In­te­rior de­signer MARDI DO­HERTY takes a typ­i­cal Mel­bourne ter­race house and bends all the rules.

VOGUE Living Australia - - Art & Design - By AN­NEMARIE KIELY Pho­tographed by DEREK SWALWELL

Any dis­sec­tion of Mardi Do­herty’s de­sign ne­ces­si­tates a good read through her ré­sumé. It’s var­ied and very im­pres­sive, and it runs the gamut from site-spe­cific lux­ury in­stal­la­tions in Lon­don to hard­core in­sti­tu­tional ar­chi­tec­ture in Mel­bourne. And it di­arises the evo­lu­tion of an el­e­gantly re­strained hand. In short or­der, Do­herty grad­u­ated from In­te­rior De­sign at Mel­bourne’s RMIT in 1994, com­menced a de­gree in ar­chi­tec­ture, dropped out to be­come an artist and de­toured back into de­sign (learn­ing to de­tail “drama” in the of­fice of Chris Con­nell) be­fore de­camp­ing to Lon­don. There, she landed a gig with the late Ir­ish ar­chi­tect David Collins, the Prada-suited show­man who traded in sybaritic glam­our and the slo­gan: ‘Be­spoke, be cre­ative, be bet­ter’. My CV speed-read stalls at this cre­den­tial and its men­tion of Madonna, who, the fine print in­forms, com­mis­sioned Collins, the creator of such quintessen­tially Lon­don haunts as The Wolse­ley and Clar­idge’s Bar, to de­liver the best of Bri­tish in her Bel­gravia home. So, what’s Madge re­ally like? “Oh, she’s sim­ply divine,” replies Do­herty, amused that such small­est ci­ta­tion of celebrity has side­lined her CV (a doc­u­ment tran­sit­ing through terms in the Con­ran De­sign Of­fice, Lab Ar­chi­tec­ture Stu­dio and Bates Smart to a part­ner­ship with in­te­rior de­signer Fiona Lynch). “Madonna was al­ways open to con­sul­ta­tion and the aes­thetic of the coun­try she lived in, and she al­ways got a good team to­gether. She’s done it with mu­sic, and she did it with de­sign.” This ob­ser­va­tion about the pop star’s holism di­verts the dis­cus­sion back to Do­herty’s ré­sumé and the 2014 foun­da­tion of her own de­sign stu­dio — an all-fe­male prac­tice now with five prac­ti­tion­ers. “You are only as good as the sum of your parts,” she says, nom­i­nat­ing Mon­day morn­ings as the col­lec­tive mo­ment to cast an eye over all work. “From that gen­eral ban­ter come the break­throughs — the bril­liant ideas of­ten tabled by those not on the project.” And so to this Fitzroy house — a pas­tiche of Do­herty’s de­sign past fil­tered through her project of­fice and a raft of the per­sonal likes she’s gleaned from In­sta­gram, in­clud­ing the Mid-cen­tury ar­chi­tec­ture of Don­ald Wexler, in­ter­mit­tent vis­its to de­mo­li­tion sites and the art of Anselm Kiefer. It all de­cants into the in­te­ri­ors of one of two at­tached three-story dwellings that two cou­ples de­vel­oped on a va­cant site in Mel­bourne’s in­ner city. The cou­ples jointly com­mis­sioned Inarc Ar­chi­tects to de­sign the ar­chi­tec­ture (shaped by the streetscape’s ter­race ty­pol­ogy), but one of the cou­ples brought Do­herty into the de­sign-and-de­vel­op­ment phase early be­cause they’d lived with her work for 20 years and loved it. “The prob­lem with the ter­race house is that you’re liv­ing in a tube,” says Do­herty, sit­ting in her client’s new kitchen — an open-ended insert into a ground floor that gets gun-bar­rel views of street-sharp Fitzroy to the east and a ge­o­met­ri­cally blocked gar­den to the west, land­scaped by Plant Agent. “There are al­ways is­sues with nat­u­ral light.” Al­though an open plan would fa­cil­i­tate the client’s de­sired flow of light, liv­ing and sight­lines to the street, Do­herty was briefed to ››

You are only as good as the sum of your parts

‹‹ avoid the “big, vac­u­ous space” but ad­dress its ben­e­fits. Ac­cord­ingly, she de­tailed the heart-of-house kitchen — “for two very so­cial be­ings” — as a rus­ti­cated piece of post­war op­ti­mism, à la Gio Ponti, ab­stract­ing the smile of hope in a sly black graphic that scores the edge of a bank of over­head cup­boards. Do­herty re­in­forced the lin­ear­ity of the ground-level plan with­out re­sort­ing to rec­tan­gles by de­sign­ing a mon­u­men­tal ter­razzo bench that is cham­fered at one end (a no­tional ar­row point­ing pas­sage to the gar­den) and chopped off at the other by an ox­i­dised, steel-framed bar. This cus­tomised fix­ture — dual func­tion­ing as a room divider and a cock­tail dis­penser — is in­filled with fluted glass that both fil­ters light and fuzzes life be­yond into Im­pres­sion­is­tic daubs of colour. It an­swers the con­flict­ing con­cerns of con­nec­tion, sep­a­ra­tion and the con­duc­tion of light in one con­vivial ges­ture. The en­try to the house is sim­i­larly con­trived with a wall of open shelves defin­ing one side of an im­plied hall­way that is part-lined in a Ponti-like play of graphic tiles — a “ceramic sur­face au­di­bly an­nounc­ing ar­rival”. This hall­way’s cam­bered end wall fea­tures a neon squig­gle by artist Han­nah Quin­li­van and feeds into a for­mal liv­ing room that is warmed by a gas fire framed with a Tetris of Ja­panese tiles. Th­ese chalky stone di­a­monds wink at the frac­tal ge­ome­tries of Fed­er­a­tion Square, the Lab Ar­chi­tec­ture Stu­dio-de­signed land­mark on which Do­herty worked for three years. The hon­est so­lid­ity of a din­ing ta­ble by lo­cal crafts­man John Wa­ters tells of Do­herty’s time with Con­ran De­sign, while Collins’s be­sp­soke fan­ta­sia is leg­i­ble in the con­tin­uum of lux­ury tex­tures and hand­crafted de­tails. The tones are calm, quiet, spar­ingly lush (ma­genta bathes the up­stairs main bed­room in the shade of op­ti­mism) and leave ex­u­ber­ant ex­pres­sion to the own­ers and outer life. “And that’s just the way it should be,” says Do­herty, equat­ing her work to the build­ing of a brand iden­tity. “Our job is to find a con­sis­tency of el­e­ments that tells the client’s story in a mean­ing­ful way.”

In the din­ing room, cus­tom cher­ry­wood din­ing ta­ble by JOHN WA­TERS; MOBITEC din­ing chairs from Tem­per­a­ture De­sign; Ob­jects of Free Use ta­ble ac­ces­sories by ANNA VAREN­DORFF from Hub Fur­ni­ture; SA­HAR COL­LEC­TION Fresco rug from Behruz Stu­dio.

this page: in the study, Con­tained (2015) by MELINDA SCHAWEL from Flin­ders Lane Gallery; cus­tom-made desk; desk chair from Ikea; MR RIGHT tim­ber carved bowl from Af­ter On­line; Flow­er­pot Ta­ble VP3 lamp from Great Dane. op­po­site page: in the kitchen,...

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