Studio Visit

Amanda Talbot

Lucy Feagins
Lucy Feagins
2nd of November 2012
Stylist and author Amanda Talbot in Sydney this week, at her favourite little cafe, Chez Dee in Potts Point, with new puppy Hiro!.  Photo - Lucy Feagins.
Rethink: the way you live by Amanda Talbot - cover shot and pagespreads.   Photos - Mikkel Vang.  Published by Murdoch Books.
Stunning pagespreads from Rethink: the way you live by Amanda Talbot.   Photos - Mikkel Vang.  Published by Murdoch Books.
Shoot for Home Beautiful, Australia.  Photo - Prue Ruscoe, Styling - Amanda Talbot.  'This was a lovely shoot to do. Bedlinen is always a massive task, and an amazing work out. I got to work with Prue for the first time. I have always admired her work. But the best thing about this shoot was that I got to work with Home Beautiful's style director, Stephanie Powell. I worked with Steph in London when we were both at Livingetc, so it was lovely to collaborate on a project together again on home soil' - Amanda.
It's more or less accepted that Australia punches pretty well above its weight interationally in the 'amazingly talented creative people' stakes.  But we're equally notorious for losing said talented peeps to London or New York, or wherever.  The best of the best in so many creative fields inevitably seem to fly the nest, in search of bigger clients and better budgets.  Fair enough.  Though, often, before you know if they've got a quasi British accent and the world has completely forgotten that they're actually originally AUSTRALIAN. But just sometimes, there is a 'boomerang' effect.  This comes into play when a supremely talented Aussie, after 10+ years spent abroad kicking SERIOUS CAREER GOALS, gets an irresistable urge to return home, on account of the 'lifestyle' usually. Enter Amanda Talbot. If you don't know her name yet... you soon will!  This lady has a CV that really defies belief!  Having spent 10 years in London working with Elle Decoration UK and Living etc, and consulting to UK design icon Ilse Crawford, WGSN and IKEA among others, Amanda returned to Sydney in June last year for a judging role on Channel Nine's Top Design. Since re-settling in Sydney, Amanda has juggled various writing, styling and consulting projects, maintained an inspiring blog, all the while chipping away on a project very close to her heart - her first book!  Entitled Rethink: The way you live, and published by Murdoch Books, this is one of the most unique and timely home interiors and lifestyle books I have seen in such a long time!  Balancing beautiful photography with earnest, thoughtful inquiry around our changing ideals and lifestyles, Rethink really does feel like a breath of fresh air in the world of interiors publishing. As a stylist, writer and editor and trend forecaster, in recent years Amanda has witnessed a seismic shift in our thinking about design, and the spaces we inhabit.   Via her blog, SnOOp Global, she started to question these shifting attitudes.  Last year she started asking herself odd questions - can our kitchens be a living farm? Can we have a garden indoors? Do we only sleep in our bedrooms? Do we want a lo-fi life? And so her blog became a microcosm exploring all these ideas, and in effect, a mini trend forecasting engine in itself. I had the great pleasure of meeting Amanda Talbot in Sydney this week, and it must be said that despite her seriously impressive career achievements, Amanda could not be a more down to earth and unassuming person!  Cheerful, warm and generally very un-businesslike in person (!!), it's hard to comprehend all that Amanda has achieved in 10 years, and the brands and publications she has worked with - you would never know unless you asked her! (And for the record, she still has an Aussie accent!) Massive thanks to Amanda for sharing her truly inspiring story with us today, and for all the stunning shots of her work! Rethink: The Way You Live is $69.95, and available now in all good booksellers!  The official book launch is on November 15th at one of Amanda's favourite Sydney cafes, Chez Dee, in Potts Point.
Tell us a little about your background – what did you study, and what previous professional and social experiences led you to starting SnOOp and what you're doing now?
Holy moly, how do I keep this short? I studied communications, and tripped face first into Saatchi & Saatchi assisting an art director who was working on David Jones catalogues. Before I knew it I was assisting the stylists more than the art director so ditched the art direction, worked my apprenticeship as an assistant, and landed my own advertising styling gigs. At the time Katie Page (wife to Gerry Harvey) was launching Domayne Furniture and asked me to create a style identity to appeal to young modern professionals, so I hopped on a plane to the UK. Following that I spent some time in LA , then went back to the UK where I was offered a position as Homes Editor on Livingetc magazine. I must have been doing a pretty good job, because I caught the attention of the Editor–in-Chief on ELLE Decoration and was asked to be Editor-at-Large. No one knew what that title meant so we changed it to Associate Editor! For me this was when my understanding deepened about design, and my access to THE greats began. During this time I moved into designing apartments and creating some cool events of my own. When I left the mag a few years later I started my blog SnOOp. I was spending hours online snooping how people were living in their home. It was my outlet to rediscover what I loved about design. I was discovering awesome photos and people from all corners of the world. I didn’t know what to do with all this information so I started SnOOp to have somewhere I could document it. I nose planted into trend forecasting. I love this world. I’m obsessive about how design impacts our life and how we react to it. Some people think it's like looking into a crystal ball. But at the end of the day when you are following world events, economics, environment, politics, technology, retail, social media, designers, early adopters it becomes pretty clear what the big emerging trends are.
Two shots above - Williamsburg warehouse for ELLE Decoration, UK.  Photo - Martyn Thompson, Styling - Amanda Talbot.  'This shoot for me was when I got to experience the genius of photographer Martyn Thompson. When I was sent the scout shots of this Williamsburg warehouse, my editor didn't want to shoot the space. Martyn did. My thought was if Martyn was passionate about this space, who were we to say no to someone with his experience and talent? He didn't let us down. With a lot of furniture moving on the day we got one of my fave shoots' - Amanda.
Having built a career upon your knack for global forcasting, writing and styling, and working with British ELLE Decoration, Channel Nine's Top Design, and the launch of WGSN's interiors site, it's clear that you're an international design authority. At a guess most of these jobs would be on the top of anyone’s 'dream job' list.  What have been some of your favourite projects in recent years?
While I was on ELLE Decoration I was offered the opportunity to work with my design hero Ilse Crawford. I consulted to her studio, Studio Ilse, for one of London’s largest developers and decked out some interiors. I was like a sponge whenever she gave advice to me. I have worked alongside some pretty amazing people where most of the time I do need to pinch myself. They have all been my teachers, but to working with Ilse was amazing, because when I first started out I use to spend my last few pennies purchasing ELLE Decoration when she was editor. I use to devour those pages and from there I have always followed her career. She has an incredible understanding about designing spaces that trigger memories and senses. Other favourite projects in recent years include collborations with some legendary designers to create one-off design pieces for events I curated, such as Marc Jacobs, Tom Dixon, Karl Lagerfeld, John Galliano, Jamie Hayon, Piero Lissoni, and Marcel Wanders. Fashion designer Matthew Williamson designed an amazing flower chair for a project I worked on, it wasn’t practical but WOW did it look awesome! While Piero Lissoni created an incredible Kartell chair for me that changed colour to your body heat. It was very groundbreaking at the time.
Elle Decoration cover, the home of fashion designer John Rocha.  Photo - Richard Powers, Stylist - Amanda Talbot. 'Yes, this was a day when I had house envy!' says Amanda.
Your new book Rethink: The Way You Live asks us to alter the way we view the home and life we live within it with greater openness. Can you explain the inspiration behind this school of thought and what prompted you to write the book?
At the time I had fallen out of love with design magazines, so I left my position at ELLE Decoration. I didn’t feel like they talked to me or most of the population. (I need to add here that ELLE Decoration is a very different magazine today and I believe it is now the best lifestyle magazine in the world!) The recession had hit the UK pretty bad, a lot of my friends had lost their jobs, I didn’t have a clue what I was going to do next, I shut down and went into hibernation. It was a very unsettling and scary time. I found I started to spend hours online looking at blogs and Flickr looking at how others in the world were living. I became absorbed in how people lived in their homes, how they stored their stuff, how they sat on their sofas, how people used their bedrooms, what people were stocking in their fridges etc. I discovered that ‘home’ was very different from the conventional ideas we have of what home is. As a result, my whole attitude to design was turned upside down. I began questioning the conventions that have been in place for so long. I was looking at rooms in homes in a new way and found myself asking questions: Do we need an office in a home when there is only a laptop or tablet in sight? Is a bedroom only used for sleeping? Can a kitchen become an edible farm? Matching living trends with good design is no longer just about colour, function and aesthetics. It is about creating a product, an idea, a space that can enhance our life and help us deal with what obstacles this changing world is throwing at us. Our houses are no longer simply homes but where we work, study, socialise and shop. We demand dwellings that celebrate the rituals of domestic life and allow for privacy and change of mood.
New York apartment, unpublished.  PhotosMartyn Thompson, Styling - Amanda Talbot. 'I love this story. I really wanted to focus on the boys who lived in this New York apartment, and how they turned this slick apartment into a family home' - Amanda.
How did the book deal come about and how long has Rethink: The Way You Live been in the works? What can we expect to find inside?
I moved back home to Sydney to film Top Design and because I didn’t have any projects on in Australia I thought now was the right time to do a book. I went in and met the team at Murdoch Books, pitched them my idea and they amazingly believed in the concept. Although I had been documenting the trends for a few years now the turn around for the book was insane. I signed the contract end of September, I had to secure all the homes and people from Cophenhagen, Amsterdam, Antwerp, Paris, London, New York, Tokyo, Sydney and Melbourne before we started to shoot mid November. We had to have all pictures and copy by end of January. It was at this point my two angels joined in on the project – Tracy Lines, my publisher, who was art director for Inside Out magazine and now editor for new online magazine The Quintessential Magazine and designer Kate Dennis from Ikon. They both understood and believed in the book. It was like joining a huge jigsaw puzzle together and I couldn’t have done it without them. There were times when the book had to be fought for because it isn’t your typical interior book. Yes it is filled with loads of amazing inspiring ideas, but it isn’t about how to mix patterns or using phrases like ‘home is where the heart is’. The book is filled with wonderful mavericks who are coming up with ingenious ways to live a fulfilled life in urban cities. It really is a book for our time. The statistics regarding food shortages, economics, environment and the list goes on is dire but Rethink: The Way You Live gives us hope. It takes the reader on a global journey in some of the world's biggest and expensive cities looking at how people live with nature, growing their own food, sourcing quality over big brand names, living in small spaces, going back to basics, working from home, and living a nomadic lifestyle. It looks at what the future home is and people who have taken control in how they live their life. It is photographed by the amazingly talented Mikkel Vang. He endured earthquakes, snow storms and an author face planting head first on a road in Antwerp, and a bee sting in London.
Japanese apartment, from Rethink: the way you live by Amanda Talbot.   Photos - Mikkel Vang.  Published by Murdoch Books.
What does a typical day at work involve for you? Can you give us a little insight into the inner workings of Amanda Talbot Inc?
My day is always different. Today I am writing a house feature for Sunday Life, sourcing product for a shoot next week, being interviewed, having a portrait taken of me, meeting up with a client to go through some designs for their home, walk my puppy Hiro, preparing for a talk I’m giving tomorrow, organising my book's launch party in Sydney, deciding if I should have a Melbourne launch and hopefully taking a deep breath!
Can you list for us 5 resources across any media that you turn to regularly for a bolt of creative inspiration?!
I am addicted to Instagram, I spend time on Dezeen, Trend Tablet and I still purchase a tonne of magazines and books. I adore The Design Files. You have really helped me tap into amazing Australian talent.
Which other local stylists, writers or creative people are you most inspired by at the moment?
I adore Australian stylist Glen Proebstel's work, I feel like he has come into his own recently, stylist Vanessa Colyer Tay is a whizz with paint and colour blocking. I take my hat off to Megan Morton’s The School. She has made craft cool. I did a talk last year at the Power House Museum about preserving our past to make the future happen, it was focused on how we can save craft. Well this girl is doing it. I don’t know what awards are available in Australia, but she needs one for this amazing imitative. A major inspiration is UK stylist Suzanne Stankus. She doesn’t get enough praise for her styling work. She basically has set the trends in how we style our homes today.
Shoot for ELLE Decoration, UK. Photo - James Merrell, Stylist - Amanda Talbot.
Shoot for Sunday Life Magazine.  Photo - Jennifer Soo, styling - Amanda Talbot. 'Oh Dinosaur Designs, their designs are so photogenic. I adore how these beautiful objects are all hand crafted only 15mins from my house.' - Amanda.
What would be your dream project?
I have a few. I would love to fit out the interiors for a hotel, design a homewares/lifestyle range, or edit my own magazine!
What are you looking forward to?
Starting on my second book. It’s going to be called Happy.
Shoot for ELLE Decoration, UK.  Photo - James Merrell, Styling - Amanda Talbot.


Your favourite Sydney neighbourhood and why?
Potts Point fondly known to the locals as 2011. This is where I live and hang out. It has a wonderful community, village vibe. It’s like a mini New York/Paris/London blend. There is the perfectly groomed folks with their perfectly groomed dogs, to the eccentric and fabulous. It’s bohemian, cosmopolitan, creative, and gastronomic, with world class shopping neighbourhood. I love it so much that I’m having my book launch at my local café Chez Dee. They have their own bee hive, worm farm, and make their own preserves! It has become a neighbourhood hang out for the locals.
Where/what was the last great meal you ate in Sydney?
My last great meal I ate in Sydney was by my husband Oliver. He is an amazing chef so on the rare moments he is home I get to enjoy his wonderful creative talents. He always serves a plate of yum!
Where would we find you on a typical Saturday morning?
I'm either at Roselle Markets looking for some hidden treasures, my local farmers market in Kings Cross buying my weekly bunch of flowers or Rushchcutters Park with my puppy Hiro.
Sydney’s best kept secret?
I can’t be the whistle blower!
Rethink the way you live - by Amanda Talbot, out November 15th.  Photo - Lucy Feagins

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