First published in Broadsheet, February 2016.
For Smith and Carmody, design is less about grand gestures than it is about understated details.
Cameron Krone finds inspiration in unlikely sources. The designer and co-founder of Smith and Carmody, the Sydney design studio responsible for some of the city’s most intimate and considered interior spaces, is less interested in flashy fixtures or Pinterest-worthy design trends than he is in conjuring an atmosphere and creating an unmistakable sense of place.
“When I started designing Brickfields I came across this image of a Czechoslovakian food court from the ’50s,” explains Krone, who is also the aesthetic force behind Cornersmith in Marrickville; Black Star Pastry in Rosebery;Gumption in The Strand Arcade; and Ashfield’s Excelsior Jones. “I was influenced by the feel of that image and kept referencing it for my colour palette. Rather than sift through countless images, there was something about that particular one that was interesting.”
We’re talking over filter coffee at Mecca Espresso in Alexandria, which is in an old warehouse and is a sunlit reminder of the power of good design. The cafe features stripped-back white walls, blonde wood, communal tables and is accented with sculptural bunches of natives and teal-coloured chevron tiling. A wrought-iron railing marks out the mezzanine level without creating unnecessary visual clutter. It also nods to Krone’s talent for marrying details that seem serendipitous rather than overly clever, and his eye for incorporating a subtle sense of theatre – one that nods to his background in exhibition design.
“A lot of the projects I’ve worked on have been in old buildings and have been quite historical,” says Krone, who originally trained as an industrial designer and co-founded Smith and Carmody with Hayley West while working together on Cornersmith in 2011. “I try to draw the line between what’s existing and what’s new. I do like contemporary design, so it’s really a combination. I put in the time and energy to make the shell of the space feel good because then you don’t have to do too much else. I try to be honest about a space and its limitations and not really intervene too much.”
For Krone, an ongoing collaboration with eyewear retailer Oscar Wylee posed a fresh design challenge for Smith and Carmody. The company’s Chatswood store, which launched in November, swaps display cases for wave-like, custom-made shelving. It includes sleek pendant lights by Swedish lighting designer Wastberg, modular peach sofas by Jardan and white oak stools from Jonathan West. A new store, in the Galeries Victoria, will open later this month.
“In terms of Oscar Wylee, the brief is different – the stores needed to be quite fresh and clean, but I wanted to find a balance between that and softer, more feminine elements,” says Krone, who often collaborates with suppliers to create furniture and fixtures from scratch. “Because it was so minimal, it was a challenge to make it feel good. I wanted to make the most of the high ceiling, but also include some more intimate parts, so the space felt like it could progress while being functional. The shelving evolved out of working out how to display all those glasses. The whole process was really enjoyable.”
Krone, who says that Cornersmith has been the company’s defining project, hopes to spend the next year evolving creatively and keeping up Smith and Carmody’s current pace.
“I’ve been lucky, I’ve had lots of great clients, but I have no great aspirations. I just want to do work that’s inspiring.”