“No two projects are ever the same,” says interior designer Fiona Lynch. The unexpected nature of her work is part of the reason why she steered away from a career in fine arts and diverted towards interiors. But the two disciplines are often at play in her designs. “I love bringing my fine art background into my interiors through my exploration of materials and details,” she says. Over the past 15 years Fiona has worked at a range of practices and last year went solo after working in partnership with Mardi Doherty (interview here) for four years under the the name Doherty Lynch. Since then Fiona has worked on a range of interior projects, including the restaurant Prix Fixe, which received a high recommendation at the 2014 Eat Drink Awards. It’s the project she’s most proud of. “Given the difficult space we had to work with I think we have delivered a project that is wonderfully unique and beautiful.” Fiona has also recently released her second range of rugs, Shard, which are made in Australia.

Which five words best describe you? Creative, organised, ambitious, fun, intuitive.

How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? I first completed a fine art degree (honours) in painting before going onto study interior design, also at RMIT. I was fortunate to land an intern job at Geyer Design, a high-end corporate and retail firm. I was at Geyer for the four years of my course, which was a great foundation before following my partner to Canberra for a year. MGT Architects - an American firm that designed our iconic new Parliament house - offered me a job and this was a wonderful experience, working on projects such as the Finnish embassy, State Library of South Australia and multi-residential projects in Hong Kong. A move back to Melbourne lead to a new job at John Wardle Architects where I worked on projects such as the wonderful Vineyard House, City Hill House and Yarra Bend House. This cemented my love of residential projects. A small period followed at Bates Smart where I worked on Victoria Gardens, a high-end project in Beijing. Ultimately by 2004 I was ready to launch my own business, which was just over 10 years ago.

In 2009 Mardi Doherty and I joined forces for four successful years. However, I found myself yearning to go back out on my own to focus on my own style and approach to business. This was a huge leap of faith launching the Fiona Lynch design office at the end of 2013. Leaving behind the security of a set-up office with systems was terrifying but also a liberating experience. I now have a small team of three senior designers and a senior architect we only run a small range of projects at any one time so we can give each project our complete focus and attention. In the past 16 months we have designed numerous residential projects, a restaurant Prix Fixe, a shoe shop for Habbot and two butcher shops. We have some wonderful opportunities coming up this year with a rural project in Holbrook designing a guest house, a renovation of Cannings original store in Hawthorn and assisting with two upcoming exhibitions at Tarrawarra art gallery, French installation artist Pierre Huyghe and Australian painter Howard Arkley later in the year.

What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? Listen to your inner voice. If something is bothering you about a design you are working on it will most definitely bother you when it is built.

What’s your proudest career achievement? Prix Fixe received a high recommendation at the Eat Drink Awards. The brief was based on the concept of “the theatre of food” where the food would be the star, complemented by an intimate, dining experience. The design concept was to create a beautiful and elegant interior whilst referencing the original 1980s architecture and style but at the same time a recessive backdrop to the food, and the response has been so rewarding. In the last few months I finally feel I have created a studio which has a definite and clear design language. This is a wonderful feeling.

What’s been your best decision? Following my dream of integrating my fine art background and interiors. My friends from art school are my biggest supporters as they can see that all of the elements that I was interested in when studying fine art painting have been drawn across into my interiors. I have always been inspired by artists who explored materiality such as Eva Hesse and Rachel Whiteread. I finally feel I have an understanding of materials and colour and how these are paramount to the experience I wish to create in my interiors. Relaunching my own design office was a big leap of faith, but it has been completely empowering. We recently celebrated our first birthday, which was an amazing moment to pause and reflect on an incredible year. And 2015 is already off to a flying start with many past clients returning and new client opportunities.

Who inspires you? Ilse Crawford has a design language very much in tune with my own approach. Her focus on materials and tactility is something I have always placed great importance.

What are you passionate about? I am passionate about many things. Firstly, beautiful original design. We see design as the expression of a story through materials, so we strive to create spaces of warmth, emotion and livability, always striving to deliver outcomes that are completely resolved and authentic. I’m also passionate about relationships. Relationships are at the core of every successful project and interior design is in essence a service industry, therefore we invest time in understanding the needs of our clients, working in collaboration with our suppliers, and nurturing a positive environment for our team.  

Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? Artist Ricky Swallow. His recent Bronze exhibition of vessels work is incredible. A very different understanding of materiality to his large-scale slick Dark Vader head I saw at the Ian Potter many years ago. I have a book on his Bronze exhibition and am inspired by the way he works texture into this body of work. He has somehow made bronze look ceramic and hand built but these works also remind me of Picasso’s Guitar collage series, which I also love. I studied fine art and it is an incredible influence on my work to this day, reflected in our interpretation of colour, materials, texture and lighting. 

What dream do you still want to fulfil? Designing a boutique hotel. To have such a vast blank canvas with so many possibilities would be a dream. It also combines our three core divisions of hospitality and commercial – all with a residential flair. 

What are you reading? Apart from design blogs and magazines really poor attempts at a stack of novels on my bedside table. Most exciting though is Ilse Crawford’s A Frame for Life, which just arrived on my desk. I’m looking forward to getting into that.

images courtesy of fiona lynch; photography brooke holm, styling marsha golemac; photography gorta yuuki (second kitchen)