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In Conversation With Greg Natale

31 May 2023

Multi-award-winning Australian designer Greg Natale is known for his masterly use of pattern and color, and his bold application of both in creating tailored, curated and sophisticated spaces.

Greg has released three books on interior design showcasing his unique style: The Tailored Interior (published by Hardie Grant Books Australia in 2014 and released in the UK and US the following year), The Patterned Interior (published by Rizzoli NY in 2018) and The Layered Interior (published by Rizzoli NY in 2022).

His designs have been featured in numerous international publications including Architectural Digest, Elle Decor, Wallpaper, Harper’s Bazaar, The Wall Street Journal, Vanity Fair, Australian House & Garden, Vogue Living and Belle. Among the many awards to his name are International Luxury Designer of the Year 2016 at High Point Market in North Carolina, Belle Interior Designer of the Year for both 2011 and 2014, and the 2021 Australian House & Garden Room of the Year. He has been named one of The World’s Most Influential Designers by AD Mexico and a Design Visionary by Harper’s Bazaar Interiors Middle East.

Greg has extended his passion for pattern, line and color into other design disciplines, exploring his love of geometric and organic designs through the creation of his collections of rugs, carpet, wallpaper, tiles, furniture and homewares. He has collaborated with local and global brands such as leading Australian firm Designer Rugs, classic French furniture label Grange, and Italian tile experts Bisazza, with whom he launched The Mosaico Collection during Milan Design Week 2017. Recent projects include a furniture range with American company Kindel and a new Greco-Roman wallpaper collection with Sydney-based Signature Prints. Greg continues to expand his business and currently has his own line of products available in Bergdorf Goodman in the US and now many European and Asian stockists, as well as a flagship store in Sydney.


Mosman House

A celebration of materiality, this four-storey, five-bedroom harbourside house features twenty-eight different types of stone in a richly layered design. Greg Natale Design took inspiration from the Villa Necchi Campiglio in Milan with its blend of pared-back classicism and modernity, and the project features elements of Italian rationalism and brutalism combined with art deco touches.

Marble makes a statement in floors, walls and portals, defining different areas in tones of burgundy, pink, green and ivory, and laid in styles from geometric patterns to Palladiana mosaics. The colors and lines of stone break up the large spaces, adding interest and warmth, with further details courtesy of timber treatments throughout. Fluted walls draw on art deco influences while square panels on cabinetry are brutalist in style, taking their cue from a brutalist wall sculpture designed by Greg Natale in a central courtyard. Ceiling coffers add drama, while a sumptuous collection of vintage, contemporary and custom furniture and accessories brings neutral and gold tones to the luxe mix of colors and finishes that grace this grand house.

Kyle Bay House

A striking modernist design, this three-storey, five-bedroom house on the Georges River features mid-century touches and bold color choices. Inspired by the Brazilian brutalist style of modernist architect Paulo Mendes Da Rocha, Greg Natale Design has crafted a house strong in materiality, where concrete plays a decorative as well as structural role.

Off-form concrete slabs present an attractive grid at the entrance, their tie holes filled with brass. Formed beams create a woven look on the ceilings of the stairwell and a long bridge connecting rooms, while in a sunken living room they make a crisscross pattern on the ceiling, echoed in the rug below to dramatic effect. Rosewood brings balance and warmth to ceilings and furniture, such as the Cubist-style kitchen cabinets and the hand-cut panels on the island, arrayed in a mid-century-inspired starburst pattern that complements the furniture. Clashes of color occur throughout, as blush plays with dark green, burgundy, teal and citrus tones. Patterned tiles, floor-to-ceiling windows and open-plan levels ensure that interior and exterior spaces interact in this robust layering of material and form.

East Brisbane House

This stunning riverfront residence combines the dramatic lines of interior architecture with the layering of sumptuous finishes to create a “modern palazzo” that celebrates its owners’ deep connection to Italy.

Inspired by arches along the house’s exterior, Greg Natale Design introduced this feature throughout the interior. Beyond a glass-walled entrance with black and white marble floors and black fluted timber walls, a series of arches unfolds in velvety gray stucco above smooth slabs of Nero Marquina marble flooring.

Enticing glimpses of rooms appear between the arches, such as the dining room, with its gold-toned de Gournay wallpaper. Here, chairs in brick-red velvet bring a burst of color, which continues in the nearby kitchen stools and living room chairs, teamed with a mustard velvet sofa. These rich hues are joined by brass accents that appear throughout the house. Wallpaper brings glorious color and pattern, from Gucci herons in the master bedroom to Fornasetti foliage in the pool room. Featuring lavish finishes like fluted joinery and marble baths, this spectacular house draws on classical elements to offer contemporary luxury.


What inspired you to become a designer and how did you get into interior design?

There were a few early creative influences that all came together for me. As a child, I was always making things, studying art, going to pottery classes… a lot was happening in the house! My older sister is a fashion designer, so there were always fashion magazines around the house; seeing my sister work, I understood from a young age that there was such a thing as design, even if I wasn’t necessarily thinking about interior design then. Our father worked in concrete formwork, so that was an influence as well, sparking an interest in architecture and architectural detailing. But it was the amazing sets I would see in films and on television that really ignited my imagination. I’m a child of the 1980s, so I would look at Alexis Carrington’s office in Dynasty and become totally inspired! Those sets conjured a fantasy life and sparked a design obsession that would eventually set me on my career path once I put all of the influences together.

What would you say is your style or preferred design style?

My interiors are often described as having a maximalist, more-is-more sensibility with their bold and expressive mix of color, pattern and materials. But these decorative elements are always layered over a strong and considered structure. I can definitely be a maximalist, but the principles of clean and rational modernism still underpin everything I do, no matter how decorative and richly layered the completed space becomes. I think that’s why I would describe my style as layered because that’s really the through-line connecting all of my projects, whether it’s a raw and brutalist space referencing mid-century Brazilian modernism or 90s hard-edged minimalism or it’s a high-drama extravaganza full of color clashes, collected objects and pattern play. Personally, I’ve always been drawn to the aesthetics of the Studio 54 era and its meeting of art, fashion, set design, architecture and music. That’s a creative world I often return to as a reference point for my interior design work and homewares collection. I love a disco era palette of mixed metals, mirrored finishes, burgundy and lacquer. And again, it really comes back to layering, conjuring an evocative space from the alchemy of different textural elements.

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Greg Natale Kyle Bay 14
Greg Natale Laidlaw Pde Brisbane 14

What have been your key projects to date?

The first project that really set everything in motion was a bedroom I designed for my sister more than 21 years ago. I adapted a geometric print from the Florence Broadhurst archive and repeated it in the wallpaper, wrapping the entire room, on the bedspread and cushion covers, and with framed artwork on the wall. It was about committing to a graphic, patterned look and then taking it to a really bold place. It was right when Florence Broadhurst’s work was about to be rediscovered, and we were coming out of that whole hard-edged minimalist world of the late-90s and early-2000s. My design went the opposite direction with an optically charged, pattern-on-pattern effect. It received awards and a lot of press coverage at the time, putting my business on the map. I’m lucky that our projects have continued to grow in terms of scale and the freedom I have to express myself. Thinking about this trajectory, I would say our Brisbane House from 2014 and Victorian Country House from 2017 represented big leaps forward for my practice – they were both mega projects, with the former coinciding with and featuring in my first book, The Tailored Interior, and the latter appearing in my second, The Patterned Interior. I’m also very proud of the eight recent projects in my new book, The Layered Interior, particularly the East Brisbane, Mosman and Kyle Bay houses.

Do you have a dream project or something you have always wanted to do within your design career?

Projects such as the Mosman house are always a dream because the clients offer the time and freedom to collect original, vintage and one-off pieces over a long period and from unexpected sources at home and abroad. A hotel would be amazing.

With trends constantly changing in interior design, how do you keep up to date with these changes?

I’m always interested in what’s happening in film, fashion, art, music and pop culture. At the same time, I’m also delving into the cultural and visual histories of these creative scenes, particularly from the eras that resonate with me – from late 70s disco through 80s postmodernism and 90s minimalism. My interiors and homewares collections draw inspiration from all these different disciplines, and their influence blends together in my work. It probably goes back to the early impact of film and television mise-en-scène in the sense that I’m really trying to conjure a world and tell a story through my spaces, so it’s not about design being in this silo; it’s plugged into fashion and art and music and all these other areas. And you can see how these connect as trend cycles happen and certain ideas and aesthetics re-enter the zeitgeist in a re-imagined way. Travel is another essential source of inspiration for me. And while traveling, I always look at conceptual, innovative fashion retail as a creative reference point for my interiors – even just in terms of finishes and materials but also for how they set a whole mood.

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When starting on a project, what draws you to a space and how do you determine how to design the space?

The client, the space itself, the house and the ideas, materials, details and references I'm into at the time. I really try to get inside a client’s head and understand their personal style. It becomes this continuing conversation for the lifespan of the project. The project has to reflect the client’s personality, and I would struggle if I didn’t have access to that or I didn’t have a sense of who I was designing for. If I’m working with an existing house, the space becomes the muse and everything goes from there. If it’s a new build, the location is the muse.

What do you feel is important when specifying lighting in residential projects and how do you use the lighting to elevate the space and your design process?

I love decorative lighting, and we always look at this first. I would never go and flood a house with architectural lighting. We only specify architectural lighting where it does something specific and functional, like lighting up an amazing artwork or maybe a hallway. Otherwise, it should be secondary to the beautiful decorative lighting, which gives this sculptural layer within the space. I don’t want to kill a beautiful decorative light by having downlights running all around it. What I love about Gabriel Scott is that it actually does both – it’s so clean and architectural, but at the same time, they’re these amazing works of suspended sculpture.

You specified various Gabriel Scott Harlow light fixtures in the Kyle Bay, Mosman and East Brisbane project, what initially drew you to Gabriel Scott and why did you choose those pieces?

It was definitely because they’re beautiful, jewel-like decorative lighting done in an architectural and sculptural way.

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Customization and craftsmanship is at the core of what we do here at Gabriel Scott. You customized a Harlow Dried Flowers Chandelier for the Kyle Bay project and customized a Harlow Prong Chandelier for the Mosman project. So, how important is it to be able to customize pieces for your projects?

Customizing lighting means they’re site-specific and a truly bespoke offering for our clients. The problem we had with the Mosman project was that the existing house had quite low ceilings. That’s a problem every designer encounters with new builds because everything is built too low. We really wanted to use the Harlow Prong Chandelier, so the customisation made that possible. And with the Kyle Bay, we needed the Harlow Dried Flowers Chandelier to feel proportionate to the stair void where it would be suspended. So again, it was about meeting the site’s requirements and creating something bespoke, original and spatially specific. It's such a breathtaking moment in that home.

For enquiries in Australia please visit our partner's site EST Lighting.

View the Harlow Collection here.

For more information on Greg Natale's books, projects or products visit the website here.

With special thanks to Greg and all the team for their hard work and participation in this interview.

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Greg Natale Kyle Bay 60
Greg Natale Kyle Bay 52
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Greg Natale Laidlaw Pde Brisbane 49

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