Men of Design

Are we – as blue-blooded New Zealanders – within our rights to claim that whatever design we choose for our house, it turns it immediately ‘kiwi’. And what would you say New Zealand architecture, interior or home design looks like? Is it built like a bach, full of beach-side decor? Is it a wooden cabin in the Waitakere Ranges? Or is it a design that is uniquely different from that?
M2 sat down with seven talented, award-winning architects, designers and furniture-makers to discuss their own unique journeys into the art of homemaking, their own creative processes and what motivates them to stretch the capabilities of great design.     

Jason Bonham

Jason Bonham has had a career in interior design spanning more than 20 years, which sent him to London, San Francisco and New York City. He launched Bonham Interior in 2008 and it has grown to catering for some big national and international names.With that chase for the detail, uniqueness and, quality and proportion. An avid object and art collector, Bonham certainly has an eye for beauty. As well as running his own business, he also mentors and judges in design, and sits on industry advisory boards. He is a professional member of the NKBA and the Designers Institute of New Zealand (DINZ).

How would you describe a typical day for you? 

I’ve always been an early bird, so I’m usually up and out, starting at the gym then walking Flint (my Dog) around the park. I head to office and do most of my design time in the mornings, I always hit a wall around 3pm.. so the creative is always done when I’m fresh. I have many client, site, supplier and trade meetings during the day so it’s a case of managing time slots and getting to meetings on time…. I like to be busy and work well under pressure. Evenings are spent usually with friends and family (or early nights on occasion). I have a lovely network of great people so I love to be active socially and also to entertain. Although, I don’t cook that well.

How do you define great design?

An extension of the client. At BONHAM we do not cookie cut, each design and project is approached differently, every client is unique, so must be the design.

If you have not captured the soul and feeling of the client in the design, you haven’t done your job. The best design is always the one that reflects the owner and has a harmonious enduring quality.

What kind of questions do you ask before beginning a design project? Which piece of information is of utmost value?

We have an extensive series of questions related to each space of the project, we work through these systematically to establish a very clear and concise brief. The brief is our most essential documentation, if you don’t understand how a client lives, functions and what’s important to them you cannot start the design process.

Is there a certain New Zealand aesthetic that you could define?  

There’s a strong industrial trend here in New Zealand that’s been around for a while. I guess it’s an extension of our surroundings and I understand the want for a natural look and for natural materials like concrete wood, but I’d really like to see some more freedom with design, some playfulness with colour, graphic prints and quality luxurious textures – let’s push some boundaries! That’s why I love the luxury projects where our clients want something different, luxury with and edge is my sweet spot.

What inspires you? 
I’m an avid art collector, I love art, it’s a huge part of what we do and how we curate and configure space. I also travel several times during the year, I try to pick a place I haven’t been to and immerse myself in the culture, art, food, colour, language, it gives me creative flow and new detail to my work.

What as the moment you knew what you wanted to do as a career?

I was originally going to train as an architect, Lego was a staple go-to toy growing up, I used to build fantastic houses, however as I got older I really fell in love with beautiful things, art and objets d’art, so I felt compelled to follow my heart into interior architecture. I find the interior design process a very intimate experience, finding one-of-a-kind pieces, discovering new things, and getting making friendships along the way.

What’s been the hardest moment in your career? 

Business is full of highs and lows, but I had a client a couple of years ago who let me down badly, I nearly lost my home, my business, everything. Having started the company from the ground up – in my family basement, everything was at risk and that was incredibly tough. But you learn to push though, not to dwell on the negative, and realise, its only stuff, and you can always make it back with talent, a good attitude and hard work.

What’s been the greatest?  

Meeting and dealing with amazing people. I really love my work, I get to create every day and make people’s homes beautiful. It’s very rewarding to see a space finished and clients happy in an environment where I’ve captured their essence.

How do you get unstuck creatively?

Sleep!!! You have to keep your mind sharp and focused when designing, it’s the smallest details that make all the difference.

What do you want people to see in your work now? 

BONHAM curates art, design and furniture to create spaces that are truly unique. The key is to make a home feel relaxed, accessible, and bespoke, even with the most extraordinary furniture, art and object.  Quality and craftsmanship should never be compromised.

How do you hope people will look back on your work in a 100 years? 

I like to think of BONHAM as beyond trends, trends fade, but quality and style last. I aim for longevity in our designs, I would hope that people look at our work and it still feel beautiful, relevant and contemporary.

How do you balance work & life? 

Exercise, good diet and sleep. I’m very active with work and socially so it’s always good to exercise in the morning to achieve a clear head, eat well and get enough rest. I try to get away for weekends as often as possible being amongst nature, by the beach or walking in a forest to rebalance and reset. I also love to ride motorbikes, so I also find this a nice escape.

What’s the best piece of advice that you have been given?

The only feeling you leave people with, is how you made them feel.

What is your life motto?

Work hard, Love hard, keep a good attitude, be quick to forgive, be kind always.

Ken Crosson

Director at Crosson Architecture, Ken Crosson, is one of those architects that really sticks in your brain. He seems to take inspiration from everything. Whether it be inspiration on tone, texture of structural form, Crosson has got it on key. He studied in Auckland and spent a large majority of his 20’s in London, sending and surveying projects back to New Zealand. Since returning to his home country, he has been awarded the NZ Home Magazine Home of the Year in 2003 and Home of the Decade in 2006. In 2012 he was a finalist in the World Architecture Awards for the project ‘Hut on Sleds’ and his designs have twice been listed by World Architecture News among the Six Best Houses in the World – with awards in 2006 for the ‘Coromandel Bach’ and in 2013 for the ‘Hut on Sleds’.

How would you describe a typical day for you?

Up early. Cycle or gym. Energy breakfast and
work.

How do you define great design?

A response that makes the heart skip a beat – is functional and beautiful.

What kind of questions do you ask before beginning a design project? Which piece of information is of utmost value?

How willing are people to explore.

Is there a certain New Zealand aesthetic that you could define?

I don’t think so – the world is so small now with technology that we are influenced by many factors.

What inspires you?

A fabulous sunrise.

When was the moment you knew what you wanted to do as a career?

1974. Visiting the recently completed Christchurch Town Hall for the first time and feeling the beautiful spaces, textures and materials.

What’s been the hardest moment in your career?

Starting.

How do you get unstuck creatively?

Whisky.

What do you want people to see in your work now?

An ambition to do the best.

How do you balance work & life?

Is that an oxymoron?

What’s the best piece of advice that you have been given?

“There is no such word as can’t” from my old primary school Headmaster.

What is your life motto?

Ok is not ok.

Mark Pheloung

Managing director of Auckland-based interior design company, Collage Furniture Imports, Mark Pheloung is a man who is definitely indebted to his art. The man has lived in New Zealand his whole life and really sharpened his teeth around locating material, designs and distributes to make the perfect look for any home or office.

How would you describe a typical day for you?

Varied! I bounce between customers’ needs, discussions with staff, business development, factory negotiations and design. Really, no two days are the same which is exhausting and exciting

How do you define great design?

One that stimulates the imagination, is comfortable in its form and stands the test of time

What kind of questions do you ask before beginning a design project? Which piece of information is of utmost value?

All the questions required to understand the client’s wants and needs – then stretch them into territory that they may not have considered, often outside their comfort zone.

Is there a certain New Zealand aesthetic that you could define?

Not really from my perspective. I think New Zealanders are generally receptive to design change and very influenced by our lifestyle.

What inspires you?

Form – be that in a geometric sense or nature. And materials – furniture design harnesses timbers and metals, marble and glass, leather and fabric, texture and comfort and each of those sectors spark inspiration. I also get regular inspiration from Italian furniture designers and maintain a strong connection there.

What was the moment you knew what you wanted to do as a career?

Design has always been part of my existence, so when an unexpected event in my life dropped me into the furniture industry and I was given the opportunity to be free to experiment, I knew I was
there for the long haul.

What’s been the hardest moment in your career?

My father’s passing and my subsequent launch into business life was certainly a low point – but it has provided me with amazing opportunities.

What’s been the greatest?

I don’t think it is a singular event – more the whole process of growing the business into a multi-faceted organization.

How do you get unstuck creatively?

I step away into another space completely. It is amazing what inspiration can be found when fishing in a remote bay.

What do you want people to see in your work now?

Creativity, individuality and respect for the materials used.

How do you hope people will look back on your work in a 100 years?

I hope they will see consideration and compassion – and something that still appeals!

How do you balance work & life?

With some difficulty at times! There is always so much to do and so little time – but the balancing act can still be a lot of fun. Being able to step away as far as possible and spend time with friends and family provides both rest and the stimulation to climb back into the saddle.

What’s the best piece of advice that you have been given?

Be up front, honest and true to yourself.

What is your life motto?

Live life to its fullest and make the most every moment.

Tim Webber

Born in 1988, Webber grew up in New Zealand and spent his childhood on the floor of his fathers’ plywood business. He always had a fascination with designing and building things. He completed a Bachelor of Design in 2009 and went on to create his own design studio and creates his own brand of furniture. Tim Webber Design is headquartered in Auckland, New Zealand but his pieces continue to gain worldwide recognition.

How would you describe a typical day for you? 

Early mornings always start with time spent with my little boy, he’s 4 months now, so it’s great starting to see a bit of his personality come through.

Usually I head to a local café to start the day with a coffee and initial emails, and miss the morning traffic. Then it’s into the studio for working on new products, team meetings, likely a visit to one of our manufacturing partners, as well as meetings with architect and designer clients. They’re busy days so it’s all about trying to stay on task!

How do you define great design? 

Personally I feel great design is defined by its ability to positively impact on someone’s life. This could be as simple as an aesthetical appreciation, to a design that truly affects their well-being. With regard to furniture design, I’m constantly trying to design in a way that is functional, innovative and timeless, to cultivate products that positively impact on the way people are able to use and enjoy the spaces they live or work in.

What kind of questions do you ask before beginning a design project? Which piece of information is of utmost value?

I try to write a design brief to set myself parameters for each new product. So I ask questions like, who is the product for? What kind of space could it sit in? What’s its purpose? What price does it need to sell for? What materials do I want to explore?
These questions give me a good starting point for the direction of the project or product and try keep it on track, whilst still allowing for unexpected inspiration.

Is there a certain New Zealand aesthetic that you could define?  

I think a clean, simple and honest aesthetic seems to underline a lot of New Zealand design.

What inspires you? 

From a design perspective my inspiration can stem from anywhere and everywhere, it could be the beams and struts under a bridge, or the small intricacies of a patterns on a leaf. It’s just a matter of keeping an eye out for details that inspire.

Business wise, I love having friends that own businesses too and seeing them grow and thrive, it pushes me to keep striving.

What as the moment you knew what you wanted to do as a career?

After my first sale of a piece of furniture I got such a kick out of someone having one of my designs in their home and as a part of their everyday life, that feeling drove me to keep going.

How do you get unstuck creatively?

I find momentum really important to keeping creativity flowing, so when I get stuck it’s often when I’ve let the momentum slow. Some dedicated time with my sketch book away from the office and distraction helps jump start me again.

What do you want people to see in your work now? 

I’d hope people see innovative and inspiring designs that enrich their lives through the day-to-day interaction they have with the product and the spaces they live in.

How do you hope people will look back on your work in a 100 years? 

I hope they’ll still see my designs as current and modern as the time they’re in. If I can achieve producing products that can be passed down through generations and still be appreciated no matter the era, then I’ll feel I’ve really achieved something great.

How do you balance work & life? 

It’s more of a balancing act than ever now with a little one in our lives. So when I’m at home it’s very much dedicated to family time with my wife Britt and son Archie, then during work hours the aim is to achieve as much as humanly possible – however, I’m often found working late into the evening to keep on top of everything. I think anyone that owns a business and is passionate about it will know that your mind never really turns off!

What’s the best piece of advice that you have been given?

My father is a great hero of mine, and I have always lent on his advice and wisdom. He taught me to always put others above yourself. I don’t only try to apply this within my personal life for my friends and family, but also within my business for my customers and staff too.

What is your life motto?

I try to live my life by not being so caught up and focused on the destination, but enjoying the journey and celebrating the small wins along the way.

Paul Izzard

With more than 20 years of international experience in the industry and having worked in the prestigious APA Design crafting hotels and restaurants in the UK, Paul Izzard is the talk about town. He has been sharpened his teeth on corporate eateries like Subway and Wendy’s, over in the UK (his home stomping-ground) and came over to to these shores to really develop as a designer. He has served as a 10-time finalist, winner and judge for The Best Design Awards for the Design Institute of New Zealand, designed the Hilton Hotel in Auckland and is a judge on TV3’s The Block NZ.

How would you describe a typical day for you?

Early rise and a walk with Edward the Frenchie, workout at the gym, then into the studio. The mornings are reserved for meetings and the afternoons for creative time with the team. After 12 hours of all that, the bourbon often comes out on ice.

How do you define great design?

This is a very broad question, design succeeds on many levels, but mostly for me it relates to completing a client’s brief, we have completed over 300 hospitality venues all different but only by returning to the original brief can you judge success.

What kind of questions do you ask before beginning a design project?

Which piece of information is of utmost value? Hospitality projects especially relate to a story, brand, food, service, offer all revolve around a story, understanding that story from the start and communicating that through the design is very important to success, therefore being able to ask and understand this story has to be done at the start of a project.

Is there a certain New Zealand aesthetic that you could define?  

I think NZ defines itself through diversity, a melting pot of cultures and landscapes which makes designing in this country so interesting. One element for us, time and time again, is nature or the natural landscape and being emersed in it – allowing diners to enjoy dinning with the challenges of our climate or feeling part of the landscape.

What inspires you?

People mostly – client enthusiasm, the satisfaction of creating wonderful spaces and improving peoples’ environment.

What was the moment you knew what you wanted to do as a career?

Not sure if there was a moment, a string of events mostly relating to my enjoyment of the fine arts.

What’s been the hardest moment in your career?

I guess the relentless slog of hardworking the early days before staff, but in the end not that bad..

What’s been the greatest?  

Again not a moment as such but the inspection of the Izzard Design team and the work we create together.

How do you get unstuck creatively?

Bourbon

What do you want people to see in your work now?

A defined experience and pedigree in hospitality design.

How do you hope people will look back on your work in a 100 years?

It would be amazing to still have a restaurant going that has just gotten better with time.

How do you balance work & life?

Exercise is very important for mind and body balance as we all know, but we enjoy and live what we do which makes life well balanced by default.

What’s the best piece of advice that you have been given?

Get a good accountant.

What is your life motto?

“The path of least resistance” not to relate to being lazy in anyway but there is always a simple answer and the less complicated path the better the results.

Nathan Goldsworthy

An industrial design specialist, Natahan Goldsworthy has built his own high-end furniture design company. He studied at Victoria University and graduated with a Bachelor of Design. He then went on to lecture and teach design at the same university. After leaving, he produced both commissioned and production pieces which were sold in New Zealand, Australia, Hong Kong and Singapore. He now is the very talented Director at Goldsworthy Ltd.

How would you describe a typical day for you? 

Coffee at Millers to think, desk time in the morning, studio time in the afternoon. If I’m into it, I’ll work into the evening and eat late.

How do you define great design? 

To be considered great, a work of design must be both useful and novel.

It can’t be useful enough, but it can’t be too novel either.

It’s in the junction of these two qualities that beauty emerges.

What kind of questions do you ask before beginning a design project? Which piece of information is of utmost value?

Beyond the pragmatics of time & cost, I start with utility. What does it need to do? How is it used, and by whom?

Is there a certain New Zealand aesthetic that you could define?  

I don’t think I can; we’re pretty new at this, we’re not a highly industrialised nation, and we have a small population. Therefore, we make relatively few things so I think it’s difficult to claim an aesthetic definition. Maybe in another 50 years…

What inspires you? 

Late nights in the studio, climbing a hill, people, places, & animals. And Instagram, of course.

What as the moment you knew what you wanted to do as a career?

I was interested in design from about the age of 14, I’ve always paid attention to the shape of things’ and how they are made. There was never really any other option.

How do you get unstuck creatively?

Honestly it’s not easy to say. Swimming in the sea can do the trick, but stuck-ness is sticky, so sometime it persists for a while. I do think a change of environment is the key though.

What do you want people to see in your work now? 

Beauty.

How do you hope people will look back on your work in a 100 years? 

I seriously doubt they will! What will be relevant to people in 100 years? It’s fun to imagine something I’ve produced still proving useful to someone that far in the future, but I have no expectation that it’ll have any historical relevance.

Also, it’s possible I’ll still be working…

How do you balance work & life? 

I don’t.

What’s the best piece of advice that you have been given?

I’ve become careful about taking advice! There’s no shortage of it.

Probably the most useful piece of advice for me has been this:

Be careful what you take responsibility for, but take seriously those things you choose.

What is your life motto?

I have lots of them, I’m not a person who can choose one!

This is going to sound strange, but ‘I don’t know’ is a powerful phrase. Telling yourself you don’t know the answer, even if you think you do, promotes an open mind and can lead toward further discovery.