On Good Design

Sheer white curtains adorn the floor-to-ceiling windows of this Kooyong residence.

For John Bornas, design doesn’t exist in a vacuum. The director of Workroom, a Melbourne-based collective of architects and interior designers with a portfolio of bold and eye-catching commercial and residential projects, believes design comes hand in glove with function.

“Whether it’s residential work or retail or commercial, there’s not any one specific thing that we’d look for,” John says when asked about what he looks for in the right window furnishing. “It just really depends on the palette of materials and what we’re trying to do with the light and shade.”

John’s focus on function and his penchant for design that’s timeless makes Workroom and Lovelight a natural partnership. “We’ve worked with Lovelight on tiny little shops to big houses, so it’s a big range and it’s always good. My favourite thing is having a big laugh on site,” John says.

We sat down with John to talk all things design: his inspirations, process, and personal approach to design, and how light and Workroom’s relationship with Lovelight are fundamental to good design.

On Fashion

Though the two are often used interchangeably, design and fashion are not one and the same. They are, of course, intrinsically and inseparably linked, but as John tells it, while design leads fashion, the reverse is not always true.

“I don’t really get inspiration from other interiors or architecture,” John says. “It’s more everyday things.” According to John, inspiration can come in the form of a new material he’s just discovered or even a morning jog.

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An example of Workroom’s interior projects: a mix of off-form concrete and oak.

John’s attitude towards inspiration speaks volumes about his approach to design overall. As far as John’s concerned, good design speaks for itself: “I think good design is good design. Whether or not it’s popular, if it’s something good I’m happy to use it... But explore it for its merits, rather than for whether it’s fashionable or not.”

Clearly, fashion and trend are not high on John’s agenda. Instead, what the Workroom principal is looking for is more elusive – timelessness. “People ask me what’s in at the moment and I wouldn’t have a clue,” he says. “Because we just do what we do and sometimes it matches fashion and sometimes it doesn’t.”

“I don't like the idea that something we do, in a couple of years’ time, would be something you’d want to change,” John adds, “because it’s not what you’re into at that time. I like our design to be a backdrop to your general life. It’s not fashionable, or at least we attempt not to be fashionable.”

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“It’s one of the elements of design, so we look at light constantly,” John says.

John’s approach to design is simple: “We generally look at three things: form of a building, how it’s composed; the space, the bits in between; and then the material, so what makes up the space,” he explains.

“Those three key elements are what we look at when we design. So, in that sense, there’s not a lot of room for fashion and fads. And that’s why we end up with things, hopefully, that you’re going to keep without changing too much over time.”

On Design Process

It’s the basic fundamentals of design that are central to John’s ability to create buildings that stand the test of time and trend. Perhaps the most important is light. “It’s one of the elements of design,” John insists, “so we look at light constantly. In terms of how we make it enter a room, how we stop it from entering a room. All those things come into play right at the very beginning, right when we’re first putting pen to paper.”

On Light and Lovelight

It's also where Lovelight, whom John describes as “Reliable, professional, and sometimes hilarious,” come in to play. Window furnishings, John explains, are one of the “parameters of the space” and effectively serve as the designer’s tool for harnessing and controlling light.

“Whether we’re blocking out light, whether we’re diffusing it, whether we’re trying to emphasise something else with the light and therefore need to play with it a bit – it makes a difference how we look at it,” John says. Making a difference to how we look at things is John’s unofficial mantra, and while he eschews trends and fashions, design is, quite literally, everything.

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Softening the industrial style interiors with the right touch of light.

“I think design touches every part of your life. I don’t think people realise that; from the toothbrush that you hold in the morning, to what you sit on, to what you put your food on, to what you drive, to where you live. I think every part of your life is somehow impacted by design so it’s really important.”


Architect: http://www.workroom.com.au
Builder: www.agushi.com.au
Photography: www.armellehabib.com
Stylist: www.simonehaag.com.au

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