JULIETTE ARENT AND SARAH-JANE PYKE DESIGN THEIR HOME INTERIORS AROUND THE LIVES THAT WILL BE LIVED IN THEM, FROM THE FLOORPLAN TO WHAT’S ON THE BOOKSHELF.
Life – the rituals, the routine, the everyday. It may not sound like a particularly inspiring place to start when setting out to create beautiful spaces full of beautiful things, but that is exactly where interior design duo Juliette Arent and Sarah-Jane Pyke begin on their award-winning residential projects.
“People don’t come to us asking for a particular look but for the experiences they want to have there and how the house will function,” Arent tells WISH in the Arent & Pyke offices in Sydney’s Surry Hills. “We find that we are essentially designing around routines, people’s daily tasks, and that becomes the strongest part of our briefing phase.”
It was this desire to add life into design that propelled Arent and Pyke to go out on their own a decade ago. It was a time when interiors were very monotone and minimalist – bare and cold – and this was a trend that did not appeal to either of them. “We both really wanted to inject spirit and life into interiors,” says Arent. “When I was going through design school, it was very pared back, extremely minimalist, which I could appreciate aesthetically but it didn’t appeal to me emotionally. There was a very particular look and [our aesthetic] was a reaction to that.”
Arent and Pyke also recognised an “entrepreneurial spirit” in each other when they met working at a Sydney interiors firm. Arent studied design and Pyke studied interior architecture. They soon figured out they liked the same things and enjoyed working together, and they had a conversation about going out on their own. It also helped that they were in their early 30s and fancy free. They didn’t have families or mortgages as they do now. “We knew that if it didn’t work, we would just have to cover the rent. It was not as pressured. It had a very free feeling to it,” recalls Arent.
Their first major project was renovating a terrace in the beachside suburb of Coogee. The pair had to think about how the spaces were going to be used, furnish them and dress them accordingly. The client was a busy family with three young boys.
“It is interesting that our first house was a family home,” Pyke says, given the duo have become renowned for creating beautiful family homes across the country and even the world (they did an apartment in New York a few years ago). “This was a family with a very active life and it was all about getting that to work, creating spaces for teenagers to grow into. We had to think about how these boys were going to grow up in this house. We still get a Christmas card from them every year. Their boys are six feet tall. It’s really a thrill to get that in the mail.”
The pair believe the key to their success is spending a lot of time with their clients. They meet numerous times before the project has even begun, to get a strong sense of the individual and what they want for their home. “We also look at people’s art, look at their objects, things that they have collected over the years,” Pyke