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couch on pink rug next to artwork

An Eye for Detail with CJH Studio

Cassie James-Herrick, founder of CJH Studio, has made a name for herself in recent years with a series of residential projects that are understated yet incredibly striking. Prizing craftsmanship and the finer details, with a knack for knowing what to pare back and what to emphasize, these homes are as warm, unpretentious and inviting as the designer herself. Below, she shares how she honed her aesthetic and what excites her about the future of design.

Photography by Timothy Kaye

Bathroom designed by CJH Studio
Room designed by CJH Studio

What were you like as a child? Do you come from a creative family?

My mother tells me that I was “very quiet, always drawing or making something, very driven and studious.” I wouldn’t say [I come from a] creative family as such – however, my mother always dabbled in hobbies like sewing, crocheting and cake decorating, whilst my father and grandfather were a builder and a furniture maker respectively, so you could say I have been on a building site and around craftspeople since I was very young. I always admired my father’s hand-drafting skills that he’d be working on at home, so I think that always played a part in my eventual career path.

What led you to establish CJH Studio in 2017?

I am from a small town in rural Victoria. I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to complete my work experience during high school at an amazing Melbourne-based interior design firm and moved to Melbourne for university. I completed my degree at RMIT University with first-class honors and was lucky enough to work part-time at a small design firm, where I was eventually hired for a full-time position upon my completion of my degree. I then worked at this firm for over 11 years before establishing my own in 2017. I loved my role at my previous position; however, a change in family life, location and a growing desire to expand my creative passions ultimately led to gaining the courage to step out and explore this with my own studio.

Kitchen designed by CJH Studio

"I love finding pieces that are well-designed and sculptural in some way."

How would you describe your aesthetic as an interior designer?

I’d like to think that my aesthetic is refined, warm, considered, timeless and textural with a focus on natural materials like stone, timber, ceramics and textiles.

Whilst each project bears your signature, they still feel tailored to the clients’ needs. Whether it be a piece of furniture, a light fixture or a rug, can you explain the appeal of commissioning custom elements both for the designer and end user?

That’s such a great compliment, thank you. My designs are largely responsive to the client and their space, lifestyle and budget, and I enjoy the unique challenges that each new project brings. I like to think that although to others there may be a common aesthetic thread through our work, ultimately they are very tailored responses to that project and we love this point of difference across them all.

The appeal to me is in resolving a design challenge in response to these elements as it brings about a unique result that you may never have imagined otherwise – it’s a great collaborative process with every client and their unique spaces. Custom pieces play a large part in all our designs – by commissioning custom elements, it allows a completely bespoke piece to bring a little touch of luxury for our clients, knowing it was created uniquely for their project, and a thrill to us as designers to see your own creation come to fruition.

Living room designed by CJH Studio
Living room designed by CJH Studio
We’d love a peek into your process, from the initial brainstorming to the final install. Which of your skill sets come into play at each stage?

Being a small firm, I love being involved in every stage of the design and construction process, but I guess I would say my favorite skillset is in exploring the material palette and initial concepts, spatial planning, joinery and custom small detail designs. My inspiration is sourced from anywhere and everywhere, with a strong thirst and never-ending search for all kinds of design details, materials, interiors, and furniture – from large architectural references to the tiniest of junction details.

Are there any colors, textures and
 materials you find yourself continually drawn to?

Naturally, I am more drawn to neutral tones and materials for their more classic appeal, but I love to then build on these with varying tones and textures to bring warmth, interest and tactility. These tones then allow a great base palette on which to build upon with other contrasting materials and colors that bring it all to life.

Bedroom designed by CJH Studio

Tell us a bit about Linear Standard, your line of refined architectural wares including hooks, handles and other accessories. How can small details like these have an outsized and lasting impact on a space?

Linear Standard has become an incredible outlet for another creative side to my passion and love of the smaller details, which can really make all the difference. [It was] born out of my frustration as a specifier to find, readily available, a cost-effective range of varied small architectural wares all in one place and has proven to be a sentiment felt by industry colleagues alike. They may be the smallest and sometimes least considered items in the space, but they are largely interacted with on a daily basis, providing both function and aesthetic appeal and an important finishing touch.

Your interiors tend to be pared back yet still show-stopping. Do you have any tips on creating a home that feels curated yet still lively and interesting?

Finding restraint in your designs can sometimes be difficult – you want to implement all of your great design ideas, but I’ve found that by limiting some of these, and letting the materials and your key design story or elements be consistent throughout, allows a really strong base for the client’s own personality, lives and pieces to come in, bringing it to life from here. I love finding pieces that are well-designed and sculptural in some way, providing a curation of pieces and elements that also build on what might be a more refined interior base, and creating further visual appeal and interest.

Sand Castle.
Left: Kambala. Right: Sand Castle.

We were delighted to see our Agra rug in House Fin. What considerations are front of mind when you are choosing a rug for a space?

Texture, color, scale and attention to detail are all really important when choosing a rug. I personally prefer rugs to be larger in the space rather than smaller, as it really can completely transform a space by making it appear larger than it really is. Understanding the requirements of the rug, its functionality, its location in the space, and its tactility must all be considered.

We strongly believe in buying fewer but better things. What are your reasons for investing in quality, timeless pieces?

I agree! It’s really easy to fall into the trap of fast fashion and design pieces – we’ve all been there. But I think as your confidence grows in your choices, and what you really love and know you will continue to love in the time to come, the purchasing of investment pieces becomes every bit worth it. Buying less but buying well is a great sentiment to remind ourselves of, it creates a considered awareness of our own conscious consumption. Quality allows enjoying pieces for a long time rather than simply discarding it when you tire of it quickly; timeless pieces ensure that they will live long past their more trend-driven counterpart.

Cassie James-Herrick

You juggle so many things, including a young family. Where are you turning to for creativity and inspiration these days?

Oh, the juggle is real! It’s easy to see the beautiful polished, finished product and forget all the hard work that goes into it whilst juggling two businesses and a young family. I’m recently starting to find that allowing myself to step back a little is necessary to free my mind for greater creativity; easier said than done. Endless inspiration-seeking and an absolute passion for what I do has always been my strength and forms the basis for all the creative things I do. I find being open to all kinds of design styles and sources, and pushing myself to challenge, expand on and heighten my own designs is also the best form of creative growth and personal satisfaction.

Finally, what excites you about the future of Australian design?

I am a huge advocate for Australian design. I feel that we have such diverse local talent, across so many creative fields. It is so inspiring to see the incredible work that others are doing, and the successes it is bringing them. With a shift towards supporting local, I hope this will allow our incredible Aussie talent and craftsmanship to be recognized further for the world-class that it is – it’s exciting to be a part of it.

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Living room designed by CJH Studio
Bathroom designed by CJH Studio

What’s keeping you creatively stimulated right now?

I wish it wasn’t on a screen, but I have to admit that Instagram is an endless source of inspiration. But I do also love a good magazine, and during lockdown getting out for a walk in Balmain and Rozelle, where I live, is always nice.

Finally, we can’t help but ask – what’s your favorite Armadillo rug to have underfoot?

It’s got to be the Agra or Paragon, which I have in my own home. I love the colors and the softness of those rugs.

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