Interview with Kirsten Stanisich and Jonathan Richards

  • Interview with Kirsten Stanisich and Jonathon Richards

    We get to know Sydney-based design frontrunners Jonathon Richards and Kirsten Stanisich, discussing their recent studio rebrand and perspective on the current Australian design landscape.

    Established names in Sydney’s interior design scene Jonathon Richards and Kirsten Stanisich recently decided to mark their own design identity by rebranding as Richards Stanisich. Previously leading SJB’s Sydney interior front, Jonathon and Kirsten’s work hasn’t been shy of the spotlight since they first started collaborating. With a collection of award-winning projects under their belt across hospitality, commercial and residential design, the duo’s new studio venture has also been met with a widely-praised product design debut. 

    We caught up with Jonathon and Kirsten to chat about how their career began, the move to working under their own names, designing their new studio in Surry Hills and what they love most about what they do. We were also eager to learn their favourite stores and spaces and who they look to for the best in design. 

    Interview with Kirsten Stanisich and Jonathon Richards

    Kirsten Stanisich and Jonathan Richards

    Jonathon and Kirsten, you’ve worked together at SJB for decades. What sparked the move to work under your own names? 

    Jonathon Richards: The move was a re-brand, which meant our team and our workplace remained the same. The biggest difference is that we are now working under our own names, which has really helped us to define our own design identity.

    What are the defining values of your new practice? 

    Kirsten Stanisich: The backbone value we have in our practice is to design with integrity, which can be pretty challenging within the constraints of commercial projects. This informs the rest of our practice values.

    “There is an ever-growing enthusiasm toward good design in Australia, perhaps it has been neglected for too long, but we are excited about being part of an expanding awareness.”

    – Jonathon Richards

    Tell us a bit about your design background?

    Kirsten Stanisich: Jonathan studied interior design at UTS, and has practiced as an interior designer for about 20 years. He recently registered as an architect, after completing the rigorous requirements of the Architect’s Registration Board. I studied architecture at the University of Melbourne, and have practiced as a registered architect for a little over 20 years.

    We both started working together over 15 years ago, when Jonathan arrived back in Sydney after a few years working in London. Like any good partnership it takes a lot of hard work on both sides and it has delivered us some incredibly exhilarating and satisfying moments and outcomes.

    Together we have worked on a number of projects over the years; pubs, restaurants, hotels, houses, apartments, retail shops and precincts as well as commercial office spaces. We still love working across all of these different projects types and cross-pollinating how we approach the design.

    We’ve also recently started working on some product design and have just released our first table, The Bell Table in collaboration with the Wood Room.

    Forming part of your new portfolio is your beautiful Surry Hills workspace. What did you prioritise in your new office and why?

    Kirsten Stanisich: We think about our office as having three activity spaces. Firstly, the more formal meeting spaces, where we generally talk with clients or meet with our team individually. It was important that these spaces have a sense of serenity and privacy and reflect our design philosophy of quality and longevity. We plan for the furniture in these spaces to last as long as Jon and I keep practising design.

    Secondly, we doubled our library spaces, as the collection of new samples and materials for experimentation is so incredibly inspiring to us.

    Finally, we have the studio spaces, with soft linoleum floors and some more informal meeting areas where we feel really comfortable working and making a big mess, without the possibility of damaging precious materials. We also installed a great sound system and mushroom coloured blinds throughout to soften the western sun, so that the overall space feels comfortable, accessible and energising.

    What do you love most about what you do?

    Jonathon Richards: That’s an easy one, it’s design. We both just love it.

    What excites you most about the Australian design landscape and what concerns you most?

    Jonathon Richards: What excites us the most is the extent of talent in this country. We really enjoy being part of the industry and feel a sense of camaraderie with our peers. There is an ever-growing enthusiasm toward good design in Australia, perhaps it has been neglected for too long, but we are excited about being part of an expanding awareness.

    What concerns us is how remote we are. Lead times and costs are excessive and yet Australian manufacturing is relatively small. It’s an unsustainable predicament to rely so heavily on overseas production and a further indication that Australia needs to follow up its growing interest in design by a growing interest in quality manufacturing.

    What can we look forward to from Richards Stanisich for the rest of 2019?

    Jonathon Richards: In addition to our interior and architecture projects, we have been working on designing and developing product design, which is a new direction for us. We recently launched The Bell Table, which is produced by the Wood Room and have been working on some other furniture pieces, although they are still in the infant stages.

    Your design insider guide:

     Favourite local designers and studios?

    Kirsten Stanisich: Adam Goodrum is a favourite local furniture designer of ours, as well as Meacham Nockles, Studio McQualter, Design by Them, Kennedy Nolan Architects and Anthony Gill Architects. Future Method Studio blows us away with their approach to connecting Indigenous rights to architecture.

    Favourite design stores?

    Kirsten Stanisich: Our favourite Sydney design stores are; The Wood Room, Spence and Lyda, Kazari, The DEA Store and Boffi Studio.

    Favourite galleries or spaces?

    Jonathon Richards: Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, The Prada Foundation Milan, Mona and the Villa Panza Museum.

    Where do you go to look at great design?

    Kirsten Stanisich: Either one or both of us make the annual pilgrimage to Salone del Mobile, in Milan, which is an incredibly exciting international design event, not just for the launch of new products but for the satellite installations.

    Generally, however, we look at everything around us; the physical things as well as the non-physical, how we interact with space and how we respond to the challenges of the contemporary world. Sometimes it’s looking at design or an approach to design that is not working so well and that can help us to work out what could be better.

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