We’re kicking off our 2023 Designer In Conversation series with one of our esteemed 10 Australian designers, Melbourne-based interior designer Brahman Perera.
In early 2020, after several years of working in fashion and interior design, Brahman Perera took a leap of faith and established his own studio. In just three short years, the designer has amassed an impressive portfolio of residential, hospitality, retail and commercial projects, each expressing an incredibly layered and personalised approach to interiors. His distinctive style manifests in vivid colours, sumptuous textures and whimsical shapes, resulting in compelling interior landscapes that engage all the senses.
In this interview, we ask Brahman what it’s like running your own practice, the secret to layering in interior design and his plans for 2023 – which, by the sounds of it, is shaping up to be his best year yet.
Outside of your own practice, how does design – whether that be interior design or another kind – influence you?
Brahman Perera: Design is holistic; it’s not just a collection of disparate parts. I try and engage with the different types of design that shape my micro and macro environments – from how I dress, to my own home, to my interest in theatre and the arts.
In my own practice, design encompasses far more than just interior design. A fragrance, for example, can contextualise a home setting, or a piece of music can inform a hospitality space. So it’s important I look for inspiration outside of the design world I work in.
What do you enjoy most about running a solo business?
Brahman Perera: How intimate and fulfilling my relationships with my clients are – relationships that I think will last a lifetime. It’s also very satisfying being across a project’s entire scope and having complete autonomy over the design direction. It’s a very special feeling once a project is completed, knowing all the different steps that got you there.
Alternatively, what’s the hardest lesson you’ve had to learn as a solo designer?
Brahman Perera: A solo design practice can’t exist within a vacuum, or at least it shouldn’t. It’s important to surround yourself with peers and advisors who you can bounce your ideas off otherwise, it can get very lonely.
Your material palette hallmarks your projects; how do you layer different colours and textures?
Brahman Perera: Looking at my hospitality projects specifically, my background in the field definitely helps, as does the way I was raised. Being at the receiving end of hospitality is one of my greatest pleasures, which I channel into my palettes. I sit back and evaluate how I want someone to feel in the space – enveloped, hugged, awed, or calm for example. As I start to layer in the different pieces, a landscape starts to unfold. The next challenge is to enrich it with colour, and texture – anything to suggest that all the senses are to turn on when inhabiting the space.
In your esteemed 10 interview, you said, “Sculptural and spatial artists are the cornerstone to materiality and form.” When did you first become interested in sculpture and art?
Brahman Perera: The home I grew up in was full of religious sculptures and artwork, from the prayer room with various deities from Hindu and Catholic faiths to the pieces my parents brought back with them from Sri Lanka and England. They were an integral part of our everyday lives. This sparked an interest in how sculpture and art can impact the experience of a space – from how you move around it, to what catches your eye.
What have you got in store for 2023? What can we look forward to?
Brahman Perera: I could not be happier with how this year is shaping up.
In hospitality, I’ll be completing a project close to my heart, a Sri Lankan restaurant, with my partner Jason. I’ll also be designing an Italian restaurant and rooftop in Cremorne with a seasoned team of operators.
In retail, my ongoing relationship with Perri Cutten will see more of their boutiques updated to reflect their brand DNA. I’m also dabbling in menswear for the first time.
In residential, I look forward to finishing the first project I was engaged to design when I started on my own. Working with the family has been a lovely journey these past few years.
I am also working towards launching a small range of pendant lights (and perhaps a few more pieces) later this year.
Would you agree that the world is slowly shifting away from minimalist design?
Brahman Perera: There will always be a place for minimalist design in our lives, for moments of relief or calm. How I incorporate it into my practice, however, is not by simply stripping a space of objects and colour. I resent slightly that neutral and monochrome interiors have become the preferred aesthetic when we discuss ‘luxury’ design.
I try to avoid the word ‘minimalist’ and instead tease out other, more telling conversations with a client. In doing so, I often find that they are looking for spaces with clean shapes rather than complex forms; it’s not a reduction in objects but rather a clarification of the kind of objects being employed.
But trends also operate as a pendulum – not to say that I think we are heading explicitly towards maximalism, but we are approaching a point of collective exhaustion towards traditional forms of minimalism – those being stark, cerebral and often devoid of colour.
Someone that inspires you? Matisse, always Matisse – and Ann Hamilton.
Somewhere that inspires you? Our holiday home in Carlsruhe in regional Victoria. Ideas seem to crystallise better when I’m there.
Favourite vintage or pre-solved stores? Can’t give too many secrets away but Leonard Joel, Smith St Bazaar, 506070 in Sydney and eBay.
Something you want to see more of this year? Collaboration.