Mardi Doherty is unquestionably one of Australia's most talented interior designers. As the Director of Melbourne-based Doherty Design Studio she heads up a design team that has developed a hallmark style that's all about exquisitely tailored interiors and bespoke detailing. Mardi works across many design disciplines but is probably best known for creating highly personalised homes that are regularly showcased in leading Australian and international publications.
Which qualities do you consider the most important when you're creating an interior?
“An interior should imbue a sense of warmth. It’s sometimes difficult to define warmth, but it’s that level of comfort and ease that you feel in some homes and not in others.
Flow is crucial. A thoughtfully designed interior that flows easily from one zone to another enhances the way people live and utilise space. We take on many projects where we need to reconfigure the layout so it becomes harmonious, cohesive and practical.
Natural light is one of the most important ways to enhance the ambience of a home. The interaction of natural light and the interior surroundings can have a magical effect. Plus, light has a profound impact on the pleasure of the home's inhabitants.”
Above: Malvern Residence. Photographer: Derek Swalwell
What advice would you pass on to homeowners when they're contemplating a renovation?
“Do your research. Decide if you need an interior designer, architect or draftsperson, and if unsure, approach all three.
Keep a Pinterest page – but don’t get lost in it, or overwhelmed by it! Often a few key images can sum up what you’re trying to achieve, rather than thousands of them.
Keep it simple by aiming to create just a few amazing moments in your home – say, through interesting joinery or considered choices in lighting, a colour palette or material finishes. For a highly personalised interior, look to custom cabinetry and bespoke detailing.
And be brave! It’s often the details and colours clients are most nervous about that they end up loving the most.”
Above: Prahran Residence. Photographer: Tom Blachford
What are some of your favourite aspects of working with clients?
“Seeing clients consider options they wouldn’t have ever expected. If clients have lived in their home before they renovate, they often find it difficult to visualise their home any other way. We love presenting different ideas and shaking up the way clients think about their spaces. I also enjoy watching a brief develop and having the opportunity to get to know more about their tastes and lifestyle.
We cherish visiting clients a year after their renovations are complete and seeing how the spaces are being lived in and used.”
Above: South Caulfield Residence. Photographer: Tom Blachford
What are some of your favourite aspects of your day-to-day routine?
“That every day is different. And being constantly inspired and challenged. Resolving details and finding solutions to problems is all part of the enjoyment, too. Site visits are a favourite part of my week. I love the energy of a building site and engaging with the different trades and craftsmen. The sense of anticipation around seeing the building process come together is very exciting.”
What five lessons have you learned that you would like to share?
“Every problem has a solution.
Trust the crazy ideas you have in the middle of the night!
Having more than one option is often a good idea.
Focus on the big picture and don’t get caught up in the detail.
Going through the design process with a professional helps people to identify and better understand their own taste and style.”