LOUISE OLSEN – Dinosaur Designs

Louise Olsen is one half of influential Sydney duo Dinosaur Designs, alongside artist partner Stephen Ormandy. Pioneers of using resin to create gorgeous homewares and jewellery, the pair takes inspiration from nature, art and the city they call home...

BY SOPHIE DAVIES

What’s your design philosophy or style?
I like to create forms that nurture people’s senses. I love the juxtaposition between materials. I like to humanise modern materials such as resin and metals.

What do each of you bring to the design process?
Stephen and I work independently on our own designs for Dinosaur Designs. We both have our own signature, design sensibility and understanding of resins that we have worked with for over 30 years now. 

TOP: Louise Olsen and her work/life partner Stephen Ormandy, co-founders of Sydney homewares and jewellery brand Dinosaur Designs
ABOVE RIGHT : Debut hardback book 'The Art of Dinosaur Designs', published recently by Penguin Lantern, shares the studio's vision

Tell us about your new book The Art of Dinosaur Designs
Our book was a chance to open our studio doors and allow people to see behind the scenes of how Stephen and I design and create, and to discover some of the inspirations behind our pieces. We didn’t want to do a straightforward history, but we do cover some of the highlights of the past 30 years.

Where or how do you find inspiration?
I’m constantly inspired by nature. I love the way nature takes time to evolve and perfect. I find that when designing an object it takes time and there is a lovely flow that happens as one idea leads to another. 

ABOVE: Launched in October 2016, the duo's latest collection 'ColourBlock' features 'Totem' vases, pictured, alongside platters, plates and salt dishes in bold and soft primary hues. It also boasts sculptural jewellery, including bangles, earrings, rings, necklaces and neck cuffs, exploring colour blocking

What materials and colours are you currently drawn to?
At the moment I’m working on a collection inspired by sandstone, called 'Sand', launching in February 2017. I love all the variation of pigments in the sands from Central Australia to coastal beaches. Our recent 'ColourBlock' range played with solid hues, juxtaposing them, from cobalt blue and vivid coral red to refreshing accents of bright grass green, reminiscent of summer days.

How have art and nature influenced your practice?
We both have a passion for the world of art and nature as it offers never-ending change and beauty.

ABOVE: Sunrise at the iconic Sydney Opera House, one of Louise Olsen's favourite design destinations, by Danish architect Jørn Utzon

Is Sydney a big inspiration? And do you have any favourite local design hot spots?
We can’t help but be inspired by the ocean, the nature and the light of Sydney. For our favourite design spot it’s hard to go past the Sydney Opera House. We’re so lucky to have it – it’s an incredible icon. 

ABOVE: One of Olsen's influences is American designer and sculptor Isamu Noguchi. Pictured is his walnut wood and plate glass 'Coffee Table' (IN-50), 1944; The freeform 'Cloud Sofa and Ottoman', c 1948, in fabric, foam, wood and iron; the Sculpture Garden at The Noguchi Museum, Long Island City, New York; A Noguchi installation at the museum

Who are your design heroes? Or which era, aesthetic or interior has influenced you the most?
Giacometti, Picasso, Calder, Bertoia, Ray and Charles Eames and Noguchi are our design heroes; they were all artists who also designed furniture, ceramics, jewellery, sets and costumes for film and theatre. Every era has its moment of beauty. I tend to think more about the future. 

Where’s on your travel wish list and why?
I’d love to see more of India; it’s so unexpected and varied, and there’s so much ancient history that’s still alive that sits alongside contemporary life.

BELOW: Dinosaur Designs' curvy store in The Strand Melbourne, and a more linear look in their Sydney boutique in the historic Strand Arcade

You have shops in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, New York and London – any plans for future launches?
We’re currently working on a new store in Crosby Street in New York, which will be open early in 2017.

What social media do you use most?
Instagram – because of its wonderful visual stories.
dinosaurdesigns.com.au

Pictures: Rachel Kara (portrait); Heleena Trahanas (book cover); Bec Parsons ('ColourBlock' collection, styled by Mark Vassallo, model Duckie Thot); Sydney Opera House; The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, New York (Noguchi furniture); George Hirose (Sculpture Garden); Elizabeth Felicella (Noguchi installation view)

See our review section The Library for more on new book 'The Art of Dinosaur Designs'

2 LOVELY GAYS

London-based interior designers Jordan Cluroe and Russell Whitehead, aka 2 Lovely Gays, are fearless with colour, adventurous with shape and partial to a bit of theatre. Cluroe made his design debut as the runner-up on BBC2's The Great Interior Design Challenge last year. Fast-forward to 2015 and the duo are busy bringing their fresh, minimal style to the masses. Here they share their tips on 'making living lovely'.

BY CLAIRE BINGHAM

Tell us about your most recent revamp.
We've been lucky to have an amazing first year, working with some fab people. Each client becomes a part of us. We recently finished a project on Cloudsley Road, Islington, which always makes us smile. The white and gold scheme was a cue from the client but we wanted to give it a fresh look with flashes of emerald and mint green. There are some stunning pieces, not least the metallic marbled wallpaper by Brooklyn-based Calico Wallpaper. It's such a glamorous backdrop. 

What are you working on at the moment? 
We are about to move into a new house. Our first London home in Trilby Road, Forest Hill, will always be very special. It was the first time we had undertaken such a large job for ourselves, which is very different from working with a client. It was an intense learning experience, but we loved every second, and the result was us saying, 'Bring it on!' It is the unexpected compromises that make it. The plywood made a virtue of the boxed-in steels and pipes, creating storage and shelving in every available inch. Our new home will be a progression of our style but with added theatre. We can't wait to get our teeth into it – although there are no holidays for the foreseeable future!

ABOVE: Jordan Cluroe (left) and Russell Whitehead (right) with Buckley The Wonder Dog
BELOW: White and gold brings a touch of luxe to this cool, Scandi-style scheme in Cloudesley Road, Islington, North London; Soft, muted colours and a curtained wall give this bedroom at the mews house a light and dreamy atmosphere and the sleek metallic lamp adds a dash of drama

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What do you love most about decorating a space?
The most exciting thing is the way it can make a client feel. We love that an atmosphere can truly be life changing.

How would you sum up your style?
Clean. Honest. Human. Playful. Adaptable.

What are your influences?
If we are talking design influences, then we love American decorator Kelly Wearstler, and British designers Jasper Morrison and Sebastian Wrong. The flip side of this is our shared passion for art, theatre, film and fashion. We are both from a theatre background and that has had a big impact on us. We are like children in a sweetshop wherever we go. Inspiration sometimes comes from the most unexpected places. At the moment, we have a profound crush on Canadian painter Kris Knight. We've followed his career for years and have finally managed to get our hands on one of his artworks for our house. His paintings are so beautiful, but also magical and emotional. His use of colour really inspires us.

ABOVE RIGHT: Design hero Sebastian Wrong
RIGHT: 'The Flying Money' oil on canvas, a 2014 painting by inspiring Canadian painter Kris Knight

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ABOVE, TOP ROW: Jordan and Russell's white and light-filled house on Trilby Road, Forest Hill, South London, balances period detail and design classics to cheery effect. The result is contemporary, functional and fun. With a liking for Muuto accessories, Tom Dixon lighting and Eames furniture, Jordan and Russell are always scouring antique markets for finds to upcycle, such as the green-painted café chair; Kaleidoscopic colour and the use of plywood gives this space the modern factor. This midcentury Danish chair was recovered in a blue-felted wool.
ABOVE: The designers clad the chimney breast of their loft bedroom in plywood to create built-in shelves, while keeping the room's original shape. ‘Plywood is one of the materials we’ve used throughout the house’, says Russell. ‘It’s great because it's an inexpensive material but we love the raw quality when it's finished really well.’ Beside the Scholten & Baijings 'Minimal' bedlinen in Syrup for Hay are ‘Athens’ bedside lamps from B&Q

 

What did you learn from The Great Interior Design Challenge?
It's amazing what you can achieve with massive constraints. It was such an intense and exciting experience. It just fired up our passion and made our desire to design a concrete thing.

Any tips on using colour?
Be brave – but that doesn't mean you need to go crazy. People say that we are bold with colour, but we have never seen it that way. Colour is a part of life and it's exciting, so why not embrace it? For instance, when looking for an alternative to grey, we found pink was a new twist on a neutral. There’s a phrase we use: ‘mud in the water’. When we are making final adjustments to a scheme, we often remove one colour and clarity appears. Sometimes a tone that bridges two other components can be the ‘mud in the water’. Best to edit it out.

What’s exciting you in design right now?
We're getting excited about carpet again but perhaps that's because the house we’ve just moved into is so cold!

Is there one product that you really admire and wish you had designed?
The wheel.

Where’s on your travel wish list?
The child in us wants to go to Iceland to see the Northern Lights and the snow, but professionally New York is always on our wish list. We love a good city.

What social media do you use most?
We love Twitter. It has been great for us and we've made many friends through it. We enjoy Instagram, and are trying to get into Pinterest, but it's too much like what we do at work all day!

If you weren't a designer, what might you have been?
We spent the first 10 years of our professional lives training and working as actors, so for us being a designer is a new career. We’re finding it incredibly liberating. We're also co-owners of St. David coffee house, in South-East London, so we have another string to our bow!
2lovelygays.com

Pictures: Megan Taylor megantaylor.co.uk  Kris Knight picture: Kris Knight