Styling Australia the Jamaican WaySunday, October 17, 2021
Melbourne-based interior designer Chantelle Clarke believes that the art of creating spaces requires beautiful and functional design thought. Unlike most Australian designers, her contributions reflect the spirit of her cultural influences. “Jamaicans are creative with using what we have. We have energy, we keep our designs conversational. Earthy,” she says. It is the reason her clients choose her. Culture walks in when Jamaicans come through the doors.
The first-generation Jamaican-British expat took her early influences from her mum who always put effort into the interior design of their home. “I was always aware of it. People would comment on my childhood home. It made me feel good about bringing friends round,” she explains. Clarke took that same philosophy into her business, Clarke and Co Global Designs.
Starting her career in social work, she cultivated her interior design passion on a small scale, taking up design courses and studying the work of designers like Joelle Smith, of If Walls Could Talk. Smith is the interior designer of Jamaica's first co-working space. She also drew on inspiration from Sheila Bridges, known for bright colours and energetic rooms. These women helped keep the reflective designer motivated as she started picking up small projects in her city. “One of my first projects was a studio. This one was precious to me,” she shares.
The residential owner was on a shoestring budget and could not afford the luxury of design extravagance. After collaborating with the client, Clarke proposed that they repaint the walls to suit the style she mapped out. She also brought in contemporary second-hand furniture that spruced up the layout of the studio. Australians have a generous habit of leaving well-loved furniture outdoors or selling them at ridiculously low prices. Clever designers know how to take those pieces and accentuate frames and colours without destroying their intended personality. This is a Clarke speciality.
“We refreshed the walls with mint green paint and added in accent colours to suit the Afro-Bohemian theme my client was looking for,” Clarke says. She used orange, brown and green to style the theme and brought in a textured rug, African wall baskets and artwork for the walls. Small spaces are tricky designs but Clarke enjoys a good challenge. She recommends that pandemic-friendly interior design professionals and enthusiasts think outside of the norm when designing client spaces these days.
Every designer has a process to their design. Clarke is no different.
“When I walk into a room, I am influenced by a feel rather than a thing. I feel the atmosphere. Is there a story that the room is telling me?” she explains. It could come through colour or texture. Her warm personality makes it easier for client-designer relations. Knowing the craft and understanding the brief is imperative. “For commercial spaces, I need to understand the branding. What is the client trying to seduce customers with? When we curate spaces, we tell a story,” she adds. Part of design, she expalins, is creating harmony in a space: Sounds, touch, acoustics. Creating harmony is what Jamaicans do best and Clarke is well-suited to change Australia's design landscape with this one important factor.
To find out more about Chantelle Clarke, please visit her Instagram @clarke.andco
— Bridgett Leslie
Bridgett Leslie is an internal auditor by day and media correspondent by night.