Features

Foolscap Studio

May 31, 2011

With her series of cute cafes and pop-up rooftop bars, designer Adele Winteridge is effecting change on the Australian hospitality scene.

If you think of a common denominator, a quality, that clearly shines in all of today’s brightest interior designers, it would have to be their crafty resourcefulness to make things change – a willingness to make just about any space better than what it once was. The fact that these people tend to be social creatures, often cultural generators in their own right, makes good sense as well. With their attention to detail, today’s interior designers are creating in both subjective and objective terms for the good of a business’ overall success. It’s a holistic design agenda encompassing the social factor as paramount, and every time it works, it’s brilliant. In slight contrast to the contemporary architects of the day, who are often praised for creating our new built environments (which we all appreciate to some capacity), the unsung heroes of interior design are those who, by default, work from an inside-out approach, often working within available and pre-existing spaces. Today, the best of these designers nurture a sort of cultural development first, before any structural idea is to take shape or hit paper. ‘What is there to work with? What are we aiming for? What can we do with the structure we already have?’ These are the first few questions to be asked.

Knowing the value of this approach, and quickly applying it, Adele Winteridge has become a good observer and pragmatic thinker within her realm of interior design. She’s worked quietly, enabling project after project to better the social currency and value of any given space. Each one is strongly based on collaborative ideals and the social objectives of the people with whom she works.

Sydney would never think of it, but as a city it owes thanks to young designers like Winteridge and her gang of social misfits, or the so-called hipsters that – whether you like it or not – have given Sydney a gust of creative fresh air. Indeed, it’s not merely a case of design prowess, though her new practice, Foolscap, is definitely proving itself able in the midst of Melbourne’s finest hospitality and retail designs. No, this profile is of Winteridge in a different light, as one of the more vanguard designers currently working her own angle, and positioning her work to a point of relevance – with her subtle and all-too-charming ways as an activist. Yes, activism, people. Get into it.

Creating clever design solutions for all sorts of problems and clients alike, Winteridge has been a busy woman lately, running circles around projects in need. Surrounded by an active community of designers who, in some way or another, offer their own kind of change, Winteridge does her part by injecting social value into each new hospitality project, but also does more to help create positive change wherever it’s needed most. Her most recent projects range from reshaping the design school curriculum at The Whitehouse Institute of Design (where her team successfully got the design school accredited to an official and national standard of ‘higher education’) to the various pop-up projects and interiors she has helped morph into magic – like Sydney’s ‘local eating house’, The Commons (a modestly chic venue, well-known for its social ambience, choice food and drink, also known as The Pond).

Perhaps the most impressive pop-up in Sydney’s recent history was also thanks to Winteridge’s can-do attitude. Produced and supported by Drambuie (liquor), a contest was held in 2010 to source the best idea for a temporary bar on top of the East Village roof. The panel went for a cheeky speakeasy motif, given a popular trend within the beer and beverage industry, and Winteridge secured the work.

The rooftop setting that emerged (only five days later) turned out to be one of the more interesting pop-up bars that Sydney has seen since the idea of the ‘pop-up’ took off about four or five years ago. The Doghouse, overlooking Sydney from Darlinghurst over Woolloomooloo, was fully booked for the three weeks it was open to the public. Before it was over, Foolscap was already on to the next project: a tiny cafe back in Melbourne by the name of, get this, Tiny.

Yet considering the amount of ‘small time’ work she keeps busy with, it could be said that even before starting Foolscap, Winteridge was preoccupied with trying to change bigger things – like legislation in New South Wales. She managed to do so effectively enough that it now seems to have had a major effect on the burgeoning young culture of Sydney as we now know it (albeit within a hospitality context). Think Shady Pines and the likes of Darlinghurst to see just how this has all panned out for Sydney. For about a year, Winteridge was basically a lobbyist for all small venues in the area, and – let the record show – a successful one.

“We put on this night called ‘Beers-n-ideas’ on the rooftop of the East Village, in Sydney,” she says. “It was a night when people would come and present ideas, sort of like PechaKucha, but smaller and intimate. And I met some really amazing people through that [such as] David Gravina and Digital Eskimo (a digital agency known for ‘design that makes change’), and that’s when ‘Raise the Bar’ really started.”

That night they talked about Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore’s proposed bill, a bit of legislative language that would ultimately loosen up the liquor licensing laws in Sydney allowing smaller venues to open up and serve the growing demand for more charm-filled hospitality spots – something restaurateur Peter Doyle was quite opposed to back in 2007. Suffice to say, without the advocacy of Winteridge and her Raise the Bar team, Sydney’s thriving hospitality scene as it stands today wouldn’t be possible.

Chatting about this experience in her Melbourne-based office on McKillop Street in the CBD, Winteridge doesn’t like to brag or assume that she had any major impact, but she does feel as if she was part of a movement in Sydney – one that brought about a sense of cultural energy that simply wasn’t there before. It even makes her think twice about being based in Melbourne sometimes.

“It’s all about having your bit of both now, I think,” she says. “The energies have always been different, but currently they stem from the same creative root. We have to let the youthful side of Sydney’s culture grow organically. We can’t supress it or ignore it. Culturally it’s one of the better things to have happened in a really long time.”

www.foolscapstudio.com.au

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