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Slaying the building dragons with Perth studio State of Kin

Champions of women in design and creators of bold and adventurous spaces, Ara Salomone and Alessandra French take Perth by storm.

Slaying the building dragons with Perth studio State of Kin

Although this is only my second time meeting them, to speak with Ara Salomone and Alessandra French is like catching up with two old friends.

They have a charming way of articulating each other’s ideas and quipping cheekily back and forth. It’s immediately evident that it’s their solid partnership which has ensured the rise of their prodigal Perth studio, State of Kin.

Alessandra French of State Of Kin, photography by Sophie Pearce.

While their history goes back a long way (close to 20 years), it’s the way in which they see eye to eye: their shared vision, their commitment to championing women in design and architecture, and their desire to push the boundaries of Perth design.

The pair began working together shortly after Salomone married French’s cousin. “Our views were just so aligned with design and we were really excited to showcase that,” says French.

Before they began collaborating, Salomone tells me, their attempts to share their ideas with other people fell flat.

Ara Salomone of State Of Kin, photography by Sophie Pearce.

“But then, whenever Ale and I would discuss vision and dreams and what we love… it would always just be a no-brainer, it was just organic.” With Salomone’s experience in architecture and French’s in interiors, the pairing was effortless.

Since launching in 2016, State of Kin has established itself as a go-to for those looking to execute bold and interesting ideas, and a studio that champions women in design. Salomone and French also established their business with two other young women, Jessie Vu and Amy Clark.

“So there were four young girls trying to – ” French begins, before being interrupted by Salomone, who dramatically ends her sentence “– slay the building dragons!”

Split terrazzo and wood floor in The Stables’ basement by State of Kin.

While humour has taken them a long way and encouragement from fathers and uncles in the industry has supported their entry into design, French notes that “it’s challenging being of our age group and it’s challenging being female, to try and get our message across in a serious way. We know what we’re talking about. And you just need to work that little bit harder to prove that to some people”.

The building dragons may have taken the brunt of State of Kin’s early days, but the next dragon on the studio’s hit-list is the Perth design scene.

Helping the city establish itself as a renowned centre for design features high on the studio’s goal list.

Shutter House by State of Kin featuring artwork entitled Look, by Elle Campbell, and Fordite rug by Patricia Urquiola for cc-tapis.
Shutter House, photography by Jack Lovel.

“It’s very different to over east,” says French, referring to Victoria and New South Wales. “It’s really just common knowledge that you go to a good designer… whereas here it’s almost like we’re the underdog and we need to edge our way in,” Salomone says.

“Perth is peppered with a lot of incredible venues. But with curated design, I think we’ve got a little way to go. I’m looking forward to it and I hope that we’re at the forefront of it when it does happen here,” adds Salomone.

Perhaps they already are: State of Kin’s newest commercial clients, who last year purchased the studio’s Shutter House, engaged the team to work on their popular hair salon, Circles.

The Subiaco project is filled with “holographic, reflective, crazy forms” as a result of the client’s request to emulate the feeling of a nightclub.

 Room with an arched mirror in Bodyscape Yoga by State of Kin
Bodyscape, photography by Jack Lovel.

“They are an absolute pleasure to work with and their brief was really exciting and quite different to what we had worked on in the past,” says French.

The studio is also working on a bakery for a well-known Perth baker, “which will be a beautiful space”.

“We have set that foundation with our flagships and the clients we have at the moment, they’re freaking epic… but it’s been a long process of chipping away, trying new project after project, and getting to a point where you get to do something that reflects your ethos and your message,” says Salomone.

A built-in hammock in Brick House by State of Kin.
Brick House, photography by Jack Lovel.

With projects like Stables Bar, a rich and tonal bar embracing its historic character, and Bodyscape Yoga Studio, a contemplative space in a heritage building, the prospect of what is yet to come for State of Kin is exciting.

State of Kin was nominated for The Prodigy partnered by Milliken at INDE.Awards 2021.

State of Kin

This article originally appeared in Indesign Magazine #85. Order your copy today.

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