The name TomMarkHenry may evoke images of a dapper businessman, but the Sydney-based interior design and architecture firm isn’t run by one, or even three men - rather, by three powerhouse women (or one superhuman, but we’ll get to that).
The brainchild of Chloe Matters, Jade Nottage and Cushla McFadden, TomMarkHenry has skyrocketed since its inception in early 2014, with an impressive resume of bespoke residential and commercial projects which can be found all over Sydney.
After bidding farewell to their own separate self-run companies, Chloe, Cushla and Jade decided to come together, combining their powers to create the now dynamic and thriving TomMarkHenry. Each member brings crucial skills to the company as equal partners, and forming the brand as a collective has allowed them to achieve things that just couldn’t have been done as a solo venture.
“Having three different perspectives is not only beneficial to our clients but for ourselves as we challenge each other and push the design boundaries further. Obviously this comes with its challenges as ideas and opinions can differ, but ultimately this means we have three minds working and pushing the brief until we reach a harmonised solution. We also bring different personalities and experiences to the table that together formulate a complete super-human!” says Cushla.
Jade believes their strength lies in both these innate differences and stylistic similarities. “When we first started out I’d say our tastes were a lot more diverse, but since working together they’ve become more refined and slightly more similar, there are still subtle differences and we all really offer something different.”
Here at Bailey Nelson we love companies grounded in timeless and high-quality design - and TomMarkHenry is a perfect example of this. According to the trio, the real trick is maintaining classic and sustainable design principles whilst still acknowledging industry trends.
“Our main concern within our design projects is responding to the given brief and space appropriately. We take into account the client’s requirements, budget, timing, suitability and the space, and if our response to the brief includes an element that would be considered "on trend", this comes as a result of that being the right fit for the project...we keep our work timeless by ensuring that first and foremost we are influenced by the specific needs of the projects, not by industry trends.”
So with this in mind, which elements of design will never go out of style according to TomMarkHenry?
Cushla’s focus is working with classic materials.
“You really can never go past the beauty of natural stone. This has been around literally forever and there are so many amazing variations of it that we can’t ever imagine a time when people would turn their noses up at natural stone in some way, shape or form.”
And to Jade, it’s all about the space in between.
“In terms of design techniques, classic proportions will always be relevant regardless of the colour palette, working with traditional proportions should be something to stick with in design moving forward.”
With a massive number of residential properties as well as commercial businesses, offices and hospitality projects under their collective belt, it’s easy to wonder how these projects differ and which spaces are the most enjoyable to work with. Whilst Chloe has a residential background and takes on most of these projects, Jade and Cushla are more inclined to lean towards commercial.
“I guess I prefer commercial and hospitality because you’re offering an experience; people don’t actually have to live in it so it allows you to be free with your material choices and be a bit bolder” says Jade, “but every project offers something new; we get just as much joy out of a 60 square metre site as opposed to a huge project.”
And when it comes to residential properties, there’s a surefire favourite room.
“Hands down, the kitchen! No matter what, people always congregate around the kitchen. It must be something about the preparation of food!” says Cushla.
As rent and housing prices rise (especially in Sydney) a lot of people are opting for smaller living spaces, and their number one tip for utilising small areas and creating the illusion of space is to simply “go up”.
“With floor space becoming so hard to come by, you really need to utilise every available inch within your home to maximise space, especially the volume. If you can’t go up, it’s important to utilise every available inch of space without making the space claustrophobic. Try to find clever storage solutions without making the space feel full, then furnish with larger and fewer pieces. Everyone always thinks smaller pieces and more of them in smaller spaces work, which is not the case.”
The last few years have seen the ensemble take on a ton of unique and diverse projects including a high-end butcher in Double Bay, a Mexican food kiosk in Barangaroo and the first two co-working spaces for WeWork in Australia - and it’s looking like the year ahead will be just as exciting.
“We can’t wait to reveal a nail salon that we are designing at Barangaroo. This is another one where we are pushing the boundaries of what a nail salon should look like. It’s pink, very soft soft, feminine and relaxing, but also unexpected.”
“We also have some beautiful residential projects coming up, including a major renovation of a house in Vaucluse, 2 houses in Clovelly and an apartment in Bondi.” says Cushla.
“Our dream project would be a boutique hotel. We see this being the perfect merging of our creative ideas behind hospitality, retail, residential and even workplace design with the rise of the nomadic work/life approach. We’ve had a wealth of experience designing in all of these typologies so would love the opportunity to combine all we've learned along the way into the one project.”
And speaking of dreams, for those aspiring interior designers who are trying to forge their place in the industry, their advice is simple:
“It takes passion, ambition and drive but stick at it and it’s all worth it. Be genuine and confident. It’s not going to happen overnight, so be patient, but also dream big!"
Photography by Ben Murphy.