A Life in Design with Sarah Davison


Fanuli: Where did you get started in design?



When I was 16, art and fashion design were my passions, so my mother took me to an open day at Sydney College of the Arts. By chance, I saw the interior design campus and was immediately drawn to the work there.

I completed the interior design degree straight after school and worked during uni and for some years afterwards with Pia Francesca Interior Design in Sydney’s east. Pia was inspiring as a woman running her own design business and has incredible poise and style, so it was a lucky start in the industry for me. From there I almost fell into opening my own company. That’s 21 years ago now! My first project was to design a showroom for Miele appliances. Generally, though, I’ve focused on residential projects – they’re where my heart is. It’s been inspiring, sometimes challenging, but always fascinating ride!


Fanuli: What gives a design timelessness?



In the same way that a good suit remains in fashion, interiors can be timeless if they are well proportioned, employ good materials, and suit the people they are built for.


Fanuli: What about some of your broader design influences, who inspires your creative practice?



I have always been inspired by beautiful architecture and interiors, and the way they influence our lives. The beauty of the natural world, travel, fashion and art are my muses.

I’m inspired by the ever-changing quality of natural light, and the colour palettes of landscape, sky and sea. Most mornings I get down to the beach at Tamarama, where I live. It’s an important part of my day. I recharge and get some of my best ideas there.

Travel and sourcing one-off furniture and objects from other cultures has always been a passion too. Frequent trips to America, Asia and Europe keep my design perspective broad and my projects fresh. I’m heading to the Milan Salone, Paris’ antique markets, Marrakesh and London in April, which will be incredibly inspiring.

Art and fashion are strong influences on me. The Noguchi Museum in New York, fashion designer Dries Van Noten’s colourways, and Rick Owen’s monolithic flagship store in New York are some of my current favourites.


Fanuli: What is your main priority when starting a project? Is there something that is fundamental to your practice that you consider first and foremost?



Strong, highly functional planning is always the starting point of any project. Well laid out, generous spaces and natural light are crucial to the overall quality of interiors. A strong foundation allows rooms to function smoothly and look beautiful.

Each building and brief we work on are a unique combination, so my designs are also individual, rather than reflecting one particular style.

Functionality, quality and beauty are my long-standing design principles. Quality rather than quantity guides me in selecting materials, fittings, furniture and artwork. Good quality materials and workmanship give longevity and aesthetic appeal and save time, energy and cost in the long run.

Beauty is always my prime goal…for its ability to ease the mind, lift the spirit, and for the pure, lasting pleasure it brings

Fanuli: What are you doing next, any particular future projects you’re excited about?



As far as new directions go – I’m interested in incorporating more Asian pieces and aesthetics into my work. They work so well in contemporary interiors.

Most excitingly – I’m looking into small scale real estate developments with a business partner – Focusing on renovating unique, heritage properties.

I have a particular affinity with lovely old buildings, and enjoy seeing them brought right up to date while still retaining their charm.


Fanuli: What projects are you currently working on?



We’re currently working on a complete renovation of a fantastic heritage listed terrace house nestled right under the harbour bridge in the Rocks. It’s the fourth project we’ve worked on with this client, so there’s a great rapport and ease about the process, which I love.

There’s a few projects on site at the moment, including a fun house with the largest single room I’ve ever designed. It has a fabulous semi-commercial kitchen that opens onto a vast garden.


Fanuli: What about your own home, do you have any treasured pieces?



Our studio’s a combination of two types of interiors, both of which I enjoy creating.

The heritage listed front reception rooms have a rich, bohemian feel, with 1920’s Chinoiserie overtones. The studio spaces and new kitchen and bathroom with their veined green marble are Zen, and nature inspired.

It’s a wonderful place to be and work everyday!

The small, but lush courtyard garden with its under- planted Bangalow Palms, and antique Japanese water feature gives a wonderful calmness to the whole studio.  It’s definitely one of my favourite elements.

Spanish limestone flooring which flows inside to outside, and over scaled French doors which open right back, give fantastic sense of space and openness. So does the steel framed glass roof, and huge pivot door which make the kitchen space a light filled conservatory.

Fanuli: Favourite places to eat, drink and shop?



My day usually starts with a coffee under the cliffs from my local Tama beach café. Being in design means buzzing all over the city most weeks, so I like to keep it local on weekends. Sundowners at the Bondi Icebergs, and dinner at Seans Panoroma or Sefa kitchen are favourites.

I generally pick up flowers and veggies at the Saturday Bondi markets. Fashion-wise, I love Bassike clothes in Australia, and Rick Owens , Lanvin and Dries Van Noten internationally.


Fanuli: What’s something clients tend to overlook in the design process, and how do you overcome it?



To me, for a residential project to be complete, it needs good architecture, good interior design and furnishing, and good landscaping.

I find many clients focus purely on the building and renovating, and neglect to keep enough energy (and budget!) for the furnishing, art and landscaping. This can lead to cold, unfinished feeling homes.

To overcome this, we start talking about all elements of the project as soon as we are engaged, and plot in detailed furniture layouts on the architectural floor plans very early on. Our clients always appreciate the well finished, atmospheric end result this gives.


Fanuli: What do you love most about what you do?



I love bringing out the best in any building or room and working with a team to build and create beautiful, functional spaces.

The relationships with clients, staff, suppliers, other consultants and trades are all pivotal, and building them is one of my favourite things about running a design practice.