Designer Profile: Scott Weston
As I started on this blog, I decided that each month I would feature an interview with a designer who inspired me - and one of the first people I felt I must feature was Architect and Interior Designer Scott Weston, of Scott Weston Architecture Design PL, who has a an instinct for colour like no other. His projects are totally modern, with constant nods to classic design, and always in a bold and perfectly executed palette. He is both immensely talented and a really nice person. When I was just a mere design student a few years ago, I emailed a few of my local idols and he was the only one who replied (which is slightly tragic in hindsight)! Since then he has invited me for coffee, where he shared his knowledge and wisdom on how one should embark on a career in design. Subsequently I have visited his home Villa Carmelina, a grand Italianate 1875 terrace, which he has renovated from it’s Victorian slumber. True to his generous nature he took the time to share his story with me a couple of weeks ago, here it is...
Scott Weston was brought up in the South-Western suburbs of Sydney. He came from a loving home with humble surroundings. It was this love and support that gave him the confidence to pursue his passion, that was studying architecture at UTS in the city.
Graduating with the University gold medal, First Class Honours and numerous study scholarships he was than able to travel to Rome, staying for three months documenting the art and architecture of Bernini. He then moved on to the UK, where he stayed for two years while studying at the Royal College of Art.
Scott Weston as a child, always in love with colour and clothes.
Arriving in London, wearing a Commes des Garçons suit purchased in Rome, he wasn’t satisfied with his boarding house at College and made contact with Christie’s auction house after a friend had whispered that they have a list of client’s who are seeking respectable lodgers. Soon after he found lodging in a rather grand terrace just off Kensington Square.
“I had to buy a suit from Debenhams as suddenly I was attending black tie dinners…”. It was there where he had his first exposure to West London’s society, and how the other half lived, but equally came to appreciate the love and grounding he’d received growing up in his parents’ home.
Upon his return to Sydney, Scott pursued a job with the Public Works Department, working on projects like schools and other public institutions. “To me it seemed like the best place to learn…” Whilst employed full-time he was also being commissioned to design and oversee construction of early childhood centres. It was here that he won several industry design awards (from the likes of Belle and the DIA) for these commercial and hospitality projects. At the same time he was hands-on designing and re-building his one bed apartment, purchased with his life savings, in the city's up-and-coming suburb of Redfern. This small space was where he was able to host his ideas and express his true self. Here his innovative and bold use of colour led to him winning the Dulux Colour Award in 1992.
Scott's first home in the Dulux Colour Awards.
Diligently working for Public Works whilst moonlighting on the side would seem like enough for most, but Scott was getting noticed and he was soon invited to design one of Sydney’s first boutique hotels in the heart of Darlinghurst, the Medusa Hotel. It was then that he made the decision to leave the security of a full-time employment establishing his own boutique architectural practice focusing exclusively on bespoke architectural design.
The result was a cool, contemporary, colourful, quirky hotel that stood apart from the more conservative hotels that dominated the market. “At the time Maggie Alderson sent me a note saying it was the most unique and beautiful boutique hotel she’d ever stayed in - and she had stayed in a lot of boutique hotels around the globe.” Conde Nast Traveller voted it one on the ‘Coolest Hotels in the World’.
Image from the Medusa Hotel, designed by Scott Weston.
Around that same time, Janet James of Vogue Living invited Scott to work on the exhibition stand for Vogue Living at Designex in Melbourne:
“The concept was simple and dramatic using Caravaggio’s ‘boy holding a basket of fruit’ as the theme. The image was digitally printed on a six by six metre PVC canvas, and hung like a diorama from wall to floor. To the front of the stand were a sentinel of five vertical coloured glass panels with cantilevered boxes of colour blocked fruits where people could stand and peer through the carefully captured views of the monumental artwork. The idea was to create a diorama that spoke about looking to the past while referencing the historic colour in the painting and drawing it into the future by applying it to new technologies like laminated colour-back glass.”
His involvement in the task had him attending meetings with Vogue’s board - a slightly nerve-wracking experience for a young Scott, more so when print media was in its most powerful incarnation. His talent gained him attention once again when his ‘concept box’ (or architectural model) landed on the desk of Vogue Australia’s editor-in-chief, Kirstie Clements, who was so impressed with his talent that she promptly commissioned him to design and re-build her inner-city residence for she and her young family.
Image of the Designex stand from Vogue Living, designed by Scott Weston.
Before long, his client list was a ‘who's who’ of very high profile Australian media women. These clients were people who wanted individuality, custom design and tailored spaces that matched to their own, specific requirements and lifestyles.
Meanwhile Scott and his partner of 20 years were working on their own home, a Victorian terrace in Pitt Street Redfern. This terrace house was Scott’s first real self-portrait, exemplifying his tastes and capabilities. A bright, poppy palette, contemporary finishes, and strong asian influence are apparent when you view images of the house. Naturally, the home also attracted considerable media attention, and Scott’s 'anti cookie-cutter' style, was being recognised.
Scott Weston's Redfern terrace.
Scott’s CV is extremely impressive, and yet I haven’t yet touched on the feature of his work I most admire: Scott’s meticulous eye for detail. “God, or the devil, is in the details after all…” I was so impressed to learn that for one project, with strong Scandinavian and mid-century influences, he had found a specialist Danish builder for the project. “I came across a guy on site who was creating the most incredible bathrooms, and he could do the entire job himself. I found out more about him and as it turned out he lived part-time in Australia and part-time in Denmark. When I started on this particular project I knew I had to hire him for the job.” This meant that this job’s clients, one rather lucky Sydney family, didn’t endure a roster of random tradespeople to rebuild their home, and instead had their home custom built for them by an endearing Dane, all under Scott’s exacting direction.
“When you get someone who can do everything, you inherently save money, even if it seems extravagant to fly a specialist in from another country.” Scott’s multi-talented and multifaceted approach to any project affords him the same commendation. It is rare that an architectural mind can also source the perfect cushion cover, or appreciate chic and fashionable brands like Fornasetti. But he is that god/devil in every detail. This is a feature of his work that carries through to other aspects of his life, such as in the way he dresses - wearing clothes from a mixture of chic, global brands in bold and yet coordinating colours - think back to the Commes des Garçons suit he turned up wearing in the Christie’s office.
Villa Carmelina was the next challenge he embarked upon. A large inner-city terrace that required major alterations and additions which would eventually become the home and studio of both he and his journalist partner. “We were ready for a new challenge and a new place to call home.”
When searching for the premise to make-over, they found a rundown, almost derelict house, which had belonged to a Latvian and Mexican immigrant couple that had purchased the home in 1958. “I loved the story behind the house, as well as all the small reminders of the previous owners.” When they started work on the home there was no working electricity or hot water, but there were rather enticing sections of peeling paint in sugary 1950’s colours and Mexican pink floorboards.
Scott stood on the sugary pink floorboards in Villa Carmelina, prior to it's overhaul.
It has been a labour of love, which Scott was generous enough to show me in its earlier stages. The home is certainly grand, but feels inviting and manageable. His design has honoured the original layout but has brought it into the modern age. As for the decorating, it’s wilfully him - colourful, quirky, humorous and elegant. It feels more grown up than his previous home, yet simultaneously more relaxed. It has also enabled Scott to collaborate with so many brands he has supported and used for throughout his career - think Academy Tiles, AWS, Bisazza Australia, Brinton Carpets, Laminex, Olde English Tiles, Smeg and Wattyl paint (who are set to launch a new paint colour based on the fabulous Villa Carmelina).
As the home nears completion, the final touches have been a joy to follow on the project’s own Instagram account. Already the home is gaining press attention and everyone wants a peek inside - for better or worse. “Some friends come in saying 'this is so different to your old place' and I think 'of course it is, I’m different now that I’ve been designing for over twenty-five years…” A sentiment that links well to his ultimate design ethos “I believe in total uniqueness, every project should be unique. I also like to retain and honour the character of the home I am renovating. I never opt to paint something white and be done with it.” Beyond that he tells me to “...never be afraid, help your client’s push past their doubts, and if you’re wanting to try something extra bold, try it in your own home first.”
An image of Villa Carmelina today, after it's redesign by Scott Weston.
Despite all of his accolades he remains forever humble. “You’re only as good your last job.” He tells me he still gets nervous, even at this point in his career, but that this is what keeps him pushing on and excited by everything he does. After the last couple of years spent focusing on Villa Carmelina, Scott is focusing on private residential work. On the project horizon is a terrace in Paddington, another in the inner-west, and a more modest home for a young family in Marrickville “…who have saved all their pennies to work with me”. This to-do list is very indicative of Scott’s range of abilities and lack of project prejudice.
I ask him how he describes himself. “I just refer to myself as an architect, that’s what I am. I am a service provider who listens and delivers beyond their expectations.” His favourite project to date was the stand for Vogue Living, right at the start of his career. “That’s the job that started my career and the job I’m most proud of. It was my youthful fearlessness that made that happen.” I see Scott now and don’t think he’s lost any of that fearlessness or childlike charm. It’s the mix of that, his preciseness and humbleness that makes him who he is, and someone whose work I want to keep following forever.
All images were provided by SWAD PL.