More is more for this Australian designer, whose signature layering of patterns on patterns gently rebukes contemporary minimalism in favor of whimsy, juxtaposition, and luxury. Since opening his eponymous firm in 2001, Greg Natale has brought his bold touch to dozens of private residences and commercial spaces throughout his native country, and to shops around the world through collaborations with Designer Rugs, Worlds Away, Porter’s Paints, Stylecraft, and Teranova. On the occasion of the publication of Natale’s first book, The Tailored Interior (Hardie Grant), chock full of his philosophies, tips, and work through the years, he shares with us his passion for patterns, cohesion, and even Joan Collins.
Interior Design: What was the first item that sparked your passion for interior design?
Greg Natale: It’s quite funny, looking back on it, but I make no secret of the fact that, from a young age, I fell in love with the TV show Dynasty ! Joan Collins played the character of Alexis. I loved her style, but I was most taken by her office and her faux elephant tusk desk!
ID: Did you have any mentors in design school, and what did you learn from them?
GN: There really are so many that have inspired or nurtured me in some way, but in retrospect I would say there was one lecture from acclaimed Australian architect and designer David Katon that was a real “wow” moment for me. An eye-opener. I still recall that.
ID: Why did you decide to start your own firm after graduation?
GN: I worked for some big and well-respected Australian design firms like SJB and HBO+EMTB. Eventually, though, I went out on my own because I really wanted creative freedom.
ID: Looking through the book, your use of really bold, patterned wallpaper stands out. Why does that appeal to you so strongly?
GN: I guess that for me, pattern was always there. My parents’ house was a crazy, beautiful cacophony of pattern, one contrasting against the other. I grew up with it. In my professional life, I suppose my exploration of pattern is my breaking away from minimalism.
ID: How do you know when all the patterns and layering gets a little too much—if that’s even possible?
GN: It’s very much a stage-by-stage process, and that includes editing. There are some good guidelines to follow in my book that will stand you in good stead. But as we cover in the chapter “Cohesion”, the process of editing and coming back to your initial concept and starting point is how you keep on track and avoid overdoing it.
ID: What do you think the most overused element or approach is today?
GN: For me, it’s the “Scandi” aesthetic. I feel that it is overused and becoming too clichéd. The style itself is not being explored fully, or those boundaries pushed enough.
ID: What do you think the most misunderstood approach is today?
GN: Minimalism. It’s a really hard style to get right. It’s an art form.
ID: When you fall in love with something, but the client doesn’t care for it, how do you go about convincing them to use it—or do you?
GN: I will always welcome a client’s input. That collaborative to-and-fro can deliver some stunning results. But when I can see the benefit in a selection or a special piece and I know the client isn’t able to see what I see, I spend some time getting them not to imagine the piece as it appears in front of them, but to really project and place it in the space, mentally. We all bring pre-conceived notions to places and things, but it’s about removing that prejudice for a minute and exploring the item’s potential. It’s a trust thing, a lot of the time.
ID: How would you describe the design of your own office?
GN: My team and I have just recently moved into our new, much bigger building with a studio, offices, samples room, showroom, and meeting rooms. It’s a fantastic space and I’m really proud of it. Grey, black, and white are my favorite neutrals, and they were always going to be used in the new space. We have many clients come to the studio for presentations, so it’s important that our space offer a cleaner palette for our projects to be displayed against. Our style comes through and we reassure them of our capability by the surroundings we’ve created—but we aren’t overwhelming them.
ID: What would your dream brief be?
GN: That is too easy: A private jet.