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Storied Design with Studio Gardner

Stylist Joseph Gardner has a preternatural talent for visual storytelling. If one were to collage his set designs, they would tell an emotionally resonant tale of interior worlds that luxuriate in quality craftsmanship. With the gallery and showroom Studio Gardner, he and partner Aaron Wong have endowed us with a treasure trove of covetable art, furniture and design to make our very own.

Photography by Studio Gardner & Dave Wheeler

How did you find your calling in interiors?

I’ve always been on a quest to seek out beauty, ever since I was a kid. I would be fascinated by objects and spaces, especially when we would travel. I actually began my creative journey interning in fashion, but then had a light bulb moment years later that my true love was for interiors – it’s something that was always there, but I hadn’t considered it as a career.

I went on to complete studies in Interior Design and then I was either to apply for a junior role at a design firm or pursue a career in styling. I chose styling as it felt fast-paced and exciting at the time – and found myself in the magazine world, before long.

I’ve since had the opportunity to style some of the most amazing homes, working with some of the country’s best designers and architects, and have created and worked on campaigns for some incredible brands in both the interior and fashion space.

What is your philosophy when creating an interior?

I start with thoughts around emotion – how you want to feel when you’re in a space. Do you want to feel calm and have space for contemplation or do you want to feel energised? This informs color, texture and lighting. I always believe you need to mix the new with the old, to create a space that feels personal and authentic.

Do you have a particular creative process that you apply to your work?

No two jobs are ever the same, so the process can vary. Some might be completely intuitive and others might require research on particular design eras or movements before I begin the sourcing process.

How does it align with Armadillo’s design aesthetic?

My natural inclination is to create spaces that lean more to the contemplative, quiet side – focusing on a less is more approach, exploring texture and tactility, to create a world that is uncomplicated, yet intriguing. This, I feel, is perfectly aligned with Armadillo’s aesthetic. They are a brand that I have always admired, as their approach is so thoughtful and considered. They have always remained true to their core values and aesthetic, without ever having to yell.

"I always believe you need to mix the new with the old, to create a space that feels personal and authentic."

You’ve styled several of our campaigns. What is your main focus in highlighting the artistry of the rugs?

I always look at texture and form when sourcing for Armadillo campaigns – pieces that complement but don’t pull focus from the artistry of the rugs. Quiet pieces, with often organic lines that talk back to the inspiration of each collection.

When creating a showroom installation, how do you harness the built environment?

The showrooms are so beautifully designed and rather grand in scale, so I believe pulling back and creating smaller yet strong installations further plays on that sense of scale, allowing negative space for the viewer to pause and for the rugs to have their moment. Both Sydney and Melbourne get the most incredible natural light pouring in throughout the day, which really makes the weaves and textures sing.

Tell us how the concept for Studio Gardner came about.

Aaron and I always dreamt of creating a space that showcased our mutual love for collecting and curating. We were feeling restless for years and traveling a lot overseas, always searching for and acquiring beauty. We floated the idea of moving to Paris, and even Morocco at one point, but then we thought, what if we created a space in our hometown of Sydney, that allowed us to continue traveling regularly and bring back the pieces that we discovered from all our favorite destinations? To be able to offer this to our existing clients felt really good.

We took the leap in early 2023 and took off on our first buying trip, visiting France, Belgium, Spain and the Netherlands. We didn’t have a space locked in at this point but knew it had to be something special, something that felt transportative and more than just a white box.

A week before we were to return from our buying trip, we saw a space listed that we had admired for many years on Bayswater Road in Rushcutters Bay and jumped on the phone with the agent immediately. The space was formerly tenanted by a florist by the name of Nelson Pringle, who we later befriended and learned so much from about the shop. We officially opened our doors in November 2023.

How would you describe the aesthetic of the gallery?

The gallery is a mix of vintage and contemporary, always with a story and always sourced with serenity and calm in mind. We wanted to create a space where people would enter and feel instantly inspired, but also a space that felt light and contemplative.

What draws you to the designers, artists and makers that you showcase? What are you looking for when you source a piece?

I think we’re both really driven by emotion. It’s a rough world out there so we always look for pieces that have a tactile nature, that are quiet but at the same time powerful. We are really big on remaining trend aware but at the same time focused on the idea of timelessness and what makes a piece stand the test of time.

What are some of your favorite works currently on display?

We hate to play favorites! But we have a real soft spot for our Australian makers and love to see them displayed alongside our European finds. We currently have our very first exhibition, ‘Elemental’, running with works from Annie Paxton, [Armadillo co-founder] Jodie Fried, Tanika Jellis and Ted O’Donnell. It’s really beautiful and we are very honored to be representing these talents.

How do you see your exhibitions and collection evolving?

Our next container is arriving in June and we are very excited to be introducing some new contemporary designers to our collection. Works from Milan-based duo Studio Utte, Lisbon-based duo Garcé Dimofski, Batten and Kamp, Léa Bigot, Hans Severin Jacobsen, and a host of others.

Where do you source creative inspiration?

Just about anywhere and everywhere – but I’m a huge fan of print, so books on architecture, art, photography and fashion and more obscure design, fashion and art magazines are always a go-to.

Travel is really the biggest source of inspiration for me, however – my phone is filled with images of textured walls, architectural details, stone floors and art and design seen in many great museums and galleries around the globe.