This website uses cookies to improve your experience navigating our site. By continuing to browse, you are agreeing to our use of cookies.

OK, I understand

Fiona Lynch & Mardi Doherty of Doherty Lynch

Studio Visit

1st October, 2010
Lucy Feagins
Friday 1st October 2010

Glen Iris residence by Doherty Lynch

Glen Iris residence by Doherty Lynch

Sydney residence by Doherty Lynch - ooh hands up if you spot a little Rachel Castle in the bedroom!

Sydney residence by Doherty Lynch

Sydney residence by Doherty Lynch

Sydney residence by Doherty Lynch

Oh my goodness.  It's two more freakishly efficient multi-tasking Mums again today!  How do they DO IT?

In actual fact, it gets even more amazing.  Fiona has three kids under 6 - the smallest is just 12 weeks old.!  Mardi has  two girls under 4.  Are you SERIOUS, ladies?!  How on earth does that work whilst you are running your busy little business!?  Incredible.

Fiona Lynch and Mardi Doherty are partners in crime at boutique Melbourne-based interiors firm Doherty Lynch. Their little business is growing steadily and currently employs 5 very hardworking people!  Mardi and Fiona set up shop  together after many years of extremely impressive combined experience - Fiona at John Wardle Architects, Geyer and Bates Smart, and Mardi in London with Conran Design Group and David Collins Architecture (where she worked on MADONNA'S house, ahem!).  Mardi also spent 3 years working on the interiors of the NGV at Federation Square with Lab Architecture Studio.

I love the colour and fun inherent in Fiona and Mardi's work... they have an incredible way of using colour and bold pattern in even the most contemporary, minimalist spaces!  Do pop over to their website to see many more images of their beautiful work...!  You won't be disappointed!

Huge thanks to Fiona and Mardi for turning this interview around in record time... in school holiday-time, no less!  Phew! :)

Tell me a little about your backgrounds – what path led you to setting up your business together?

FL: Mardi was the year above me at school. After school Mardi went on to study Interior Design at RMIT & I went on a long journey through fine arts painting (honours) and then interior design at RMIT. When NGV at Fed square was being designed I remember seeing Mardi in Flinders Lane - she was on her way to present her latest drawings to the board of NGV, I was busy seeing a John Nixon exhibition at Anna Schwartz Gallery. Later we met up at Bates Smart and after leaving went on to set up our respective businesses. Soon we found ourselves asking one another to help out on each other’s projects. We did this for five years before realising we could be much more successful together. Doherty Lynch was created!

How would you describe your sense of style in your own homes? How does this compare to the work you do for residential clients?

FL: Mardi and I are both in the process of renovating our homes. My home at present is an old attic style home with great potential - we only moved in last December. We have recently painted and wallpapered our entry area, which is making it feel more like our home, and painted baby Emma’s bedroom, putting up some cute wallpaper with butterflies and birds. Mardi is helping me with ideas as it is very hard being objective with your own place. Having three kids, my home is in a constant state of mess, but that’s ok, as long as my kids are happy. We are lucky we have a great playroom and little nook with 50’s wallpaper, which we call the library.

MD: We currently live in a miniature house with a massive paddock for a back yard and can't wait to renovate shortly! I cannot wait to have the space to fill with amazing treasures.

I love spaces to have a great connection to the garden and we enjoy designing client homes that have such a link to greenery and natural light. To me a happy home is one filled with natural light and views through to the outside.

We like designing spaces that really function well and make an effort to understand how clients will use their homes, now and in the future.

How is your business structured? – how many staff work with you both, and which significant tasks do you outsource?

FL: As working mothers we see our staff as our greatest asset. We are an office of five at present but hoping to keep growing. Our newest asset is baby Emma who regularly comes to the office. We are an all-girl office in much need of gender balance.  Mardi and I work part time as we both have kids.

The only task we outsource are any 3D renders required for our retail projects.

What have been some favourite recent projects?

FL: We have loved our Hawthorn residence client Katie who has placed much trust and respect in us. She let us use Persimmon orange in her kitchen and bold colours in the surrounding spaces. Every builder question was relayed to us, which has resulted in a seamless interior.

Persimmon kitchen details!

Persimmon kitchen details

We also love the Paul & Joe projects we've completed, there is a creative freedom in retail design that you don't get in residential projects and the psychology of selling is really intriguing. The Paul & Joe brand is a luxury brand with spunk; each store has its own personality, filled with quirky details and glamorous finishes.

Interestingly enough, it’s often the clients who make a project memorable.

Paul & Joe retail store, Sydney.

Sorry to be completely star struck but MARDI is it true you worked on Madonna’s House in London?!! Can you tell us anything about this special project!?

MD: I worked briefly on the design of Madonna's house in Belgravia, London, while I was working for David Collins. I stalked the company for six months before they offered me a position (not sure it was really offered, I think they just got tired of me calling them every week!).

Madonna was a long time client of David Collins and was quite a difficult client so they were surprised when I put my hand up to work on her project: naïve, young Australian I'm sure they were thinking! The house was an old three storey and the interiors were in a traditional English style, which surprised me immensely. She seemed to adopt the style of each country she was living in. Her home was a showcase of amazing finishes and fittings, not a real family home. I remember her art collection was amazing, a beautiful portrait by Frida Kahlo lay in the hallway as builders were getting ready to start demolition.

What does a typical day at work involve for you?

FL & MD: A typical Monday involves us arriving at our office after dropping kids off at childcare or school, then we have a group meeting about the week ahead; priorities, meetings, design inspiration, and a chat about the gorgeous looking doctor from Offspring!

Fiona and I then go to our local coffee shop By Basia and discuss bigger picture issues like publicity, accounting, finding a new office space, etc. We then head back to the office to start our tasks. This often involves a black artline pen and a roll of yellow tracing paper.  We love trying to make a plan work and love creating a few options for each space.  We recognise that there are often many design solutions for our clients and 2-3 different options usually creates a fantastic discussion about their needs and hopefully results in a well considered solution.  It's a great feeling working up two options, only to find a third option exceeds the others before.  At about 11.30 our tummies start rumbling and we discuss what we'll have for lunch, knowing very well that we'll have the same chicken, avocado and celery salad sandwich that we always have, from By Basia. The afternoon usually involves intense design and reviewing of concepts and finishes.

Kew House!  Nice wallpaper!

Where do you turn for creative inspiration – travel, local and international design trends, magazines, books or the web etc?

FL & MD: We love buying books on art & design or even flicking through old books. We have an extensive collection at our studio. We also find inspiration from our clients. It’s amazing how one client can inspire you in a certain direction, completely different to the next one. The internet is also a constant source of inspiration too, allowing easy access to design from all over the world. We like at the moment, such amazing projects happening right now.

Which other designers / creative people do you admire?

FL: Canadian installation artist Jessica Stockholder does the most amazing installations which are a mix of art & interiors. I would love to see her work in the flesh. Whenever I am in the city I try to scoot past Gallery Funaki. I have my eye on Karl Fink’s ‘Null’ ring.

MD: I have particular admiration for architects of the 1950's, including Philip Johnson and Quincy Jones. We often refer to their work – such a simple aesthetic with bold material selections, exquisite details and simple logic.

I was also really moved by the work of Olafur Eliasson at the Tate Modern in London. He is an installation artist who uses water, light, temperature, pressure – and in his 'The Weather Project' he replicated the sun in the Turbine hall. It was incredibly moving.

What would be your dream creative project?

FL: To design a restaurant for George Calombaris. Hopefully he would bring food to our meetings.

MD: To design an amazing florist – the idea of such incredible colour and constantly changing interiors is really appealing. The joy of creating an amazing flower shop would be insane.

What are you looking forward to?

FL: Summer! The completion of some of our current projects. There is nothing better than seeing our designs built and clients happy.

MD: I am looking forward to seeing where our little business can go. It is very exciting at the moment with some awesome projects in the pipeline. We also look forward to creating our own projects.

Melbourne Questions

Your favourite Melbourne neighbourhood and why?

FL: Fitzroy Gertrude Street is my favourite place to visit. Art, food and clothes. Since my art days I have been a regular at Gertrude Street Gallery. Loving Enoteca for a pre dinner drink and Anada for yummy tapas. The clothes are amazing at Obus – classic and well tailored with stunning fabrics not afraid of colour.

MD: Yarraville village. It has a wonderful relaxed cafe culture, great shops and a really friendly family vibe. Particularly love hot chocolates and the spanish omelette at Cornershop Cafe, cakes from Hausfrau bakery and clothes shopping at Lacquer. Fossicking through the antique /junk shops with the girls is such fun, we make up stories about the characters who may have previously owned the old bikes, chairs, tables and suitcases!

Can you each name a few favourite local stores for furniture / home accessories?

Three Quarters in Gertrude Street for classic 20th century furniture and Zuster for great gifts.
Morris Brown in Healesville has some great rustic finds.
Temperature Design.
Safari in East Prahran for kooky and fun accessories.
Assembly Hall, Williamstown, great for special treats for your home.

What/where was the last great meal you ate in Melbourne?

MD: Fiona and I recently had an amazing breakfast at Three Bags Full in Abbotsford. We sat there convincing ourselves we had to lease one of the surrounding warehouse spaces because the food was so good.

Where would we find you on a typical Saturday morning?

FL: Walking to local park to watch our sons Conor & Paddy play Auskick. Followed by eating, home-made crumpets with creamed honey from Pure Bread in Surrey Hills and making coffee on the stove.

MD: At Chilli's gymnastics in Footscray and then at the gym doing an amazing Zumba class. Following that I usually take a stroll down to the village to have a hot chocolate and treats with my husband and our girls.

Melbourne’s best kept secret?

FL: Heide’s sculpture garden, well not quite a secret but whenever we take my kids there we always seem to have it to ourselves. There is a fantastic fallen tree which my kids love to climb. The gallery is amazing but unfortunately my boys are a little too active to visit just yet.

MD: The Mill Arcade Markets in Geelong (an hour out of Melb) is an amazing warehouse with 2 floors of kooky retro and antique furniture. Have picked up some amazing pendant lights + chairs here, at bargain prices

The Design Files acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the lands on which we work, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.

First Nations artists, designers, makers, and creative business owners are encouraged to submit their projects for coverage on The Design Files. Please email