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