Known for its Danish design style and focus on conscious craftsmanship, cult Queenstown design studio SLOW has arrived in Auckland with the opening of a stylish Ponsonby showroom.
Interior designer and SLOW founder Martina Blanchard’s design philosophy is centred on the idea of a slower, more refined way of living, forgoing unsustainable, short-lived trends for pieces that are ethically produced and age beautifully. SLOW hero brands, FRAMA, New Works, Ferm Living and Sarah Ellison, are showcased at the newly-opened Auckland store, alongside a curated collection of vintage European pieces dating between the 1950s and 1990s.
We sat down with Blanchard to hear more about her design philosophy, styling rules and fascination with vintage furniture.
Tell us about your background before starting SLOW?
My husband and I have been working on personal and commercial property projects for the past 12 years. As such, I have had the opportunity to work on both interior and exterior designs on a variety of residences. I also have a background in art, photography and social science that surprisingly blends well together with home design, specifically, working on creating homes that are not only beautiful but also comfortable and authentic.
You’ve said you feel that there is often an imbalance between how we design and how we live or work in a space. Describe the SLOW approach to styling a space?
Our homes are our personal retreats, the escape from the outside world. It’s ‘the place where our life happens’. How our personal spaces are designed or styled can often prevent us from being comfortable and happy with who we truly are. For example, if you are a maximalist at heart yet your home is very minimalist and simple in its aesthetics, you are missing out on the joy of expressing your true nature in the most important physical space there is.
Embracing your authentic self without buying into socially endorsed trends can truly help you to create a home that you will grow with and change with time.
Tell us about the vintage European furniture that you have hand-selected. How did you find these pieces and what were you looking for?
I call these vintage as my selection reflects a bit of ‘edginess’ or ‘curiosity’ in what I am looking to curate here for the New Zealand market. My selection consists of mostly European designs in eras dating from the 50s to 90s. There are some classical Danish and Italian Mid-Century designs that I have selected but also more visually striking and quirky finds from the ‘Space Age’ and ‘Brutalist’ era that can enrich otherwise more polished or minimal interiors.
I love the idea of ‘surprise’ objects in the home – our history has a huge depository of these and I can’t wait to see them in the homes’ of our customers. All of my pieces are selected online from auctions or direct suppliers from Europe or the US.
Are you hoping to source more vintage pieces in the future?
Most definitely. It is something I very much enjoy and although it takes time to find the correct pieces that would be worthwhile to make the journey all the way to our shore, this aspect of my work feeds my soul and that is very important to me. To enrich peoples’ private or even public spaces, bringing aspects of design history and nostalgia, interest and difference to our daily environments is my goal.
What ways can people incorporate vintage pieces into modern spaces? What considerations should they be making?
I consider vintage pieces personal and monetary investments. Unlike new furniture, purchasing a vintage piece is investing in history, a unique story of its maker that can resonate with you through its form, function or design language that is indeed original and authentic.
Whatever piece you select to become part of your home will most likely gain its value over time and can be sold on or kept as family treasures for generations to come. The latter also points to the sustainable aspect of vintage purchase that I deem very important in the times that are marked by overconsumption and ‘throwaway’ culture.
You tend to avoid trends that get tired quickly. Do you see trends in interiors as something we should leave behind?
As we grow older and our life circumstances change over time, so does our home and the way we live. Change is inevitable so understanding the impact trend shopping has on our environment is crucial. I always recommend investing in key pieces that are timeless and well made to withstand the change of times.
In saying that, are there any particular styles with longevity that you are drawn to at the moment?
I am a huge fan of Mid-Century and classic European aesthetics. They have proven to be timeless in their approach to design throughout the last century and even with new brands and designs emerging, the aspect of natural and durable materials and permanency of design language is still there.
What are some key styling rules you like to follow?
Less is more! I am striving to only keep in my space what I truly love and or use. I also think that house plants and green living, in general, is key to making spaces feel comfortable, creating that way a much-needed connection with the natural world within your intimate space.
How do you go about selecting the brands for SLOW? What are you looking for?
It all starts with a personal choice. I buy from brands that I personally resonate with on many levels including design language, ethos, sustainability and transparency. I have a good relationship with all of our suppliers, in many cases, I communicate directly with the founders which makes the business relationship become more meaningful and personal. I prefer dealing with smaller brands over multinational companies as they can often be out of touch with retailers on the ground.
What kind of experience do you want people to have when visiting the SLOW showroom?
A pleasurable experience, a feeling of being welcomed and looked after as you would if you are visiting your friends’ home. This personable driven approach to retail takes energy and time. We are constantly refreshing our store set-up and styling so there is always something new to see or notice for returning customers.
In saying that, I think it is absolutely worth it as the satisfaction to run a business this way comes not just from successful interior sales but also from genuine conversations with our customers, spending time to get to know them, their personal projects and the final result of these once executed.
Slow Store Auckland, 10 Ponsonby Road, visit slowstore.co.nz