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Joe Snell Talks Award-Winning Home Design For The Magnificent Bastard

Joe Snell is no stranger to things that make people stop in their tracks and stare. The Sydney-based architect already has a stellar CV to his name and as well as being a judge on the home renovations show House Rules, he is also a well-seasoned connoisseur in all things architecture, interior design, large scale urban installations, and lighting design.

D’Marge sat down with the man with a discerning eye to rack his brains on how to design a space worthy of a magnificent bastard – free of consultation fee to you guys of course.

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MH: Why is good interior design important for a man’s space?

JS: Everyone’s a designer these days. Well they say they are and at the end of the day, it just comes down to whether it’s good or bad design. Not many spaces are designed for men if you think about it. In Australia we have this weird hang up that we don’t care about these things but actually, we do.

If you want to feel good in your day and be productive and happy, make sure your space is awesome.

MH: Are there any practical benefits of a great man’s space?

JS: How do you feel when you walk in your room and haven’t made your bed? You feel like shit. They say the first step to breaking depression is to make your bed in the morning. It’s not the act that you’ve made your bed – it’s the fact that when you’ve come back into the room, there’s a sense of care about it. So there’s a clinical idea of walking into a room and the bed is made; you’re going to have a better day and a lesser feeling of foreboding.

MH: Are there any innovative ways a man can make a space magnificent?

JS: You could do it yourself. Anyone can do it really. I’ve had guys with a scale car collection and instead of putting it on shelves, we mounted it on the walls. To be innovative, what you have to do is take your passion and twist it into interior design.

For that one we took an acoustic product which is designed for office spaces and is also a pin board. It’s called EchoPanel and they use it in office separators. Echo panel looks like soft grey felt but when you touch it, it’s made from recycled plastic.

I lined one wall that went 12m long and 2m high and then it went up a void to a second story. So it was a classic timber boarded house with white walls and one wall, which was the most sexy wall, we covered it in this grey material and it became the world’s biggest pin board. It was aesthetically beautiful. Every single person talked about that wall who came round.

I created this canvas pin board and he [the owner] decorated it himself. His kid has put some stuff up at his level, posters and things. Then you can put up a ladder and access it at any point to make a bigger car yard.

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MH: Is designing a great space possible without a huge budget? 

JS: There’s a difference between installations and finishes. I bring installations into people’s homes and the reason I do that is because I do that in everything else. When I do a bar or restaurant or office, we have to look beyond just finishes on the wall. We have to look beyond saying ‘that’s a lovely wallpaper, that’s really changed my life’.

For the home, white walls is key, then paint a feature wall. Paint is the cheapest option. If you’re talking about a man cave, just rip up the shitty carpet and put some brand new black carpet down; it’s pretty cost effective. Expose the floor boards too. There’s plenty of ways to do basic things. Just carpet and white walls can radically change a space.

MH: Are there any rules that men should never break with their own interior design? 

JS: No. I’m breaking rules all the time. The professional in me says you can’t break safety rules. A lot of people ask what my style is and I say it’s up to them to work out my style. I don’t think you can because every job is different, every person I’m dealing with is radically different.

What I do today, I bet you in five years time I’ll do something completely more progressive. So the only way to push barriers and really go for it is to break rules. Having said that, if you see something in a magazine and you just want to copy it, there’s nothing wrong with that either. Do what you like.

MH: So I want to impress a lady friend with my home. What should I have in there?

JS: You need to have cleanliness high at the top of the list. Hygiene is a really big part of snaring a woman. Once you get past that, it’s about style – it’s got to reflect you. If you’re a liar and don’t believe what you’re putting forward, then anyone can see that from a mile off. There’s no point putting on a show that’s not you. It will look inauthentic and unattractive. I think you should just do whatever you love.

MH: Any trends that you’re noticing in men’s living spaces?

JS: There is a trend for this industrial look. it’s not a dirty one but a minimalist, clean industrial look. Things like black steel, white, and soft greys. Those soft greys often give them texture first. So you’ll have the soft grey concrete, the soft felt for example and I think men are enjoying that. It has great strength in it and it’s not too frilly.

I’m designing Guy Sebastian’s house and he really likes that sort of clean industrial style. So I’ve seen that look pop up.

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MH: What are the typical go-to man colours?

JS: Greys, whites and blacks have become the main aesthetics and then bringing in real materials like leathers and felt. Not too much pattern, strong block colours. The way to do it is blocking and then adding a highlight such as furniture.

MH: How often should a man be changing his interior layout?

JS: There’s no time limit. It’s up to you but I reckon you could do it every six months for a freshen up. You might paint a wall differently or move the furniture around. Sometimes we look at seasonal change in furniture in terms of position; more outward looking for the Summer and inward looking for the Winter.

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