Interview with Studio Griffiths Director Gillianne Griffiths

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    We get to know Griffiths Studio founder and director Gillianne Griffiths, her musical influence and how she creates harmony in her projects through rhythm, shape and form. 

    After directing music professionally for a number of years, Gillianne Griffiths transitioned to a career in design. Always fostering a passion for architecture and interiors, Gillianne’s graduation was marked by the successful renovation of her own home that soon paved the way to establishing her own studio in 2014.

    Gillianne Griffiths has built a studio that prides itself on simplistic and elegant style. Studio Griffiths’ portfolio of projects are all designed to remain timeless, experimenting with restraint and a signature monochrome palette that’s often layered with unexpected colour and texture. 

    As part of our Designer Interview series we had the pleasure of speaking with Gillianne on how music has informed her work, her defining aesthetic and how she is continually inspired by Belgian design. 

    What sparked your interest in interior design? 

    Gillianne Griffiths: I began my career as a professional musician. I was a music director for years but always had a huge passion for architecture and design. I instinctively knew it would be a natural progression when I retired from musical performance. That led me to study design and eventually launch my own practice.

    How did your career in design begin?

    Gillianne Griffiths: When my husband got a posting to Singapore it became clear that we were travelling which certainly promoted the decision to then move into my second career, interior architecture and design.

    Once returning to Melbourne, I completely gutted and renovated our three-storey house in preparation for sale while redesigning and reconfiguring the spaces of our new apartment. The apartment became my graduate project and subsequently got featured in Belle magazine. It gave me so much confidence to see this project featured and I must admit I only started believing in myself and design career from that moment on.

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    Brighton Residence by Studio Griffiths

    “As a musician I also learnt about architecture and art and these became a driving force in my creative expression, as they do for many composers. The volumes and forms of buildings, sculptures and paintings can inspire and shape a line of music.

    – Gillianne Griffiths

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    Brighton Residence by Studio Griffiths

    You have a master’s degree in music, majoring in conducting. Has this informed your work in any way?

    Gillianne Griffiths: Absolutely, there are many qualities in the language of music that are resonant in design – for me, the two disciplines go hand in hand. Composition, shapes, rhythm and form are used to create harmony in music as they are in design. Music and walking into any space draw upon our senses – it’s about listening, feeling and creating a mood. This is linked to the way in which people live and build a connection to their homes to make it their own.

    Like music, design is a creative process that involves combining compositions of shape, form and rhythm to produce a harmonious outcome. There are endless possibilities in the area of design, and music is one I am always inspired by and something clients can relate to. By understanding and addressing the layers of the client’s brief, I can establish the framework of the project and its uniqueness.

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    Brighton Residence by Studio Griffiths

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    This open-plan space in the Albert Park Apartment by Studio Griffiths features the Christopher Boots BCAA Pendant Light and the Moller Bench #63, designed by J.L Moller.

    How would you best describe your work; what elements define the Studio Griffiths aesthetic and philosophy?

    Gillianne Griffiths: My philosophy is to approach design with transparency and without constraints that limit a space to just one style. The studio is renowned for its uncomplicated and considered approach to intelligent design. I love minimalist and clean design, so my spaces are restrained but extremely functional and exude warmth. To keep things interesting, we always combine various compositions of shape, form and rhythm – this will produce a harmonious outcome.

    My signature colours are black, charcoal, greys, whites and tonal variations thereof, with a very muted injection of colour. In addition, neutral earthy tones layered with accents of restrained colour, unique objects and textural elements are something I am always drawn to. In a nutshell, I have a love of unassuming, tactile materials and would say my style is understated luxury – sophisticated, elegant, considered and effortless. For me, simplicity, style and elegance are the foundation to the most successful design ideas and will always remain the cornerstone of our approach to design in the studio.

    What do you find most challenging and on the flip side, most rewarding about residential design?

    Gillianne Griffiths: Combining beauty and practical function is always problematic. However, with every single project, I encourage myself and the team to take risks and to explore new territories in design that push boundaries within ourselves. I think it’s important to push yourself out of your comfort zone and learn new skills that complement your projects and help to create unique spaces and design. I’m constantly trying to expose myself to new areas of design that I might never have considered before.

    What I love the most is the end result in projects. Seeing our vision turn into reality is incredibly rewarding. However, building a strong relationship with clients and improving their way of living in their home is equally satisfying. I really enjoy studying people and making design decisions that reflect what they want specifically. The ability to shape a space that a person spends so much time in is very important to me and the team. As designers, we have more power than most people think. The environments we spend our days in affect us psychologically, so as designers we have a duty to improve these environments for our clients in our designs even though they may not realise it.

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    In the Ballarat Residence by Studio Griffiths the Menu Bronzed Brass JWDA Table Lamp features in the children’s room.

    Who or what has had the largest influence on your work?

    Gillianne Griffiths: Mostly Belgian architecture and design. Belgian designers have a wonderful approach to timeless minimalism and simplicity. I’m constantly striving for this discipline in all of our projects, but it’s also very much dependant on your client.

    I’m heavily influenced by the works of Tadao Ando, Pieter Vanrenterghem, Dirk De Meyer (obsessed with his ‘Forest House’ of stone and glass), Nicolas Schuybroek and Vincent Van Duysen. It’s their wonderful approach to monolithic forms that I love and gravitate to. I also adore Rosanna Orlandi.

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    The Mantis Wall Sconce pictured in the study of the Ballarat Residence by Studio Griffiths.

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    Ballarat Residence by Studio Griffiths

    What is the most significant project you’ve designed to date and why?

    Gillianne Griffiths: Our new residential and retail project that’s currently in its final design stages has pushed us out of our comfort zone in terms of form, style and materiality. Sheer capacity and volume exposed us to areas of design that I might never have considered before and it forced me to be flexible with my thought process.

    What can we expect from Studio Griffiths in the coming year? 

    Gillianne Griffiths: Considering the devastation and disruption Australians and the world are facing due to COVID-19, it’s with great uncertainty that we grapple with the upheaval and the effect it’s had on our market and design industry economically. The studio is just grateful to be working on some exciting new projects at an early design stage.

    We’re working on a very special residential project in Toorak with Workroom Design and into the final design stages. Likewise, we have a beautiful showroom design in Mornington that will resume construction in July and a stunning new build in Mt Martha.

    Design Insider’s Guide:

    Favourite local designers and studios?

    Gillianne Griffiths: David Flack, Matt Gibson, Mardi Doherty, Lucy Bock, Kestie Lane and CJH Studio.

    Favourite design stores? 

    Gillianne Griffiths: I really love Dedece and Space Furniture – the high ceilings and products are insane. The new Living Edge space is simply divine as well.

    Then there are Modern Times, Clay Canoe, The Hub General Store, The Plant Society, Craft Victoria, Designstuff, The Nomad Society, Vincent Design and Lightly.

    Favourite Galleries and Spaces? 

    Gillianne Griffiths: Gertrude Contemporary Gallery, Flinders Lane Gallery, Robin Boyd House and Rose Seidler House.

    Where do you go to look at great design?

    Gillianne Griffiths: Travel, nature and rural life – I get inspired by the sights and sounds of the unfamiliar. I have a real passion for Europe and the historical influences and references that prevail in European design. Skiing is another huge passion of mine. My affinity with the glorious skiing landscape and its colours, natural elements and ski lodges you will see through my designs.

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    Gillianne Griffiths

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