For this week’s Man About Town, Rachelle Unreich caught up with Sydney-based interior and event stylist Steve Cordony – an in-demand man in the big bad world of interior design.
Not only does he have a five-digit Instagram following, he also has product collaborations in the works, a client list that includes Lancome, Ralph Lauren and YSL, and an upcoming online store for items he’s picked up on his travels. Rest assured, he’s doing much of this while wearing a smoking jacket (he owns two).
RU: Were you always into design? Did you have to have your childhood bedroom just so?
SC: I used to do performing arts at school and that went hand in hand with being creative. My mother was an interior decorator and I learned a lot from her. When I was about 15, I would wait for her to go out, and then I would take all the furniture out of the living room, restyle it, and put it back the way it was before she got home!
I got into industrial design at the end of high school, but left that six months later because it was too scientific and hardcore. A friend told me about Design Centre Enmore, and I did a Design Fundamentals course which covered a whole myriad of design principles. After that, I did a three-year interior design degree.
RU: Have you gone through a design bent that you now hate?
SC: Because I travel quite a bit, every time I go away I come back and have a whole different take, whether it’s Tokyo or India. You can get a bit carried away. I have to pull myself back, and think this is not a themed, Turkish palace.
You take some element from those communities and pour it back in. In fashion, I had an overalls and gingham check stage, but I got rid of that. There was also a Quiksilver and surfie stage, though I’ve never surfed a day in my life. My whole wardrobe was Quiksilver, Mambo and Stussy – go figure!
RU: What influences your approach?
SC: Two of my biggest influences would be travel and fashion. I am lucky that I get to travel a bit. I come back with a different point of view when I see how other cultures live and how they use colour and pattern. Fashion is constantly changing and evolving, and different trends come and go, but they go hand in hand with interiors.
There’s a trend now where a lot of fashion designers are moving to interiors, and that’s a big inspiration. Seeing a great fashion show – that is sometimes how I start a project. It starts with one key concept. The first show that Raf Simons did for Dior – the subject of the movie Dior and I – I loved everything about that, particularly the flowers. The ones he’s done ever since have been unreal too.
RU: What advice would you give to someone who wants to make over their rooms?
SC: I think it’s about the little things. Obviously you need beautiful sofas and dining chairs, but a lot of it is also in the detail. In my house, it’s about the smell. I love scented candles. I’ve got a whole cupboard designated to every candle you can imagine.
My favourites are Cire Trudon, Baies by Diptyque and Jo Malone’s Lime Basil and Mandarin. But there are so many. I burn them all the time, 24-7, which is bad. People send them to me, which is nice, as they can be expensive – some can be $150.
I would also go back to setting the mood and having good lighting and beautiful fluffy towels in the bathroom, and little details like that. Smaller accessories are really important. Cushions can change a sofa each season, so that it’s not the same look. Books would be another little luxury – coffee table books that are beautiful, with personality and character.
RU: Since candles are a big deal for you, what is your strongest scent memory?
SC: I have two. Whenever I travel, I get a new cologne and then when I spray it, it reminds me of that place. The last time I bought Tom Ford’s Oud Wood on a trip to Africa. Another one of the strongest scents for me is gardenia – it brings back memories of Christmas time at home with Mum and Dad, when I grew up in Sydney on the North Shore.
“Coming out was the point when I felt the most comfortable in myself. I finally felt like I knew who I was and where I was headed.”
RU: Where do you love overseas?
SC: I am potentially looking to work in the US next year, as LA has a similar lifestyle and there’s a great scene happening there. Paris is amazing – you walk into a beautiful gallery over there and they’ll have great one-off pieces that really make a space.
It’s nice to see different design communities around the world, but we’re definitely up there.
RU: How would you describe your fashion sense?
SC: I like classic shapes with a twist. Across the board, I’m very neutral monochromatic – blacks, whites, greys, beiges and maybe soft greens. I live at a tailor in Paddington called P. Johnson Tailors. It’s about getting things that fit really well – a beautiful trouser, a great jacket or blazer. My favourite brands are P. Johnson Tailors, Bassike, Jac + Jack, Tom Ford and Saint Laurent.
RU: Who’s your style icon?
SC: I need to come up with a new one, because it’s so cliché, but Tom Ford everything. The detail on what he does is incredible. Everything is restrained but classic, and still innovative and completely chic. I love dressing up, even on planes. I don’t put on trackies. It’s a bit more old school and a bit more glam.
Sometimes I get changed on the plane, but you can wear a smart cashmere sweater with a nice, tailored trouser. If it’s a long haul thing, I’d take an Acne tracksuit to change into. But as much as I love dressing up, I also love being at home in a comfy ensemble with my partner of six years and my dog.
RU: Do you have fights about decorating?
SC: We have one simple rule: he does the outside and I do the inside.
RU: Who’s had the biggest influence on your life?
SC: Probably my parents. Mum was an interior decorator. Dad was a builder. I’ve grown up around them doing their own thing and being successful and paving the way in terms of how they ran their own company.
RU: How has social media changed you and your brand?
SC: It’s been a massive influence. Instagram is the biggest thing for me – it’s almost a visual keyboard and this whole source of inspiration. You feel like it’s so tangible. I’ve met incredible people through Instagram – like Jeffrey Alan Marks and Martyn Lawrence Bullard, interior designers in the US. It was there I also first found out about Jeff Leatham, an American florist based in Paris, who I have since met.
RU: What was a life-changing moment for you?
SC: Without trying to sound too deep and personal, coming out was the point when I felt the most comfortable in myself. I finally felt like I knew who I was and where I was headed. Being able to be true and happy and honest with yourself is the most liberating feeling – not only personally, but also creatively and therefore professionally.
Everything fell into place after that point and I knew exactly who I was and where I was heading.
Photographed exclusively for D’Marge by Tintin Hedberg @ HELL STUDIOS – No reproduction without written permission.