Established in 1999, Kennedy Nolan has a distinctive approach to architecture that is highly responsive to its context and aims to form a strong relationship with landscape. They believe the design and arrangement of spaces can support and reinforce relationships and add zest to life.
We chat with Rachel Nolan who gives us their views on flooring trends, sustainability and why they chose to collaborate with Bremworth for their Melbourne office.
WHAT TRENDS ARE YOU SEEING WHEN IT COMES TO FLOORING AND MATERIAL SELECTION IN THE RESIDENTIAL SECTOR?
To be honest we try and avoid talking about trends - it seems to suggest you are ‘in’ or you are ’out’.
If there was a trend, we would like to think there could be a ’think for yourself’ trend; or a ’do what you like’ trend – wouldn't that be nice! But if you were to really twist our arm for an answer, we would say that there is less fear around using strong colour, and heightened sensitivity around waste and specifying environmentally responsible materials.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR MELBOURNE OFFICE AND WHY YOU WANTED TO COLLABORATE WITH BREMWORTH. WHY DID YOU CHOOSE GALET SAGE?
Our Fitzroy office was designed by Carter Couch in the late 1980s.
It is just under 5m wide and is a 20m long infill building that has 3 levels, with an additional mezzanine and roof deck. The boundary walls are exposed precast concrete (which was very experimental for the time) and the materiality of these walls sets the modernist agricultural feel of the place. The ceilings are low at 2.4m, with the exception of a top lit 8m high single volume located towards the rear of the building. Arguably the most memorable feature of our ground floor is the broad flight of steps that leads up to our conference room (‘the good room’) - this space is our amphitheatre.
We admired this building for years and feel so lucky to call it our studio home.
A few years back, we decided that our ground floor should be predominantly unprogrammed space - so we leave it free. This affords us the luxury of being able to play host. This space has been a temporary university design studio; it has held exhibitions and, on many occasions, has been a venue for the Affinity Quartet (for both rehearsal and performance).
We use this space for gatherings, both big and small, intimate and rowdy. When we were looking to refresh this space, we really couldn't go past a collaboration with Bremworth because it was ALL about the floor.
We had come across Bremworth’s beautiful Galet carpet range when designing Melbourne Place, a hotel in the CBD, and we were immediately drawn to the quality, bold colours and plush texture. The rawness of our studio’s concrete walls required a soft companion and Galet in Sage is perfect. This special product contributes so much to our space because it is so much floor than just a floor.
Furniture (because of our stairs we sit on it - it is so plush you WANT to sit on it)
An acoustic buffer (our space SOUNDS calm - which helps both conversation and chamber music)
A lovely surprise (we enjoy the colour everyday – looking at our work it should be no surprise that we are fond of green and often refer to it fondly as ’Nature’s Neutral’ - it is very easy to live with)
Quality (this is a palpable characteristic, not just something you pay for - the quantity of NZ wool in this product can be FELT in our space)
Visitors, reps and clients often compliment the carpet - it is hard to ignore.
WHAT IS IT ABOUT WOOL THAT YOU LIKE?
There is the obvious list of positives (natural/ biodegradable/ renewable/ breathable/ anti-static/ etc) which clearly make it a very attractive material but there is also something about the fact that we all know and understand wool - it is the friend you’ve had since childhood.
In our studio it is akin to bricks and timber - reliable players which can be reimagined in endless ways.
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO SOMEONE CONSIDERING ADDING A BREMWORTH CARPET OR RUG TO THEIR HOME OR OFFICE?
We are Bremworth fans so of course we would say ’do it’; but in the spirit of being a little more helpful we would suggest looking at real samples, and if you can a decent size sample. Textures can only be fully understood when you look at a larger sample (photographs of installations could help with this too).
When it comes to colour, do try and place the sample in the space – there are many factors which can affect how a colour is perceived.
We would also add ‘buy once, buy well’ - you will enjoy the quality of their products every day and NZ wool will be with you for the long haul.
HOW IMPORTANT IS SUSTAINABILITY TO KENNEDY NOLAN?
Sustainability is core to our practice. It is not a fashion or a trend but essential and critical. The building industry is wasteful and we are far from perfect, but it is important to make the ‘right’ decisions when designing and specifying the materials that make our buildings.
We rely on progressive companies like Bremworth to provide us with the information we need to make these decisions. We have also found them to be highly receptive to concerns about backing materials and we understand that their work continues to develop better outcomes than what is conventionally available. This is what a good company does.
When we can, we try to preserve and refurbish instead of demolish and rebuild. We try to build less but build well. We try to use materials with integrity, and in step with others in our profession, we try to imagine how our built environment might be intelligent and ‘give’ rather than ‘take’.
ANYTHING ELSE YOU WOULD LIKE TO ADD?
We have been designing buildings at Kennedy Nolan for over 20 years now and it is still a very special time on site when the carpet is installed - it stops feeling like a construction site and takes that next step in becoming a place for people to inhabit - which is really what architecture is all about.
Rachel Nolan - Principal & founding director, Kennedy Nolan