When we first stumbled upon textile and home-ware design studio Bonnie And Neil, we had an involuntary reaction to pull out the weekender and stuff as many bathing suits and sunscreen into it as possible…it made us want to sail away on a palm frond with a pineapple in hand, and it was by no means near summertime.
There is something soothing and calm about their line of colorful creations. You know you’re looking at something special when a table cloth can send you on a vacation right in your own dining room. Anyone else suddenly want to install a hammock near the kitchen?
We were lucky enough to get a moment and chat with the design duo about their inspiration, process, future plans and where we should grab a cup of coffee the next time we’re in Melbourne.
Studio: Bonnie & Neil
Names: Bonnie Ashley and Neil Downie
Stomping Ground: Melbourne, AU – Brunswick
We bought our home in Brunswick, which is in Melbourne North-West in 2003. We felt inspired by the area’s eclectic mix of cultures and creativity so it made sense to set up our studio there too. It’s also great to be close to work when we spend so much time there!
Your patterns are so full of life and feel like eternal summertime! We love how each new line complements the last with a balance of color and playfulness of shape. How did you fall into this creative field and what’s your favorite thing about your day-to-day creating work?
Neil and I have collective backgrounds in floristry, art, textiles, furniture and set design, so it’s the combination of these that brought our label to life. We’ve always been working on some creative project or another, so it was inevitable that one day we’d design products of our own! The best thing about our day-to-day is seeing how people embrace our designs and translate them into their own creative space. Whether they’re a stylist or a consumer we’re inspired by seeing our products in a different context.
How do you stay inspired and keep the work coming out of your studio fresh? Is there a particular soundtrack or type of caffeinated bevvy that keeps you on track while getting down to business?
We’re very lucky to be surrounded by loads of great coffee spots but we’re also big tea drinkers at the studio too. There’s often some kind of sweet treat floating around in the afternoon, whether one of the team has been baking or been out and bought something. We even had homemade pumpkin pie one day made by one of the blokes in the studio!!!!
There’s always a soundtrack on which varies from our local alternative radio station Triple J or Classic Hits 104.3. Or if Neil is in the studio he usually finds something on his iPhone which can be anything from BBC radio podcasts to hip hop, funk and soul.
Where’s your favorite spot to take a creative break? What should we order?
Wide Open Road on Barkly St in Brunswick. It’s one of the best coffee spots on Melbourne, everything on their menu is delicious but they make an incredible fish finger sandwich with mushy peas and their counter is always full of amazing baked goods. It’s very hard to go in there for “just a coffee”. The space is also beautiful which makes it a great location for meetings when we need to take a break from the buzz of the studio.
You are by no means just a textile company – You’ve got other things for the tabletop such as ceramics and wood objects (we love the Queensland Yellow piece). Do you have a preferred medium to work in, or is it the thrill of mixing it up and ultimately inspiring someone’s space?
Functionality plays a key role when we’re designing products – we’re always thinking about how we would use them ourselves. Neil and I love entertaining. Having friends and family over for a few glasses of wine and a home cooked meal is one of our favourite pastimes, so we’ve always collected beautiful homewares and napery to present our feasts on. Since we’ve had our own brand, dinner parties have inevitably ended up with a Bonnie and Neil theme!
What’s next!? You’ve recently won a GALA award in the handmade category (very exciting!) – has that changed how you’re looking ahead? Are there any collaborations you’re currently working on or a dream project you’d like to get started?
We love collaborations! In the past six months we’ve worked with Megan Morton for the National Gallery of Australia, Chard International for the Australian Open and Temple and Webster on a bespoke range of timber shadow boxes. Our next range, to be launched later this year includes a collaboration with Australian jewellery designer Sollis and we’ll also be part of Dulux’s colour forecast for 2015.
Our dream project is definitely a hotel… bedding, towels, ceramics, tableware, furniture… need we say more!
Can we just wrap ourselves up in everything they make? Talk about some perfect summertime staples that need to land on our tables immediately!
Add a little color into your kitchen and check out Bonnie And Neil’s online shop (Yes, America we’re getting out chance to grab up the goods very soon). Also make sure to take a behind the scenes peep of what’s going on in the studio via their instagram feed.