'The Clinic' is a collaborative hub of design and media businesses in Newcastle, Australia. It was established thanks to the great initiative Renew Newcastle, that finds empty or neglected commercial spaces and negotiates with the landlords to allow creative businesses to in-habitat the space for a short term lease.
We have been tenants for over a year but had done little to improve or beautify our entry - what was once 'The Waiting Room' until now.
On a side note, Stuart now plans to use the revamped space as the backdrop for the next television commercial he directs!
What challenges did you face?
'The Clinic' was in fact that - an old optometrists clinic that featured a maze of consultation rooms that have since been divided into individual studio spaces which works great (every room came with a clinical sink, and some even with vintage eye charts which were actually a nice unique feature!). However the architectural fitout of the space provided plenty of aesthetic challenges - with standard unattractive commercial carpeting throughout, dated lace curtains and a huge (and useless for our purpose) reception desk in the front entry.
Secondly, our collective budget was decided to a very limited $500, so it was time for some smart choices.
The design also had to appease five different businesses owners, meeting each of our own needs. The common thread is that we all produce young, vibrant bodies of work with a smart design sensibility and wanted to reflect that in a novel way.
What was your inspiration of the project?
We wanted to create an inviting lounge and meeting area for clients. The design inspiration was to work within the architectural confines that we had. Things like the dated ceiling panels and vintage stained wood doors throughout were actually suggestive of a 'Mad Men' style office, so stylist Tim Neve came up with a concept to run with this idea, with fellow neighbour and interior expert Tanya offering sound advice to complete. Rather than looking overly 'retro' or themed, we wanted to embrace the original era while using classic design pieces to look contemporary and cool.
First thing to rip out was the reception desk, opening and transforming the space. Secondly, the carpet was lifted to reveal great concrete floors with an imperfect texture we decide to leave matt and raw rather than polished.
Paint changes everything! The pale hospital apricot (ew!) wall tone was revamped with Nippon Paints 'Olive' to create an immediate, noticeable impact. We really wanted to move away from appearing clinical, so this was a great choice.
Warm woods and orange accents complete the scheme. Funky storage cubes in chocolate brown were wall mounted to display an eclectic collection of vintage pottery and glassware (yes, Tim has a vase fetish of late), all sourced on a minimal budget from second hand stores rather than paying premium antique dealer prices.
What was your proudest DIY?
Abby and Clare from Neon Zoo scored an amazing Scandinavian style lounge from a garage sale for only $20, reupholstering the cushions in fabric from IKEA which now makes it a design-classic statement piece.
The low overhanging meeting table pendant was an op-shop buy for $10. Once dusty and beige, it now looks like a designer piece by spray painting the exterior gloss black, and the interior of the dome in vivid orange.
The meeting table was cleverly constructed from one of the clinic's many wood doors, with modular legs attached from IKEA.
What is your favourite element of the finished space?
The streamline Parker style sideboard. A budget of $100 was set aside for this and we were lucky enough to find one at a second hand store for exactly that! Close friends have purchased similar from antique dealers for upwards of $900. This one is in pretty good condition but had a few large scratches on top - quick tip: rather than re-sand and restore, simply draw over the marks with an orange or brown texta then rub with your finger to blend - from an even close distance the scratches have disappeared!
What was your best buy?
Rugs can be expensive, and as the walls feature no artwork we sought out a graphic print floor piece. The best buy was to search online, finding this great design at Factory Fast for around $50. Sure, the quality is more acrylic than plush, but in a commercial environment this suits fine.
The wishbone chairs are replica from a variety store at the unbelievable price of $49 each (see similar at Matt Blatt), while the coffee table was scoped up second hand for a mere $4.
If this all sounds overwhelming like you'd have to travel far and wide to get such bargains, fear not - the entire fitout was completed in under a week, visiting the select amount of stores a regional town like Newcastle has to offer.