Matt Woods Design

May 11, 2011
  • Article by Online Editor
  • Photography by Will Reichelt
  • Designer

Recycled, reclaimed and decidedly unpretentious, a Matt Woods design is as comfortable as the street in which it lives. His two major works in the hospitality field, Bloodwood in Newtown and Avido in Paddington (both in Sydney), have a distinct character, which is somewhat light industrial, slightly hippy, but balanced by clarity of space and attention to some of the more unusual details. Avido, for example, has a border of white paint on the ancient hardwood floors that not only elongates the space, but also lends the theatrics of a freshly discovered floor. “My thought was, let’s make it look like it’s been here forever and let’s make it look like the floor was painted white and we have sanded it back, I was trying to get the authenticity into it,” says Woods.

The Avido location was the former long-term home of Paddington staple, Hot Gossip, and as such has a certain history and familiar tone. Happily, this has not been eradicated and some of the rough elements of the back garden remain, though thankfully without the attendant grime and dead grapevine. In keeping with Woods’ idea of “playing with what we have got,” said vine has now been cut back, fertilised and is flourishing as a vivid green canopy over white-topped tables and beach house style chairs (Dellis Furniture). The bathrooms have extended this slightly incongruous theme with picketed doors on bright yellow cabins a la English beach changing rooms.

The kitchen has been opened to view without being ‘goldfish bowled’, through the simple solution of reclaiming existing windows. More interesting, though, is the kitchen interior itself, comprising partial wall areas of large square tiles in a glossy white and a floor of the same tiles in grey (both Academy), within a mostly black interior, offset by the steely gleam of work benches.

The main indoor restaurant area features a bar top of reclaimed century-old Loire Valley French oak (Salvage) in solid planks of 80 millimetres. Woods has set the timber at slightly different starting points to give a varied surface to the edge. This is picked up by tessellated tiles (Old English Tiles) in a palette of caramel, cream and grey, which have been deliberately misplaced to skew illusion and create a random geometric abstraction. Bright yellow Mark Tuckey stools bring a playful touch to the whole.

The room’s walls are the scraped-back remains of needled brickwork and brown and pink rendering complete with embedded archway. “I couldn’t have asked for a better wall really,” says Woods. And while the effect is rustic, the contemporary lighting (Caravaggio – Corporate Culture), coupled with the looping black rope work by Melbourne artist Sarah Parkes (Smalltown), creates an interesting vertical thrust to open the upper portions of the room.

Woods’ brief was to work for a New York feel. This was a fairly loaded directive as New York encapsulates all; however, he has hit the nail on the head as far as the eclectic Lower East Side goes. It’’s also a good Paddington solution and bucks the trend of glossy high store, in favour of a more organic and human ambience. The banquette, in three shades of dark leather (NSW Leather Co), makes a quirky reference to chesterfields without imposing on the lightness of the room, as do the three styles of chairs (Mark Tuckey and Dellis Furniture) and clear coated FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified ply tables.

Bloodwood is also exceptionally eclectic, reclaimed and seamless within the environment of Newtown. The exposed yellow functional pipes are a particularly pleasing feature, as are the long clear expanses of reclaimed timber. Rather interestingly, the lighting is fun and whimsically arranged as art, object and illumination in that order, including the slightly acid down lighting that catches in the surface texture facing the bar.

In both projects, the element that will become the hallmark of this designer is apparent in his ability to create volume within an envelope of intriguing parts. And while the materials he uses translate as textural, interesting and sustainable, his underlying appreciation of the materials’ innate qualities will be an interesting aspect to watch through his career’s evolution. “I like the bar,” says Woods. “The bar top, it’’s 100-year-old timber, I can’’t get over how chunky it is. It’’s oak and it’’s from France and just fits in so well with the character of what we are trying to do.”

Read a MEZZANINE exclusive with Matt Woods and restaurant owner Les Huynh discussing the briefing process.

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