Though Brem Perea may be only two months into the job of his dreams: Senior Designer at Fiona Lynch Interior Design, landing this one has been eight years in the making!
The 30-year-old holds a Bachelor of Architectural Design and Masters in Architecture, both from RMIT. As a diligent and driven final-year student, he reached out to Fiona Lynch, director of an artistic Melbourne-based interiors firm, where an inventive use of space, materials, and custom detailing are the creative hallmarks of projects, from residential to hospitality and retail. Brem was rewarded for his bold approach, picking up a formative part-time role early in his career.
This first break allowed the young Melburnian to hone his skills, as well as gain a valuable mentor and foster a genuine friendship that would later lead to full-time employment.
In-between this first role and his recent return to Fiona Lynch Interior Design, Brem was also able to gain a variety of enriching experience at other renowned firms, including Hecker Guthrie and Chelsea Hing.
Today, the ultra-stylish creative shares an inspiring insight into career navigation and staying ahead of the pack in Melbourne’s interior design world.
The most important verb in the get-your-dream-job lexicon is…
Totally cliché, I know, and it’s the kind of word that someone would have said to me when I was in my 20s and I would have rolled my eyes!
I originally thought of the word ‘patience’ but on further reflection, I realised that I was never really a patient person, it’s just that the two need to work together. You need to be patient in some situations and persevere despite difficulties at the same time. It’s about learning when to work hard, and when to see an opportunity for progression and make a move.
People will recognise you for your work ethic and design integrity, but ultimately it’s up to you to watch your course and make sure you are always striving for more, if you are deserving. Things won’t be just handed to you, and ultimately I don’t believe employers want anyone working for them who isn’t a little ambitious!
I landed this job by…
I landed this job, for the second time, this year!
Eight years ago when I was still at university, I made cold calls and hand wrote to Fiona Lynch. She gave me a chance, when I was just finishing uni, to work with her at her old firm for a few days a week, which is where our working relationship started.
Late last year, I made the decision to move on from my previous job. In many ways, the big decision for me was to actually commit to the move, despite not knowing where I wanted to go. I made a list of firms I was interested in and started making some calls – each contact was the result of a relationship I had formed over the years.
I think today that your personal brand is as important as the brand of the workplace you represent. It was important for me to be able to use the connections I had made to best effect and to be honest with all the prospective employers about what my expectations were from them, and from myself, moving forward.
Of course, Fiona Lynch was on the top of my list – and our meeting was over lunch. Fiona had always made the effort to keep in contact with me, checking in to see how I was tracking, and discussing my work. This was very important to me – that someone had taken the time to be a mentor and a friend, and was genuinely interested in my design perspective.
I still wanted to make an impression as a prospective employee, so I made a hand-stitched mini folio to give her… sometimes these things start with good intentions until you realise at 1am in the morning that you really shouldn’t pick up the needle and thread if you don’t know what you’re doing!! In any case, it somehow worked out in this concertina style layout and I’m glad that I made the effort!
A typical day for me involves…
… Ninja-style tiptoeing around and getting ready first. I’m usually the first one up, and I’ve found that if I don’t organise clothes for the week on my Sunday, I end up spending a good half-hour choosing between two extremely similar black outfits. I listen to ABC News while getting ready, and scroll through Instagram at the same time. If I can squeeze a cup of tea into the morning routine I’m doing well.
I like to be early to work so I can be alone for 15-20 minutes to start my day quietly. I’ve learned from my partner (who usually does emails at 4am in the morning) that it’s a good way to stay on track and attend to many tasks without people immediately replying to you and interrupting a good flow of thoughts. I like to make a to-do list, and I also like to get in first to set the temperature on the air conditioning: freezing cold is generally how I like it.
The team likes to catch up and do coffee/tea in the morning, and we chat about who went out the night before, where they went and what they saw etc. The days here are never the same, especially so when you are new like me!
We chat as we work and collaborate on every job, which is a new concept for me. It’s a more intimate team than I’ve had in previous jobs, and adjusting to this has been a welcome challenge. To be honest, it can be difficult to adjust when you place pressure on yourself for immediate assimilation, particularly when in a position of leadership. Thankfully for me, Fiona and her team of experienced management have supported me in my new role.
Depending on the job I’m working on, I prioritise what’s most pressing based on my lists. Typically, I like to split the day into at least two jobs: one for the morning, and one for the afternoon. I prefer morning meetings so that the afternoon is freed up to attend to immediate tasks while they are fresh in my mind and also more concept-based work.
Incidentally, after lunch is the perfect time for me to take control of our office soundtrack and hit up some classics. ‘Sorrento Moon’ is a favourite of mine. I waited a good three weeks before I let this one out of the bag, but I’ve received surprisingly favourable reactions.
The most rewarding part of my job is…
… client contact. Of course, completing a job and getting it photographed is an amazing feeling for the entire team, but I really do love to be one-on-one with our clients.
It’s an intimate business, interior design – people let you into their homes, into their wardrobes, into their lives. They spend money, small amounts or large amounts but nonetheless money that they’ve specifically put aside to invest in our guiding minds and hands.
For me, the schedules and imagery can only go so far, taking a client to a gallery and watching them try out furniture or letting them lie down on the carpet in a showroom the way they would at home is the best part. We guide them yes, and use our knowledge to make the most informed suggestions, but ultimately I find the results are more fruitful when the client is included in more than just the drawing reviews and sign-offs – they too want to feel part of the project of re-inventing their home, or office, or café!
On the other hand, the most challenging aspect is…
… being both the leader and the middleman in the project. We dream, design and lead clients on a path that they could not have conceived on their own. In that respect, we are the leaders. But once the process takes form, and the entire cast starts to assemble, we can sometimes be relegated down the line – at the mercy of builders, other trades. The never-ending administration and liaising can take its toll on a project, and your self-esteem. Meanwhile, your client, with who you first sparked the grand ideas, is watching closely and starting to feel the weight of so many different arms, as well as the costs that come with them and this, can make what was a pleasurable experience start to feel murky.
It’s important to stay focused on the goal, and, as we do every day, problem solve rather than compromise along the way to achieving what you and the client first set out to do. At times like that, I like to go back to the original concept that was first presented and see if we have kept true to the course.
The culture of my workplace is…
… friendly, professional and collaborative in every aspect. We encourage and participate in lively discussions on art, movies and fashion. We regularly attend galleries as a team and visit artists at their studios. We often stop by our local pottery school for hands-on therapy and have Tuesday lunchtime meditation sessions at the Mind Room next door to our studio. There is a strict no-eating-at-desks policy, and we often wonder the colourful streets of Collingwood together to absorb the varied and exciting neighbourhood for inspiration.
It’s too early and I’d probably be too embarrassed to ask my ‘new’ colleagues this question! But if history is anything to go by, the answer would probably reference my weird and often-distracting ticks: foot thumping and whistling harmonies to the music are probably high on this list.
On Job Day at school, I dressed up as…
… a chef.
At the time I was very into cooking. Later on, though, I realised it was better to marry a Chef than to be one. So I did!
My idea of the perfect workplace is…
… exactly where I am. There’s music, laughter, collaboration, respect, and the highest regard for thoughtful and original design.
The best piece of advice I’ve received is…
… to share your ideas openly.
When I was younger it was either fear of being ridiculed, or a little voice inside saying ‘keep it to yourself and don’t share it, or someone will take it, AND the credit’. Pretty foolish, but I’m sure we’ve all thought that at some point.
The simple fact is that you have to credit yourself with the fact that your ideas come from a place of knowledge, and the more ideas you cultivate, the better they will become. Also, when you share an idea it flourishes; with other people’s creative input it can be challenged and made better, which is ultimately the best outcome for design.
Over the years, our industry…
Exposure to interior design and the huge volume of interior design images available can be overwhelming. So too is the idea of ‘fast’ design, I see this and overexposure as being inextricably linked.
Scrolling through your phone almost feel like an overdose of images that become a louder and louder assault on the senses. I prefer to see and experience as much as I can in the flesh; what you get from an image is entirely different to the experiential quality of a space, which was meant to be walked through and lived in.
At the moment, I’ve gone back to an oldie, but a goodie: books. These are often ones where the focus is not on interiors. ‘Beaton’ a retrospective of Cecil Beaton’s photography is one fabulous example – the faces, the fabric, the sets… all are so inspirational, and there is something more sedate about flipping each page in a book like this and absorbing the contents, rather than giving it the nano-second flick of a thumb!
In the next five years, I’d like to…
… travel and design more. I have a friend with the motto: ‘never-stop-designing’ as you are exposed to different places, ideas, and scenes. They are honest, wise words to live by if design is your passion.
I definitely want to do more design with my hands, while I see travel as integral to becoming a more rounded designer, and person. I’d rather experience a place first-hand than gaze at glossy styled up magazine photos. I find myself visiting Sri Lanka as often as I can – something about the tropical atmosphere, and you can be there in only a few hours most days!
I’m not sure what else I can see happening over the next few years! But with two dogs, a partner, great friends and family, and of course a fulfilling and challenging workplace, life seems like it’s on the right track!