Pictured; Georgia Danos (Creative & Brand Director, JRF) & Ryan Russell and Byron George (Directors, Russell & George)
Can you please select your top 14 favourite JRF products?
Can you tell us a little bit about yourselves and your firm Russell & George?
Architecture & Design is more than what a project looks like.
At Russell & George it is based in science and experimentation. It is about the future and what that future could be. At its core is exploration and what these discoveries create. It is not about preconceived ideas but does learn from the successes and failures of what has been before, thoughtfully with acute precision.
Our design approach comes from a strong belief that spaces are for making people feel something, whether excited, relaxed, inspired, or a sense of connection. We do not have a house style. We do however try to get a deep understanding of each client’s particular needs before embarking on any design project.
We are both registered architects – Ryan has a background in Social Theory and Byron in hospitality. Design outcomes are always created through the “bounce” between the two of us and our team.
Ryan is the strategist, futurist and entrepreneur within the business, and now he is venturing another company under the Russell & George umbrella into the fields of information technology, augmented and virtual reality and software development.
Byron on the other hand is the humanist. He has a design philosophy that encompasses a mix of curiosity, energy, and a fundamental belief in the ability of good design to change a person’s day for the better. Byron also provides a wholly unique approach within our studio in regard to the procurement of architecture and design that is industry leading.
How did the two of you meet and what drove you to open your own studio?
We met on a dance floor, 17 years ago.
We had our own design studios.
We then dated for a couple of years.
We moved in together.
We decided to form a company to fully utilise our complementary skills (it also meant less tax returns and less insurances to pay).
We then got a dog.
We then broke up.
We live next door to one another now.
We share custody of our beloved dog, Fergie.
We still run the company together.
We remain best friends.
(If you want the gritty details we’re happy to share over a Caviar Martini at the Society bar, haha)
We are very excited to announce that we have collaborated on a piece together, the love child of JRF and Russell & George, The Lil Chair. Talk us through the design brief and the inspiration and name behind this collaboration?
In hospitality spaces or any commercial space, like hotels, the size of the piece of furniture you place can affect the bottom line. An extra 4 seats in a bar can add great revenue and make a space more commercially viable.
We were struggling to find a compact armchair that did what we wanted, at the right price point so we decided to collaborate with JRF to achieve our exact specification.
What we ended up with was the Lil Chair, a relatively compact footprint that allows people to move around the piece with quite narrow circulation paths, without compromising the comfort of the person sitting down or intruding on their personal space. The chair is relatively upright and cocoons the individual. It also had to be able to be lounged in so you could rest your hand on the armrest, with a cocktail of course.
This collaborative project was designed to complement the interior and the ambience of Chris Lucas’ newest project, Society Restaurant, also designed by Russell & George. Society is a 400-seat venue, located in the heart of Melbourne’s CBD. Tell us more about this project?
Society is one of those once in a lifetime projects. It’s rare that you get to spend 4 years working on a project where everyone involved is at the top of their game in terms of where they are in their career, let alone try to open it during a pandemic.
It’s essentially a restaurant, or rather a series of layered experiences. Epic in its offer and approach, the first level comprises a Main Dining Room with terrace overlooking Exhibition Street, a lobby/lounge bar entry experience, a wine cellar for 6000 bottles that you can walk through on you way to Lillian, a custom built pavilion by us that also houses another more casual dining experience, again with terrace overlooking Collins St. It has a state-of-the-art kitchen, spanning two levels, employing around 60 chefs per sitting. Ascend the staircase and you find 2 private dining rooms attached to a private bar, and a final private room in which a chef will create a custom menu and cook it in front of you for 20 of your closest friends.
It is designed to be a place that you come back to time and time again rather than just a special occasion venue.
The space has been carefully crafted by our studio in terms of fit out, decor, services, and social dynamics. We got to design pretty much everything, from chandeliers, other lamps, chairs (including Lil with JRF), tables and other decorative items, as well as style it.
It’s rare to have these opportunities and we thank everyone that worked on the project, but especially Mr Chris Lucas for having the vision to put it all together and employ us to develop the interior design and architecture.
It’s difficult to describe, we suggest simply if you get the opportunity to go, go!
What do you think makes the Melbourne hospitality scene so special?
Diversity on offer at every price point; Melbourne’s insatiable appetite for trying out new things food-wise, and the collegiate and egalitarian way Melbournians like to dine out together.
What are your non-negotiables when choosing furniture for hospitality venues aside from the aesthetic?
Durability, comfort and acoustics. We want people to spend hours in our hospitality projects and there is nothing worse than being uncomfortable. We also want the furniture to last the test of time, be well loved and age gracefully. We also need chairs to glide quietly and seamlessly, nothing like the screeching of the moving chair next to you to ruin a hot date.
What’s next for Russell & George?
Right now we are looking forward to resting (the Victorian lockdowns have taken their toll on us and our team) and seeing some friends and family.
In 2022 we have a number of exciting projects including some of our own that we are trying to get off the ground. We also look forward to travelling again, and seeing our many friends and clients also. It’s time to reconnect with the world.
Now for some quick-fire questions:
What is the first international city you will travel to post pandemic?
Ryan: Buenos Aires to go trek that glacier I was supposed to before Covid hit.
Byron: Helsinki or Oslo again – itching for Scandinavian winter and the Arctic.
What is the most treasured piece of furniture you own?
Ryan: A crystal lamp that has been handed down through my family for generations.
Byron: My Adelphi chairs – designed by DCM for the original bar on the roof – bit of a design tragedy that it was unsympathetically renovated.
Most memorable dining experiences?
Ryan: Society, Eleven Madison Park, Noma, Ett Hem.
Byron: What he said, but also Noma Sydney – It took a Danish chef to make food that actually captured what Australia is in taste.
Ryan: I have a number that I keep going back to but during the lockdowns “Me talk pretty one day” by David Sedaris kept things light and in perspective.
Byron: “Kafka on the Shore” by Haruki Murakami.
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