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  • Helen Hawkes

The Cult of the Individual

A Flack Studio interior is always a one-off: cutting-edge finishes, vintage furniture and contemporary art blended with the site’s unique history. Founder David Flack is no less singular. By Helen Hawkes.

David Flack in his Fitzroy studio. Photography by Anson Smart.

“One of my favourite things is asking clients about peoples’ reactions to one of our houses. It’s sort of sensory overload,” says David Flack, whose Melbourne-based practice, Flack Studio, has garnered inclusions in both the VL50 and US Architectural Digest’s annual AD100 list. For this crafter of interiors and his multidisciplinary practice of architects and designers, every project is “super-detailed”, by which he means meticulously curated and unique. If there is any repetition, it is the wildly artistic and idiosyncratic mix of ideas and installations that both thrills and overwhelms, rather than a recurrent signature, for which some designers are known. 

The interiors of the Ace Hotel Sydney nod to the site’s history as the first ceramic kiln in Australia. Photography by Anson Smart.

For Ace Hotel Sydney, the 16-member team drew inspiration from architect Robin Boyd’s classic polemic about suburbia, “The Australian Ugliness”, plus the paintings of Indigenous Australian artist Albert Namatjira and the site’s legacy of pottery and ceramic creation. An ochre-hued marble staircase was used to echo the colours of the desert, while abundant greenery recalls Australia’s natural beauty.

The home of actor and musician Troye Sivan. Photography by Anson Smart.

The Melbourne home of 28-year-old Australian singer-songwriter and actor Troye Sivan was another Flack Studio project, an extensive renovation that respected the original architecture of John Mockridge and the bohemian spirit of the house. Venetian plastering was used to add luminosity, while immaculate joinery and hard surfaces — marble, stone and custom-made aggregates — create structural backdrops. Featured within Sivan’s walls are objects and artworks by Percival Lafer, Ettore Sottsass, Tobia Scarpa, Mario Bellini and Mario Botta; in the garden, there’s a sculpture by Sydney Ball.

“Curation is such an important part of the process and that includes buying art and objects,” says Flack, although Sivan already had an impressive collection of his own. “That level of artist and maker within projects is what starts to pull everything apart — throwing other authors in.

“We talk about art with all of our clients from day one,” continues Flack. “We’re sort of buying and curating the entire journey.”

The home of actor and musician Troye Sivan is filled with artwork and retains the bohemian spirit of the house. Photography by Anson Smart.

In fact, the studio has its own craft folk and artists — among them Alex Davern, Ben Quilty, Bill Henson, Christopher Zanko, Darren Sylvester, Glenn Barkley and Guy Maestri — as well as a select group of tradespeople. “But if you move art aside, I’m all about the process and have been from day one,” says Flack. 

Flack’s studio is housed in an old electroplating factory in Fitzroy that has been renovated to exhibit the team’s inimitable brand of style. Clients are invited here to learn about the team and how they create. 

Artworks by First Nations artist Kaylene Whiskey and Sri Lankan-born Sydney artist Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran are only a taste of the full-Flack interior to which visitors are exposed. “From there we create a journey and an experience,” says Flack. “It’s an evolution, watching our creativity in the studio and then on site.” There are no iron-clad plans. “I am always happy to change things and make them evolve because, as I always say to clients, it’s like a canvas. It’s not over until the very end. 

The interiors of the Ace Hotel Sydney, the brown leather couches recall 1970s suburbia. Photography by Anson Smart.

“We place everything you see in our houses, from the napkins to the towels and even the scented candles,” says Flack. “It’s a turnkey experience.”

With interior fit-outs generally taking three years or more, house flippers can forget tapping into the Flack Studio artistry — the team only works on “forever homes” or spaces.

“Renovating a home can be daunting and expensive,” says Flack. “It’s an investment and a legacy, one that honours clients’ personality and stage of life as well as their role as custodian.”

With the studio celebrating 10 years at the cutting edge, Flack is understandably proud of its swathe of highly regarded residential work and hospitality commissions. Its current slate of projects includes homes in Los Angeles and Mexico, and a hotel in Japan.

The studio’s first commercial product, a lighting range designed in conjunction with Brunswick’s Volker Haug Studio, is scheduled to debut at this year’s Milan Design Week. “I love the level of maturity and refinement we have now,” says Flack. “I was only 28 when I started the business and I was so green — that’s probably what made it, that burst of innocence and lack of fear.”

Art is central to the design process, as seen in this abode in Sydney’s Tamarama. Photography by Anson Smart.

While success and accolades continue to flow, Flack believes that remaining humble about the work and giving credit to an amazing team is key. To honour the generous spirit of his original co-principal, Mark Robinson, who passed away at the end of 2022, the studio is regularly opened to the public. “We now have a quarterly event with an emerging artist and a bimonthly open library that features a talk with a designer,” says Flack. “We get fans, students and diehard book-lovers, and it’s a place of conversation.”

Flack pauses. “We work in a privileged environment, and the fact that we can offer a space that people can learn from is really important.” 

This is an extract from an article that appears in print in our eleventh edition, Page 116 of Winning Magazine with the headline: “The Cult of the Individual”. Subscribe to Winning Magazine today.  


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