I met Gab maybe 5 years ago and I was instantly seduced by her glorious smile and poetic vocabulary. It was an instant girl crush. Solidified by her impeccable taste in Architecture and design. Read on to discover more about this very clever and beautiful being...
D// This house is amazing, I love all the arches and suburban Australian/Italian vibe. Were you actively looking for a house of this particular generation?
G// We weren’t really looking when we found it. We were outgrowing a small heritage listed Fremantle cottage, built with all the charm you’d expect from 1897, but not with a lot of space and practicalities. We had been feeling guilty watching our 2-year-old dig in the cracks between the brick pavers in the courtyard. The girl needed some grass and we knew it, so we were keeping one eye on local real estate, but not with any real vigor. We’d discussed what was next - we were committed to Fremantle and had a thatch of 10 streets we’d consider. In the neighbourhood there are 2 types of houses that speak to us – the statuesque sandstone homes, all creeping vines and pride in their legacy, and the mid-century Italian palaces with a thousand archways, loggias and those intricate balustrades. The latter won out.
D// Did you grow up in a house like this? Is there a nostalgia attached or just a love of 1950’s Italian design?
G// I didn’t, although I grew up in a Californian bungalow (in Nedlands, not LA) that had plenty of suburban charm, and I had creative DIY parents who made cosy homes. This house felt like that – a family house. We didn’t buy with resale in mind. We imagine growing old here. It’s a weird clash of the Mediterranean vibe we loved, and a Lancelin beach house.
D// How did you start your career as an Interior Architect?
G// The route was a winding one. I studied Film at Curtin in the early 2000s, then ended up working in the arts. The early days of Fringe/Artrage, production design and ultimately the music industry in Perth and Sydney. The designer was always lurking in there, but when I got to Sydney the fire was properly stoked and I went back to study Interior Design.
D// You are at the tail end of renovating your home. Do you think it’s easier to design for yourself as opposed to a client?
G// Most designers will tell you that working on their own home is terrifying. We perhaps know too much, desire for things way beyond budget and feel pressure to produce a masterpiece. That said, our process was smooth and rewarding. Naturally, you have an intimate knowledge of how you’ll move through the house, how your needs may shift with time and what materials/finishes hold longevity for you. Your investment in the process is intense but ultimately it was a greatly fulfilling project.
D// Did your husband Steve have much input into the design of the home? Do you have similar taste?
G// By far my toughest client to date. It was natural that I drove the ship, but he was integral. The man’s got ideas, good ones too and an obsessive attention to detail so he was welcome on the team. We definitely have similar taste. I’ve always shared design inspiration with him, and he handles being bombarded with 50 images of Lina Bo Bardi’s (a favorite architect) house via text when he’s in a meeting very well.
D// You lived in Sydney for 8 years before moving back home to Perth. Did you do much design work in Sydney?
G// During my studies in Sydney, I worked shadowing established designers on high end residential projects. Strangely, something I’ve done only snippets of since returning home. I opened a restaurant, art gallery and store; Porch and Parlour, with some friends in late 2009. This was the project that solidified my desire to focus on commercial interiors and hospitality in particular. That and a fit out for the Watson Bay Hotel were the 2 major hospitality projects while there.
D// Why did you decide to move back home to Perth?
G// I had recently sold my share in Porch and Parlour and it felt like crossroads. I was exploring opportunities on the East Coast and dabbling with the idea of heading overseas for further design studies when I was sitting in roaring traffic one day and I realised the strongest pull was for quiet streets and my family. Anyone who has lived away knows it’s often a tough call to come back. You have to be at peace with the new pace and in some industries, work wise. It’s simply not the best call. In design however, I saw something happening in Perth. Liquor licensing was taking lead from the Eastern states, venues were opening and all of a sudden, they were caring about fit outs. I made a decision to come home, with the intention to make an impact in the hospitality space. Timing was right, and I’m so glad to be here.
D// What projects do you have on the go at the moment?
G// Currently I’m working on two residential projects, a home in Scarborough and one in the CBD. Vastly different in scale but with lovely families and small children at their centres and we’re working on really thoughtful design outcomes for them. I’m also consulting to The Raft; an event space on a barge in Elizabeth Quay, set to launch in May. It’s an ambitious project, run by really passionate people and I’m excited to see it open. The studio’s also branching into styling for brands, creating dynamic imagery for marketing purposes – we’ve recently worked on a series of images for La Paleta and are tinkering away with some new clients at the moment. I also have 2 exhibitions coming up this year. Yours, Thingamajig, with a focus of furniture/homewares and the other sculpture based.
D// I invited you to submit an object as part of an exhibition I'm curating with Mobilia. Can you tell me about what you’re making?
G// Thank you again for the invitation. You’re doing really important work in bridging the gap between disciplines and connecting designers who so often work alone. Collaboration is key and I’m really excited about this one. I am working on a floor lamp. I’m exploring the parameters of hand-blown glass and pairing it will Brasilian granite and bronze.
D// How would you describe a dream client?
G // They come in many forms but ultimately, I love meeting a client who knows what they love and how they want a space to work. Passionate, eager and open to having your mind changed.
D// What is your favourite project you’ve completed in WA?
G// Last year’s, Lions and Tigers in Fremantle was a standout. Passionate hospitality professionals who wanted to engage local craftsmen in building the venue and engage local artists so they could open doors with a meaningful art collection. That collaboration and connectedness makes for soulful venues. In a time of restricted palettes and quiet minimalism, they wanted colour and clash. Hallelujah.
D// Do you ever get attached to places/projects and find it difficult when the process is over?
G// Attached absolutely, but difficult to finish a job, never. It’s thrilling to finish it. In hospitality there are intense time frames, because doors open means money in the till. Clients getting to invite their friends and family in to admire the hard work is very satisfying. I love seeing the first beers getting poured.
D// You have a stunning 2 and half year-old daughter, Octavia Wilde, how have you found the transition into motherhood whilst continuing to run and grow your own business?
G// It’s funny that the only time you know everything about parenting is before you’re a parent. When she arrived, I knew only a few things for sure – I adored her, and I adored my work. The rest was a mystery and the years since have been a balancing act of making sure I’m fulfilled, and she is nourished and loved. I think I do a pretty good job – she’s calm and happy and as such makes a pretty diligent assistant on site, she gets wonderful care a few days a week, and a really present, connected mother when we’re together.
D// What kind of practices have you put into place to help you balance that?
G// I set myself a challenge early on, to not open my laptop in front of her and to keep phone use to a minimum. Me being distracted didn’t serve either of us. Daycare is a wonderful way for me to block out time, guilt free. I’m fortunate that she can come to work with me, when appropriate. I want her to know that I work hard, and garner real joy from what I do.
D// Interiors are my hobby obsession. I can spend hours on Pinterest and First Dibs saving interior imagery for dream homes. As an interior designer yourself, do you also have a Pinterest or First Dibs addiction? Or do you like to look at other things to inspire you?
D// How do you feel about fashion and how would you describe your style?
G// I feel excited by it, always have. Always interested to see how other’s curate it for themselves. I don’t have a fixed style, although I know what works for me – it’s nuanced and shifting. I have always bought vintage and like to team it with contemporary brands, quality fabrics and interesting cuts. I want to know it will get worn, so try to avoid impulse buys in this age of consumption.
D// What do you think influenced your taste in fashion?
G// I have a mother who says it like it is and who was heavily in to fashion. If something wasn’t working, she told you. Skirt too short, she told you. The high neck on that top not flattering, she told you. We are close and have also shopped together so I still often run purchases by her.
D// Lastly, do you have a favourite space in Perth that inspires or relaxes you?
G// One space I find captivating is the Cadogan Song School, a recent addition to St George’s Cathedral in the City. Completed by Palassis Architects in 2017 it is such a modern translation of the religious vernacular – vaulted arches on an expanded scale, lace-like white concrete - such an astute connection of spaces and worthy of all the praise it’s received.
Image 5: Dress by Christian Wijnants
Image 10: Dress by Christian Wijnants
Image 11: Dress by Christian Wijnants
Image 13: Top by Shaina Mote Trousers also by Shaina Mote
Image 15: Dress by Christian Wijnants
Image 16: Top by Shaina Mote Trousers also by Shaina Mote
Image 18: Dress by Shaina Mote