artnews


Australia’s furniture and product design kudos definitely doesn’t end with Featherson and Newson, however. Today, our furniture design is making huge waves internationally. There has been a steady growth in support of emerging Australian design with a number of key Australian retailers who historically championed European design, playing huge roles in giving both emerging and established Australian designers a platform.

One such retailer is Cult (formally Corporate Culture). Richard Munao, founder and curator of one of the most comprehensive collections of designer furniture, lighting and accessories in Australia, is well known for his passion for local design. His Chippendale showroom includes pieces from no less than 10 Australian designers, including Adam Goodrum, Ross Didier, Kate Stokes, Gavin Harris, Lisa Vincitorio and Marc Newson. “Supporting Australian designers and artisans is a key focus of Cult’s agenda” he explains. “We are in the very privileged position of working with some of the world’s leading European furniture brands but we are extremely keen to encourage local industry, Munao continues. “For our customers, it’s an incredible offer in terms of quality design, but also in terms of flexibility of offer and timely delivery.”

image-12Takushi by Gavin Harris
Image via Cultdesign

Obelisk Lounge by Ross Didier
Image via Cultdesign


image-8Array Side Table by Lisa Vincitorio
Image via Cult

Puku and Puku Nui by Kate Stokes
Image via Cultdesign

Award winning Australian furniture and product designer Adam Goodrum, who designs for Australian retailers Cult and Tait as well as international giants Capellini, Vervue Clicquot and Normann Copenhagen believes that the Australian Furniture Industry is approaching its tipping point right now. “After a long period of (the industry) being on the decline, it seems, for whatever reason, a kind of renaissance at the moment. “There are many wonderful new design brands launching throughout the country. Consumers and specifiers seem to be embracing local design more than ever, I think it is a really exciting time. The Scandinavians and the Italians created their amazing design cultures by supporting their own, I think we can do the same.”

adam-2Adam Goodrum
Image via

image-10Stitch Chair for Cappellini
Image via


bedThe Aran Bed by Adam Goodrum
Image via Cult



Loom chair
Image via

Additionally, a number of our top Australian retailers now design and manufacture their own pieces in Australia. Planet Furniture, Jardan, Arthur G, Mark Tuckey, Koskela, Zuster, Dessein and Tait are amongst a growing number of retailers dedicated to keeping production within the country.

Whether you term it a birth or a rebirth, Australian design is everywhere and its growing everyday.

lounge-12Softscape Lounge with Side Table by Helen Kontouris
Image via Stylecraft

Up Down by Jonathan Ben Tovim
Image via

Ben Warlich for Anaesthetic Design
Image via

Crescent by Derlot
Image via


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