Interview: Sarah Cosentino & Felicity Slattery of Studio Esteta | Yellowtrace

Yellowtrace Interviews in Partnership with Laminex

 

Today we celebrate the work of two cool chicks in Australian Architecture & Interiors – Felicity Slattery and Sarah Cosentino of Studio Esteta. Hooray! We’ve previously featured two fantastic projects by the dynamic duo – Fonda Bondi and Workshop Brothers Glen Waverley. The pair is also behind the interior of Melbourne’s cult Lune Croissanterie. So you see, excellence seems to be in their blood, and I thought it was only reasonable we should get cosy, and get to know them a bit better. Add to this the fact their  (until yesterday!) was nothing but a simple holding page with a couple of flashing images, and these guys are literally my ‘perfect client’ – totally awesome, wildly talented and massively underexposed. Jackpot!

You’d be forgiven if, after that little intro, you though Esteta are all about hospitality interiors. No sir. The studio shares a wealth of experience across a variety of scales and sectors, including hospitality – yes, but also commercial and residential. Felicity and Sarah lead their team to create responsive and holistic solutions that reflect the unique personalities, commercial objectives and site-specific needs of the individuals and brands they work alongside.

“We believe in collaboration here at Esteta,” they say. Collaboration that comes from respect. Respect for their clients, respect for their team and respect for the social and environmental context in which they operate. “This underscores our belief that working collectively allows us to reach our full potential, to develop tailored outcomes that are clever, considered and collaborative.” See? Legends. All this cleverness and they are still absolutely unafraid to admit they are suckers for Trashy TV, Abba, Musicals and Smooth FM. Two ladies after my own heart.

 

Related:
Fonda Bondi by Studio Esteta.
Workshop Brothers Glen Waverley by Studio Esteta.

 

Interview: Studio Esteta. Photo by Martina Gemmola | Yellowtrace
Felicity Slattery & Sarah Cosentino of Studio Esteta. Photo by .

Capertee Cottage by Studio Esteta. Photo by Tatjana Plitt | Yellowtrace

Capertee Cottage by Studio Esteta. Photo by Tatjana Plitt | Yellowtrace

Capertee Cottage by Studio Esteta. Photo by Tatjana Plitt | Yellowtrace

Capertee Cottage by Studio Esteta. Photo by Tatjana Plitt | Yellowtrace
Capertee Cottage. Photography by .

 

+ Hello Sarah & Felicity, and welcome to Yellowtrace! Could you please give us a quick introduction on yourselves? When did you first become interested in the world of design and architecture? And what path lead you to starting your business together?

We were both inspired by and exposed to the world of design and architecture from a young age and coincidentally both have our grandparents to thank for this!

SC: My Nonna was a seamstress and Nonno a photographer, so as a young girl there were many weekends spent troweling through fabrics and assisting in the creation of beautifully detailed and delicate garments whilst also lending a hand developing photos in my Nonno’s dark room. Looking back, it was potentially these early experiences where my interest in tactile quality and materiality developed.

During my primary school years, drawing houses became a hobby… I would make up imaginary families that would occupy my houses, highly entertaining. My mid-teens found me constantly reconfiguring my bedroom and most of the house for that matter! It was at this point that I decided I wanted to pursue architecture, interior design AND fashion design. Clearly I was delusional and pursued a bachelor degree of Interior Architecture instead.

After completing my studies I worked for large architectural firms, prior to working for where I met Felicity…

FS: My grandparents on my mother’s side were both architects practicing during the Australian modernist era. My Grandfather designed and built their modernist house in Sydney and practiced alongside the likes of Harry Seidler. My grandmother went on to raise their family but also establish a curtain and soft furnishings business with my mother. They both worked out of their home and as a young girl I would spend a lot of time with them. I would watch my grandfather hand drafting, and would often sneak into his office and pretend I was an ‘important’ architect, telephone in one hand, whilst ‘drafting’ (scribbling) my dream home! My mother is also an artist so from a young age I was exposed to the world of art. I was taken along on gallery or painting/drawing trips and from this age developed a keen interest in design and the visual arts.

After completing a Master’s Degree of Architecture at Sydney University I worked for smaller architectural studios in Sydney prior to moving to Melbourne where I worked for Clare Cousins Architects and met Sarah.

It was whilst working for Clare Cousins Architects that we developed a strong friendship and working relationship, with many shared values both personally and professionally. Individually, we had always aspired to one day have our own practice, and it was later when our paths crossed, that the opportunity arose and we felt we could contribute something unique to the design community.

 

Capertee Cottage by Studio Esteta. Photo by Tatjana Plitt | Yellowtrace

Capertee Cottage by Studio Esteta. Photo by Tatjana Plitt | Yellowtrace

Capertee Cottage by Studio Esteta. Photo by Tatjana Plitt | Yellowtrace
Capertee Cottage. Photography by Tatjana Plitt.

 

+ What is your main priority when starting projects? Is there something that is fundamental to your practice – your philosophy and your process?

Our approach stems fundamentality from our name and where it originates. Esteta is derived from the Italian translation of the word Aesthete – a person who is appreciative of and sensitive to beauty. We believe in the many facets of beauty, often raw and unpredictable and it is this that begins to inform our approach to a project alongside the ephemeral and physical qualities and context of a site.

Also critical to our approach and process is developing a thorough understanding of the individual personalities and qualities of our Clients, whether a residential client or hospitality brand.

We find the early stages of any project highly important and a critical time to talk with our clients, ask many questions, and most importantly, to listen.

By listening to our clients we strive to develop tailored and individual outcomes that seek to be clever, considered and collaborative, which we like to approach as a workshop. This assists in the development of a sound brief and holistic understanding of their brief.

Fundamental to our overall approach is our strong belief and value in honesty, transparency and unpretentiousness, which guides our behaviour as a studio but similarly our approach with materials and design.

 

Fleetwood Office by Studio Esteta. Photo by Sarah Anderson | Yellowtrace

Fleetwood Office by Studio Esteta. Photo by Sarah Anderson | Yellowtrace

Fleetwood Office by Studio Esteta. Photo by Sarah Anderson | Yellowtrace

Fleetwood Office by Studio Esteta. Photo by Sarah Anderson | Yellowtrace
Fleetwood Office. Photography by .

 

+ How do you go about initiating projects – do you do this together or separately? You must find that your amazing partnership enriches your output, but is there ever a time when you drive each other crazy, or when designing or working together can be challenging?

Being in a partnership we’re a strong believer in collaboration, and approach the initial phases of our projects together. In particular, client briefings and workshops, as well as our own internal workshops, provide the opportunity to both determine project objectives, conceptual and design ideas.

This collaborative approach can have its challenges. The main challenge being prioritising the time to have these conversations, but they are crucial to our approach and our practice, and ensure that as a team we’re working towards the same outcome.

We have found the recent implementation of fortnightly pin ups (over wine for maximum creative output!) enables all to contribute, interrogate ideas, and together come to a sound resolution.

Beyond the early design phases, we then evenly split our projects and individually drive them alongside an assigned project leader, with constant input from the studio along the way.

Safe to say we definitely don’t drive each other crazy! We were fortunate to have worked together prior to forming a partnership. But further, we have mutual respect for each other and value and appreciate each other’s opinions. We also find we’re quite complimentary to each other’s skillsets.

 

Fonda Bondi by Studio Esteta | Yellowtrace

Fonda Bondi by Studio Esteta | Yellowtrace

Fonda Bondi by Studio Esteta | Yellowtrace
Fonda Bondi. Photography by .

 

+ How is your studio structured? How many of you work in the studio, what types of skills do you have in-house, is there anything you are outsourcing, and how many projects do you handle at any one time?

We are currently a team of four including two designers and ourselves. When we expand further, we envisage growing our team to be an equal balance of both architects and designers. Being a small practice the fluidity between the creative disciplines is of high significance to us. We encourage exposure across all stages of our projects to foster a broader learning for our staff.

All of our work, including the administrative and marketing side of the business is managed in house, which keeps our weeks extremely busy, but constantly varied, exciting and inspiring.

We currently have 15 projects in the office, a combination of both residential and commercial of various scales. We strive for an equal balance of both sectors at any one time, (easier said than done however). But we do find the broad mix keeps our days varied, and the office ticking over.

 

Fonda Bondi by Studio Esteta | Yellowtrace

Fonda Bondi by Studio Esteta | Yellowtrace
Fonda Bondi. Photography by Tessa Ross Phelan. Light blue coloured laminate finish on fixed booth table tops by .

 

+ How do you organise and manage the competing demands of modern business and life? Do you have any tip or tricks you could share with us that help you in your day to day (i.e. software, online tools, shortcuts, task management, cheat sheets, advisors, anything!)

We love a good old-fashioned to-do-list, there’s nothing more rewarding than crossing out the actioned items! We’ve taken this further by introducing the app ‘Wunderlist’ to the studio that creates an online ‘live’ list, enabling us to delegate tasks and keep updated once items are actioned.

We also love an excel spreadsheet and have a few simple documents we’ve set up that assist in our project forecasting and monthly targets.

Harvest is used for our timesheets, project tracking and estimating, Xero for invoicing and keeping us up to date with the financials.

As Directors in a partnership, we have equally delegated the administrative and marketing tasks that are critical for a small business, including business development, forecasting, resourcing, marketing etc. This assists us to both equally be across and prioritise the creative side of our projects.

 

Lune by Studio Esteta. Photo by Tom Blachford | Yellowtrace

Lune by Studio Esteta. Photo by Tom Blachford | Yellowtrace

Lune by Studio Esteta. Photo by Tom Blachford | Yellowtrace
Lune Croissanterie. Photography by .

 

+ What do you feel is the most challenging part of being a designer/ architect today? And if you could change one thing about the industry, what would it be?

We are in an era where project deadlines are becoming shorter and technological advances in computer software afford the user to develop designs in expedited timeframes. But we, as designers, must not lose track or lessen the practice of design fundamentals such as end user functionality, designing within context, sustainability, longevity and the phenomenological aspects of design.

Architecture and design is a social-art that is so important for everyday society. As an industry, we must not lose sight of this and as a society must recognize and support this further.

We often find ourselves having to justify the value of design and the worth of investing in design services, more than we should have to.

It’s a big conversation, but the output of architecture and design in Australia is so strong today, however the broader social value of design is somewhat behind. There needs to be broader education, potentially from a younger age. We should look towards the Scandinavian countries for cues and precedents.

 

Merricks Guest House by Studio Esteta. Photo by Tom Blachford | Yellowtrace

Merricks Guest House by Studio Esteta. Photo by Tom Blachford | Yellowtrace

Merricks Guest House by Studio Esteta. Photo by Tom Blachford | Yellowtrace

Merricks Guest House by Studio Esteta. Photo by Tom Blachford | Yellowtrace

Merricks Guest House by Studio Esteta. Photo by Tom Blachford | Yellowtrace
Merricks Guest House. Photography by Tom Blachford.

 

+ What are some of your methods to stay motivated, focused and expressive? And your top 3 main sources of inspiration and references you are drawn to regularly – i.e. books, magazines, websites/ blogs etc?

Travel is an amazing source of inspiration! Being amongst new surroundings, unfamiliar territory and immersed in a different culture is always inspiring and often when all the senses are heightened and one can be in the moment. This is typically when some exciting observations result, that most times go on to inspire our design approach.

When travel isn’t an option, blogs like the amazing Yellowtrace and Dezeen and local and international magazines including Artichoke, Houses, Wallpaper, Monocle and Cereal bring so much talent to our fingertip, which constantly keeps us inspired and up to date.

Industry events, whether it a lecture, a showroom party or awards night provides the opportunity to (get out of the office!) be inspired and educated amongst our peers.

We also find working on a variety of sectors and scales with an array of interesting and inspiring clients keeps us on our toes, fully engaged and inspired.

And when we need a bit of hush and respite, music, yoga and my bike (for Sarah) and a relaxing massage or long walk (for Felicity).

 

Merricks Guest House by Studio Esteta. Photo by Tom Blachford | Yellowtrace

Merricks Guest House by Studio Esteta. Photo by Tom Blachford | Yellowtrace

Merricks Guest House by Studio Esteta. Photo by Tom Blachford | Yellowtrace
Merricks Guest House. Photography by Tom Blachford.

 

+ Who or what are some of your influences? What other designers, peers and creatives in general do you admire?

We’re lucky to have lots of talented peers, many of which inspire us, and a close- knit local design community, which for us has felt supportive as opposed to competitive.

has undeniably been a role model throughout our careers, whilst working for her, but also since pursuing our own business. Her dedicated work ethic and design approach, the ability to develop a successful business whilst raising a young family has always been inspiring.

Furthermore, to see Clare recently step into the role of AIA President and a female entrusted with this important role reflects an exciting progression in our industry.

Current and past international talent that we’re all inspired by at Esteta HQ, includes, , , Tadao Ando, , , , , , , Le Corbusier and the list goes on and on!

Closer to home, there’s many but to name just a few , and .

 

The Sonic by Studio Esteta. Photo by Martina Gemmola | Yellowtrace

The Sonic by Studio Esteta. Photo by Martina Gemmola | Yellowtrace

The Sonic by Studio Esteta. Photo by Martina Gemmola | Yellowtrace
The Sonic. Photography by Martina Gemmola.

 

+ What advice would you give to emerging designers who want to follow your path? What was one of your biggest lessons learned since starting your practice?

Work hard, persevere, be patient, be passionate and most importantly believe in yourself! It’s a bit of a cliché, but if you don’t why should anyone else.

From a practical perspective, keep your industry experience varied and try and take away the positive from every project and employment opportunity. There may be times when projects and jobs aren’t as exciting or glamorous as hoped for, but regardless it’s all learnings. Be a sponge and soak it all up.

Between us both we worked for several large and smaller firms/ studios prior to starting out our own business and were able to draw upon a lot of experiences and various ways of going about tasks and running a business. It’s important to reflect on these learning’s of what to do but also what not to do and how to do things better.

There have been a few lessons learnt along the way! Mainly, trust your instinct… if something doesn’t sound right or sit well it probably won’t.

Don’t undersell yourself and your services and reflect on previous experiences/ projects and identity and assess ways of doing things better.

 

Workshop Brothers Glen Waverley by Studio Esteta | Yellowtrace

Workshop Brothers Glen Waverley by Studio Esteta | Yellowtrace

Workshop Brothers Glen Waverley by Studio Esteta | Yellowtrace
Workshop Brothers Glen Waverley. Photography by Tessa Ross Phelan. Back bar joinery fronts by .

 

+ What would be your dream creative project or a collaboration?

Our dream project would be a hotel. To work on the architecture and interior design of a hotel in a rural or remote location in Australia where the architecture and interiors bind seamlessly with the landscaping would be very special indeed.

+ What’s next – can you share with us your vision, some of your goals (and some of your current projects)?

Our vision is to be recognized and respected for our approach that seeks to listen to our clients and embrace challenge to develop tailored outcomes that are clever, considered and collaborative.

We have an array of residential and commercial projects including several architectural residential renovations in Melbourne and Sydney, a Provedore, Deli & Eatery in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs and some exciting opportunities on the horizon, both locally and offshore!

 

Workshop Brothers Glen Waverley by Studio Esteta | Yellowtrace

Workshop Brothers Glen Waverley by Studio Esteta | Yellowtrace
Workshop Brothers Glen Waverley. Photography by Tessa Ross Phelan.

 

Let’s Get Real:

+ What’s the best mistake you have ever made?

SC: Moving to London during the peak of the global financial crisis, as a young graduate, to pursue a dream of working overseas. Not the smartest idea! I faced a lot of professional rejection, but it made me fight harder to pursue the career path I have to date. It was also a great life experience and quite amazing to live in a big city.
FS: Kissing my housemate… who is now my husband and father of our daughter!

+ Best piece of advice you’ve been given?

SC: Don’t worry about the little things.
FS: Whatever works.

+ Your most treasured belonging?

SC: On a sentimental note, my Nonna’s vintage Omega watch dating back to the 1920’s. On a not-so sentimental note, my vintage tiger stone, brutalist ring that I bought for 8 euros from a Berlin flea market 6 years ago. I’ve worn it everyday since and would feel very incomplete without it!
FS: My daughter Peggy.

+ What’s one thing other people may not know about you?

SC: I love the snooze button, too much, and it’s safe to say I’m not a morning person!
FS: It’s tragic and embarrassing, but I secretly love trashy TV!

+ It’s not very cool, but I really like…

SC: Musicals (!) and Smooth FM.
FS: ABBA.

 

Interview: Studio Esteta. Photo by Martina Gemmola | Yellowtrace
The clever team from Studio Esteta. Go girls! Photo by Martina Gemmola.

Yellowtrace Interviews in Partnership with Laminex

 


[Images courtesy of . Photography credits as noted.]

 


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About The Author

Dana Tomić Hughes
Founder & Editor

Dana is an award-winning interior designer living in Sydney, Australia. With an unhealthy passion for design, Dana commits to an abnormal amount of daily design research. Regular travel and attendance at premier design events, enables Dana to stay at the forefront of the design world globally. While she is super serious about design, Dana never takes herself - nor design - too seriously. Together with her life and business partner, Dana is Boss Lady at Studio Yellowtrace, specialising in Design Strategy, Creative Direction and Special Projects. The studio takes a highly conceptual and holistic approach to translating brands & ideas into places & experiences.

One Response

  1. Arne

    Great interview with a truly creative pair. I wish them well.

    Reply

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