HOLD­ING PAT­TERN

Go big or go home? Aus­tralia’s Greg Natale does both

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Front Page - By Neale Whi­taker Neale Whi­taker is co-host of Fox­tel’s Love It Or List It Aus­tralia on Life­style, and a judge on Nine Net­work’s The Block.

The de­sign world can be ruth­less. Not quite Can­berra-es­que, but with enough in­trigue and schism to fill an HBO minis­eries. When you lay your cre­ative soul bare, there will be some who loathe, oth­ers who laud and few that sit on the fence. Greg Natale prob­a­bly knows this bet­ter than most.

Ar­guably Aus­tralia’s best-known in­te­rior de­signer (cer­tainly from an in­ter­na­tional per­spec­tive), Syd­ney-based Natale (greg­na­tale.com) is not known for un­der­state­ment. In­stead, for al­most two decades, he’s been the stan­dard-bearer for a dis­tinc­tive and skil­ful lay­er­ing of pat­tern and tex­ture. In the process, he’s fash­ioned a glam­orous Aus­tralian de­sign sig­na­ture far re­moved from our beloved de­fault of Scandi min­i­mal­ism.

And there’s an en­dear­ing dis­con­nect be­tween the man and his work. Natale is self-dep­re­cat­ing, al­most a re­luc­tant show­man. In the in­tro­duc­tion to his new book The Pat­terned In­te­rior (Riz­zoli, $90), he quotes a let­ter from Barry Humphries, who re­acted less than kindly to a bold de­sign Natale pro­posed for his home. It’s there to demon­strate the po­lar­is­ing im­pact of pat­tern.

“Pat­tern is a con­ver­sa­tion starter,” the de­signer ex­plains. “No two peo­ple will feel the same way about it.” He also bravely opens his book with a full-page im­age of his Ital­ian im­mi­grant par­ents’ 1970s home in sub­ur­ban Syd­ney. At first glance, it looks hor­ri­bly kitsch yet strangely fa­mil­iar – you can spot the DNA. Natale has cho­sen the im­age with af­fec­tion, to show where his pas­sion for in­te­ri­ors was born. That Ital­ian love of pat­tern – and of tiles in par­tic­u­lar – is the gene he has honed bril­liantly.

Cen­tral to Natale’s mul­ti­lay­ered ap­proach is bal­ance: “I can’t stand clut­ter. You have to strike a vis­ual bal­ance and be able to edit.” The exquisitely crafted in­te­ri­ors in his new book roam from Syd­ney’s east­ern sub­urbs to coun­try Vic­to­ria, mid­town Man­hat­tan and ru­ral Ok­la­homa. Read­ers fa­mil­iar with his style will be sur­prised (as I was) at the pared-back, trop­i­cal glam­our of a villa on Hamil­ton Is­land, a lust-have if ever there was.

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When I ask Natale who he would love to de­sign an in­te­rior for, he’s un­equiv­o­cal. “Diane Von Fursten­berg. She’s a true icon and her pat­terns have been an in­spi­ra­tion to me. I’m sure she’d teach me a thing or two!” He also ad­mits he briefly con­sid­ered hair­dress­ing as a ca­reer be­fore suc­cumb­ing to the lure of in­te­ri­ors. While Natale would have doubtlessly ex­celled, the fol­licly chal­lenged amongst us – like me – will be glad he chose the lat­ter.

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