Nicholas Gurney Interview | Yellowtrace.


Nicholas Gurney is an exciting young Australian designer on the rise. He studied Bachelor of Design (industrial) at UWS. Afterwards he spent some time working in commercial furniture manufacturing. Nicholas established his design studio in 2012 focusing on small-scale, modest projects. Since then, he has developed an impressive body of work, particularly for someone so young who also works solo.

The hallmark of Nicholas’ work is good quality design at low cost. Look, guys – I know we all love a client with a juicy phat budget, but the reality is that most people aren’t able to afford high-spec products and projects. Does this mean they shouldn’t be allowed to have access to great design? Absolutely frigging NOT! This is why Mr Gurney is a little legend in my eyes, and definitely the one to watch.

Below is a little Q&A with the man himself. Please make him welcome.


The Studio Apartment, Sydney by Nicholas Gurney | Yellowtrace.

The redesign of a 27sqm studio apartment in Sydney’s, Woolloomooloo. The project is an exercise in modest, low cost, good quality design that can be afforded. The micro apartment offers a proposal for future high-density urban living for one person families; the fastest growing demographic. Photography by Katherine Lu.


+ Hello Nicholas, welcome to Yellowtrace. Could you please tell us a little bit about yourself – when did you first decide you wanted to become an industrial designer and how did you get to where you are today?

I didn’t know if I was creative but I knew I wanted to be, so I chose industrial design for my tertiary education. I spent a few years in commercial furniture manufacturing before losing the income addiction and flying solo. I’m now 28 years old and completely design obsessed.


The Studio Apartment, Sydney by Nicholas Gurney | Yellowtrace.

The Studio Apartment, Sydney by Nicholas Gurney | Yellowtrace.

The Studio Apartment, Sydney by Nicholas Gurney | Yellowtrace.

The Studio Apartment in Sydney’s, Woolloomooloo. The colour palette of black, yellow and red is borrowed from the tiny fictional character Mighty Mouse and is used to demarcate space. It was required that, much like Mighty Mouse, the apartment punch well above its size. Photography by Katherine Lu.


+ How do you characterise your design approach and your aesthetic? What is fundamental to your design practice – your philosophy and your process?

I champion small spaces, modest budgets and big ambition. Prefer recycled, pre-owned and some tlc. Favour designing over sourcing.

Most important is improvement to utility, social and environmental sustainability. I don’t really have an aesthetic, I rely on my clients and then negotiate. My work is functional, refined, crafted and considered.


Farmhouse, Kings Cross by Nicholas Gurney | Yellowtrace.

Farmhouse, Kings Cross by Nicholas Gurney | Yellowtrace.

Farmhouse is a union of design and craft; a close-knit collaboration between designer and carpenter. Inspired by rustic, 19th century European homes, Farmhouse is a 33sqm, 20 seat communal dining restaurant constructed from salvaged and recycled material. Photography by Michael Wee.


+ How do you go about establishing a concept and an overall direction/ look & feel for your projects? Do you have a certain process that you always follow?

I go for walks. Sometimes really long walks. No pen to paper or hand to mouse until I’ve conceived ideas strictly in my mind. I focus on problem solving and functionality from the outset.


Farmhouse, Kings Cross by Nicholas Gurney | Yellowtrace.

Farmhouse, Kings Cross by Nicholas Gurney | Yellowtrace.

Farmhouse in Sydney’s Kings Cross. Photography by Michael Wee.


+ You are an industrial designer by trade, but you also focus on interior projects. How did this come about? Do you have an interior designer you work with? How do you approach documentation for these types of projects etc?

I was always interested in architecture and particularly interiors but I wanted an alternate grounding, a different skill set, something that would ultimately set me apart and be a point of difference.

My education in architecture and interiors is strictly limited to work I have seen in publication. I work entirely by myself. My documentation is pretty lean… everything you need and nothing you don’t, I guess. I employ a very hands on approach.


Farmhouse, Kings Cross by Nicholas Gurney | Yellowtrace.

Farmhouse, Kings Cross by Nicholas Gurney | Yellowtrace.

Farmhouse in Sydney’s Kings Cross. Photography by Michael Wee.


+ Who or what are some of your influences? What other designers, artists and other creatives do you admire?

As a kid I’d salvage waste material from project home building sites and construct additions to my cubby house – I wish so badly that I had photos. I was fascinated with tree houses and camping although I never had trees or went camping. Perhaps it’s these fascinations that ultimately led to my desire to design small.

Here and now, I very much admire the work of Anthony Gill and Henry Wilson.


Blackout Tapas Bar by Nicholas Gurney | Yellowtrace.

Blackout Tapas Bar by Nicholas Gurney | Yellowtrace.

Blackout Tapas Bar by Nicholas Gurney | Yellowtrace.

Blackhouse is a 1940’s styled tapas bar capturing the essence of ‘The Blitz’. Machinist furniture, antique lighting and hand painted blackout propaganda feature in the raw, crafted space. Photography by Will Reichelt.


+ Any interesting/ funny/ quirky facts you could share with us about your work and what you do?

When I’m working I can listen to songs on repeat for hours on end without even noticing. I also loiter around on my job sites, often pretending to know more than I actually do.

+ What advice would you give to emerging designers who want to follow your path? What was one of your biggest lessons learned since starting your practice?

Show people what you can do by creating and completing projects for yourself. Renovate something, get your hands dirty, make mistakes and learn from it.

I learnt very quickly that the designer is not just the designer. We are the motivation, the inspiration, the mediator and the financial advisor…all in the same day!


Flight Coffee Table by Nicholas Gurney | Yellowtrace.

Flight Coffee Table by Nicholas Gurney | Yellowtrace.

Flight is a low height coffee table inspired by the lightweight nature of the paper airplane. The table’s base assumes the form of a stealth fighter in flight. Dia 1100 x 300h. Photography by Phillip Hayson.


+ What’s next – can you share with us your vision and some of your goals?

I want to consistently produce work that resonates with people, dispels conventional notions and challenges my skill set. I really want to keep learning. I also hope that one day I have the knowledge required to teach and teach well.


Joe Sideboard by Nicholas Gurney | Yellowtrace.

Joe Sideboard by Nicholas Gurney | Yellowtrace.

Retro styled sideboard made with offcuts from the production of joinery & commercial furniture. Eight varied timber species sit side by side in an American oak carcass to create a beautiful, natural composition. Photography by Phillip Hayson.


Let’s Get Personal:

+ What are the qualities you most like about yourself?

A positive outlook and confidence in my ability.

Apart from your work, what other interests or hobbies do you have?

I’m a real soccer tragic! I also really enjoy walking and reading.

+ What is your most treasured belonging?

I’m quite honestly not attached to anything that I own.

+ What’s one thing other people may not know about you?

I wash my hands a lot.

+ It’s not very cool, but I really like…

Rom coms.

+ In ten years I’d like to be…



[Images courtesy of Nicholas Gurney. Photography credits as noted.]


About The Author

Dana Tomić Hughes
Founder & Editor

Dana is an award-winning interior designer living in Sydney, Australia. With an unhealthy passion for design, Dana commits to an abnormal amount of daily design research. Regular travel and attendance at premier design events, enables Dana to stay at the forefront of the design world globally. While she is super serious about design, Dana never takes herself - nor design - too seriously. Together with her life and business partner, Dana is Boss Lady at Studio Yellowtrace, specialising in Design Strategy, Creative Direction and Special Projects. The studio takes a highly conceptual and holistic approach to translating brands & ideas into places & experiences.

7 Responses

  1. Sa

    Well done….beautiful work & a refreshingly honest approach. This is what clients deserve transparency & dedication when appointing an architect or interior designer.

    • Lj.

      I totally agree. Beautiful work and beautiful mind. Very creative and very human, as interior designers are supposed to be.

  2. Jen

    Beautiful work defined by its simplicity, function and raw beauty.

    And good to read about a designer who gets that people who wouldn’t normally source a designer will do if they are down to earth, practical and work to budgets – and ultimately design stuff that makes people’s lives better. Tall order


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