Close your eyes and visualise your favourite Adelaide restaurant. Chances are, the guys from studio -gram had a hand in the design.
You’ll find the talented team of architects and interior designers in a studio tucked away down Goodwood’s Union Street. Here, they create the look and feel of some of the most exciting spaces in South Australia’s hospitality scene. Restaurants Shobosho, Bai Long Store, Mr Goodbar, Osteria Oggi and Gallery are their handiwork. Studio -gram’s visually-pleasing accomplishments are dotted all over the city. How do they do it? The design gurus believe it’s all thanks to their studio environment and team synergy.
“We dislike the word boss more than any other,” co-director Graham Charbonneau says. “There are times when you have to put the boss hat on, but in our day-to-day life in the studio, there aren’t any bosses sitting here.” The ethos pays off. “Hopefully that kind of environment means people are more open and honest about their feelings and give honest feedback,” fellow director Dave Bickmore says.
They’re not your typical nine-to-fivers and it seems to work wonders. “I think creating a conducive environment is key,” Graham says. “We probably have more fun than a lot of other people do at work but we also know when it’s time to get serious and do what we need to do.”
Formed in January 2014, the studio grew steadily from two to six employees. While there was ample opportunity to grow quicker, the team says there’s method to their so-called madness. “We both came from big practices, and I think a lot of bigger practices have this hiring and firing thing, where if they get a project, they’re happy to put on 10 people and when it’s delivered, they get rid of them,” Graham says. “We’ve fought growth opportunities, probably more than we’ve embraced them because we prefer to control our growth curve. It allows us to maintain quality. It also allows us to build morale in the office and people aren’t on the edge of their seats wondering when they’re going to get shown the door.”
As a result, morale soars. It’s no wonder people are chomping at the bit to work here. Fresh to the team is Alastair Reeve, who despite only being on the team for a few weeks already seems part of the furniture. Like Sam Broadbridge, one of studio -gram’s first employees, he has done his fair share of door knocking on architecture studios’ doors. With hundreds of CVs coming in every month from hungry architects desperate for employment, this little office is hot property. But how does one snag a job here in such a competitive market? “I think one of the issues of the digital generation [is that] it’s quite rare and very well received when someone actually knocks on the door or walks in and introduces themselves,” Graham says.
The team members are firm believers in South Australia as a burgeoning market for creative industry opportunities, encouraging up-and-comers to stay if they can. “I think there’s a lot of opportunity here if people stick around. The kind of stock that’s coming out of Adelaide [is great]. It’s nice to see those people staying now.”
René Majewski and Olivier Martin are key members of the studio -gram gang. Like Graham, Olivier hails from Canada. “I studied at UniSA but moved to Sydney to get work. When the opportunity came up to work at studio-gram, I quite happily moved back to Adelaide”.
René joined the team about a year ago and studied with Olivier at the University of South Australia. He says the creative job market in Adelaide is all about being connected. “Get to know people, talk to people, be involved in the very small community that it is. The last two jobs in architecture I got were without showing a portfolio. It wasn’t because of what I knew or what I could do, it was more that… [it was] how you fit into the studio environment.”
Their work is not exclusively local. “We’re currently working in five states of Australia and we’re really proud of that,” Dave says. Among their most popular interstate projects are Civilian Bar & Kitchen, Harpoon Harry and Cranky Fins Holidae Inn (all NSW).
What keeps them in SA? “We can operate our practice here for probably a tenth the amount of money that it would cost us to operate a practice elsewhere,” Graham says. “It’s also the competitor in us. [People have] this idea that South Australia is shit or that we can’t do it. I think it’s great to be able to produce work that is recognised nationally and internationally and happily tell people that we’re from South Australia.”
You can’t put studio -gram in a box. “We don’t have a style,” Graham says. “I don’t think you can.” While people come to them for certain materials (they use a lot of timber), part of their success is a team-driven design aesthetic. “Studio -gram is not attached to Graham or I at all,” Dave says. “It’s about people that work here and work with us. It allows for people to take ownership of the studio -gram brand and make it their own.”
Some of their works are award-winning (Osteria Oggi won top restaurant interior in the World Interior News Awards in London last year) but team say they have no bias toward their ‘children’. “I think we’re proud of every project we do. If you don’t have a sense of pride in your work, you’re probably in the wrong thing,” Olivier says.
With a number of exciting gigs in the pipeline, they exude confidence and aim high. “If we were afraid to fail, we probably would have never started a practice or done the stuff we do,” Graham says. Their dream project? “That mythical tunnel that runs from Parliament House to the Freemason’s Hall, that apparently doesn’t exist. Weird,” René says.
Where’s your favourite space in Adelaide at the moment? Let us know in the comments, below.