Introducing our monthly interiors architecture and design contributors, Sophie and Amira from Strutt Studios. We sat down to chat with this talented duo, who live and breathe all things interiors, conscious design and creativity, and have a strong list of beautiful projects under their belt to show for it.
Keep an eye out for their monthly articles on The Edit!
[TLSE] Tell us a bit about yourselves; what’s your background in the interior design industry and what led you to it?
[SOPHIE & AMIRA] Strutt Studios Interior Architecture & Design is a group of dedicated designers who share a common goal to create functional spaces that are creative and conscious. At Strutt we take a collaborative approach to design. Our unique resourcefulness and understanding of the commercial nature of a project results in spaces that are both purposeful and inspirational. Each of our team has varying unique experiences within the interior design industry ranging from studying abroad, to learning construction management skills to teaching and mentoring. This fusion of skills and experiences has created a design dynamic team that we’re so proud of! We stand by three promises as a group;
To ensure that we do our best by each and every client, creating a unique solution by effectively listening and proactively responding,
To ensure that our culture authentically resonates with who we are as people and designers. We built each other up to be the best we can be for our clients and one another,
To ensure that Strutt is a leader in interior design, always pushing for originality and working creatively with time and budget parameters for the benefit of our clients. We thrive on problem solving.
How did Strutt Studios come about?
Strutt Studios was formulated over three years ago with the driving force behind the decision being that ‘balance’ isn’t a common lifestyle theme within our industry. We believed that we could deliver exceptional service and results to our clients, and still remain creatively driven and balanced in our own lives. We were right; with over 90% of our projects coming from repeat clients or word of mouth referrals, we’ve never been more artistically satisfied. Across our three year history we’ve steadily grown our team and continue to work with students to give back to the design community whenever possible.
What does a day in the studio look like?
Our project process is somewhat unique whereby no designer has sole control over a project. Each of us are involved in every stage of every project and we find this collaborative approach allows for fresh perspectives and also stretches our design muscles. Being a small team, we have the luxury to allow even our newest team members the opportunity to up-skill from day one. In a typical week, we try to have at least two full days in the studio for collaboration work. During these days, the studio is horrendously messy with most of our materials library strewn across every available table space whilst we workshop project design schemes. The remaining days of the week are spent on the other key tasks such as completing site surveys and measures for new projects, presenting design phases to our clients, and visiting supplier showrooms to ensure we’re keeping up with the latest product knowledge. The weeks usually fly past!
How does interior architecture speak to interior design and vice versa? Should one inform the other?
Interior architecture, interior design and interior styling go hand in hand and are all crucial elements of any design project. Our expertise leans towards the interior architecture and interior design side of a project whereby we are considering design from a constructibility point of view. Our knowledge on how and why something is built a certain way is key to ensuring that a project remains on budget. Seeking statutory approvals (through a Development Application and Construction Certificate or via a Private Certifier for a Complying Development Checklist) are usually involved in our projects. Spatial awareness is another key tool in the interior architect’s tool belt. Commercial projects must adhere to a strict set of guidelines when it comes to spatial layouts, whilst loose furniture in commercial or residential projects doesn’t need to. Joinery design, furniture and material specification is where our interior design skills shine. Understanding how these products translate into a client’s budget is key to the success of any project. We always advise our clients to consider a project holistically; their architect or building designer, interior architect or interior designer, stylist, builder and suite of other consultants are all equally important parts of the project.
Where do you think people should splurge and where can they save?
SOPHIE: Budget is one of the major factors we review with our clients during our ‘Design Workshop’ phase (a two plus hour session where we discuss all the project parameters down to the nitty gritty of “do you like to fold or hang your t-shirts”). When it comes to commercial projects, the answer of budget allocation is simple- spend in the areas that your clients or customers will be interacting in and save in the ‘back of house’ areas such as store rooms and workstation areas. For residential projects, every zone of the home is important so instead we look to products. We advise you spend on the items that are permanent such as wall tiles and bench tops. Items that have a huge range of varying price points include fixtures such as lighting, taps, joinery handles and of course furniture and rugs. These items are where a client can showcase their personality and you don’t need to spend an arm and a leg to do so.
AMIRA: Every client has different priorities, so as a designer, it is essential we listen to their brief and understand their values and what is important to them. From there, we can cleverly decide where to allocate the budget. For example, some clients may want to splurge and hero a specific item; then this often influences the remaining overall design aesthetic and approach. On a typical basis, as Sophie mentioned, we would strongly recommend investing on fixed built in items – these are not as flexible to change and so quality and careful selection can ensure a timeless aesthetic; a beautiful custom joinery piece can really make a bold statement. In contrast, loose items can be seasonal and more frequently updated to suit ever-changing lifestyles, so saving on these items is recommended.
In your opinion, what’s the best interior design project that you’ve been involved with and why?
SOPHIE: Every week the title of ‘my favourite design’ seems to go to another project and that is probably due to what phase that project is in. Personally, one of the most creatively satisfying projects we’ve completed is The Putney House. This project’s main objective was for it to work as a functional wheelchair accessible home. The inclusion of a lift was an obvious solution, however the subtler details such as rounded corners and curved walls along with increased corridor widths ensured the home was joyous to move around in. Having dual level joinery pieces in the bathroom and living spaces also allowed everyone to use these spaces comfortably.
AMIRA: Having completed so many projects across the three years at Strutt, it is a tough call. However, the one that instantly springs to mind is the Neutral Bay Penthouse. The challenge of being able to convert a virtually uninhabitable space to the client’s forever home was rewarding, especially knowing how much happiness it brings to the client each and every day. Despite being faced with numerous hurdles, we were able create a harmonious space by using them to our advantage. The interior incorporated the use of soft curves throughout, which was dictated and heavily influenced by the existing spiral staircase which had to remain. Rather than let it be the downfall, it became the hero. It is something special to have a client trust your abilities to be able to deliver their brief and to their budget.
Top things to get you through hard hitting projects.
SOPHIE: Another major benefit of having your own business is that you can set the rules. Our rule that one of our dogs must be present and available for cuddles on office days is a great way to combat any project stress. My other saviour is my routine; morning coffee walks, writing a detailed task list, a round of Pilates, and then more coffee. Having designed over 500 projects with Strutt, the processes we have in place always keep us stable, so my routine is more about setting a productive mindset.
AMIRA: The morning always starts with a coffee (of course), then the rest follows. Aside from that, the fundamentals for success include the support from friends and family and collaborating with colleagues and other collaborators to ensure the best result for any project. My motto is to always have patience and trust the design process and never underestimate the importance of work-life balance – something each member at Strutt is lucky to have. If you need to time out, do so – you’ll be surprised at how much more productive you can be with a fresh mindset. If your mental health is on point, you’ll be able to achieve anything!