Interview

David Flack of Flack Studio

by Lucy Feagins, Editor
Friday 20th March 2015

I have a sneaking suspicion that young Melbourne interior designer David Flack is the NEXT BIG THING. You heard it here first, people.

After cutting his teeth working under revered Melbourne designer Kerry Phelan at K.P.D.O, late last year it was finally time for David to go it alone.  He launched Flack Studio in November 2014, and only five months in, he’s got four impressive projects under his belt and many more in the pipeline.

Working with a tight knit team of just two staff, David is basically just totally chuffed to be running his own fledging design studio.  ‘I’m honestly thrilled to come into work each morning!’ he says!

If the name David Flack sounds familiar, that could be because this talented young designer was responsible for the pared back industrial interior of Melbourne’s coolest new furniture and lighting store, CRITERIA in Cremorne, which we recently covered.  Other recently completed projects include Entrecôte restaurant in South Yarra, an incredible private residence in East Melbourne, and a boutique travel agency in East Ivanhoe.  Not bad for less than a year in business!

David’s studio is in Westgarth in Melbourne’s north.  His tiny team currently comprises of his sister Joanna (who he affectionately calls his part time ‘lifesaver manager’) and one other full-time designer.  Despite their size, the studio is currently working on four new retail & commerical spaces, and seven houses… WOAH, ok, I thought I was busy!

We love the sense of personality David injects into each and every project – his East Ivanhoe travel agency interior is particularly awesome, it looks like no other travel agent we’ve seen! David is also fast gaining a reputation for his intuitive way with colour, with two of his recently completed projects named as finalists in the 2015 Dulux Colour Awards (winners announced next week!).

We predict big things this seriously talented local designer, who also happens to be a ridiculously nice guy.  The double threat.

Tell us a little bit about your background – what path initially led you to interior design, and to eventually launch your own studio late last year?

My mother would say the die was cast when at five years old I demanded to re-paint my cubby house. She said no, I persisted and painted it anyway!

I’ve always had a keen interest in interior design, my parents own a construction company and are currently building their fifteenth home! I studied at Swinburne and worked as a student at Hecker Phelan & Guthrie before I was fortunate to start my professional career with Kerry Phelan when she launched her solo venture, K.P.D.O. It was such an incredible journey, super-intensive and highly creative.

You work on a great variety of projects, from residential to retail, and hospitality. What have been one or two of your favourite projects in recently?

It is hard to pick a favourite project. I absolutely love the East Melbourne residence, my clients were absolutely divine, and very brave, never having taken such a journey with design. The brief really was carte blanche, such a treat for a designer. All they specified was a desire for a pared-back space with warmth,  and an emphasis on high quality materials. A perfect brief! Their little son was born last year and we are about to embark on stage two of the renovation.

Also, I adore the colours I chose at Entrecôte. There is nothing better than inheriting a space with a great bone structure and reinvigorating a local icon into a new meeting point. It was a simple approach, mainly focusing on highlighting the existing period features. Jason M. Jones and I had a lot of fun creating a tongue-in-cheek play on a typical Parisian bistro. I’m thrilled it’s a raging success, and has finally given the neighbourhood back its treasured venue.

How would you describe your design aesthetic?

I like to think my work is full of personality, reflecting both mine and, most importantly, my clients’. While definitely contemporary in design approach, I always like to tip my hat to certain classic eras or distinguished architectural styles. I’m a modernist at heart, but am also obsessed with the 1970’s and ’80s.

I always emphasise to clients that the design process is above all about having fun! There’ll always ups and downs during the process, but generally it is such a rewarding experience to design collaboratively with your client.

Your role is to realise other peoples’ dream homes and spaces, but what about your own home? How would you describe your personal aesthetic at home, and how in sync is this with the aesthetic you bring to your clients’ homes?

My home is a mixture of collected objects, art, furniture accumulated along the way. There are things I have bought when I was a poor uni student, pieces I’ve saved for a year to purchase, rugs and ceramics from travels abroad. Your own home isn’t necessarily something you would put on your website to showcase your professional style, it’s a space where you can make mistakes and be subjectively very fond of.

I don’t like to adhere to any specific style in my home. Though I have an interesting mix of things, I don’t like having too many dust collectors! I am indoor-plant-obsessed, though sometimes I do wonder whether I should reconsider how many I have, on the days I have to water them in the summertime!

Can you give us a little insight into the inner workings of David Flack inc? Where are you based, how is your office structured, how many people do you employ, and what significant tasks do you outsource?

Over the last year my days have been incredibly fast-paced and adventurous, although my approach to setting up Flack Studio was always taken with gentle care, allowing for organic growth. I didn’t want to rush into setting up something that was not unique or inherently me.

2014 was about structure, identity and establishment, so in 2015 I cannot wait for some very large projects to be completed. My studio currently comprises myself, my sister Joanna, who is my lifesaver manager three days a week, and one full-time designer Alex. I’m honestly thrilled to come into work each morning!

What does a typical day at work involve for you?

Days vary, but always start with a calendar check, emails, visit to the gym followed by my new smoothie obsession from Shoku Iku across the road from my studio in Westgarth.

I try to bank my design meetings with clients into the morning. What I love about the interior design process, coupled with the challenges of running my own business, is the variation in daily activities. Jobs flow in and out of stages, from design, to construction, presentations etc. It never feels like a same-same job day in, day out. I’m wearing multiple hats now, and I like all of them!

Which other Australian designers, artists or creative people are you loving at the moment?

Seb Brown is an amazing, unique jewellery designer. He has a great sense of humour, is super cheeky and ridiculously talented.

Kennedy Nolan Architects are pushing boundaries with each project. I’ll be knocking on their door the minute I start planning to build my own home.

Porcelain Bear I got to know in 2014, they are a very talented duo, and since then we have become great friends. We’re currently working on some very exciting pieces together for a few up-and-coming projects.

Tin & Ed are absolutely killing it after ten years young. I absolutely love their distinct approach to each project. They even won an ARIA award for best album cover in 2013.

Reko Rennie said that early in his career a gallery director asked him where he saw his work heading, and he replied that a goal was to make it to the Venice Biennale. They laughed. He is featuring there in 2015. So cool.

Can you list for your top resources across any media that you turn to when you’re in a need of a bolt of creative inspiration?

1. Living magazine (Italian)
2. Elle Décor Italia
3. Old books & magazines
4. Instagram
5. Pinterest

What would be your dream creative project?

A super-skinny, tall building, getting creative with the challenges that small spaces present, planning, light studies, storage and everyday practicalities.

What are you looking forward to?

Lots of things, some I want to keep a secret! Combining my loves, travel and design, I’m super excited about teaming up with East Ivanhoe Travel & Cruise. We’re currently planning our first Flack Studio architectural tour, first stop being LA/Palm Springs in early October. We plan to do one each year. We’re going to release all the details very soon, but think tours of modernist USA, vintage shopping, visiting some incredible furniture makers.

MELBOURNE QUESTIONS

Your favourite Melbourne neighbourhood and why?

Collingwood. It is all shades of awesome. Maybe ask me in a year though, I might change my mind after all these high-rise apartments are finished!

I’ve loved watching the changes in Smith Street occur over the last five years. It’s gone from a street of random junk stores and bakeries to a gastronomy destination. I love its eclectic mix of people, creative small business, great food, contrasting old and architecture.

What and where was the last great meal you had in Melbourne?

Estelle Bistro have re-opened with a new direction and space. It’s straight up the road from the studio. Perfect lighting, the food is delicious and staff are fun and delightfully personable. I love to sit at the bar.

Your top three shops in Melbourne for great furniture, home accessories or other finishing touches?

Loose Leaf – If you don’t have much money to furnish or decorate your space, fill it with green goodness from here. Smiles all round.

Criteria – Not only was I fortunate enough to design the space with Rachel, I love everything this concept store is about. The lighting is beyond.

Modern Times – I pop in here regularly and speak with Joel. He is a walking furniture encyclopedia. I probably spend more time speaking with him about design, art and furniture than I do browsing. That he supports local artists, such as Tom Blachford, Brooke Holm and Marsha Golemac, by exhibiting their work in-store is fantastic.

Where would we find you on a typical Saturday morning?

Typically getting a much-needed extra couple of hours sleep! Followed by breakfast with close friends at one of my favourite cafés on the northside, like Barry, Mixed Business, Minanoie or Alimentari.

Melbourne’s best kept secret?

Victoria Park Oval in Abbotsford. It is one of the most beautiful spaces to hang out with friends, drink some beers or even run through the sprinklers on a hot night. I may or may not have done this recently with a friend in the wee hours of the morning, I’m just a big kid!

CRITERIA, Melbourne’s exciting new furniture and design store, interior fit out designed by David Flack of Flack studio. Photo – Brooke Holm


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