In Conversation With—Tamsin Johnson

Interior designer Tamsin Johnson is know for her refined yet relaxed aesthetic, her expert eye, and a distinct flair for combining unusual pieces to create spaces that are at once beautiful and liveable. Join us as we sit down with Tamsin to discuss her design philosophy and creative influences over time.

Q—Thanks for joining us, Tamsin. Tell us more about Tamsin Johnson Interiors—how did it all begin, and how has it evolved over time?

A—I'd literally grown up under the nineteenth-century Spanish tables and among the many Louis chairs in my father's antiques stores around Melbourne. In my teens, he's pay for my sister and me to help out on Saturdays, when we'd rush around measuring items and looking up details in his files so we could appear knowledgeable when customers enquired about a piece.

So after leaving school and a brief stint in fashion, I made the turn to interior design. I had an incredible experience under an amazing firm for five years before starting my own business, which is around ten years old now.

Q—What is your underlying design philosophy?

A—There's a certain balance I seek, where a space looks appealingly layered but not "decorated" where a design appears effortless rather than forced. I am by no means a minimalist, but my instinct guides me in the process of removing the unnecessary to ensure a space doesn't feel cluttered. I add, and edit, and remove, and assess, until the space feels right. For me, that occurs when the pieces appear as if they have always been there, regardless of the era when they were created.

This sense of timelessness is something I strive for in my designs. When I buy a piece of furniture, I always ask: will it still be good in fifty or even a hundred years' time? Beauty does not date, and "good design" may enjoy many lives and many homes. The way pre-loved objects can defy the decades and evolve through different life cycles is one of the things I love about them. Another is that it is of course near impossible to come across the same piece twice. Antiques enable me to bring something unique to each space, wrapped in a slight air of mystery that interweaves with the familiar and the contemporary.

I strive for a space to feel like it belongs but it has to be practical and it has to be beautiful. A large part of this beauty can come from the imperfect. There's beauty in the imperfect.

Q—What are your most enduring creative influences?

A—Travel, books, people and my clients.

Q—It's said that you encourage your clients to collect unique pieces, and you also run a successful antique dealership. Can you provide insight to your sourcing and procurement process?

A—The antique and vintage furniture side of my business started purely on the back of the lack of unique pieces in Australia. I have been importing furniture for my projects for over ten years and the demand has continued to grow, with not only my clients so I've focused some more time to create a more accessible showroom and gallery for walk—ins and appointments. We will be opening a much larger gallery style showroom in Paddington in the next couple of months.

I like things that get better with age, faded by the light, marks of imperfection, they age with you. I like mixing oppositional textures, the perfect and the imperfect, the gloss and the matte, the rough and the smooth. A rough hessian or jute—like texture can look beautiful next to a moirre silk or a softly honed marble table.

Q—Which other Australian designers, artists or creative people are the loving at the moment?

A—Lucy Folk. We're currently collaborating on her new Paddington shop. She's an inspiration in original design and always pushing the creative boundaries.

Q—We've worked together across a handful of projects now—what do you look for in a collaborative partner?

A—Great communication is key. Ensuring both interior designer and landscape designer have the same vision and a deep understanding of what the client wants and how they live, both inside and out. It's about blurring the line to create a seamless harmony between landscape and the interior.

Q—What's next for Tamsin Johnson—what are you looking forward to?

A—Opening a new antique and mid—century furniture showroom in Paddington, in a large warehouse space.