Proving definitively that it’s big ideas that count, not the size of the practice, a Melbourne-based firm of just seven talented designers made an impressive sweep at the WIN Awards 2017 gala evening at Somerset House in London last month. GOLDEN scooped not one but two WIN Awards, and was also shortlisted in two categories.
Founded by directors Kylie Dorotic and Alicia McKimm in 2013, the practice’s inviting yet tastefully understated designs impressed judges, who awarded them the top slot in both Cafés, and Leisure or Entertainment Venue categories. GOLDEN’s projects were also shortlisted in Residential Interiors, and – once again – Cafés.
We speak to Kylie and Alicia about their winning projects, asking them about what makes them work so well, and, of course, what it feels like to be a double-winner. We also wind back the clock to find out how they came to found GOLDEN together, the significance of colouring pencils, and why accountancy’s loss was architecture’s gain. But more of that later…
Firstly, our warmest congratulations on winning no less than two WIN Awards at the recent gala evening! What does it feel like to have been so successful at the Awards on such an international platform, and what benefits do you hope it will bring for the practice?
Kylie: Winning the World Interior News award for Best Café and Best Leisure Venue is an incredible honour. Being recognised internationally is a thrill, and it’s a vote of confidence for the relevance of our design on the global stage. We couldn’t be happier. Of course we hope that this leads to more international projects, but no doubt it will help build our profile at home too.
And what’s next for GOLDEN? Are you staying local to Melbourne, or might you look further afield for exciting new projects now? Any plans for expansion?
Alicia: We certainly don’t have any plans to leave Melbourne. It’s a thriving, creative and collaborative design community, and we feel privileged for any opportunity to represent Australian design on the world stage. However we don’t find living and working in Melbourne limiting. We completed The ‘Penny Drop’ café in London in 2017, and we’re currently in talks for another London café.
With today’s technology there’s really no reason why we can’t manage projects across the world. It’s very achievable, particularly as our approach is highly detailed and communicative. Time zones are really the only hurdle, but with a little planning that is manageable too.
Looking at your two winning submissions, let’s start with the delightful ‘MOBY 3143’ in Melbourne, which won against stiff competition in our popular Cafés category. The judges said of MOBY: “An absolute visual delight…it would be impossible to take a bad photo in this space.” The project is informed by its late 70s shell and its former incarnation as the iconic ‘Woodstock’ café. How does MOBY differ from Woodstock, and how do you feel GOLDEN has improved on what was already a popular local destination?
Kylie: Our intention with Moby was to reinvigorate the space, known and loved by locals as Woodstock for many years. We brought it back to life with a contemporary edge. It was important to honour the existing 70s shell, iconic to the area, and really respect its history. Key to the design was successfully connecting all zones with a clever use of colour, from curb-side seating, to the interior, mezzanine and upstairs deck. Colour wraps around the walls and up the staircase; a consistent thread that encourages patrons to all corners of the café. It’s a thrill to see that working so well in practice.
The colour palette you’ve chosen for MOBY is bold and vibrant, drawing on ochre and teal to create a ‘Tuscan’ vibe. The judges praised the ‘detailing and consideration for colour and material’ as ‘second to none’. What made you decide to go this route?
Alicia: Ochre and teal were chosen specifically to represent the new and the old; ochre being reminiscent of a warm Tuscan render, and therefore true to our design story, and teal offering a contemporary edge. They’re dynamic as a duo and have really enlivened the space, drawing passers-by in. The original arch windows beautifully frame the colour, adding to the appeal from the exterior.
Have you and your fellow director, Alicia, had the chance to grab a meal or a coffee at MOBY yourselves yet since its completion? If so, how was the experience?
Kylie: Alicia and I recently returned as guests and it was a wonderful experience. The space just works. It’s really thrilling to see every zone activated, with customers enjoying all corners of the café. It’s created a wonderful atmosphere. The café is also very well known for its food, so the marriage of interiors and food makes for a fantastic hospitality experience.
Moving on to your next winning entry, this time in our Leisure or Entertainment Venues category, we come to the sublimely serene ‘Sum of Us’ wellness centre. You’ve said that the services on offer are ‘unique and unlike other fitness studios’ and that it was important that the space reflected this in terms of its interiors. What makes the services so different, and how did you manage to translate this into your designs?
Alicia: What’s unique about Sum of Us is having access to all kinds of services under one roof – from yoga and Pilates to physiotherapy, podiatry and a nutritionist. Not to mention a wholesome café that completes the space as a wellness destination.
This unique combination of services, and the concept of “transformation” inspired the interior. As just one example, the physical “core” is obviously central to Pilates and yoga, so this inspired circular references, such as the ring of lights.
The Sum of Us occupies a Victorian double-storey residential building. Commenting on this, the judges said: “…the project’s subtle approach to design compliments the historic nature of the existing property in a superb and coherent manner.” Were there any particular challenges with working with a period property?
Kylie: Yes. Lots! Firstly, it was an old residential building and we had to transform it into a commercial space that was fit for wellness purposes. A huge task, and one we’re proud to have achieved. Firstly, the floor plan had to integrate ambulant amenity, which meant widening access. The centre of the building was opened up to accommodate one of the open plan fitness zones.
This involved removing columns and inserting a crossbeam for added support. Additional footings were also added to the underside of the floor to reinforce and accommodate the increased activity. These changes are not uncommon, however the challenge is always greater in an older building.
How has the Sum of Us been received by its patrons, and does it feel as calm and uplifting as it looks?
Alicia: Very much so. We know many people who attend classes there regularly, and they often comment on how calming and cohesive the space is. We find this feedback really rewarding as there are distinct zones, differentiated with colour and materiality, yet the overall feeling is one that is connected. People often stay on after class for a juice or a meal at the café, which contributes to that welcoming feeling.
Not content with winning the Cafés award, another of your submissions, ‘Penny Drop’ in Melbourne was shortlisted in the same category. Your challenge was to take a large corporate building with a floor to ceiling glass façade and transform it into an inviting destination for locals. That’s no mean feat, so how did you manage to achieve it? And we’d love to know who thought up the name Penny Drop and why?
Kylie: A layered palette of warm natural timbers, textured terrazzo and granite, soft pastels and gleaming copper create a space that is both light and airy, yet cosy and inviting.
The name and branding was done by local Melbourne branding studio Pop & Pac. Penny Drop sits at the base of the Australian Taxation Office, so musing on the upstairs government neighbour, we were drawn towards a concept of the ‘penny dropping’ from the pockets of the Australian Tax Office above.
Shortlisted in the Residential Interiors category was the Hampton Penthouse in Melbourne, with its stunning bayside views. It’s certainly a home with a ‘wow’ factor, so what did you personally enjoy most about creating the interiors for it?
Alicia: What we really enjoyed about working on the Hampton Penthouse was our relationship with the client and his appreciation for detail. He was a builder himself, and heavily influenced the joinery details. Because he understood what we were trying to achieve, he really drove his trades to execute the work meticulously. The collaborative approach was efficient and productive, as he could read the drawings, understood the finishes, and ultimately this made for a richer project.
Thinking about GOLDEN in more general terms now, three words that sum up the practice’s approach to interior design?
Kylie: In just three words, I would say: minimal, innovative and meticulous.
How did you come to found GOLDEN together back in 2013?
Kylie: The driving force was the need for creative freedom. When setting out to start working on my own without a strong plan, I didn’t believe it would end up here and in this timeframe. I had a great level of respect for Alicia’s design aesthetic and we had collaborated together before. So, when the decision to start a business together came up, it felt right. I knew working together would produce a richer quality of work and make for a much more enjoyable day-to-day experience.
Alicia: Having my own practice had always been something I wanted to do since those early university days. However, I had also always known I didn’t necessarily want to do this on my own. Working together, but at two different firms, gave me a huge amount of respect for Kylie’s design sensibility and approach. When she started to work for herself, it felt like a “seize the moment” situation and I decided to join her.
Going back further into childhood, were the signs always there that you would eventually follow a career in design?
Kylie: I’ve always had a creative, artistic streak. Growing up I can remember loving to draw. I had my favourite coloured pencils that I looked after meticulously and absolutely loved. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t drawing, so I guess you could say I started young.
Alicia: At school I always enjoyed the balance between mathematics and more creative subjects, which led me to investigate architecture and interior design as a career choice. I was most interested in the detail and working across a variety of disciplines, which is why I decided on interior design. I have a logical, practical mind and at one point was even thinking about being an accountant, but I knew my creative side wouldn’t be satisfied.
And when you’re not busy designing world-class projects, what might we find you doing for a bit of R&R?
Kylie: Both Alicia and I love to escape the city and head down the coast. Slowing down is really important, and we’re both happiest when we’re at the beach.
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