Anyone who moves from Paris to Melbourne is, in my books, instantly credible. North Melbourne-based design duo Pierre & Charlotte Julien made the move in 1994, setting up their design firm here after years of varied experience in set design, fashion, fine art and furniture restoration. Their sleek, pared back designs are all 100% made in Melbourne – a rare and beautiful thing!
Pierre & Charlotte’s beautiful furniture and lighting designs are influenced by Pierre’s Scandinavian and French background, and by their shared love of Japanese design. The focus of their design work is simplicity, attention to detail and a deep respect and understanding of quality craftsmanship. They have been lucky to have built up a small but invaluable team of local makers over the years – including a great wood turner, steam bender, polisher and upholsterer. The creative pair are also now expanding and beginning to train up new staff in their workshop for the first time!
Pierre and Charlotte have a gorgeous new studio/ showroom that is open to the public for the first time in 15 years! It is open on Saturdays only, between 10.00 – 4.00, and like all Melbourne’s best kept secrets, is hidden away down a cobble stoned lane in North Melbourne. Do pop in next time you’re in the neighbourhood!
Huge thanks to Charlotte for her time with this interview!
Pierre & Charlotte
15 Purcell st
ph. (03) 9329 4414
Open Saturday 10.00 – 4.00pm or by appointment
Tell us a little about your backgrounds – what path led you Melbourne, and to industrial design?
Started out in the fashion world, which was fun. We were in our late teens, early twenties. We got to travel and test out a few things. Pierre spent a lot of time playing music in a group, writing, singing and playing guitar. I worked in the film industry painting sets. I worked for some great painters and learnt a lot about colour. Pierre worked in an Atelier restoring antique French furniture – most amazing craftsmanship – carving, inlay etc. We came to Melbourne to start a business together that combined our skills and knowledge.
Why have you chosen to produce all your pieces in Melbourne, and have you found it a challenge to maintain this commitment to locally crafted product?
Very challenging. We are interested in maintaining a very high level of craftsmanship. After 17 years we have found very few local companies or craftsmen that are capable of producing this high level of work. We have a few local craftsmen… a great wood turner, steam bender, polisher and upholsterer. To add to this, we realise we now need to do more in house and expand. We are now training people in our workshop for the first time and the success of this is the combination of talents where they really enjoy what they do and take pride in their work. It is important that we have quality control in the making process.
What have been one or two of your favourite projects / designs?
Southern Ocean Lodge on Kangaroo Island was a great job. Wonderful site and the clients, James and Hayley Baillie , were committed to all the right things : Good design, high quality workmanship, comfort, service, the environment and also the care of all those people involved. Plus having fun…. most people forget when they are doing these huge projects to have a good time.
Favourite design: Always the one we have just finished.. so at the moment, the Indigo wall light. We wanted to use a fabric we found in Kyoto which is a magnificent indigo blue. The fabric is dyed using natural fermentation which is almost unheard of these days. Then we did one in off-white, which is gorgeous also! Very casual, relaxed light…..
Can you give us a little insight into your creative process – ie do you work first on paper, then on computer? What favourite materials and tools do you use?
We love tools and use them all the time. We have collected a lot of tools over the years from all over the world. We do mock ups and models. Often we will just start putting bits and bobs together, making a rough model with paper and tape and move it around, talking and changing it as it evolves in our hands… sketching comes into it, but more tactile exploration to get the mechanics of a piece to work and then we will do a computer plan.
What does a typical day at work involve for you?
Our whole day is about trying to get our work done while living with two french bulldogs – Ferdinand and Nancy. They have a walk morning and night and spend the rest of the day with us at work. We are constantly interrupted with various things: Toy rolled under the sofa (lots of crying), one wants to sleep where the other one is sleeping (more crying), Ferdinand must greet anyone who comes at both entrances – and if for some reason this can not be accommodated he gets very upset and sick (literally). Needs to do a wee, wants to sleep in the sun (middle of the road). They both love cars (anyone’s). Jumps on all clients, especially the ones who hate dogs. No road sense, no manners …. and totally adorable!!
Where do you turn for creative inspiration – nature, travel, books, the web etc?
Nature is a big one for us, stories : we are big readers and music……. oh and of course Ferdinand and Nancy. They inspire us with all their antics and comedy.
Which other artists / designers / creative people do you admire at the moment?
• The Ganim family – Rae, Freddie and Sunday… there is something brewing with them currently – watch out for them over the next 12 months.
• Paul Westlake – great photographer – best fashion photographer
• Valerie Jouve – photos
• Terunobu Fujimori work -love his tea houses
What would be your dream creative project or collaboration?
• Complete Hotel – Architecture, Interiors, furniture, garden…… the lot.
• Installation piece that is a complete experience with structure, colour, sound and light
What are you looking forward to?
*Being on the east coast of Tasmania on a remote beach this summer.
*Having an exhibition of my photography. Hoping to have one in the near future.
*Two big projects in the pipeline for next year.
Your favourite Melbourne neighbourhood and why?
Balaclava – good mix of food shops: deli’s, fruit and veg etc – we are big on food and eating.
What/where was the last great meal you ate in Melbourne?
Movida – was excellent !!
Where would we find you on a typical Saturday morning?
Walking the dogs on the beach.
Melbourne’s best kept secret?
Our new studio/ showroom that’s open to the public for the first time in 15 years. Saturdays only 10 – 4. Hidden away down a cobbles stoned lane in North Melbourne