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In Conversation | Tobias Partners

  • Our next In Conversation guest is an architect who consistently outdoes himself with each new project – Nick Tobias, founder of Sydney-based practice Tobias Partners.

    When we featured Nick Tobias’ home in Sydney’s Camp Cove last year, the architect was pictured lounging on his Edra On the Rocks sofa while playing the guitar. Following our interview with the architect, we can confirm he is as cool as he looks.

    Fresh off the plane from the Canadian ski slopes, we caught up with Nick from his studio in sunny Sydney. In the interview, we speak about his ongoing love affair with nature, advice that has stuck with him throughout his career, and what makes Australian residential architecture so special.

    Outside of your own practice, how does design – whether that be architecture or another kind – have an influence on you?

    Nick Tobias: I have a particular love for contemporary art. It doesn’t influence me in a direct way per se, but it certainly gets me thinking more creatively. Film can also be a great source of inspiration for architects, and vice-versa I think for filmmakers. But the greatest inspiration for me would have to be nature; nature is the most extraordinary design of them all.

    What were you working on just before you sat down to do this interview?

    Nick Tobias: Speaking of nature, I just got back from a big ski trip in Canada yesterday. So I’ve just been spending time catching up with everyone in the studio – downloading the highlights from the trip.

    Last year we had the pleasure of showcasing your home in Sydney’s Camp Cove. What surprised you about designing your own home?

    Nick Tobias: When we design for our clients, it’s a highly structured process. The studio is nearly 25 years old, so we’ve got certain systems and philosophies in place that we apply to all of our projects, and this approach delivers a particular type of outcome. When I design for myself, I can do things quickly and intuitively, and be impulsive if I like. It’s just such a different process – it surprises me how fluid and unregimented it can be. You’re only really answering to yourself.

    If Tobias Partners came up in conversation, what do you hope is observed about your practice? 

    Nick Tobias: I would hope to hear three things. Firstly, that our work is timeless and enduring – that’s the greatest compliment. Secondly, and pretty simply, that our work makes people feel good. And thirdly, that we’re really pleasant to work with – that we’re professional, empathetic and caring.

    What’s one piece of advice that you’ve been given that you now implement daily in your practice?

    Nick Tobias: Pick up the phone, talk to people, or meet them for coffee. The things that can be achieved by just talking to people – not emailing or texting – are extraordinary. You’ll never get as much done digitally as you can with a human connection.

    What have you got in store for 2023? What can we look forward to?

    Nick Tobias: We’ve got many wonderful homes on the drawing board that will (hopefully) be completed this year. We’re developing the interior design side of our practice more and more, which is exciting to watch unfold. Delivering a complete product from the architecture through to the soft furnishings, is so rewarding.

    Lavender Bay House by Tobias Partners | Photography by Justin Alexander

    Lavender Bay House by Tobias Partners | Photography by Justin Alexander

    Design Dissected:

    What, in your opinion, sets Australian residential architecture apart from the rest of the world?

    Nick Tobias: Compared to places like Europe, we don’t have the same density of post-colonial architecture that we have to refer back to constantly – that can be pretty liberating. In reality, we only have to respond to our immense and beautiful natural environment. And if you think of the true history of Australia, that being an Indigenous history, you see why this connection and response to nature is so important.

    Rapid Fire:

    Somewhere that inspires you? That’s an easy one – the mountains.

    Favourite vintage or pre-loved stores? 1stDibs is a pretty amazing space.

    Favourite three materials to work with? Stone, timber and steel.

    Something you want to see more of this year? The most challenging thing as an architect at the moment is trying to work out what’s going to make a real difference to the planet. I think as architects it’s important to be vulnerable about that.

    “Nature is the most extraordinary design of them all.”

    – Nick Tobias

    Bronte House by Tobias Partners | Photography by Justin Alexander

    Bronte House by Tobias Partners | Photography by Justin Alexander

    Collins Beach House by Tobias Partners | Photography by Justin Alexander

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