Tamsin Johnson

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Sydney-based interior designer, Tamsin Johnson, creates elegant and unique spaces. Her light-filled rooms are complete with contemporary, clean shapes and subtle hues; occupied with diverse pieces of furniture and eclectic art. Simple, beautiful and idiosyncratic - a perfect approach to a Bailey Nelson store… 

Our recently-opened Covent Garden store in London's Westminster was brought to life by Tamsin, the result a testament to her distinctive and refined technique. Classic tiling on the floor and walls, exposed brick and a rich green palette compliment our assorted range of frames and fits with the surrounding area of historic architecture. 

We caught up with Tamsin in her impeccably styled studio to discuss life in Sydney, her favourite piece for the home and finding inspiration day-to-day. 

So, tell us a bit about what you do and how you got to where you are now.

I actually started my career in design in fashion design, studying at RMIT in Melbourne before moving to London to work for Stella McCartney. Lots of fun. This was a formative experience for me. It enabled me to work out quite early the type of career I wanted and I realised that it was in interior design. So I enrolled at the Inchbald school of design. It is a very traditional school, which suited me. 

In 2008, I moved back to Australia and was lucky to secure a role with Meacham Nockles McQualter. This was an invaluable experience. After 5 years with the firm, I went out on my own and started Tamsin Johnson interiors. 

Can you walk us through an average day for you? 

I have a combination of work days and mum days; but a typical work day looks like an early wake up, toast and tea for breakfast and a walk with Arthur (my one-year-old), my husband and my bulldog Hector. Then some play time before the short drive to work.  

I use the drive to chat to my family to the phone. At the office I’ll do some emails over tea and start my to-do list for the day. For lunch, I’ll generally have a salad at my desk or at Alimentari or Jackie’s in Paddington. 

Then from 4pm - 5pm, yoga in Bondi and at 5pm back home for dinner, bath and bed for Arthur. Then dinner at home. My husband Patrick and I will generally cook together and catch up on the day (or have dinner out with friends, which is less frequent these days!). After dinner, I’ll catch up on any work if I haven't finished for the day. I’ll read a bit, and then go to bed. 

You recently designed our Covent Garden store in the UK (which looks incredible). What was the process involved from finding inspiration, coming up with the concept and decor then finally seeing your vision executed? 

Covent garden is a very energetic part of London. There is so much action out on the streets with performers, tourists, students, and professionals intermixed with many colourful characters - so we wanted to create a relaxed space where customers can drop in for the Bailey Nelson experience. The store, like the area, is colourful but with historical and traditional references which is echoed in the store design. The store looks as if it really belongs, it looks comfortable in itself. 

Are there any notable designers or creatives that you draw inspiration from?

My husband. I literally bounce every decision of him.

Do you have a dream project?

I recently finished a hotel project in Byron Bay which I thoroughly enjoyed. The clients were a joy. But no one dream project really comes to mind. Each project is exciting in its own way with its own challenges. For me, the enjoyment comes in working with clients who are interested in creating something beautiful and unique. 

What is the one piece of furniture or art you own that you could never part with?

My favourite painting would have to be a portrait of a chicken by Lucy Culliton which lives in our kitchen. I've had it for years and the heavy oil work has travelled with us all over. Our house is very much a revolving door of furniture, but the art never moves.

What does your ideal weekend in Sydney look like?

A movie on Friday with my husband. Then an early breakfast at Bills with Arthur on Saturday morning, then a walk to the markets to get food and flowers. We’d then spend a few hours at the beach, have a late lunch in the sun with friends and wine that moves into dinner followed by an early-ish night. Sunday is generally hanging out, reading, a few walks and lots of cooking! 

What other projects do you have on the horizon? 

I am currently working on a yacht in Spain, a store in Italy, a townhouse in London, a beach house in Wategos and a handful of residential and commercial jobs in Melbourne and Sydney. All of which are keeping me out of trouble. And then a baby girl in January! 

Photography: Chris Loutfy 

In-store photo: Hannah Miles 

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