Interview

Juliette Arent & Sarah-Jane Pyke

Elisha Kennedy
Friday 28th October 2016

There is a unique synergy between Juliette Arent and Sarah-Jane Pyke. Together, they have run highly respected Sydney interior design studio Arent&Pyke for almost ten years, creating some of Australia’s most distinctive and beautiful homes and hospitality venues, and gathering countless accolades along the way.

A lot has changed since we last spoke with the Juliette and Sarah-Jane. They’ve expanded their team, won awards and moved studios, all whilst raising small children. We recently visited their Surry Hills Studio to see where the magic happens!

An Arent&Pyke house is something quite special. From coastal beach shacks to inner-city apartments, no two Arent&Pyke projects ever receive the same treatment. Each residential project is a unique collaboration between the designers and their client. The resulting spaces represent a distinct personality in every detail.

Honesty of materiality is something both Juliette and Sarah-Jane value highly – they’re highly selective when choosing fabrics, finishes and fittings that will last the test of time. With an approach that places equal emphasis on skill, technique and an intuitive ‘feeling’, a space by Arent&Pyke is one in which texture, pattern and colour are expertly interwoven. 

Juliette and Sarah-Jane’s immense talent and shared entrepreneurial spirit has led to national recognition for their work. This year they took out the award for Best Hospitality project at the Australian Interior Design Awards, as well as the award for Best Hospitality at the Belle Coco Republic Design Awards, for their design of The Alex Hotel in Perth. The concept for the hotel’s interior was ‘Hotel as Home’ – an idea that the pair consistently draw on. Although the Arent&Pyke aesthetic is always luxurious and refined, on every project they find a way to ensure a distinctly personal approach, and sense of comfort, warmth and familiarity. 

Tell us a little about your background – what did you each study, and what path led you to what you are doing today?

Juliette – After pausing my interior design studies to embark upon a Degree in Fine Arts I was (gladly) able to fall back in love with a purely creative pursuit. For me these were the golden days, and I often reflect on this incredibly rich and inspiring time.

Dr Lisa Cooper, Paul Davies, Kate Hurst, Elke Kramer and Ben Briand were just a few of the people I studied with at CoFA UNSW (Now UNSW Art and Design), all of whom have gone on to do incredible things.

But like a moth to the flame I was drawn back into design, and after completing my Interior Design studies and working in London, I returned to Australia and established Arent&Pyke with SJ in 2007.

Over the past nine years, Arent&Pyke has been a journey within itself. We are always looking at different ways of working, and enjoy the collaborative nature of our work. We are also pushing ourselves with various projects that support the business but that also keep our work relevant.

Sarah-Jane – Design is a balance between creative output and problem solving, which appeals to the different sides of my personality. I loved the idea of crafting spaces, and ended up studying a Bachelor of Interior Architecture at UNSW. I didn’t always know that residential design would be my focus, but once I started working with clients on their homes, I realised what incredible satisfaction there is in helping someone to realise their dream living space.

How would you describe your studio’s aesthetic?

Juliette – Sarah-Jane and I established A&P with a desire to inject a new spirit into people’s homes. It is a feeling or mood that we aim to create.

We aim for an aesthetic that is fresh and uncontrived, not formulaic and pertaining to trends as such.

A large part of our process is about distilling the ideas and emotions that our clients associate with their homes and families.

It is flattering and humbling when clients refer to the transformation our design work has had on their lives. It is our mission to inspire the world to live a beautiful life.

You work on a great variety of projects, can you name one or two of your recent favourites?

Juliette –

The Bronte Beach House for the bespoke joinery details and brave material choices.

The Alex Hotel, for the first time a variety of people are able to experience an interior we have created, rather than just the homeowner.

The Macmasters Beach House – inviting and comfortable with a lovely collection of Australian artworks, without being naively ‘beach-housey’.

Sarah-Jane –

The Alex Hotel has been an incredible project for the studio, and for me personally. From winning the job, to executing it in record time, and now to be awarded by our peers at the Australian Interior Design awards, and Belle Coco Republic design awards, it’s been a major thrill.

Creatively, the whole team got to be involved, and the scale of the project challenged us to work in a completely new way.

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

Juliette – We are based in Surry Hills. After having been in Potts Point for 8 years, we were itching to get back to this part of town!

We are a team of 12 and have a fairly non-hierarchical method of working. All of the designers here are senior, and mostly SJ and I will run a project with one of the Senior Designers. Other than the design team, we have a Practice Manager, a Design Assistant and an Editor for our blog, In/Out. Everything is kept in house apart from bookkeeping which we have always outsourced!

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

Juliette – I am endlessly inspired by the work of other artists, craftspeople and designers. I find myself often referring to the work of modernist architects who revolutionised the way we live in domestic spaces. I am moved by the words of Ilse Crawford who speaks about the importance of having an emotional connection to the spaces we inhabit. Locally I love the work of Common Knowledge and Amber Road – a female force to be reckoned with!!

Also, they’re not Australian, but I love Dimore Studio for their creative genius, stamina, diversity and output.

Sarah-Jane – There’s just so much to be had here. I love the work of jeweller Elke Kramer, ceramic artist Bruce Rowe, artist Katherine Hattam, indigenous textiles from North, and so many more.

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

Juliette – I mostly go lo-fi and look through catalogues of exhibitions I have loved. Pondering on the process of an artist or designer I admire encourages my own creative process.

Sarah-Jane – I’m still a magazine girl, although admit that I consume the content online as much as in print. Vogue Living, Spanish AD, World of Interiors and Belle for interiors. I use Instagram for a quick visual fix, especially for fashion, and holiday destinations.

What would be your dream creative project?

Juliette – I would love to work more in Los Angeles, perhaps on a boutique hotel so as to make the most of all the incredible vintage sourcing to be done over there.

Can you tell us a bit about your recent trip to LA?

Juliette – Sarah-Jane and I have tried without much luck to travel together since we each had our children (Sarah-Jane has a 4 year old son, Franklin, and I have twin 3-year-old girls Valentina and Paloma). A last minute opportunity arose – so flights and accommodation were booked and we were there the following week!! It was incredible!

While we were in LA sourcing for our Arent&Pyke clients, we also squeezed in some really exciting photo shoots with various creatives for our lifestyle site / blog In/Out…. an artist, an actress, a fashionista, and two designers… so we are looking forward to sharing these soon.

What are you looking forward to?

Sarah-Jane – We are approaching our tenth birthday as a business, and it feels like a very exciting time for Arent&Pyke. I’m looking forward to really celebrating some of our achievements with a series of events and entering into the next decade!

Sarah-Jane Pyke and Juliette Arent of Arent&Pyke in their Sydney studio. Photo – Nikki To for The Design Files.


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