Designer Chat: Buster from Wonder

May 24, 2022

Tell us about your journey as a designer 

It's always accidental, isn't it? I was born a dreamer, and raised a do-er - my parents both being farmers. This combination means I see ideas in my mind & have the practical skillset to get them built. Design is one of the playpens where a career can be made with these skills, and so here I am. 

An introduction into your business.

Wonder is here to help emerging New Zealand brands create their special spaces. 

We partner up with remarkable local businesses and build them an environment that is very special to both them & their crowd. 

On this journey, we partner up with many more local craftspeople - championing all sorts of crafts & built works that are right for that project. 

This can cover fashion, hospitality, workspace, temporary, sculpture & recently a residential. 

How you “try” to balance life and work. 

I absolutely don't, this is the wrong question for me ha. 

Twice or thrice a year I get to sneak off to a tree hut (hand-built!) on the barrier, and it's here that I can properly switch off the neurons. 

What is your style?

Our style is often humble, a result of our client's current business stage & their respecting budgets. 

We like this. It's rewarding to turn trash to treasure - we like to think we can design Gucci on a Glassons budget. 

It also means we get to work with humble, honest materials - and also humble, honest craftspeople. 

You won't see walls faced in rear marble, instead you'll find dolomite plaster trowelled by hand. 

What are the strongest trends coming through in 2022?

We're noticing a notch up in bravery on all fronts. There's a willingness to stand out & cut through the clutter - and physical space is a great place to do this. 

A desire to be noticed is driving noisier ideas, with a full-throttle conviction to see these brought to life. Products are growing in scale. Colour palettes are either uniting for single-tone impact or clashing to catch an eye. Texture is notching up. 

Why is lighting so important?

Art brings the attitude, music brings the energy, material brings the provenance. Lighting tells us how to behave. 

Low lighting makes us flirty. It gives a hard-to-read smile from across the room, telling us to hunt for more. 

Tangled lighting diffused through an open+closed area casts shadows across form. It tells us to calm ourselves - we're under canopy & safe. 

Bright white exposes everything - puts it all down on the table. With nothing to hide, it tells us to focus on product rather than space. 

Controlling the lighting controls the behaviour, and therein lies its importance. 

Is there a lighting product that you LONG for that you cannot see available in New Zealand currently?

Slightly sideways, but dutch studio Rotganzen released a sculptural melting disco-ball that I absolutely adore. 

Not a light source as such, but a sculptural object that looks adorable whilst filling the room with little moving fireflies of light.  

Rotganzen's art pieces - likened to melting disco balls

What top 5 pearls of wisdom can you share with anyone building or renovating right now?

1 - Work with a design & build team that proves respectful of your budget. Don't be the 'ouch!' story. 

2 - Buy any of the special materials & products months before you need them. Substitutions hurt. 

3 - Remind yourself to enjoy the process, often. It's a bloody hard journey, and all on your shoulders to make it fun. 

4 - Work with locals, wherever possible. It can take longer & look more expensive, but in our experience is miles less stressful than making offshore parts fit well upon arrival. 

5 - With pricing, pick & choose your battles. Spend well on the items that must endure, cut costs everywhere else. No one really cares where things are from, but how annoying is it when shit breaks. 

Can you tell us about some of your favourite projects and what made them so great?

Burger Burger & Duck Island will always mark a turning point, these were the first projects that I would take friends to visit. Before then, anxiety.

Burger Burger

Following that, every project where we've started as the designer & left as a friend has been magical. This is my measure of success, and often difficult to achieve with such an emotional, fast-paced & complex process. 

What design tips and tricks could you share?

Commission me for your project & I'll share the war chest ;-) 

Travel! Could be on the cards this year – have you got any plans?

Fingers crossed I'll be beachside Sicily with a dirty martini come October, but I've learnt not to hold my breath.  

Do you see any strong styles coming through into 2023 – what do we need to look out for?

We're also in a global shortage of every single thing - and are starting to see a similar pattern to the GFC, when recycled mason jars were trendy & craft beer became a thing. This stimulates invention from traditionally pedestrian materials - with access being of greater importance than image. We're going to see more 'raw' - stainless, clay, chipboard, cement, or anything else you can get your hands on. It's all up for grabs. 

Duck Island