5 Minutes with Hecker Guthrie
19 January 2020
5 Minutes with Paul Hecker & Hamish Guthrie
Hecker Guthrie, based in Melbourne, is one of Australia’s leading design practices undertaking projects in the hospitality, residential, retail and commercial sectors, both here and abroad.
The directors, Paul Hecker and Hamish Guthrie founded the practice 18 years ago. Over that period they have forged a distinct approach to their multi-disciplinary practice through a series of closely held beliefs that include the expression of authenticity from the initial idea, through a series of spatial decisions and material choices, to the finished space.
We are excited to announce that Hecker Guthrie is the studio behind our brand new Sydney and Brisbane showrooms opening this year.
We sat down with Paul and Hamish to discuss all things design, furniture, Melbourne and the inspiration behind our new showrooms.
How would you describe the Hecker Guthrie aesthetic?
We’ve always focused our energy on creating spaces that evade notional trends. Our muse has always been authenticity in all its forms. It is not so much about creating an aesthetic as it is about conjuring an experience, creating stories and letting a narrative take its own form.
Our aesthetic isn’t something built out of a particular visual approach or fashionable design response. It’s more so borne out of the principles we hold true as a studio – consideration, authenticity and enthusiasm. Our projects are always well researched in terms of concept and historical design references. We’re not a studio that tries to reinvent the wheel, but we do contextualise our work as a contemporary interpretation of these references. There’s also a strong sense of natural materiality in all we do, as well as an engagement with craft, which makes for a relaxed aesthetic. Beyond that, our designs are produced out of a sense of appropriateness for the architectural framework in which we’re working, the client’s brief and a sense of unexpected joy.
What inspires your designs?
Paul: The world: the unexpected, the joyful, the historical, the beautiful…
Can you give us a little insight into your design process?
Paul: We fundamentally approach all projects in the same way, because what we’ve realised is you want to make places that people feel good to be in. That’s before you even start talking about what the aesthetic is or what things look like, I think it comes with experience, it’s less about something that’s obviously ‘now’ and more creating places that you actually like to be in. I think we’ve all been down the path where there’s an aspect of fashion and novelty to things that don’t necessarily mean it has longevity, and now I think we’re much more about what is the essence of creating a space that is beautiful – and what do you put in those spaces, what is it that makes a space special?
Hamish: I think design is, for better or worse, often misconstrued about being about a style, at a surface level, and I think it comes with maturity that you’re distilling the ideas and getting back to what does make a successful space. Through the start of your career you are exploring novelty and the gambit of ideas, you’re pushing the envelope and there’s a bit of a ‘stand out from the crowd’ aspect but I think with maturity and by learning from your own processes what spaces you’re attracted to, you stop concentrating on fit outs or surface processes and it’s less about a look, more about the quality of materiality, the spatial quality and an engagement with the experience.
It’s a considered space where you consider everything and discount the ideas that are not relevant to the essence of what you’re trying to do. Whether it’s the orientation, the materiality, everything – the work and our ideas are getting back to basic, classic ideas while finding that point of difference and unique design perspective.
Paul: We’re also looking for that theatre of the space; you want to give people a heightened sense of different things, whether it’s serenity or calm or cosiness or warmth, it’s how do we fulfil that, how do we create that. Making something immaterial become literal.
We’ve worked together a lot over the years, what has been your favourite JRF project?
Paul: Definitely the new Sydney showroom. What a privilege to start with an established successful brand and being given the opportunity to completely reassess the physical space in which it exists together with a client who is both open to ideas and willing to challenge the ideas as well.
Can you give us some insight into the new look and feel for the Sydney and Brisbane showrooms?
Paul: A sophisticated supermarket… we want to showcase as many pieces as possible in a way that feels curated and special. Making the wholesale environment feel wonderfully retail. Enter the supermarket as an unlikely inspiration… lots of shelves, lots of stuff, consistent lighting levels and the occasional moments of theatre. A place to gather and inspire, welcome clients and set the tone for the James Richardson Furniture experience.
What’s your favourite international city and why?
Copenhagen – we have both been several times and it never fails.
What’s your favourite area in Melbourne and why?
Hamish: East Melbourne – Jolimont… it’s home.
Paul: St Kilda… it’s home.
Top 3 Melbourne restaurants?
Hamish: Almost a cliché … but France Soir! Always the go-to for a great dinner and a fine catch up with friends. Marion … and I just rediscovered Enoteca on Gertrude Street. Common ingredient … good wine!
Paul: Di Stasio St Kilda, Di Stasio Citta and France Soir. Italian food served by Italian waiters; French food served by French waiters – authentic!
Favourite fashion brand?
Paul: Ralph Lauren / Burberry – love colour and plaid – no black for me!
Most treasured piece of furniture you own?
Paul: It changes every day but I think the Ox Chair by Hans Wegner must take the prize. I bought it in 1993 for what I thought was a huge sum of money and have sat in it every day since… except when I am on holiday. Works out to be 29 cents per hour … in retrospect pretty good value.