Design for small spaces

WHILE he is intensely focussed on producing objects that are simple and minimalist, designer Nick Rennie says the stylish result should not give way to function.

He believes good design and a desire to use objects go hand-in-hand.

Since graduating from Industrial Design at RMIT, Rennie has forged his way on the national and international design scene creating furniture, jewellery and lighting products that are influenced by nature, Japanese culture and interaction. In 2001 he started ‘happy fish design’ where his intent was, and still is, to explore design that takes its inspiration from interaction with everyday items.

“My aesthetic is quite simplistic,” Rennie said, adding his style has become more refined in recent years “from its early days of playfulness”.

Rennie is the only Australian designer whose work will exhibit in DOMO’s Living It Large In Small Spaces exhibition, which is set to highlight the benefits of good design and a smaller space.

The exhibition will run for two weeks from September 5 at Allpress, within the urban precinct of Collingwood in Melbourne, and will feature products from the luxe French furniture brand Ligne Roset.

“It will demonstrate that every space within an apartment should have a central theme and be designed around specific activities,” DOMO founder Frank Novembre said. “After 30 years in furniture retailing, we’ve seen a shift in people’s lifestyle and living requirements and we recognise the need to provide pieces that cater for apartment living,” Novembre said.

“Fortunately, good design is recognised across the globe and brands such as Ligne Roset can often cut through cultural boundaries and break down traditional models of furnishing spaces.”

The exhibition will feature five distinct themed spaces: Eat, Live, Sleep, Work and Outdoor, with Ligne Roset products selected by interior designers Paul Hecker and Hamish Guthrie from Hecker Guthrie.

Co-director Hamish Guthrie said the exhibition was aimed at encouraging people to re-think the way they “inhabit domestic space” by living in smaller spaces.

“Apartment living requires a slightly different mentality. You can’t live as you would in a four-bedroom house but there is no need to compromise - you should always be able to live in a space to create a successful environment,” Guthrie said.

Rennie has had several of his designs produced by Ligne Roset, including the Chart rug and Saldo table.

He said living and working in Australia had brought challenges with breaking into the European market.

“You have to constantly be talking to manufacturers, design houses and the like. I travel regularly because with the difference in time and distance you cannot be quick to change things if there is a problem with manufacturing or for them to regularly be in contact with you.”

Rennie’s Saldo glass-top coffee table was the first product made by Ligne Roset four years ago.

“It was a simplistic and minimalist design so it was quite an easy product to develop,” Rennie said. He added understanding the manufacturing process, budgeting and having a solid working knowledge of production techniques was important for designers to succeed, here and overseas.

“Australian designs are world class and the reality is that conceptually a handful of designers are starting to work with some of the best companies in the world, the hardest part is not the design, but having having access to the manufacturer and being selected by the manufacturer amongst mostly designers based in Europe and some of the biggest designer names in the world.”

Rennie said he overcomes the tyranny of distance and networking opportunities by ensuring he speaks via phone, email or Skype with international companies a few times a week to “build relationships”, as well as travel regularly.

“It is infinitely easier if you are based there (but) Ligne Roset has been fantastic (as) for them the whole focus has been on whether the product suits the range ... it is a really nice company to be involved with.”

While good collaboration was key, Rennie said, to the success of a product suiting a range, being open to new ideas or reinterpreting creations in a modern context was equally important.

“In this day and age the real innovation comes through new materials and manufacturing,” he said. “We live in a world with diminishing resources so innovation comes from minimising the impact on this.”

Rennie said when choosing furnishings and decorating a space, whether small or large, it was also important for people not to compromise on style and functionality.

“In Australia the biggest problem designers face is the copy industry, so don't compromise on the object you want nor compromise on the quality because at the end of the day you pay for what you get.

“If that table and chair suits your needs go and buy it - no one buys copy cars. At home, I have a mix of IKEA, as they make good quality, through to design classics. When decorating it’s about making the decision on what is important to you … to make the most of situations.”

Living It Large In Small Spaces will exhibit from September 5 to 19 September at Allpress at 80 Rupert Street, Collingwood. For more information visit domo.com.au.

marina.williams@fairfaxmedia.com.au