An eclectic collection of practical, useful handmade pieces for the home sourced locally and overseas by sisters Romaine (left) and Nadine Alwill, with an emphasis on understated elegance, beauty and timelessness.
“There is much to be said for an interior or home that is procured with layers over time.”ROMAINE ALWILL Interior architect & designer
You’ve both lived in a variety of places apart from Australia – Europe, the Philippines, Japan and elsewhere in Asia – what influence has this had on your respective design approaches?
It’s had an enormous influence. I think when you grow up in a foreign country, it just seeps into you rather than you being affected by styles or trends.
Then it becomes a natural reference for all you do design-wise. I think materials, forms, detailing and textural choices are all influenced by it.
How would you sum up your respective aesthetic philosophies?
I think Nadine is probably a bit more purist in her approach than me. That being said, there’s a lovely warmth and rationality to her work. I’ve had a wide breadth of experiences in the interior design industry – from publishing to television and from styling to interior architecture – so if anything, I like to edit ideas down according to a brief or the client or project at hand. It’s nice to have that underlying experience and those references to draw on, though!
Two sisters working together. How do you make it work?
We are very close and always have been. Although we are quite different people, I think we respect what each other has to offer. We studied together and kept each other going then through late nights and deadlines, and we still do it now. With two kids each and two businesses to run! We don’t do everything together, either (in work or play), so I think that helps, too.
What made you branch out from interior design and architecture to a retail collection?
We’ve always had an idea to start something of our own since we lived in Japan many years ago. It’s just taken us this long to actually do it! We wanted to create something that was understated, elegant, timeless and beautiful, but practical and useful, too. A lifestyle brand that isn’t trend-based. We wanted to source pieces that were modern references to the cultures whose design we admire. We source mainly from overseas, as we are looking for things that aren’t in every homewares shop. But we also design and handmake our own pieces locally, such as our Earth Ceramics range, a collaboration with artist Cameron Williams, and Slant bedside table. We’d love to work with more local artists and craftspeople. We totally believe in supporting that.
Is there anything you’d like to design from scratch – or improve an existing product?
We design many items of furniture from scratch through our ALWILL design businesses, and then they come across into Specified Store if we love them and think they are saleable. We’d love to work on ranges with some of our homewares and stationery suppliers though, too. We have much we can learn and improve on, but it’s baby steps and we are learning every day!
How do you see design and manufacturing progressing in Australia?
I believe local design and manufacture is very strong here. There has been a real resurgence and backlash against the Chinese production of a decade or so ago and thankfully that means craftspeople have really shone through. I think it’s here to stay. It is, of course, much more expensive, but I think people can see the value in something that is made with love by hand. Much like how the slow food movement has grown, I hope to see a slow design movement, which also includes a shift away from the information overload of social media and the fast pace of people needing everything now.
And finally – what’s next for you both?
We really just want to get both our businesses running really seamlessly. That way we can have more time to be creative and inspired. It’s a hard juggle! We have many, many ideas for Specified Store’s future and would really love the time to be able to realise them. ‘All in good time', I guess!read less