Friends for over ten years and co-founders for the last four, Kylie Dorotic and Alicia McKimm joined talent forces in 2013 to establish Golden (formerly We Are Huntly). Now, with more than 60 multidisciplinary projects under their belts and a growing collection of well-deserved accolades, it’s no wonder Golden has outgrown its ‘new kid on the block’ title and established themselves as front-runners in the design field.
Turning heads by making their own mark on the Australian interior design industry, their sophisticated yet holistic aesthetic has got their future looking positively golden. Having already featured many of Golden’s projects on est, including their South Yarra Apartment, Balaclava House and Moby3143 it was time to finally hear from the designers themselves.
Fresh back from their recent London travels to accept their win at the UK Restaurant & Bar Design Awards (earning themselves the top spot of the best overall restaurant for the Penny Drop Café) we caught up with Golden directors Kylie and Alicia to talk inspiration, philosophy and the big re-brand.
PHOTOGRAPHY: Sharyn Cairns, Brooke Holm and Sean Fennessey
You both originally met early on while studying design at Swinburne University. Why did you decide that it was time to start your practice Golden (formerly We Are Huntly) in 2013?
Kylie: The driving force was the need for creative freedom. When setting out to start working on my own without a strong plan, I didn’t believe it would end up here and in this timeframe. I had a great level of respect for Alicia’s design aesthetic and we had collaborated together before. So, when the decision to start a business together came up, it felt right. I knew working together would produce a richer quality of work and make for a much more enjoyable day-to-day experience.
Alicia: Having my own practice had always been something I wanted to do since those early university days. However, I had also always known I didn’t necessarily want to do this on my own. Working together at two different firms gave me a huge amount of respect for Kylie’s design sensibility and approach. When she started to work for herself, it felt like a “seize the moment” situation and I decided to join her.
How has the practice developed since then and what prompted the re-brand earlier this year?
Kylie: The practice has grown very quickly, from a team of two (Alicia and I) to a team of six. Due to this, we felt the need for a more mature approach to our identity, something with longevity that reflected the level of work we were producing. We set out to refresh the brand identity, and it slowly evolved into a name change. When it was put on the table it felt right to make the change as GOLDEN reflects who we are as a studio and is more in line with the level of work we are producing.
Alicia: It started with a little niggle, where we knew something wasn’t the right fit with our former brand. Our business had gained traction and, as we took on an amazing team of designers over the years, we were no longer so focused in production as directors. At some point last year, we were able to pop our heads up and look at the company holistically. From there the processed spiralled.
As co-directors, what different skill set(s) do you each bring to the business and how does this shape your individual focus on the company?
Kylie: Our role in the business is currently the same however, smaller tasks are varied. My focus is more on the design, marketing and sales side of the business. I’m the big picture dreamer and Alicia balances that out with her strong business sensibility. In terms of design Alicia and I believe our combined aesthetic is what drives the GOLDEN studio and our creative focus.
Alicia: I tend to be the practical voice of reason in the partnership. I enjoy numbers and was a maths geek at school, so I naturally fell into handling some of the financial components of the business too.
How is the Golden studio structured? i.e. How big is your team and how many projects do you engage at any one time?
Kylie: Alicia and I are Directors, and work with an Associate Interior Designer, two interior Designers and our Studio Manager.
Alicia: We have a team of six, which expands to seven if we have a casual design contractor or intern. We juggle 10-15 projects in the studio at any one time, as our work can stop and start depending on the phase of the project.
What is Golden’s main priority when starting a project? Is there something that is fundamental to your practice that you consider first and foremost?
Kylie: The fundamental focus for us is producing an interior that is driven by one big idea. This will be derived from a combination of factors – the client’s brief, the budget and the location. The GOLDEN focus is to produce interiors that are timeless, high quality, holistic, functional and beautifully detailed.
Alicia: We like to establish the story and from here we zone in on the smaller details. By starting big it allows us to not get lost through the process as the project turns and changes.
Golden has already built an impressive portfolio in a short amount of time, have there been any stand out projects or clients to date?
Kylie: Perhaps, The Penny Drop as it’s the project that just keeps giving.
Alicia: The Penny Drop has really established our business. The process was very enjoyable and we had an amazing client and team, which also made for a great outcome. However, this is one of many!
Finally, who or what are some of your key creative influences or sources of inspiration?
Kylie: Authentic, timeless designers such as Piero Lissoni, John Pawson and Ilse Crawford are deeply influential to me. Modernism continues to inspire me – I recently purchased an amazing mid-century home, and am trying to bring the bones of the home back to life. The house is split level with a pitched ceiling, and beautiful windows that accentuate the view. Travel also inspires me. I recently visited Japan, and was drawn to the function, detail and beauty of Japanese modernism. I really responded to the small spaces that featured considered, systematic details and an array of beautiful textures.
Alicia: The bold yet refined homes of Brazilian architect Marcio Kogan continue to inspire me. The materiality of Carlo Scarpa’s work and the emotional, sensory quality of Ilse Crawford’s have been hugely influential. Printed magazines are also a go-to – from Elle Décor, to Vogue Living and Belle.
Golden’s Insider Guide to Melbourne…
Where do you live in Melbourne and what do you love most about it?
Kylie: I’ve recently moved to the Mornington Peninsula. I love the amazing architecture in the area, along with the coastline, fresh air and tranquillity.
Alicia: I live Bayside – I love the beach.
Favourite places to eat?
Kylie: I love Japanese food – Misuzus in Albert Park is always a winner.
Alicia: Irori is a local Japanese gem. Mr Miyagi is our studio local – it has the best music playlist in Melbourne – and if I’m feeling a journey Northside, I can’t go past Cutler & Co.
Favourite places to drink?
Kylie: The answer to this is always weather-dependent! When I lived in Elwood, The Stokehouse was a go-to for a local warm weather drink. For coffee, I love Sorsi e Morsi – it feels like a second home. I’m still exploring my new surrounds, so there’s no doubt that many of the establishments and wineries are going to form a part of the list soon.
Alicia: There’s been a lot less spontaneous drinking since I had my daughter Arlo two years ago. But Siglo has always been a favourite for rooftop cocktails. Nowadays, drinks tend to be more local – The Grosvenor, The Local and Stokehouse for the warmer weather.
Favourite places to shop? Kylie: I do love an online purchase, however nothing can replace the experience of shopping in store. I love the boutiques along High St, Armadale, and Paloma Bleu in Albert Park has a great range of labels. Herman Store has become a new local, with a range of Australian labels. I love Zimmerman and Magali Pacsal.
Alicia: Typically, I’m drawn to smaller boutiques that have a curated collection of different brands – Frowtribe in Hampton, and Tuchuzy in Sydney are both favourites. I also tend to gravitate towards local Australian brands, such as Viktoria & Woods, Zimmerman, and Sir The Label.