Stephen Crafti is one of Australia’s most prominent and prolific architecture and design writers. Since the early 1990s, Stephen has written over 40 books and hundreds of articles covering all aspects of interior design, residential architecture and even fashion design, which has also been a long time passion.
On top of a regular column in The Age and writing for various newspaper and magazine titles, Stephen is also host of the radio show and podcast Talking Design, and hosts quarterly architecture tours, uncovering the residential gems hidden in Melbourne’s inner and middle suburbs.
We’re also happy to welcome onboard Stephen as a regular contributor to Open Journal. First up, Stephen takes our first Twelve Questions spot for 2014.
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1. What is a current influence/source of inspiration?
I would say visiting homes on my architectural tours around Melbourne. Often there are features in a house that may resonate for days. But I think one’s own house is a constant source of inspiration. I live in a 1930s house and elements continually draw my attention.
2. And a past childhood influence? What early memory do you have of being interested in architecture and design?
I think I must have been about 16, looking out of a classroom window. One of my teachers asked me what I wanted to do after leaving school? I immediately said ‘something to do with design’. At that stage, it could have meant architecture, interior design or even fashion design –as long as it was a creative field. I also recall visiting Peter Maddison’s first home, soon after leaving school. I still remember the mustard and cornflower blue tiles in his kitchen’s splashback. I’m sure he wouldn’t contemplate this combination today!
3. If you weren’t doing what you do, what other field could you see yourself working in?
I never try and think about another field, as this would take so much energy to ‘reinvent’ myself. I suppose designing gardens could be enjoyable. A garden can make such a difference to the way you see and experience a building. And it continually changes with the seasons.
4. When you meet somebody you don’t know at a party, how do you answer the question “What do you do?”
I generally say that I am an architecture and design writer. Most people understand the word architecture. Sometimes, I need to expand on design; you know furniture, fashion, and the decorative arts. If they seem confused, I think I am attending the wrong party!
5. Melbourne: What about it works for you?
It’s a fairly easy place to live and get around. I don’t have a car, but I live a stone’s throw from a railway station, tram, and bus stops. I can get almost anywhere around Melbourne.
6. What doesn’t?
Sometimes I feel Melbourne is a little too clubby – I feel you should always be assessed on your merits rather than whom you know. Sometimes, I see the most talented designers and few have sought them out.
7. You have been writing about architecture and design for over 20 years. How has the local scene changed since then?
I think the local scene has matured over this period. There’s so much talent coming out of Melbourne. Often it’s difficult keeping up with everything that’s going on, whether it’s architecture, interior design, furniture or fashion. Often I hear about things by word of mouth, but the pleasure still comes from discovering things, often just around the corner. I also think Melbourne’s design scene is appreciated by those in the know overseas.
8. What is a typical workday like for you?
I operate on structure. I’m a bit like Joan Rivers when she opens up her diary and sees an empty page (she needs her sunglasses as the clean white page blinds her!) I generally book in something each day, be it a story on my radio/podcast program (Talking Design with RMIT University). I find that I’m fresher in the morning to interview. I also love my time at the end of the day, when I can reach for a good book.
9. Last film, book or album that grabbed you?
The Coen Brothers latest film –‘Inside Llewyen Davis’ – a beautifully crafted film. How can you not laugh at the main character screaming out ‘bring out the hay stacks!’ from the back of a bar to a folk singer trying to impress?
10. What are you currently working on (or next?)
I am working on a couple of books, running the local residential architecture tours and keeping up with my columns for various newspapers and magazines.
11. If you could change one thing about….
The ability to enjoy my own company- I always prefer talking to others than being on my own, which is generally a writer’s lot.
12. If you could give yourself one piece of advice to your 21 year-year old self, what would it be?
Don’t be too hard on yourself. As my late father said, “it’s not where you start in life, it’s where you finish”. I think too many people starting out expect to be at the finish from the start.