Remo and Melanie Giuffré

Remo Giuffré is a bit famous.  Not very famous, mind you… but a familiar name in the right circles,  and for the right reasons.  Originally trained in corporate law, he is better known for his various creative businesses and entrepreneurial projects, amongst them the much loved REMO General Store (which he opened in Oxford st, Darlinghurt in 1988, and later shifted online), and General Thinking (an invitation-only global network of influential thinkers and do-ers across the globe) and more recently, TEDxSydney, which I imagine needs no explanation (DOES it?). Today we visit the eclectic 3 bedroom apartment Remo shares in Bondi with his wife Melanie, and almost-grown-up kids Roman and Lola.

Lucy Feagins
Supported by Dulux

Remo and Melanie Giuffré at home in Bondi!  ‘We bought the wandjana from the Mowanjum Art & Aboriginal Culture Centre outside Derby, when we were travelling in the Kimberley in 2006’ says Remo of the painting above the door.  Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

A corner of the lounge room, looking back to front hallway.  Portrait of the dingo is by Bryan Westwood, who won the Archibald Prize for his portrait of Paul Keating in 1992. ‘The eyes are similar’ says Remo!  Henry Wilson A3 joint stool. Just visible in hallway beyond, the Remo family custom hall runner (more on this later…!)  Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

The hallway, with amazing salon-hung artwork and trinkets along one entire wall, and an extra special custom designed hall runner!  ‘In 2010 I designed our hall rug :GIUFFRE FAMILY BONDI HOME’ explains Remo. ‘The compass points due north … exactly; but only in this precise orientation. In other words, this rug only “works” in this exact location and in this particular apartment. Everywhere else on earth it would be telling a lie. For me this was making a statement about the permanence of our move, not just to Sydney, not just to Bondi Beach, but to this apartment in particular. Will we be here forever? Maybe not. Four flights of stairs does not maketh a final resting place, but I reckon we’ll be here for a very long time, and the hall rug is there to celebrate that’.  Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Kitchen.  ‘We bought the aluminium Emeco chairs (standard issue for US submarines) when we were living in the States’ says Remo.  ‘Maybe they were $100 each. It was before they became de rigeur, ubiquitous … and much more expensive!’ Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Kitchen detail.  Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Looking from kitchen across dining table.  ‘That Genetics poster is an original science chart, produced by the Sargeant Welch Scientific Company, based in Skokie, Illinois’ says Remo. ‘It has inspired much REMO branded product development over the years: T shirts, postcards, greeting cards, etc’.  Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Looking from entrance hallway through to lounge room beyond. Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Looking from entrance hallway through to lounge room beyond. Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Lola’s room (Lola is currently living and studying in Melbourne)  ‘Another science chart … this time in Lola’s bedroom. The Periodic Chart of the Elements seemed very apt for our gorgeous geeky girl’ says Remo. Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Detail from Lola’s room.  ‘Lola painted her own wall … first with magnetic paint (omg that tin was heavy), and then with black chalk paint over the top. So, the wall doubles as a blackboard and a magnetic pin board’ says Remo. ‘Even though she has been gone for a couple of years, there are still physics formulas and maths equations up there.’ Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Roman’s room – a montage of his art and surfing imagery.  Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Bathroom.   Red cross medical cabinet, a Christmas gift in 1992 from the late Tibor Kalman ( famed American designer and great friend of Remo’s) and his M&Co. Design Group. ‘The wooden ribbon signs are from the old REMO General Store, the ghosts of which are everywhere’ Remo says. Eagle eyed readers might spot the colourfully wrapped ‘Who Gives a Crap‘ toilet paper on the shelf above the sink!   Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Pearl the schnoodle on Remo and Melanie’s bed!  ‘Pearl loves the bed that we had purpose built by a local furniture restorer. It’s bigger than a King, with lots of storage behind and underneath’ says Remo. Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Remo’s hallway is a museum!  You can’t help but stop and absorb all the history collected and displayed along this entrance wall.  Artwork by talented friends, merchandise from the hey days at REMO General Store, and collected trinkets.  The boat drawing on the wall is EOLO – there’s a great story in Remo’s new book, General Thinker, about this very boat, how it was lost for decades and then unexpectedly found! Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Lucy Feagins
12th of November 2014

Remo Giuffré lives in Bondi, Sydney, in a surprisingly modest three bedroom apartment with his wife Melanie, and almost grown up kids Roman and Lola (Lola is currently studying in Melbourne, but returns homes for the holidays).  The family have been here just four years, which belies the incredible depth of collected ephemera and history on the walls!  There is something positively museum-like about this space… it is layered with nostalgic mementoes of family life, and love, and a lifetime of artefacts.  Every family should (and probably does?) have this stuff… but.. somehow, the way it has been lovingly collected and displayed here takes things to another level!

‘The apartment is a canvas upon which we display and present the authentic souvenirs of our lives’ expains Remo, matter of factly.  ‘Neither of us do decorative. Everything we own retains a meaning for one or both of us’.  He speaks the truth.  Just about all of the artwork here has been created by friends or by artists Remo and Melanie have met and engaged with, and alongside these pieces, displayed with equal merit are treasured family photos, doodles quickly scribbled documenting inspired ideas never realised, and keepsakes such as wedding invitations, newspaper clippings, printed ephemera and other treasures.  Toegther, these artefacts form a sort of visual narrative of the Giuffré family history.  It’s the best motivation I’ve seen in a LONG time to PRINT YOUR PHOTOS, people.  And, display them!

The Giuffré family aren’t really big on material things.  The greatest advantage of living here, Remo says, is being close to the beach. ‘Proximity is everything’ he explains. ‘A few more blocks and that magical nexus between home and ocean would be broken. We love being just a few minutes away, and get a special thrill when we see Roman’s wet footprints on the stairs leading up to our apartment’.

Meeting Remo was pretty cool!  It felt like meeting someone I already half knew. As mentioned above, amongst many other things Remo holds the license for TEDxSydney,  and has done the most incredible job running this event since 2009 – staged annually at The Sydney Opera house, with over 2000 attendees each year, and incorporating various satellite events and free online content, it is one of the biggest and most impressive TEDx events globally.  TEDx is a not-for-profit venture, which makes the epic scale of this event even more impressive.  Though it is a HUGE undertaking, TEDx suits Remo… because the common thread through all his various projects over the past few years is one clear theme – connectivity.  Bringing likeminded thinkers and do-ers together.

In person, Remo really is bursting with ideas and optimism. Though he has weathered both success and failure in business, he’s rarely discouraged, and certainly  never idle… he’s always dreaming up the next big thing.  This month, Remo is launching his latest project – his first book.  Unsurprisingly, he’s done it his way.

General Thinker is a visual memoir of interwoven stories that examines the experiences – both great successes and brilliant failures – that have guided and shaped me along my path as a serial entrepreneur’ explains Remo.  ‘It’s a book about work. It’s a book about love. It’s about me, but also about all of us. The early feedback is super positive. People seem to like it!’

Remo generously handed me a copy of General Thinker as I left his apartment.  I read it on the plane all the way home from Sydney and couldn’t put it down! Though it is loosely structured chronologically, around key events in Remo’s own life, this is not a straightforward autobiography, but a much broader offering – a truly energising and uplifting read. Remo recounts tales from his early family life, to his relentless romantic gestures in pursuit of his wife Melanie (my favourite chapter!), to his eager attempts to meet Rupert Murdoch in his early career.. (!) and the list goes on.  It’s one of those books you can open at any page, and be sure to uncover a golden nugget of wisdom or bolt of inspiration.  It’s also very funny – Remo has a knack for storytelling!

General Thinker is available in select Australian book stores, and online here.  Highly recommended for the thinkers, the dreamers and do-ers amongst you!

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