I absorb myself into a client’s thought process when I first take their brief.
Suzie Stanford

Furniture and lighting designer Suzie Stanford has just returned from Hong Kong. There, Stanford caught up with a new buyer at Lane Crawford to present her new collection. While there was some trepidation meeting a new buyer, Stanford had no cause for concern, given everything that’s sent to the prestigious stores, in both Hong Kong and Shanghai, literally sell from the showrooms as soon as they arrive.

Stanford, who is Melbourne-based, made her mark on the design scene initially with her fine china teacup lights. Then came her collection of furniture using vintage linen tea towels for upholstery. More recently, Stanford started working with rich tapestries, sourced from all parts of the globe. And those who have entered a Megan Park fashion store would have noticed the unusual brass clusters of animals, beautifully fashioned into everything from door handles to lamp bases.

Stanford, unlike many others in her industry, didn’t graduate from design school. She calls herself an ‘up-cycler’, transforming pre-loved furniture and objects into truly magical contemporary design. Drop into her Melbourne studio and she’s likely to be tatting a tapestry or sorting through brass animals and insects that will inform the latest commission.

“People send me things from all over the world,” says Stanford, opening up the latest package to arrive on her doorstep. This time it’s not a beautiful tapestry but a crude bit of tatting of an apple with a worm, more appropriate to patching jeans, from the 1970s. “This one unfortunately won’t make it onto a chair,” she adds.

Paul Smith Show
One of the make-up artists working on his collections showed my jewellery to one of his designers. And the rest is history.
Suzie Stanford

After Stanford returned to Melbourne from London in 2001, working as an investment banker, she was keen to try her hand at something more creative. Her first venture was in contemporary jewellery. Sorting through her mother’s costume jewellery, Stanford refashioned these pieces into striking pendants, earrings and rings. One of the designs from her ‘Crown Jewel Collection’ was worn by a friend to a Paul Smith fashion show in London. Stanford proceeded to create jewellery for Smith’s stores, including London, Paris, Milan and Los Angeles.

As well as now designing furniture collections for Lane Crawford andbespoke items for architects and designers, Stanford takes on private commissions from clients, both in Australia and abroad. For one menswear boutique in Melbourne, Stanford designed a series of chairs covered in jockey silks. Other chairs were covered in men’s pinstripe jackets, with one chair even cheekily exposing its pink jocks. Other chairs were simply covered in hessian, providing a rustic and worn patina to the store’s interior.

Stanford’s Mona Lisa chair, for example, allows the sitter to be surrounded by 15 Mona Lisa tapestries. One Mona Lisa looks slightly cross-eyed. Another has a pasty complexion. “One of the tapestries used for this chair came from Prague, another from Israel. I’ve got pen pals (more correctly internet pals) from all over the place,” says Stanford. While Stanford was hoping to see her Mona Lisa chair end up in Paris, close to the original in the Louvre, it found its way into the home of an adoring Melbourne collector of Stanford’s work.

Stanford’s ‘whiteboard’ is literally awash with projects on the go. There’s the series of cluster brass handles for a hotel in Dubai that will open doors to the hotel’s restaurants, cafes and function rooms. There are also tapestries surrounding Stanford’s workbench depicting either winter or spring/summer seasons. One tapestry features deer and a Swiss cottage, while at the top of another pile are scenes of gardens in full bloom. “They were designed for a couple living in London, a subtle play on his and hers,” says Stanford. Then there’s the commission to create lighting for Manapan, a collection of furniture designed by some of Australia’s leading creatives working with the Indigenous community on Milingimbi Island in Arnhem Land.

For Stanford, the pleasure not only comes from producing unique designs that are totally customised to suit a space, domestic or commercial, but as importantly, creating something that’s magical. “I absorb myself into a client’s thought process when I first take their brief. It has to speak to them and respond to their journey in life,” adds Stanford.

Words by Stephen Crafti.

Lifestyle & Design

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