Getting to know Gillianne Griffiths from Melbourne’s Studio Griffiths

Aug 17, 2020
  • Article by Elisa Scarton


With a master’s degree in music, majoring in conducting, Gillianne Griffiths began her career as a professional musician before transitioning into interior design.

She now heads up Studio Griffiths in Melbourne and Mornington Peninsula, with the philosophy that simplicity, style and elegance are key to successful design.

Griffiths orchestrates single and multi-residential spaces with a focus on composition, rhythm and harmony. She describes her process as being akin to writing music, “bringing black-and-white notes to life” in the same way she envisions a room.

It’s such a beautiful and unusual way to describe the craft. In my time at the helm of ADR, I have listened to many an interior designer describe their process in a fluid steam of consciousness that is impossible to understand, but enchanting all the same.

Griffiths speaks of design as something similarly transcendental, like composing a piece of music. There is no road map you can follow. Instead her modern, restrained and highly sophisticated spaces feel peaceful and calm in a way you can’t put your finger on. It isn’t one element that captures your eye. No one texture, jewel-coloured accent or shimmering metallic finish. It all just melds and flows and works.

I love speaking to up-and-coming Australian designers. They draw from so many sources of inspiration and come from such different backgrounds, and Gillianne is no different.

ADR: Hi Gillianne! Tell us about yourself!

Gillianne Griffiths: I began my career as a professional musician and was a music director for years, but always had a huge passion for architecture and design. I instinctively knew it would be a natural progression when I retired from musical performance.

I did a complete gut renovation on our three-storey house in preparation for sale, as well as redesigned and reconfigured the spaces of our new apartment. The apartment became my graduate project and was subsequently featured in a number of magazines. This recognition gave me the confidence to build on its success through Studio Griffiths. 

How do you incorporate your musical background into your projects?

GG: There are many qualities in the language of music that are resonant in design. For me the two disciplines go hand in hand. Music and walking into any space draw upon our senses. It is about listening, feeling and creating a mood. This is linked to the way in which people live and build a connection to their homes to make it their own.

Like music, design is a creative process that involves combining compositions of shape, form and rhythm to produce a harmonious outcome.

How do you describe your design sensibility and your aesthetic?

GG: My philosophy is to approach design with transparency and without constraints that limit a space to just one style.

Our work is underpinned by a thoughtful consideration of materiality, sustainability and detailing and, above all, a dedication to creating responsive and considered design solutions that reflect the unique personalities and specific needs of the individuals and brands we represent.

In a nutshell, I have a love of unassuming, tactile materials, and would say my style is understated luxury, sophisticated, elegant, considered and effortless. For me, simplicity, style and elegance are the signature of the most successful design ideas and will always remain the cornerstone of our approach to design in the studio.

What do you feel is the most challenging part of being a designer today (outside of COVID-19)?

GG: Remaining focused on our relevance and the potential impact of our design decisions. Another challenge is the lack of understanding of the design process and the skill and time it takes to create a well-balanced interior space.  

I would like to see more practises commit to undertaking community conscious design and contribute more to the preservation of our environment by repurposing and selecting materials wisely.

How has the COVID-19 global pandemic affected your business?

GG: We are no different to many of our peers and have seen the business impacted in terms of projects slowing down and, in some cases, being put on hold. We have been fortunate to retain some great projects through this period and my team has been able to adjust to remote working.

Post pandemic we look forward to more face-to-face interaction with the team and our clients, and the unexpected creativity that this brings to our daily work.

What advice would you give to emerging designers who want to follow your path? 

GG: Interior architecture and design is wonderful and exceptionally rewarding. However, it can also be extremely challenging, hard work and long hours. Be prepared for this!

It is important to trust your instincts and be confident in your design choices; stand by them steadfastly. Encourage yourself to take risks and explore new territories in design that push boundaries within yourself.

What was one of your biggest lessons learned since starting?

GG: Time management – getting completely carried away with the design process. Being totally distracted by a more inspiring project and jumping from one project to another. These days my practice is much more disciplined and streamlined with design software that makes my life easier.

I’ve learned that mistakes are a great source of learning as long as you learn from them. It is important to focus on the achievable goals and reward yourself for small milestones.

What are your main sources of inspiration?

GG: Walks, skiing, rural life and travelling. I’m an avid skier and have a wonderful affinity with the glorious skiing landscape, colours, natural elements and ski lodges that you will see emerge through my designs. I constantly draw upon this natural beauty to create unembellished interiors. Sadly, I’m not sure when we will all feel comfortable to resume travelling again.

Who or what are some of your influences?

GG: I adore Belgian architecture and design for its wonderful approach to timeless minimalism and simplicity. I’m constantly striving for this discipline in all our projects.

I love the works of Tadao Ando, Pieter Vanrenterghem, Dirk De Meyer, Nicolas Schuybroek and Vincent Van Duysen. It’s their wonderful approach to monolithic forms that I love and gravitate to.

What’s next?

GG: My goal is to continue to create meaningful projects and spend more quality time with my family.

I would also like to see more equality in gender in the industry. I want to try and make a difference wherever I can and be kind.

Considering the devastation and disruption Australians and the world are facing due to COVID-19, it is with great uncertainty that we grapple with the upheaval and the effect it’s had on our market and design industry economically. The studio is grateful to be working on some exciting new projects.

This feature is part of our ongoing interview series with Australian designers and architects. Check out our most recent chats with furniture and bathware designer Thomas CowardMelbourne design luminary Christopher Bootsup-and-coming editorial darling Alicia Holgar and Sydney stylist and interior designer Claire Delmar.

Photography: Sharyn Cairns.

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