Brett Mickan

Multifaceted Design

Brett Mickan

“I strive to guide my clients in creating an environment that is the best expression of themselves and sits naturally and cohesively within its architecture.”

With over 20 years of experience in the design field, Brett Mickan has vast and style-informing experience across the multifaceted aspects of design including film, theatre, exhibitions, yacht interiors, commercial and residential interiors.

Known for his use of colour, and signature infusion of beautiful vintage finds, no two projects are the same. It brings Brett the greatest pleasure to marry contemporary families with period architecture in a way that is aesthetically beautiful, liveable, functional and original.

Practising design in Sydney until 1998, Brett then moved to the United States, where he became the Senior Designer for a Miami based firm - where his work won several awards, including two distinctions by the International Interior Design Association, IIDA, for ‘Best Residential Design’.

Since returning to Australia he has been a finalist for ‘Best Residential Design’ in the ‘Sydney Design Awards’ (2012 and 2013) and winner (2014). Brett has also been nominated 3 times for ‘Best Colour in Residential Design’ in the Dulux Colour Awards. Brett’s work has featured in the House & Garden ‘Top 50 Rooms’ (2012, 2013 and 2014) as well as listed in their ‘Best in the Business’ Little Black Book.

Brett sits on the Design Council for ‘Art Edit’ magazine, to which he contributes quarterly, as well as his role as judge for the 2013 Reece ‘I love My Bathroom’ competition.

Highly photogenic and inimitable, Brett's work has been featured extensively in such magazines as Vogue Living, House & Garden, Artichoke, Home Beautiful, Florida Design, Florida International, Inside Out, Home and Design, Lino, The Miami Herald Magazine and The Daily Telegraph Magazine.

Now based in Sydney, Brett is a DIA registered designer specialising in high-end residential projects. He prides himself on creating ideal environments for his clients, based on both the architecture and the function of their spaces. He infuses spaces with his passion for colour; whether it's subtle monochromatic tones or bold splashes. He has the ability to mix periods and styles to create beautiful rooms that tell a story of the inhabitants.

Brett personally manages every project that is entrusted to him and works closely with each client, taking pleasure in the collaborative process.

1 In a couple of short sentences, tell us about your career path and how it has evolved over time.

The result of a high school guidance counsellor survey proclaimed I was to be an Interior Designer. Once I found out what that was, it seemed liked such a natural path. I have ventured into many other areas of design, including film & theatre sets and costumes and staging. Design is my passion and leisure. My education began with a certificate in Interior Design, then a BA in Theatre and Film Design. I had a practice in Sydney for 7 years then moved too the U.S., where I attained a BA in Interior Design and practised for 10 years in Miami. My design firm is now based in Sydney where I am a DIA registered designer, specialising in high-end residential interiors.

2 Apart from homes, what else do you work on?

I do love the challenge of marrying my clients to their architecture; however, I am passionate about all design, believing that creative pursuits are easily blended. I have designed several commercial spaces and a few yachts interiors, often for clients whose homes I've designed. My design focus for approximately 7 years was film, theatre and staging, set and costumes. I found this experience a vital lesson in the visual manipulation of spaces. I also work with many clients to realise a totally integrated living environment that encompasses interior, exterior and landscaping.

3 How does the work of an interior designer differ to what people see on reality TV shows (such as The Block)?

I strive to guide my clients in creating an environment that is the best expression of themselves and sits naturally and cohesively within its architecture. This is achieved through a careful manipulation of an existing space (which in many cases involves simplifying) and a orchestrated balance of interior pieces, colours and finishes. What are created are functional interiors that have personalised appeal and links to the existing architecture, which in turn greatly delays the ageing process and relevance of a design. I employ a strong use of structural elements, custom pieces and lighting. The spaces we design are not created in a week, using only pieces that are in stock and on trend.

4 What is the Australian industry like, how does it compare to the USA?

There are definite pros and cons when comparing practising Interior Design in Australia to practising in the US. The first con being that most products in Australia are far more expensive and there is far less wholesale pricing available to interior designers. A lot of this is based on lower volumes due to the smaller size of our local market and exorbitant shipping costs. To meet these challenges, Australian designers need to be more creative with their design choices.

There is a large and expanding market of Australian made products that are making an International impact, many with hand crafted aesthetics. The high cost of imported goods means that custom made Australian pieces can be more competitive. You can design and produce beautiful original cabinetry and upholstery, often for less than an imported European equivalent.

The U.S. has many varied aesthetics in its many markets and, having spent a lot of my time in Miami, by comparison the Australian market has a definite fear of colour. Perpetuated by social media, Australia has a love of neutral schemes. It has taken me some time to find clients in Australia who are brave enough to express themselves in their interiors rather than just repeating a "look". Finding those clients in the US was not a challenge.

5 How do you keep up to date with new technologies in your day-to-day work?

The majority of my computer drafting is done by my employees, however, I make sure I do some of that work to keep up the skill; it's a little like retaining a foreign language.

I think that the biggest technological impact in the last 5 or so years is the influence of social media. When used effectively, it can definitely be an asset to a design business to help place them in their desired market. It does, however, take a lot of combined time by all my staff and has helped create a larger client pool for us to select from. I also rely on my younger staff to keep me informed on the latest advances.

6 What advice would you offer students looking to get into the interior design industry?

Try to see and read as much as you can, from film, fashion, travel, magazines and online to help create a vast visual knowledge. Don't focus on online only. It can be easy to get lost in sameness and popular sites which can sometimes be famous only for being famous.

Find an area of design that inspires you and research it. Find a designer or company whose work you admire and research the practice. If feasible, approach them for work experience. The industry is very buoyant at the moment; so many companies are looking for help. This is an image-based industry, so a well-presented, enthusiastic prospect that presents themself armed with knowledge of your practice can go a long way. It is surprising how many students have approached me for work, yet they have no knowledge of my practice. The Australian Industry is a tight knit group so an introduction through a known designer can open doors.

7 Anything else you would like to add?

There are fun, glamorous events and beautiful homes that are part of an interior designer's life, however, there are many less glamorous tasks and a constant stream of issues to be solved and selections to be made. You need to be patient, part counsellor, an effective public speaker and willing to do a bit of everything. You will need to multi task, interview, be decisive and, if not outgoing, have the ability to act that way. So, if you don't have a passion for this career, it's probably not the right choice for you; if you do, the rewards can be manyfold.

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