Clarissa is a talented Interior Designer with nearly a decade of experience in Australia and Internationally. She specialises in high end commercial, education, residential and aged care fit-outs, combining design…
Getting to Know Clarissa Lundy
Clarissa Lundy is a Senior Interior Designer in the Sydney team. We talked with Clarissa about all things design and her life beyond the 9-5, including her passion for interiors, her love for fitness and her fur baby.
So Clarissa, lets start at the beginning—where did your interest in design begin?
That’s a good question! My love for design and creativity started in primary school—I was always drawing, colouring and sketching. I used to spend time with my grandfather after school, and he was really creative—he used to draw and paint natural subjects using watercolours—and I was inspired by him. My parents were also creative—my dad is a musician in his spare time, and my mum is a singer; both play and sing for their church, so there was a lot of music around the house. That being said, my dad worked as an engineer and he wanted me to become an engineer too.
Originally I wanted to be a graphic designer, so I went to an open day at UTS to have a look at their visual communication degree and explored their other courses. I came across the interior design projects and thought they looked really interesting – the environmental design aspect really resonated with me, so that’s when I decided I wanted to do interior design.
That’s so interesting. So what happened from there?
After deciding I wanted to do interior design I steered my HSC works around architecture some that were inspired by designers like Zaha Hadid. After high school I went to UTS in the interior design program and graduated with First Class Honours. I was quite academic, and really focused on my studies. I particularly enjoyed the conceptual exploration that university permits—modelling, sketching, exploring ideas. Thinking through how the environment affects the human experience fascinates me, and integrating that into designs was very satisfying.
Tell me about what happened after university.
My first real job was a junior Interior Designer at PDM International, a Hong Kong based company that was branching out into Australia. When I started, the Sydney office was very small—I was one of three people—and in the three years I was there it grew to have three offices across Australia and New Zealand! It was an incredible learning curve. To be part of a growing company was a great experience, and I learned about the business side of things. They did both design and construction, so I learned a lot about all stages of the design process, including project management, documentation and how to manage a project on site. We worked really closely, and my senior became my best friend!
After three years my fiance got a job in the UK as a high school teacher, so we moved to Leeds for a couple of years. I worked at Websters Interiors, a family-run business. Just before I started there was a couple of ex-directors from Fosters+Partners who started there, so the calibre of the work was really high. We did a lot of high end private residential projects. It was eye-opening! Some of our clients wanted to live like the Kardashians! Money was no object, and they would change their mind at any stage. One time a client was watching the marble being cut on site, and they decided they didn’t like it! It was fun, but it was also very stressful.
One of the more interesting projects I worked on there was a multi-residential project in London. I enjoyed that a lot.
During our time in the UK my partner and I also had our wedding—as most of our friends were from Australia and our families were from Indonesia, we decided to get married in Bali—a destination wedding. It was a lot of fun!
Wow, that sounds incredible! And what happened after that?
After a couple of years we realised we missed our family and friends, so we came back home. I got a job at a small boutique architecture and interior design firm in Sydney. I worked on mainly commercial projects: office fitouts, workplace environments, building upgrades, lobbies, end of trip facilities, and aged care. Working on aged care projects was quite enlightening for me! They are all about the user experience and the challenge was making the place feel like a home and still ensure it performs at healthcare levels. It was a great challenge!
I was promoted to Associate after a few years, and became more involved in the BD (business development) side of things which I found myself enjoying quite a lot.
We were a really close-knit team, then in 2020 one of the Directors suddenly passed away. It was a real shock. Then Covid hit.
Oh no, that must have been difficult.
Yes, it was. But everyone pulled together, and the company showed great tenacity to stay afloat. We had a strong team and supported each other. It was a difficult time, but it was also great to be surrounded by like-minded people.
After four years I decided to look for new opportunities, and I moved to DesignInc. I hadn’t heard much about the company, but I was drawn to what I learned about the team, the culture, the activities, and also the opportunites with Nguluway DesignInc. The journey of learning about First Nations values and philosophies, and how to approach designing from Country, is quite new for me. To listen to and learn from a First Nation architect (Craig Kerslake) in-house is so inspiring. I’ve been to one of Craig’s cultural sharing yarns where he talked about his story of coming to understand his Wiradjuri roots and his experience as an Aboriginal architect.
When I started at DesignInc I volunteered to join the Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) Working Group, and I’ve been involved in planning and implementing some of the initiatives. For National Reconciliation Week I organised a B2B networking event with a First Nation-owned construction company called DLG Shape. It was a great evening—we had catering, cocktails, and it was an interesting experience to share ideas, talk about their activities. I’m learning a lot, and looking out for opportunities for how to bring a designing from Country methodology into interior design projects.
What sort of projects have you been working on at DesignInc?
Quite a variety actually! I’ve been working on boutique hotels, which I really enjoyed, a workplace office guideline which was through Nguluway DesignInc actually, which is super exciting, and more recently assisting with a big aviation project, which is a completely new area for me. There are so many technical requirements to consider, and I’m enjoying the learning curve.
I guess the aviation sector is re-booting again after Covid.
Yes, it is, a lot of projects that went on hold are starting up again.
What part of your role as a designer do you enjoy the most?
I really enjoy the conceptual part. The exploration of ideas, pushing boundaries, thinking outside the square. I love sketching, collaborating, brainstorming, sharing ideas. I also love design reviews! At DesignInc we do peer reviews of our designs both within our team and presentations across the studio, so you get cross-pollination of ideas that really push the design outcome.
DesignInc is the largest organisation I’ve ever worked for, and there is such a broad range of services and portfolios. There are so many interesting people and a wide range of skills and areas of expertise to learn from and explore. It’s exciting!
I recently participated in a sketching excursion called ‘Meanderings’ as part of the ‘Design at DesignInc’ program where we went out around the city and did some facilitated sketching exercises. It was great to loosen up, to draw, to stop and look at our surroundings. I actually found it very therapeutic!
That’s so true! And finally, tell me about life outside work.
I’m really into fitness. I wake up at 4:30 or 5am most mornings and go to the gym. I love cross-fit, mainly more so on the community aspect—I’m all about the vibe, the fist-bumps and being around a supportive group of people. My husband doesn’t quite share the same passion, nor share the same body clock as me haha. But we do share our love for our fur baby, Nugget, he’s a three year old cavoodle and we love him to bits.
Thanks for chatting today Clarissa, and sharing some of your story.