Melissa Kenny

Design Company

Melissa Kenny

Trainer and Assesor at Open Colleges

“I like looking for new finishes, design trends. I really like using magazines and blogs for getting ideas of places to go to.”

Open Colleges trainer and assessor, Melissa, owns a design company called Holmes At Home. She specialises in retail design and residential design. “I’ve got a big background in retail design,” she says, “designing small boutique shops and also large department stores and food courts.”

Melissa has the experience of doing a varied mix of large and small projects, as well as residential design – things such as small home renovations, kitchen design and bathroom design. “They could just be little jobs - like interior colour selections and exterior colour selections, furniture sourcing, floor and wall finishes.”

1 Could you give me an example of a recent design project you’ve done?

I’ve done just individual stores. One I’ve done recently was a café on the south coast and also the men’s clothing store called Tarocash. I did their stores for years around Australia and New Zealand and South Africa.

We had a standard design and it was reviewed and I would have to fit their standard design within that (shopping centre) space. Every shop has a different size and shape and some are long and narrow, some are triangle shaped, so I had to do a lot of creative planning.

Working with that type of retail design, you have to go through the process of getting the design and the fit out approved within their shopping centre as well.

For example, you’ll usually get usually Westfield or Lend Lease determining a standard fit out design guide in the form of a book, or perhaps, a hard copy or email version.

2 How does the process work when designing to set parameters?

They’ll make sure that you get that along with the lease plan as part of the contract of the fit out. So these things lock you. You’re not allowed to use certain materials in the centre because it’s not good enough or the longevity of that material just won’t suit a high traffic area.

They have strict guidelines and often the client will want something and you know that it won’t be accepted. In that case, you have to try and make two clients happy instead of one!

Retail design is a very fast turnover job to do and it’s exciting. You get to do a lot of really cool things and use a lot of really unusual materials that you wouldn’t be able to use in a residential situation. It’s also not a long project that goes for a year - like designing a department store or a food court.

3 Can you give a snapshot of how your career evolved from school to what you’re doing now?

I did my Higher School Certificate in 1989. I just happened to jag an interview with a design company that wanted a junior designer that they could train up. I had an idea in my head about what interior design was, but it wasn’t until I started working in that design studio that I realised there’s so much more to interior design than just choosing colours and fabrics and cushions.

I worked with them for five years and I studied part-time at Randwick TAFE. I worked full-time, studied in the evenings. I did this for five years – for four nights a week and it was a pretty big commitment.

That company specialised in retail design and I was thrown into that world! From there, I worked with another couple of companies, small and large, doing a mix of residential and retail. So that’s where I kind of fell in love with residential design as well.

I was also directly employed by Westfield doing retail design management, on the “other side” approving other designers’ shop fit outs for different Westfield centres.

Then I went to London and that was amazing. I basically took my portfolio over and got some contract work fairly easily.

4 If a design student was in an older age group what ways would you suggest they could gain some experience?

I would just try and approach different design companies in that area. I would offer to do work experience just for the experience. Consider setting up your own company because I think these days, it’s pretty easy. I can only speak from experience from when I studied and I feel like these days, it’s a lot more intensive.

There’s a lot more information about how you “just get going” yourself. You can see that people just go on to start their own interior design firm. Anyone can do it really. So armed with your course, your diploma or your Certificate IV, I just feel like you could just go for it!

5 What are some of the design related websites, blogs and magazines that you’ve read in the past month?

I read a lot of the Coco Republic stuff that I get sent. The magazines that I would buy are probably Belle and Vogue Living. I do a lot of stuff of Pinterest.

6 What are some of the features of these publications that you find appealing?

I like looking for new finishes, design trends. I really like using magazines and blogs for getting ideas of places to go to. I just love nothing more than going to places and feeling the atmosphere.

There are new shops constantly opening - some really groovy little spots in Surry Hills and Bondi – there are a lot of creative little spots to go to. Explore them all!

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Sam Brown

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