At Work With The Women Behind Arent&Pyke - The Grace Tales

At Work With The Women Behind Arent&Pyke

If you love interiors as much as we do, then you’ll love the inspiring Sydney-based interior design duo behind Arent&Pyke. Sarah-Jane Pyke and Juliette Arent founded the multi-award winning design firm in 2007 and are lauded for their composed, natural, uncontrived, timeless interiors – clever but not tricked up. It’s an appealing and friendly aesthetic and for this reason has garnered an impressive following among the design community, interiors lovers and pinners the world over.

The pair also created the hugely popular In/Out Design Blog back in 2012, which is an insightful and transparent window into their design world. Described as a “multi-disciplinary design commentary and vehicle for reflecting on, and sharing the sources of inspiration from our creative colleagues, contemporaries and collaborators” it is this openness and sense of sharing which only adds to making these women so likeable. They are also enthusiastic about their fellow designers’ work. “I am inspired by all the work that Aussie designers are producing at the moment. There are too many to mention, but wow, there is nothing like your peers constantly pushing the envelope and keeping you on your toes! I truly love this though – the rapport and sense of camaraderie we all have with one another is always exciting,” Arent enthuses.


But they admit, being mothers and working full time in a demanding industry takes a lot of juggling and compromise. “The key for me is to stay focused on what I'm doing. At work, I'm working, at home, I'm with family. Trying to do both at once is where the stress lies for me. I also had to recognise that I just can't do it all anymore. It means that outside work, I'm more focused on being at home and having family time, so I have to let go of other things - whether it’s attending an industry function or catching up with friends. But that's the choice that I make to balance out the time in the business. It can be hard, but I love the work and the business and it’s what I choose to do,” says Pyke.

While they’re both enormously passionate about their practice, exciting collaborations and chance to work with clients all over the country, making the time for family is number one priority. “Motherhood has taught me that your family really is the most important thing of all. Not that work is not important, but really if you work in a field that you are passionate about, it does not really feel like work. I absolutely adore what I do and adore all of the people I work with, but getting home to Valentina, Paloma and Matthew at the end of each day … well let’s just say I had absolutely no idea how that would make me feel. Heart-exploding love. Almost every day Matthew and I remind ourselves how lucky we are,” says Arent.

We went behind the scenes with the busy, multi-tasking mothers and design principles to take a peek into their beautiful world of interiors…


What lead you to create Arent&Pyke?
SJP: I was always interested in playing house and spent my school holidays drawing scale diagrams of my bedroom and planning furniture moves and conquests from around the house. I considered studying architecture, but I've always been convinced that the interior detail is where my passion lies. I went straight into a Bachelor of Interior Architecture (UNSW) after school, and landed my first job with architects Cracknell & Lonergan after graduating. There I learnt to love residential design, and appreciate the real privilege of working with clients on their precious homes.
JA: I also had a fairly close relationship with the design of my bedroom. And it did not involve glitter or pink. I specifically requested rush matting (similar to sisal) and for the beige walls to be painted white. Even then at 11 I knew that a beautiful bedroom scheme relied on warm, tactile materials and textures! I was forever moving, curating, tidying, creating the right ‘mood’. It’s hilarious when I think about it now! I embarked upon a Bachelor of Design straight out of high school, but then went on the long and winding road before ending up in residential interior design. My studies segwayed into arts/politics, shoe-making, fine arts/sculpture and then back into interior design at Sydney’s Design Centre. I worked for three years in London before returning to Australia to work for a boutique residential firm. SJ and I met while I was in this role and three years after, we started Arent&Pyke. That was eight years ago.

How would you describe the Arent&Pyke aesthetic?
JA: We take a very personal approach when working with clients on their homes. We create interiors that are comfortable, warm, practical and nurturing. We honour a simple yet clear vision – to enrich people’s lives by creating beautiful and cohesive spaces to which they feel emotionally connected.


How has your design practice evolved since the early days?
JA: In the early days it was just the two of us, so we got to work together all the time, and really collaborated on every project. We both really enjoy running the business too, so we’ve always shared those elements – finance, marketing, sales etc – even when it was a bit challenging! Now we have a great team of designers in the office and we get to work with the team on a broader range of projects. It’s really important to us that we are closely involved in every project, and the spirit of collaboration (with our team and with our clients) still underpins our work.

What does a typical day at work involve?
JA: The days are so varied in this job – it’s one of the perks! We might have a creative presentation to a client in the office, a site inspection to see some building work in progress, or showroom visits to source new furniture and accessories for a project. A favourite part of the day is working with the team on the creative for a client. We are always squeezing some business development into the day too – new client meetings, accounts, marketing…. we wear a lot of hats!


Can you tell us about your design blog In/Out?
JA: In/Out was founded in 2012, as a multi-disciplinary design commentary and a vehicle for reflecting on, and sharing the sources of inspiration from our creative colleagues, contemporaries and collaborators. In/Out de-materialises 'high editorial' interior design with a regular dialogue and curation of stories to empower our readers to live a beautiful life and create an informed and impassioned continuing conversation about design. We are passionate about considered design in all its forms, and our aesthetic is constantly being inspired by what we see and find. Our blog is a discourse in design, art and travel and the people in this space who have something interesting to share.

What has motherhood taught you?
SJP: So much more patience (and even more would help!) and empathy. I'm learning to slow things down, be more gentle with myself as much as with others, and take the time for the silly stuff.

What do you love about raising children in Sydney?
SJP: Sydney has my heart regardless. I love its energy and how easy it is to access the best parts of the city. One of our favourite days out is to take the ferry from Double Bay to Circular Quay, have an icecream and watch the buskers and the crowds, before heading home. For now, Franklin is more interested in the journey than the destination!
JA: I feel like I have only just started really enjoying Sydney with the girls – the beach, the gardens, the art galleries. We are now 100% embracing all that Sydney serves up on a daily basis. What we really love however is being close to family. Both our families are here, and for that we wouldn’t be anywhere else in the world.


What is the hardest part of motherhood?
SJP: Finding that elusive patience on one of those relentless days!
JA: So far the hardest part for me has been when Valentina and Paloma both need/want attention at the same time. This was often the case in the early days especially with feeding time. If I had timed a feed incorrectly and they both wanted to eat at the same time… ouch, that was hellish! They cried, I cried – we all cried together!

Do you spend a lot of time in your homes?
SJP: So much time at home! From waking up early and having hours before the work days starts, to weekends where we only go out on foot, as far as the local park.
JA: I have always been a little bit of a homebody – so too is my husband Matthew. Even more so now. We both like pottering – me inside typically, and Matthew in the kitchen or in the garden.


Which other designers are you inspired by at the moment?
SJP: Patricia Urquiola for her seemingly endless inspiration and energy, inventing and reinventing. And Joseph Dirand continues to amaze me with his incredible balance of refinement and raw materiality.
JA: I am inspired by all the work that Aussie designers are producing at the moment. Too many to mention… but wow, there is nothing like your peers constantly pushing the envelope and keeping you on your toes! I truly love this though – the rapport and sense of camaraderie we all have with one another is always exciting.

What would be your dream creative project?
SJP: The idea of working with textiles really excites me. I'd love to collaborate with artists, mills and artisans, to create original fabrics for interiors.
JA: A dream creative project for me is always an intelligent and thought provoking client, a knockout location and a brief that pushes you beyond your limits. My other dream project is a little house on the island of Panarea (an island off the coast of Sicily). It is a house that is in my husband’s family. It is actually perfect as it is – whitewashed, rustic and charming with a killer view of the Mediterranean. The air is perfumed with figs and rosemary and bougainvillea is spilling all over the place. Every time we go (I am actually heading there next week!) I imagine all of the things I could do. My husband’s favourite aperitvo discussion when we are there is: “what would you do to the kitchen?”, “what would you do to the bathroom?” and “Do you think the terrace needs a built in banquette?”.


How do you procrastinate?
SJP: I read a lot at the moment. Fiction of all sorts, and I'm happy to reread old and new favourites. It's the ultimate escape and indulgence for me.
JA: My ultimate procrastination is tidying up – that is the main reason that I could never, ever work from home.

How do you focus?
SJP: It depends on the task at hand. For drawing, music helps me block out distractions and get into a groove. If it’s words or numbers, I love silence. A deadline and busy diary helps to keep me on track.
JA: A good night’s sleep, exercise and a time frame around what I need to accomplish.


What’s your favourite part of the day?
SJP: Generally I love mornings: the light, early morning cuddles, chaotic breakfasts. I'm lucky to have a quick commute to work and I love those 20 minutes in the car (I know this is strange!). I can be in a bubble of my own thoughts, make a quick call to my mum, or just play music. I have a playlist of songs that I can really belt out.
JA: On the weekends I love warm sunny afternoons in the backyard after a morning down at North Bondi. During the working week, I actually love coming home to the craziness of dinner and bath-time with the girls. Endless entertainment.

Photography: Grace Alyssa Kyo Hair: Paloma Rose Garcia from Oscar Oscar Salon in Paddington Makeup: Sarina Zoe Words: Georgia Macmillan