If there is an ‘I’ve arrived’ moment for any designer in this country, then winning ‘Belle Coco Republics Interior Designer Of The Year award in 2011 would have to be it. Not surprisingly it has been the pinnacle career ‘tick’ for Australian interior design maestro, Greg Natale, who also celebrated a milestone 10 years of design service in November. Whilst to some it may feel his success has been an almost meteoric rise to public recognition, the man is quick to point out that his success has been a lifetime in the making. From moments of moody,edgy contemporary chic switching disparately to the unashamed opulence of his now almost signature Hollywood Regency style, Natale presents an impressive portfolio revered by many. Adam Scougall speaks with the designer about his first 10 years.
2011 marks a decade in design for you. Your profile has expanded rapidly to major success. Are you pinching yourself right now?
I am so happy for all the success [but] it means we have work. Before starting Greg Natale Design 10 years ago, I worked for five years in private practices, and before that studied four years at university. But I’ve always loved technical drawings and art, even as a kid. I was one of those weird kinds that new what I wanted to do from the age of 10.
How have things changed in essence over the last few years in your business? And what lessons have you learnt in recent uncertain economic times?
I work with bigger budgets than when I started and I have more staff, but the change has been very organic. Usually, I am a very impatient person and always want things to happen more rapidly! During uncertain economic times I always had the philosophy that if I kept the work diverse and mixed up commercial and residential work, we would be recession-proof, and to some extent I was right as the residential work has been consistent. The crash in 2008 has seen the commercial work go up and down, so what I have learnt is that if I keep the work diverse and not specialise in one area – but always specialise in good quality design – people will remember that.
You won interior designer of the year for Belle Coco Republic which was a huge accolade, including a trip to the UK to meet design diva Kelly Hoppen. We hear you got along famously. Has she inspired you to build on your brand to even greater proportions?
Kelly was great. I went there with a photographer and thought we would get the shots and be out of there, but she was so lovely, she took me to her lounge and we sat for an hour and talked about our businesses, and she did inspire me to do more with products and licensing. I am currently working on a furniture collection for Studio Mobilia in Perth and another collection for Designer Rugs. Also – fingers crossed – I am talking to a top fabric supplier about doing a fabric collection.
How important is advertising for your business and do you proactively advertise now? I don’t advertise, I only do editorial. Editorial is very important because it gets the work out to tens of thousands of people. It helps build our profile and the phone calls usually follow.
We hear you are about to move into new digs after a number of years living in a one-bedroom loft. What the new abode like?
The new place is in Harry Siedler’s Horizon [apartment building in Sydney], I am a huge Harry fan so I take inspiration from his work. The apartment will be black and white with touches of camel and gold. It will feature granite, Poplar Burl and geometric carpet. It won’t be eclectic like my current place. My personal taste does change and you can judge when you see it if I have matured.
We keep seeing more of you on television, most recently on Channel 10’s ‘The Renovators’. How do you feel about the small screen and marketing yourself in this way? Will we see more of you on TV?
I like doing TV and it is another medium to help create a greater public profile, I used to think I wanted to be a compare or something, but after doing some TV I have to realise it’s a hard job and I don’t want to be taken away from the design business. I love doing guest spots and would love to be in an Australian ‘Million Dollar Decorators’ if it is ever made. The last month would have been the perfect time leading up to the 10th anniversary. We have had five houses to finish before Christmas and not without a couple of disasters [incidentally, Natale means Christmas in Italian – Ed]. That period would have made very funny television.
Finally, what advice would you give to anybody contemplating interior design as a career? Some key things to take into account?
1. A natural good eye.
2. Interior design is very technical, a logical understanding of construction.
3. A good sense of one’s personal style.
4. Persistence – you need to fight for your designs like it’s your child.
5. At the end of the day, it takes hard work. Hard work and talent will see you succeed.