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How to Bring Any Living Space to Life with Great Furniture

Design By Them founders Sarah Gibson and Nicholas Karlovasitis share their secrets to creating a stylish, personalised oasis you'll love to spend time in.
By Libby Curran
May 12, 2022
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By Libby Curran
May 12, 2022
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in partnership with

Chances are you've got a newfound appreciation for your living space after the past two years — and a renewed drive to make it a stylish oasis you actually love spending time in. If that's your mission, who better than the experts to help guide you towards style success?

In partnership with Samsung, we're exploring achievable ways for you to incorporate design-forward items into your living space. So, we sat down for a special chat with Design By Them founders Sarah Gibson and Nicholas Karlovasitis, who shared their top tips for using furniture to elevate your living space.

The industrial designer duo launched their Sydney-based design house back in 2007, creating a celebrated furniture, accessories and lighting brand built on a timeless aesthetic and a flair for collaboration. Steered by an ever-growing ensemble of Aussie design talent, Design By Them has crafted a collection of over 120 bespoke products to date, with numerous awards and exhibitions under its belt, including a show at Milan Design Week 2019.

Here, Gibson and Karlovasitis impart a little of their design wisdom to help you create an enviable living space with minimal effort.

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Nicholas Karlovasitis by Paul Liddle

BEGIN WITH INSPIRATION

For these designers, inspiration is sourced from far and wide, and favours eras past instead of contemporary trends.

"I love design history and seeing how design has evolved over time, incrementally changed and improved with manufacturing and technology," Karlovasitis tells Concrete Playground. "I like [looking at] how movements form and how they embrace certain ideologies, as opposed to any single designer or brand."

Gibson is another believer in looking to the past for inspiration; whether that involves browsing mid-century modern stores to rediscover old-school joinery techniques or scoping out some local architectural goodness. "I'm a little obsessed with Australian architecture and interiors," she explains. "I love a long walk admiring the built environment."

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Paul Liddle

MISTAKES TO AVOID

Before you jet off on a furniture-buying binge, the pair has a couple of big no-nos.

Buying for the now, rather than for the future, is a common one Gibson encourages avoiding. "Having an eclectic interior means that you can collect pieces over time that will always go [together], rather than needing to redo your interior every five to ten years," she says. "You wouldn't replace your art and nor should you have to replace your furniture."

And to create a space that's authentically yours, you're best to avoid simply copying those interiors you've been lusting after on Instagram. "I think your home and your possessions should be personal and reflect who you are," says Karlovasitis. "A lot of people try to recreate an interior they see without making it theirs. Spaces should feel personal."

If you're a styling novice and need to build up confidence in your choices, Karlovasitis recommends investing in items that are easy to work with and around — this goes for both furniture and tech. Take, for example, Samsung's The Serif TV, which he owns and says "feels more like a considered piece of premium furniture". The TV was designed by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec and has a chic design with an 'I'-shaped profile and easel legs.

"It is flexible and complements an interior rather than looking like an afterthought or compromise," he explains. 

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THE BEAUTY OF BUYING BESPOKE

When it comes to selecting pieces for your space that will last the distance and serve you well for years to come, the pair say bespoke furniture is the way to go. "A lot of bespoke furniture is made from materials that can be refinished and wear better. This is important if you want to keep your furniture long-term," Gibson acknowledges.

If you're willing to part with a little more money on these kinds of pieces, Karlovasitis says it'll be well worth your while. "You do not only pay for the manufacturing and materials that go into a piece of furniture but also the design and knowledge," he explains. "By investing in good design you reward brands that produce considered and better products."

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Paul Liddle

STYLING ON A BUDGET

The designer duo also has a few handy focus points that'll save you money in the long run if you're after bang for your buck.

"Invest in things that will last, so when you look at the cost of the item over the life of the product it isn't very expensive at all," Karlovasitis offers, recommending people steer clear of trends. "I always think that anything you buy should have looked good thirty years ago, as well as today and in 30 years' time."

For Gibson, a good lounge and good dining table top the list of pieces worth investing in. "Dining chairs can be expensive but you use them every day. If you don't have the budget for six chairs, you might build your collection slowly or go for an eclectic look with every chair being different," she explains. And for the rest, minimalism is best. "You don't need a TV cabinet these days, you can fix things to the wall or invest in a nice stand. Hooks are also handy and a cheap way of storing things where spaces are small."

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Paul Liddle

RULES TO STYLE BY

Finally, when it comes to rules, there are no rules. "You just have to work out your balance of minimalism and character and work towards what you like," says Gibson. "Nick and I often think like this when designing; for us, the balance of minimalism and character is somewhere in the middle. For someone else, it might shift towards the right or left. Everyone is different."

Karlovasitis backs this, saying: "You can set your own rules if you want to but don't let styles or trends dictate your choices."

As for the rules you can straight up ignore? "Having a strict colour palette," says Gibson. "With the right balance everything can go. Blue and green should never be seen — really?"

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If you're looking to add a touch of designer aesthetic to your living space, check out our editor's picks of must-have homewares

To find out more about Samsung's The Serif, created in collaboration with celebrated industrial designers Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec, visit the Samsung website

Top image: Paul Liddle

Published on May 12, 2022 by Libby Curran
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