Five Minutes with: Design Duo Lisa Vincitorio and Laelie BerzonIndesignlive | Daily Connection to Architecture and Design

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Five Minutes with: Design Duo Lisa Vincitorio and Laelie Berzon

We sit down with Lisa Vincitorio and Laelie Berzon, founders of Something Beginning With to learn about their design obsessions.

BY Ashley Tucker

February 26th, 2016

Name: Lisa Vincitorio and Laelie Berzon
Occupation: Lisa (Industrial Designer), Laelie (Visual Artist)
Location: Collingwood
Company: Something Beginning With P/L
Position: Co-founders

How did you come to be an designer? What first drew you to the practice? What interests you most about this particular field design?

Lisa: From year 10 I knew I wanted to be in a creative industry. Initially I thought that would be a graphic designer. But it wasn’t until I went to the RMIT furniture exhibition and met Kjell Grant that I knew I wanted to design furniture. There is something special about creating a functional product that can be enjoyed by its owner as well as be an expression of someone’s personality. As a designer, being able to translate your personality into a product and have it accepted and enjoyed by someone else is extremely satisfying.

Laelie and I decided to create our own brand and distribute our products ourselves because we love to see where things end up, and how they are being used on a daily basis.

My career has been a process.  I knew once I started uni that I was on the right path. I loved what I was doing from the very start. It was a passion, an obsession.

A true highlight was having my university project (the Fruitloop) taken up by Alessi. But I knew that to make a true career from design, I needed to gain experience, contacts and knowledge.  I needed experience in furniture sales.  I needed to know what my market needs and wants. After all, if you create a piece that you can’t sell it becomes no more than a sculpture. I also needed to learn about manufacturing techniques so I could design product that could in fact be made and made at a price that would sell.  In learning about manufacturing, I was able to build a portfolio of manufacturers.  People that would work with me to achieve what I wanted visually, and lead me to solutions which would fulfil my client’s expectations.

Furniture design allows me to create functional sculptures.  Furniture is a usable expression of my creativity that can enhance a space and create interesting interaction with its owner.   With furniture, I can help create warmth, mood, individuality and expression.  Furniture, more so than fashion can transcend trends.  It can be an element that can be used for decades and even passed through generations.


Laelie: To be truly alive, a Designer/Artist must be open, curious and courageous and must constantly re-invent oneself. The things that motivate us in life will lead us to do what we want if we are passionate and determined. Growing up I was surrounded by art, sculpture and murals. I started to develop an aptitude for colour and attention to detail at an early age. My grandfather was a major influence and true inspiration. I went against my creative instincts and studied a Bachelor of Commerce at Monash University, which posed a deflated and empty state of mind. Naturally I had to make a change.

Soon after I enrolled into Brighton Bay Art, Design and Photography which allowed me to foster and harness my skill set to a completely new level, later enrolling into RMIT to study Interior Design. The process of turning an empty interior into a functionally effective and aesthetically pleasing environment was always a great interest of mine. Embellishing a space was another aspect that struck a chord, in particular furniture design. I have a background in Visual Arts and Interior Design, teamed with a solid grounding of the furniture industry. My collaboration with Lisa in creating SBW forms a strong and inspiring fusion. Our combined experience has enabled us to produce a dynamic furniture collection that has relevance and longevity.

Working in the furniture industry, I always knew that one day I would take the risk and liberty of introducing a fresh and eclectic collection of products tailored towards the A&D market. I wasn’t sure how this would occur, or with whom I would take this journey. I just knew it would. And it sure did. SBW was launched to the market in 2011.  A Melbourne-based furniture brand and design studio which ‘strives to unify the functional with the visually captivating, creating a strong, beautifully balanced and playful product blend that can be adapted and translated into an array of environments’. Designed and made locally here in Melbourne, which is key to our business ethos. Something Beginning With’s collection is as implied by the engaging company name ‘open to interpretation without any limitations’. We have been lucky enough to work with some of Australia’s most renowned and respected Design firms. Being in the position of client liaison, I have established and maintained some strong client relationships over the years, which always makes it easier, and in turn has lead us to generate a very loyal client base. When your products are being specified into some of Australia’s largest reputable companies, this is definitely a clear indication that you are following the right career path. A feeling of elation follows. Our understanding of our clients’ requirements has definitely played an imperative role in guiding us through the design process.

The process of turning an empty interior into a functionally effective and aesthetically pleasing environment was always a great interest of mine. Embellishing a space was another aspect that struck a chord, in particular furniture design. I’ve always been very open, curious and courageous in my approach in life, and these traits lead us to do what we want if we are passionate and determined. Introducing a fresh and eclectic collection of products tailored towards the A&D market was the outcome to this attraction!


What has your experience with design education been?

Lisa: My design education was an exploration and discovery of my creative style. This was a necessary journey. I learnt how to translate that style into a physical form. It had little constraint. My marketing and manufacturing education came from industry experience and took many years to develop.

The most unusual/interesting thing about the way you work.

We work fluidly, it always commences with a discussion. We bounce ideas off each other like a pinball. We brainstorm ideas, trends, and holes within our collection. We look at materials, and processes we want to experiment with. We talk about our clients, and what they may want to see from us. Then we get to conceptualising our ideas.

Which items in the workplace can you not live without?

We cannot live without our notebooks and our 3D printer. Although our concepts are sketched, we make them a reality using these tools.

What have been your favourite three products this year?

Our favourite three products have been the Maiko table, Oscar sofa and Ari sofa. All three products are designed and manufactured locally.

The Maiko side and coffee table make a striking statement in any space and have a sense of visual lightness. The mild steel rods of the MAIKO table meet to form a structural and sturdy, yet dynamic table base.

Whilst the Oscar sofa oozes personality, Oscar is visually captivating, balanced and beautifully resolved, and manages to be petite yet spacious. Oscar sofa’s compact, slender and adaptable form and small footprint endears it to many situations.

A picture of perfect composition, Ari sofa is inspired by fine lines and sweeping curved, achieving a beautiful synthesis of both. The Ari sofa doesn’t kowtow to trends, it commands attention in a space and not taking a back step, but is subtle enough to be timeless.

Your top influences.

Lisa: I can’t say that I am truly influenced by one person.  I find that whilst designing I am influenced by my surroundings, my mood and on occasion the material I wish to use.

In business, I am influenced by people that have achieved their goal, that are continuing to persevere and better themselves, and people that have overcome hurdles to achieve what they set out.

I am passionate about design.  When I am designing something new I am truly in my element.  Hours can pass without my knowing and I can be completely lost in my thought.  Completing this process is the satisfying part of the process.

Laelie: It’s hard to put a finger on one person that has influenced me throughout the years. My inspiration is drawn from a mosaic of rich and diverse influences.  My childhood influences have definitely played a crucial part in forming the person I have become today. A painting, an interior, a patterned print on a jacket or just a simple walk down the street can exude an emotive reaction and introduce a fresh idea. Overall, I get inspiration from a desire to be the best I can be, not from a desire to emulate someone else.

My childhood influences coupled with my love affair for Design & architecture, fashion and textiles, the arts and nature have played an integral role in forming and enriching my own style, whilst also nourishing me with intoxicating knowledge.

Favourite material.

Timber. There is something warm and inviting about it. It is tactile and tangible. I rarely walk past a timber item without running my hand along it.


Favourite local landmark/building.

Heide Museum of Modern Art – We love visiting this place for a cultural and culinary fix, and also admiring the sculptures and the gardens including the herb garden. This place has an amazing history concerning the formative days of Australian art.

TarraWarra Museum of Art – Set in the rolling hills of the natural landscape, TarraWarra always provides an inspiring and relaxed experience which combines stunning architecture with the very best of modern and contemporary art with fresh contexts.

Since opening in 2003, the Museum has become recognised as a cultural icon in the Yarra Valley, providing visitors with an enjoyable and inspiring experience which combines stunning architecture with the very best of modern and contemporary art. Over 70 temporary themed exhibitions have been presented at the Museum to date, covering a diverse range of stimulating and innovative Australian and international art in group and collection shows and single artist surveys, providing the opportunity to experience fresh contexts in which to view Australian art today.

TarraWarra captures the vision of the museum’s founder’s, philanthropists Eva Besen AO and Marc Besen AO, passionate collectors of Australian art from the 1950s to the present day, who have gifted both the building and its collection to the public. The collection features many significant Australian artists who were instrumental in the development of modern art in this country.

Committed to fostering a passionate engagement with art within a relaxing environment, the Museum is unmissable when planning your visit to the Yarra Valley. Children are always welcome and specially tailored children’s activity sheets are available for each exhibition. The Museum provides disabled car parking and easy access to all galleries. Throughout each year it presents seasonally changing exhibitions within an award-winning building set in the rolling hills of the natural landscape.

Favourite international landmark/building.

One place in Copenhagen that resonates with me is Louisiana Museum of Modern Art.  North of Copenhagen, this museum is situated on a spectacular property with direct views of Sweden.  Like all Danish design, Louisiana is effortless, elegant, and considered.  Moving through the buildings of Louisiana is a sensory experience unlike no other. There are so many different parts to discover – little nooks and crannies, narrow spaces and compressed corridors with low ceiling heights which suddenly emerge into vast volumes, smooth circular stairwells, galleries with spectacular oversized windows, and gorgeous views to the ocean. Some spaces are internal and dark, others feel light. Everything, from the smallest detail like the minimalist framing to the oversized sliding glass panels, beautiful signage is considered and works perfectly.  It is the perfect housing to the myriad of artworks on display.


Biggest career moment.

Lisa: Personally, my biggest career moment is having 2 products manufactured by Alessi. As a designer, being affiliated with a company of such magnitude is truly humbling. As a company, Something Beginning With’s biggest moment would have to be opening our showroom.

Laelie: Building the SBW brand with Lisa. Allowing my creative intuition to guide me, conveying on canvas what I feel at that specific moment in time. A free spirit with no inhibitions. Eliciting emotive responses from the viewer.

Concern for the design industry in the coming decade.

There already seems to be a shift in the perception of a products life cycle. More and more people are placing an emphasis on investing in good design with the intent that it will be passed down to the next generation as opposed to being discarded. I think this is an important mentality, especially given that a consumeristic attitude is only impacting negatively on our environment.

In the coming decade, I think it is going to be even more imperative that the environment is an important consideration and integral part of the design process. I think it has to be the main consideration.

Dream person to collaborate with.

Lisa: Arne Jacobsen. I stayed at the Royal SAS hotel in Copenhagen quite a few years ago and was completely taken away by the level of detail and thought that went into this space. Arne designed everything in this hotel, from building to furniture and even the cutlery. He is truly an inspirational designer, a true artist.

Laelie: Willem De Kooning – De Kooning was the most prominent and celebrated of the Abstract Expressionist painters. His pictures typify the vigorous gestural style of the movement. De Kooning was known for continually reworking his canvases, he often left them with a sense of dynamic incompletion, as if the forms were still in the process of moving and settling and coming into definition. De Kooning did not paint to live, but lived to paint.

Something Beginning With

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