I had the great pleasure recently of meeting a woman who is nothing short of an Australian design legend. Janne Faulkner has spent 44 years working at the forefront of Australian interior design, in her role as founding director of Nexus Designs – one of Melbourne’s first ever dedicated interior design consultancies, launched by Janne in 1967! When we met recently, Janne recounted incredible tales from the early days of her career – when friends and family would be entertained and somewhat bemused by Janne’s interest in running her own business, as a married woman! Oh Lord. How things have changed!
When Janne first launched her business back in the 60’s, her primary focus was a partnership with the iconic Australian property developer Merchant Builders. Janne was brought in to work on all Merchant Builders’ interior design projects, alongside revered architects and designers including David Yencken, Graeme Gunn and Daryl Jackson. At this time Merchant Builders gained an impressive reputation for designing and building uniquely ‘Australian’ houses – that is, houses designed specifically for the Australian landscape and climate, using Australian timbers and materials.
Janne was an integral part of the success of Merchant Builders. She was responsible for designing and providing joinery and finishes, and furnishing the Merchant Builders display houses. Janne’s emphasis was always on simple, functional design, the use of artwork in the home, and using local materials and craftmanship. Janne also initiated a policy of purchasing Australian contemporary art for all her projects, thereby supporting emerging Australian art and design talent. It’s a philosophy still inherent at Nexus Designs today – though these days Nexus has grown immensely! The company now employs a team of talented staff, and has expanded to offer services in graphic design and product development. Nexus is now run by four directors, including Janne, who still maintains a very active role within the company.
By all accounts, Janne has been an incredible force in interior design in Australia, and especially in the development of a uniquely ‘Australian’ style of design. She was even appointed a member of the Order of Australia for her contribution as a designer in 1982 – hence the ‘AM’ after her name!
For a more personal introduction to the wonderful Janne Faulkner I highly recommend checking out this excellent little film, which succinctly captures Janne’s incredible wisdom, energy and passion for Australian design!
Anyway – on to the house!
Janne and husband Bill have lived in their South Yarra home for twenty five years! They renovated the home when they purchased the property, keen to maximise the use of space and natural light. ‘As we had moved from a much larger house, and this house was so much smaller, our first decision was to limit the finishes’ recalls Janne. Custom terrazzo tiles were specially made (‘so they didn’t look like sausage meat’ says Janne!) and carried through the home to every room including bathrooms and exterior paving.
Quality of light was important also, so skylights were installed where possible, and Janne was keen to open up the entire home to the outside, with double doors in every room facing North into the courtyard. The result is a very functional outdoor space which has become a seamless extension of the living areas, and spills warm light into every room throughout the day.
The open plan layout remains one of Janne’s most treasures aspects of this home – ‘I love the fact that when you walk in the front door you can virtually see the whole house and the courtyard’ she says, adding – ‘I always like kitchens in the front of the house, as to me they are the hub, and I enjoy people congregating there, and then being able to step straight from there to the courtyard’.
Much of what you see here has remained more or less unchanged since Janne and Bill originally renovated their home 25 years ago. The only alterations since then have been a renovation to the second bathroom, and a new kitchen bench! Paint colours remain the same (‘I like a muted palette so artworks and furniture can sing’ says Janne), whilst furniture choices are also largely unchanged. ‘The fact that the design of the interior and furniture have remained intact for virtually twenty five years epitomes the philosophy of our design studio, and is continued today by our very talented young designers’ says Janne.
Massive thanks to Janne and Bill for sharing their home and story with us today! Talk about Australian design royalty.