In the Life Through Design series, King Living explores the landscape of Australian design - both current and future – through the eyes of Australian designers, and how they interpret the Australian aesthetic in their work.
In this first part series, we interview King Living brand ambassador Neale Whitaker to talk through his take on Australian Design. A well-renowned interior expert in Australia, Neale has an extensive pedigree in the publishing world where he was at the helm of Australian style bibles Belle and Vogue Living for more than a decade. Many will also know him as the stylish judge on the Australian household renovation TV series, The Block and Lifestyle Channel’s Love it or List it.
King Living: Do you have a signature style?
Neale Whitaker: I'm not sure that I do but others might disagree! I guess my personal style is quite layered, with many different influences. I'm hesitating to use the word 'eclectic' because it's very overused, but I love a mix of styles and eras, of colours, neutrals and textures. The French have a wonderful word - bricolage - which basically translates as a diversity of influences, and I think that best describes my signature style. I have never liked the idea of being confined to just one aesthetic. Different styles appeal to us at different stages in our lives and the most interesting interiors reflect that.
Where does your inspiration come from?
NW: Life! I have always been a bowerbird (an essential prerequisite I think for an ex-magazine editor) and I've soaked up inspiration from my travels, from people I've met, from books, art, movies, television, fashion and music. I'm fascinated by trends but I'm not influenced by them. Sometimes they correspond to my personal taste and sometimes they don't.
What do you think defines Australian design?
NW: Australian design is - for me - defined by a spirit of independence. Geography distances us from the rest of the world, and I believe that has given Australian design the freedom to experiment, to break free of rules and constraints and embrace only those trends that feel appropriate to our climate, culture and lifestyle. That hasn't always been the case - Australian design was once heavily influenced by European thinking - but to my mind a lack of inhibition now defines the contemporary Australian signature.
What do you think the future holds for Australian design?
NW: I think the future is bright for Australian design. Recent interest in our furniture and product designers at the annual Milan Design Week is indicative of this, combined with the growing influence of Australian residential architecture and interior design on the world stage. We're leading the charge when it comes to indoor/outdoor living. Plus the perceived success of Australia and New Zealand in controlling the coronavirus pandemic may well place a spotlight on our lifestyle, cultural and social values. This will in turn impact Australian design.
Do you think this pandemic will change the way people view their homes? More integrated working from home solutions etc.
NW: I believe the pandemic will change society in many ways, not least of which will be a greater number of us working from home and an increase in multi-generational living. This will in turn influence the way we need our homes to function. Homes that offer potential independent living zones plus flexible home office solutions will be very much ahead of the curve.
If you had to articulate the Australian Design aesthetic in 5 words, what would they be?
NW: Independent, discerning, egalitarian, uncompromising, functional.