AMANDA TALBOT

Sydney-based Australian stylist, design consultant and author Amanda Talbot cut her teeth on Livingetc and ELLE Decoration magazines in the UK, before collaborating with industry names from Ilse Crawford to IKEA. Her new book Happy aims to create 'joyous living spaces though design.'

BY SOPHIE DAVIES

What inspired you to write Happy?
After I wrote my first book Rethink: The Way You Live I realised that all those I featured may be going about life differently but they all just wanted to be happy. It got me thinking about how design can help people to be happier. 

What is happy design?
Happy design is emotional. It speaks to our hearts as well as our heads. It displays optimism, self-confidence and empathy. Historically words like ‘happy’ and ‘design’ have not been used together; pragmatism won out. People thought happy design was bold, childlike colours and houses filled with novelty ideas – places where you don’t want to spend a lot of time. Today, more architects and designers want to create objects and spaces we can enjoy. 

What key design lessons did you learn?
What makes one person happy can be another person’s nightmare – such as paint colours – but there are key elements we can all draw on. Tap into nature, lighting, colour, humour and flow, and create spaces that encourage more spontaneous, playful experiences in your home.

TOP PICTURE: Architect Jonas Bjerre-Poulsen's bear duvet, from By Nord, adds a cheery touch
BELOW: Unexpected colour brings fun touches to the homes of Paris creative director Jean-Christophe Aumas and Sydney design label Kawaiian Lion. Art and quirky ornaments up the feelgood factor

What was the most feelgood home you visited?
Each place I visited had its own inspiring feelgood factor. I loved designer Lee Broom’s London cinema room with a popcorn machine. Jo Wood’s Camden home was full of smiles and surprises, such as her skull wallpaper. I adored the giant Anish Kapoor-like silver slide in a New York apartment. The huge feasting table in an Amsterdam house showed me the importance of where we sit and eat. Tenka Gammelgaard’s Copenhagen home proved that a happy space is all about attitude.

Any little tips that can make a big wellbeing impact?
Stop following fast-fashion trends and ask yourself what makes you happy. Stepping away from the happy clichés is very liberating. It’s rare that we simply savour the moment, make the most of what we have, or put energy and love into our homes. When choosing colour for a space I now consider first what mood and activity I want to encourage. I also learned the power of editing. We need an intervention in how much we shop! 

What are the worst offenders when it comes to unhappy interiors?
I asked that question in my Happy Poll. The common answers were lack of storage, space, daylight and gardens, too much clutter, not enough room for alone time, outdated interiors, and excess noise.

ABOVE: Smile style: an owl figurine at artist Tenka Gammelgaard's monochrome home

Tell us about your work on Sydney's Coogee Pavilion (above).
I helped design this 'happy' bar/restaurant at Coogee Beach, alongside Justin and Bettina Hemmes, from owner’s Merivale, and Kelvin Ho from Akin Creative. For the ground floor, launched in July, I created a giant magnetic scrabble game with a library ladder to reach the top, customised ping pong tables with colourful geometric patterns, and introduced outsize Connect Four, Jenga, and Noughts and Crosses. We wanted adults and children to feel part of the space. I also commissioned a giant whale light. We opened the rooftop on 30 December, with four bars in a beautiful conservatory, styled as if it belonged to an eccentric botanist. 

Any other current projects?
I mentor young talents at The Design Residency, which I co-founded in Sydney. It’s an incubator for fledgling fashion and homewares designers to turn their products into viable, commercial brands.

Which residents should we be watching?
Shilo Engelbrecht has enjoyed incredible success during her time with us (table linen, above left). She had her gorgeous textiles included in Kit Kemp’s Ham Yard Hotel in London, an art exhibition with UK lifestyle boutique Anthropologie, visited Italian homewares label Missoni, and attracted top global buyers. Varina Krook from Stash Textiles is also a brilliant illustrator whose new range explores Australian historical houses and botanical motifs. British store Liberty helped with her production. Sophia Pearce from Flotsam/Jetsam has designed the marvellous ‘Buoy’ light (above right), ideal for the urban nomad. Grace Wood uses wool from her family farm to craft beautiful felt cushions, throws, over-scaled objects and wall installations. 

What's exciting you in design?
People like Dutch-born, Melbourne-based designer Joost Bakker, with his pioneering approach to sustainable living, plants and zero-waste.

Where’s on your travel wish list?
Western Australia. It’s the home of cute marsupial the quokka, my mascot while writing Happy

What’s your social media of choice?
I love Instagram. It’s so instant, image-focused and most small businesses say it has had huge impact in growing their brands. 

'Happy' by Amanda Talbot (Murdoch Books, AU$69.99) available now