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Graham Charbonneau to judge IDEA 2024


Studio Gram director Graham Charbonneau will join Brooke Lloyd, Melissa Bright and Davina Bester on the jury of the 2024 Interior Design Excellence Awards (IDEA).

Early bird entries to IDEA close this Sunday, 14 April 2024.

Now in its 22nd year, IDEA is Australia’s longest-running independent architecture and interior design awards program with winners selected annually by a panel of seven expert industry judges.

Canadian-born architect Graham Charbonneau brings fresh eyes to IDEA having never judged or entered before. 

His boutique architecture and interior design practice, Studio Gram, forms part of the tight-knit Adelaide design community. Together with co-director Dave Bickmore and their team, Charbonneau has been busy telling the unfolding story of the city’s hospitality scene through narrative-focused interior design for 10 years.

“We tend to write these narratives for our projects as the key introductions to concepts – almost like return briefs – and they live on with the project,” Charbonneau tells Australian Design Review.

Studio Gram’s design of Fino Vino, for example, told a “country-in-the-city” story. The design captured the restaurant’s migration from its original small town establishment to the Adelaide CBD, flushed with fittings and fixtures from local makers. 

Fino Vino. Photo: Kate Bowman

Nearby, another Studio Gram-designed restaurant, Shobosho, was inspired by its name, which translates from Japanese to ‘fire house’, and is adorned with charred wood.

While Studio Gram avoids the prescription of a consistent design style on both its projects and its staff, what ties the “detail-obsessed” practice’s body of work together is an inclination to design “from the inside out”.

“We tend to think about the end-user and how they’re going to use the space before we think about the envelope,” he says.

What is Charbonneau looking for at this year’s IDEA?

As Studio Gram matures past its first decade in operation, Charbonneau says the practice continues to expand its reach into hotel, winery, brewery and residential projects. Nevertheless, the IDEA Hospitality category is the award that remains “closest to home” for him as a member of this year’s jury.

“We do so much work in that space and it’s always a category that we’re excited to see what’s happening,” he says. 

“It’s an industry that, in my mind, moves a lot quicker than others just in terms of the way that it transitions through trends or design styles.”

Despite designing for an industry driven by fast-moving trends, Studio Gram tries to avoid trends as much as possible. Finding a point of difference is more important to Charbonneau.

“I think everyone loves saying that; I don’t think it’s always easy to do,” he says. 

“But certainly the projects that always stand out are probably the ones that are at the forefront of trends, so they become the trendsetters really.”

Charbonneau points specifically to maximalism as a trend that sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t. For him, the big picture of a maximalist work often overpowers the rich detail of the minutiae.

“I think a great project has things that probably 90 or 95 percent of the population will never see, but I think that they’re the best parts of those projects,” he says.

“Hidden little gems that probably only other designers see – they’re the kind of things that really make you pay attention or appreciate what you’re looking at.”

Shobosho. Photo: Corey Roberts

Both originality and craftsmanship impress Charbonneau and they’re the two core ingredients he will be searching for among this year’s IDEA entries to all categories.

“It’s projects that promote design over product in some ways,” he says.

“I’m sure every interior designer’s the same. In a perfect world you’d design everything in the place, but there are some things that, for practical reasons, budget reasons, or whatever it might be, you purchase proprietary items for it. 

“That kind of high level of craft and originality are probably the two key elements that stand out for me.”

Enter IDEA 2024 here.

Lead image by Jonathan van der Knaap.


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