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Beautiful surprises at every turn at Matters, Villa Alba

Villa Alba is undoubtedly a highlight of Melbourne Design Week, with designers established and emerging putting their best feet forward within the beautiful rooms of the Villa.

Beautiful surprises at every turn at Matters, Villa Alba

On the first floor the prised front rooms are exceptional with Tom Fereday pretty well showing off his just launched in Milan collection Mezer. “Strict brutalist forms of table and seating collection are juxtaposed by soft organic cutaways carving through the porous surfaces, revealing the natural beauty of travertine and timber” says the room sheet, but the reality is far subtler than the statement implies. Instead the pieces are simple and delicate, and though adorned only with the curving recess are far from brutal. They are in fact absolutely lovely, tactil, warm and inviting.

The room opposite is another delight of form and substance with Freeman Gallery pairing Klein blue artworks in a sophisticated setting of lounges and objects.

Installation view of (MATTERS) by Villa Alba from May 24th to 27th, Villa Alba Museum, Melbourne Design Week 2024, photography by Sean Fennessy.

Everyone’s favourite Adam Goodrum can’t put a foot wrong and despite being in a small side room, this year’s launch of the absolutely divine fat lounge chair Billo for Nau, was spectacular. The vibrant pink cow-hide (Foglizzo from South Pacific Fabrics) was as brilliant as it was comfortable, but rather cleverly the room had a solid range of Swiss Design upholsterd iterations in Dedar fabric to reiterate the chair as universally appropriate to just about any space. Totally love it!

Simone Tops of Studio Tops is redefining how furniture can look, feel and perform sustainably. The daughter of a saddler, her leatherworking skills are unparalleled. This however is coupled with a Bauhaus sensibility of gorgeously complimentary curves and junctures. Remnant sheep wool from fleece production is used as an alternative padding that supports without overheating and will maintain the beautiful forms of her range.

Related: The fascinating journey of timber on show at Melbourne Design Week

Tom Fereday, MATTERS at Melbourne Design Week 2024, image courtesy of the artist.

Upstairs was a wow factor with John Goulder and Fiona Spence pairing up with Goulder’s incredible furniture and Spence’s Innate range. Spence has one of the best eye’s in the industry and her store Spence and Lyder was synonymous with the very best of interior design. She has taken that skill to develop her new range of fabrics.  Comprising upholstery, throws, towels and cushions the range is Inspired by the works of Australian painter Luke Sciberras, to embody the spirit of informal elegance and relaxation.

Across the hall is Fiona Spence’s daughter Marlo Lyda and quite clearly the design gene runs deep. Marlo’s range is profoundly responsive to the need for sustainability with her innovative approach challenging perceptions of value through the use of materials regarded as waste. Indeed, the furniture is a showcase of what can be made with the introduced camphor laurels that have colonised northern NSW.

Marlo Lyda, MATTERS at Melbourne Design Week 2024, photography by Byron Martin.

Dean Norton’s room of mirrors was wonderful. Placing circles over rectangles, which were then placed in corners, the room morphed and exponentially changed without a hint of the infinity mirror trope. This is a designer that truly understands the nature of mirrors and reflective surfaces as a means to manipulate and play with space. Supurb!

Weaver Cabinet, by Elliot Rich for DesignByThem and Overlay Rug by Danielah, also for DesignByThem, was a sumptuous paring of insouciance, colour and movement that was breathtakingly lovely. Absolutely gorgeous to run a hand through the long silky threads. On a second passing the threads were lain with care across the round panel at the front to reveal a set of practical shelves.

The whole of Matters, or as most refer to it, Villa Alba, was wonderful with surprises at every turn. Object Density was a particularly charming surprise with elegant reconfigurations of discarded material that now take the form of glossy geometric forms of equal part mathematical design and whimsy. The absolutely brilliant Edward Linacre (+ Maxwell Carr + Indigo Tollhurst) delivered three imaginative lamps reproposing plastic. Beautiful, scalable, functional and sustainable, there is such scope for Linacre’s work to really push Australian Industrial design to the fore, he is amazing.

In some ways, Matters at Villa Alba is an easy top pick with everything in a beautiful package. It is however the care of curation behind this exhibition that sees it shine each and every year.

Melbourne Design Week 2024
designweek.melbourne

Nation Gallery of Victoria
NGV.vic.gov.au

Villa Alba Museum
villaalbamuseum.org

Next up: Material matters: Striving for circularity in the retail sector

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