MEET: SPELL HQ DESIGNER MEL GUBBIN

Modern bohemian brand Spell’s boutique in the Northern New South Wales town of Byron Bay is perhaps one of the most Instagramed stores around the globe. With its whitewashed walls, high ceilings, timber beams and feather chandeliers, this beautifully curated space was brought to life by creative Mel Gubbin [above], who also recently worked with Spell’s co-founders Elizabeth and Isabella on their incredible new office space which has been seen in the likes of Vogue and Real Living. The diminutive Mel recently launched Avenue Twenty Two, a design and project management company and has some seriously exciting projects on the go. We spoke to her about the design process, the use of raw materials like concrete and the challenges of project management.

 

You are the creative mind behind the Spell store in Byron, and also their incredible new office. Those projects must have been a joy to work on? 

They were! Working so closely with the Spell sisters, Elizabeth and Isabella, was such a pleasure. They are such a strong creative force with so much personally in their designs, it was fun to help them create their spaces and I loved their visions and energy. They’re very inspiring!

Knowing the girls for a few years now gave me a good insight into their aesthetic and how best we could represent their brand in all their spaces. They had a lot of creative input so it was great bouncing ideas and development off of them like a little team. 

 Where do you draw most of your inspiration?

I think that projects have to inherently be sympathetic and harmonious with their environment and those who inhabit the space. It is hard to pinpoint one master source of inspiration as I think you can draw on it from multiple elements throughout the design process - your clients, their lifestyle choices and the surroundings. I think there isn’t an exact formula, it is unique for everyone. 

Who doesn’t love a good Pinterest session though, right?…. 

 What are some of your favourite materials?

I love, love, love beautiful reclaimed timbers. I am a big believer in a space having a soul and I think using a product that has previously lived a life certainly helps inject this into a space. 

What are your thoughts on architectural concrete, and using raw materials like concrete inside a home?

Gone are the days that concrete is just thought of as a ‘building material.’ I love that we are finally tapping into all this potential for its uses around our spaces! With traditional stone products or essential items like basins, you will often find yourself restricted to a slab size or standard set of dimensions. I love that with concrete, you are able to really customise your pieces, sizes and finishes. 

Using raw materials helps to really break up what can sometimes feel like a stark environment in a new space and give it some depth with your concrete piece. I’ve never come across a piece of concrete used in a space that people don’t walk towards with their hand at the ready to touch and explore the pieces.

 Do you have a go-to for homewares?

I have a ‘master list’ for my fave stores but I usually always start with my local suppliers around Byron Bay. Bisque Traders, Ahoy, Nikau and the catalogue of amazing craftsmen and women!

 What is a strong trend in interior design at the moment?

I feel in Byron Bay right now, there is a strong emphasis on the use of natural materials and the imperfect beauty of more authentic, organic materials. There also seems to be a strong pull towards traditional handcrafts like ceramics, imported vintage goodies and soft textiles like linens and aged leather. I guess you would almost call it curated 'Wabi Sabi' which is the ancient Japanese philosophy of finding beauty in imperfection.

Also with spaces I have created with a focus on open plan and communal living/areas, I feel like now in such a busy age, the idea of escapism with nooks and places to retreat is becoming more popular.

I also love seeing this pop of material fusion where cold items like steel frames are blended with soft luscious fabrics like velvets and full linen pillows! 

The most challenging parts of project management?

Always staying a few steps ahead. The reality of building and working with large groups of contractors is that not everything always goes according to plan. You just have to have strong contingency processes and be very transparent and a open communicator so that you know everyone is on the same page and working for the best outcomes.  

 In your opinion, what are some no-nos when it comes to design or styling?

When it comes to design, I am all for pushing the boundaries and creating special one of a kind spaces, I do however want them to be adaptable for the long term. 

It frightens me when people rush into big decisions based on what they like right ‘now' and do not future proof themselves for in the years to come with the evolution of their lives and circumstances. 

Inam all for practical beauty! I would hate to create a space that looks amazing but is not easy or enjoyable to live in for those who use the space.

I love the expressive element of interior design and where you can have fun and live in the now because really these items are just your reflection on your homes mood at that point in time. 

What inspiring projects are you currently working on?

You will just have to wait and see! Let’s just say they are big, bold and so beautiful!

Follow Mel on Instagram @avenue.twentytwo

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