1Please give us a brief bio of yourself and your design background.
I graduated from the University Technology Sydney with a Degree in Architecture but after working in the field for a bit I found myself more drawn to interiors. In 2017, I started my own interior design company, Smac Studio (“Smac” is a portmanteau of my name Shona McElroy). Through wonderful luck, I found clients willing to invest in quality materials who give me a lot of creative freedom. Together we have created homes that have been nominated for several design prizes - including winning two Muse gold awards.
2What made you become/why did you choose to become a designer/artist?
My father is an architect and my mum is an interior designer - it’s in my blood. Design was always part of the language of our home. Around the dinner table, on holidays together, even just driving to and from school we’d talk about the built environment and how it could be more functional and beautiful.
3Tell us more about your business/company, job profile, and what you do.
Smac Studio specialises in high-end residential projects. We create bespoke spaces for our clients’ unique personalities and lifestyles - elegant design with impact. As the principal, I oversee all elements from spatial planning to fixtures, fittings and equipment.
4What does “design” mean to you?
The marriage of form and function.
5What’s your favorite kind of design and why?
I find constant inspiration in Europe and The Americas, particularly Italy and Brazil. I have a great appreciation for all styles of interior design, but I do gravitate towards natural materials and textures. I think they’re timeless.
6To you, what makes a “good” design?
Well-designed homes facilitate relaxation, entertainment, work and play.
7Describe your design style and its main characteristics.
My style is ever-evolving and layered with detail. I’m always looking for elements I can thread through my designs to create a harmonious visual story as you move through the home. I want my projects to be detailed, luxurious, daring and playful.
8Do you think your country and its cultural heritage has an impact on your design process?
I think Australian design is informed by the climate and a reverence for nature. Australian sunlight has a beautiful clarity to it and my clients always want me to bring more natural light into their homes. The landscape here also has beautiful bronze and sage-green tones, which I often incorporate into my designs.
The symbiotic relationship between people and bookstores is guided by spirit and connected by emotion, which is the focus of Ueno Bookhouse's design. After the original sloping building structure has been corrected, the layout of the space has been reorganized, and the action track and emotional appeal of people in the bookstore will be reorganized and presented.
9Congratulations! As the winner of the 2022 MUSE Design Awards, what does it mean to you and your company and team to receive this award distinction?
It means a great deal for my work to be recognised by my peers in the interior design industry.
10Can you explain a bit about the winning work you entered into the 2022 MUSE Design Awards, and why you chose to enter this project?
I entered two projects this year and both were awarded gold. These projects are a reflection of my personal aesthetic - I had clients who trusted me, were willing to invest in quality and gave me enormous creative freedom. A designer’s dream.
11What was the biggest challenge with this project?
Bringing natural light into the homes and fitting everything the clients wanted into the small spaces (the internal width of both these homes is only 4.8m).
12How has winning an Award developed your practice/career?
We are a young design practice, so I hope that winning these awards will bring us more clients who share and appreciate our aesthetic.
13What are your top three (3) favorite things about our industry?
My favourite thing is the tangibility - interior design is one of the few professions were you can see your ideas literally form in front of your eyes. I also love spatial planning and finding beautiful patterns in natural stone.
14What makes your country specifically, unique in the design industry?
I think Australian design tends to be quite bold and experimental, from the Sydney Opera House to modern skyscrapers covered in vertical gardens.
15Where do you see the evolution of design industry going over the next 5-10 years?
Post-pandemic I think people are more sensitive to the way their homes make them feel. We now appreciate clever design more and understand how it enhances our lives. I also think we’ll see more integrated landscaping and green space.
16If you were a student entering this industry or an aspiring MUSE Design Awards submitter, what advice would you give them?
Submit something you’re proud of that reflects your aesthetic - the kind of work you want to do more of.
17What resources would you recommend to someone who wants to improve their skills in the design industry?
Get into the industry as soon as possible. Apply to smaller companies while you’re still studying, as you’re more likely to get exposure to the design process there. Being thrown in the deep end is the best way to learn.
18Tell us something you have never told anyone else.
If I weren’t an interior designer, I’d be an artist.
19Who has inspired you in your life and why?
Interior designer Kelly Wearstler for her bold, playful use of colour and architect Zaha Hadid for her curvy building innovations.
20What is your key to success? Any parting words of wisdom?
Listening to the client and reflecting their wants in your designs in the single most important thing. It creates trust early on, which is integral to a successful project.
21Do you have anything else you would like to add to the interview?
Be open-minded and never stop learning.