Melissa Collison is not what you would call a regular interior designer. Take her approach to the design of Sake, a Japanese restaurant. She convinced a staff member to get naked, be painted head-to-toe in a dragon tattoo design by make-up artist Wayne Chick, and have her photograph taken by fashion photographer Paul Westlake for the project. The image became the muse and artwork throughout the restaurant. For another commercial project Melissa art directed a photo shoot with photographer Anson Smart that involved a pig carcass and traditional butchery tools so that they could then become the visual touchstone for Swine & Co in Sydney’s CBD. Residential clients themselves haven’t had to go through such rigorous processes, but her interior designs for their homes have been equally memorable.

Which five words best describe you? Brave, determined, empathetic, inquisitive, adventurous and glamorous - oh, is that six?

How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? With a mother who is an artist who worked with oils plus and always changing our home around, painting, wallpapering, new furniture, picking flowers, I was surrounded by it. When I decided to begin my own business I worked around the clock to get started. I just keep going. I see life as a surprise: I see the good in most or I turn everything I can into something good, but I also know when to let go. 

The path I have taken is determination. You can’t teach that. I never try to make a client live in what I like to live in or design. Our work isn’t cookie cutter. When I meet with a client, I take on board snippets they can tell me about themselves, their life and work with what they have. I take the brief they give me to the next level - I hope it gives them more than what they imagined.

What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? Listen, learn, explore: repeat. Be brave. Smile.

What’s your proudest career achievement? My proudest career achievement is that I am doing what I love. Also, that I work with an amazing team. That I have wonderful clients. To have achieved getting here, being here and still loving it.

What’s been your best decision? Travel for inspiration. Never stop travelling and learning and experiencing. Remain open.

Who inspires you? I'm inspired by life. Every day holds something new. However, if I could have the talents of Louis Kahn, the style of Catherine Deneuve, have a home in Palm Springs, vacation in Corsica with Alain Delon, and live between New York and Patagonia, then I’d be truly inspired.

What are you passionate about? I am totally passionate about creating for my clients, whether I am designing a restaurant, home or a block or apartments. Also the experience of travelling and seeing life. One of my secret passions is cooking. I cook a lot for friends. It’s pure joy seeing everyone happy around the table.

Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? Hanging out with Peggy Gugenhiem in Venice could be fun.

What dream do you still want to fulfil? I feel like I've only just begun. I have no idea what life holds. But I am totally open to it. Right now, I’m working on establishing a series of outdoor events that promote health and vitality for young girls and women that allows them to be brave. And, there is something else in the pipeline - can’t reveal it just yet.

What are you reading? These interview questions, and Blink by Malcolm Gladwell.

images courtesy of melissa collison