Material Creative

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Olivia Harper and Toni Brandso in their Britomart studio.

Olivia Harper and Toni Brandso in their Britomart studio. Image: Jeremy Toth

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Recycled timber was used for a delicate screen in the Material Creative office.

Recycled timber was used for a delicate screen in the Material Creative office. Image: Jeremy Toth

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Positive reinforcement.

Positive reinforcement. Image: Jeremy Toth

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An antique stove was in the space when they arrived.

An antique stove was in the space when they arrived. Image: Jeremy Toth

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Golden flamingos.

Golden flamingos. Image: Jeremy Toth

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Tools as art.

Tools as art. Image: Jeremy Toth

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Around mid-2008, Olivia Harper and Toni Brandso went traveling together. They had left their jobs as interior architects only to find that, by the time they returned, the world had irrevocably changed. While the idea to start their own interior design studio had been something they had discussed, necessity became the thrust for Olivia to take the plunge and start Material Creative with Toni joining shortly after.

Toni explained that working within an architecture firm, you are inevitably pigeon-holed. Olivia was churning through kitchens and bathrooms, while Toni was the resident expert on chain-store fit-outs. In creating their own company, they just wanted to be creative and took everything they could find – interior jobs, styling, branding. What has developed is a desire to create an integrated design for people, to tell a story that might start with their store or restaurant but continues seamlessly to the sign on the door, to the menus, to the choice of knives and forks, to the styling of the photography on the website.

The girls are obviously inspired by beauty and, when asked about the significance of design, they are thoughtful. Olivia mentions that, both being Christian, they really dwelled on why design matters. Is it extravagant? However, their enthusiasm for their work is almost evangelical: “It’s our job to create spaces that inspire, that make someone feel comfortable. There is so much joy that comes out of good design, not just in a home but in schools, libraries and cafés. We want to be inspired by our subconscious.”

It’s not all subliminal. Even as they have moved on from their first project – The Piha Cafe – where, due to a tight budget and few other jobs, they did everything from reupholster chairs bought on Trade Me to making the light fittings – it is important for both of them to be physically involved in the making of at least one aspect of every job. It keeps them grounded and puts a bit of them into each job. They love working with manufacturers and while you might find them glamourously swishing around the courtyards of Britomart on a Friday afternoon, you might equally find them sitting down for a beer with the guys from metal manufacturers Powersurge. materialcreative.co.nz


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