In the fourth instalment of David Clark’s Edit, we profile Sonia Simpfendorfer, Creative Director of long-established Melbourne interior design practice Nexus Designs.
Sonia Simpfendorfer. Image – James Geer.
What attracted you to the world of design and interiors?
Brought up in house where my mother, an amateur painter, always presented us with colour-balanced plates of food, I spent my childhood designing outfits for my paper dolls and my high school years doodling houses and reading as much as I could about other people’s lives.
When I discovered the collision of history, art, architecture and design in the course description for a BA Interior Design there was no choice but to follow that path. It’s the best career. Every day and every client is different and I’ve never stopped learning.
A Tribeca loft – dusky blue and purple upholstery, warm timbers and vibrant yellow tones inspired by the NSW Blue Mountains. Image – Jonny Valiant.
Who are the people alive or dead that you think are/were truly inspirational?
The first designers that inspired me as a student designer were the freedom and colour of Ettore Sottsass’ Memphis Group, and the late French designer Andrée Putman. I was knocked out by her black & white checkerboard bathrooms for Morgans Hotel NYC and her house for artist Julian Schnabel. I discovered Nexus Designs and Terence Conran at about the same time and was struck by how powerful simplicity could be.
My design team is a source of daily inspiration. They are so passionate about giving each client their own personal experience of the Nexus Designs philosophy. Guiding and watching the evolution of each project really gives me a buzz. I love it. We take the fundamental need for shelter and turn it into something beautiful, personal and highly individual.
The same Tribeca loft, formerly a wrapping paper factory. Image – Jonny Valiant.
How would you describe your signature style?
What matters to you most in the work that you do?
Great design makes life better for people and it matters much more than people realise. It’s not just about making things look good – they have to work well too.
A family home with vibrant red accents. Image – Fraser Marsden.
Do you have a favourite residential project?
We just finished a NYC Tribeca loft where we used a palette of purple and yellow inspired by our expat client’s favourite picture of the NSW Blue Mountains. Their happiness has had us all feeling pretty good too.
What is your design pet hate?
Too much stuff.
What do you think works without fail?
Simplifying, organising, letting go of things you don’t really need. If you take some time to get it right once and then you can just relax, enjoy it and get on with the really important things in life.
There are a few basic principles that apply to most projects: use a minimum number of finishes, use natural materials, maximize natural light, keep the planning simple and don’t be afraid of colour.
A simple but effective family kitchen. Image – Fraser Marsden.
You oversee a significant team of employees – what do you look for in the people you work with?
For our studio I deliberately choose designers who are not only very talented, but approachable and lovely to work with too. A great attitude is as important as great talent.
What we do is incredibly personal and we build relationships with our clients that continue long after the project is complete. They become part of our Nexus family.
You have had much peer recognition over the years. Is there a key moment that matters most?
Peer recognition is great because they are the only ones who truly know how hard you’ve had to work to make the end result look so easy! But a delighted client is the ultimate recognition. That’s who I do it for.
Being invited to give public talks is something I always try and find time for. I believe in the power of design to make daily life better and love to talk about it and let people in to the process and principles. It’s fun too.
A family beach house on Victoria’s Bellarine Pensinsula. Image – Earl Carter.
What would the future bring that would make your career complete?
The idea of a career being complete doesn’t really apply to this profession – I imagine that for as long as you have an open mind, enormous curiosity and the desire to keep making things better you just keep designing, and experience brings so much more depth to work.
That said, for the team and for the freedom of budget and creativity I’d love a few more rock-star/movie-star houses and we all enjoy boutique hotels too – so many more people get to actually sleep in our vision that way.
For me, the day I held my first copy of Living, published by Allen&Unwin which I co-authored was pretty amazing, and I think we’re ready to do another one (or three). We have so many great images and stories that we’d love to get into peoples hands, and I love it when a new client comes in with a heavily tagged copy of one of our books – it’s a great starting point for a discussion.
A children’s room in the Bellarine Pensinsula beach house. Image – Earl Carter.
To learn more, visit the Nexus Designs website, blog or follow them on Facebook or on twitter and Instagram @Nexus_Designs.
See all the designers in David Clark’s Edit.