July 29th, 2019

Fresh Prince Studio

From off-grid architecturally designed cabins to commercial fit outs and plant installations, the team from Fresh Prince Studio have all bases covered.

Fresh Prince Studio is a design and build studio based in Sydney and is run by a team of young cool creatives; Richie Northcott and Alice Nivison who established the business in 2013. Richie with his background in carpentry, agro-forestry and sustainable start-ups and Alice’s background in architecture and art have led the business to the success it is today. Their company ethos is not only quirky and fun (just look at their business name!) they also have a serious passion for authentic sustainable practice from careful material selection to promoting efficiency and longevity. Their goal is to reduce and re-purpose waste in the construction industry. Fresh Prince Studio offer interior, architectural and furniture design and build services, for offices, bars, cafes, events and brand activations. They also specialise in creative plant solutions blurring the boundaries between interior and exterior landscapes. Lastly, they offer an interesting and unique service through architecturally designed custom built cabins. These tiny homes are 15 square metres of carefully crafted space, created to embrace off-grid living and reduce your footprint, both environmentally and physically. We discover more about this awesome business when we speak with Richie and Alice.

How do you juggle all three different projects from building cabins to fit outs and plant installs?

It can get pretty crazy when everything is happening at once, but we have a really talented, versatile team. A lot of our projects feed into each other, things we learn in fit-outs can inspire changes and new details for our cabins, and our knowledge of plants definitely influences how we design interior spaces. The variety of projects keeps us on our toes, and allows us to take on each challenge with fresh eyes and enthusiasm.

All your commercial and plant installations are so unique. How do you come up with such individual concepts and designs?

Our ideas evolve from experimenting with different geometries and materials in the workshop, and are heavily influenced by the surrounding environment, and architecture. We love incorporating minimal pots and planters with more integrated plant walls and hanging pieces, so that plants are integrated into a space in more than one dimension.

What are you favourite mediums to work with?

Timber is such a versatile, user-friendly material. It achieves uniformity and consistency, whilst at close range it exhibits a unique and intriguing natural warmth and grain. Learning to understand traits specific to each species [including how they react to water and sun] offers us more insight into the best species for each application. On top of that we appreciate the low embodied energy and inherently renewable nature of timber as a resource, when it is sustainably managed and processed. Plants are also a favourite medium, they are a challenge to work with as they have specific needs; there is definitely a balance between pushing the plant to achieve a unique effect and respecting the limits of each individual plant. When working with plants we always aim to express their innate wildness, falling from the ceiling, climbing up walls, or bursting from a planter. We like plants that have attitude and love it when they achieve something unexpected and start to grow their own way over time.

How important is the addition of greenery to a space?

We think of greenery as 'the icing on the cake'. Plants can activate and soften a space. A lot of the time we are introduced to a project after all the architects and designers have left, because there is still ‘something’ missing. Incorporating greenery injects playfulness, and wildness into a man-made environment. Emotionally and psychologically plants have a calming, relaxing effect, and when does well, landscaping has the ability to elevate a space.

What are your favourite plants to work with and why?

That is such a hard question - we love using plants that respond to their setting with a particular texture, colour or growth habit. In an indoor environment the Philodendron family would have to be the most intriguing, resilient and luscious group of plants to work with - I am amazed at how they can thrive with relatively little sun and water. Outside, ground cover + trailing plant plectranthus coleoides ‘Nico’ provides a refreshing pop of colour, and Agave Americana cuts a striking architectural shape, particularly when it has the opportunity to grow in a large planter or garden bed. We also love the combination of native grasses, sedums and ground covers with their dusty blues and greens in more ‘wild’ outdoor landscapes.

We love how you’re so passionate about sustainable practice and re-purposing. Can it be difficult at times? Ie sourcing/clients expectations etc.

Yes it can be difficult, depending on the application of the material, and durability/longevity of the design. We find most people are open to using sustainable materials when it also makes aesthetic and financial sense so we are constantly researching new sustainable products, to offer a solution that ticks all the different boxes for a project. The great thing about having a workshop is that we are also able to divert a lot of our construction waste into new experiments and designs, giving us more control over the material life cycle.

Richie has been making some plant stands from offcuts and we are going to have some of these available in our Sydney showroom for customers to purchase. Tell us more!

A client asked if we could design timber plant stands to fit your small Choob and Loob pots [our favourites!], so Richie came up with a simple solid timber design made from spotted gum off-cuts. The timber we work with is so beautiful, it makes us happy to find a purpose for every last piece, and we love that each plant stand will have a unique grain and character.

You designed a cabin for client Unyoked. Had you been making tiny homes prior to this or did this project open a new world to tiny design and living?

Unyoked was our first cabin design and build. We had been obsessed with ‘tiny’ architecture for several years before they approached us, so we were thrilled to be able to take on such an exciting project. It opened a whole new world for us, marrying our love of architecture and small spaces, with the physical act of building and passion for sustainable, off-grid living.

What is most important when designing such a small space and how do you mix sustainability with liveability?

Our approach is to prioritise good design over how much 'stuff' you want to fit in a space. Instead of trying to cram the amenities of a modern house into a tiny footprint, we aim to re-think the most important elements required for daily living, eliminate any excess, so that the cabin feels calm, minimal and spacious, rather than packed full of pull-out and fold-out contraptions. I think sustainability ties into this because to live in such a small, minimal space you cannot be a consumer. Everything you own needs to be considered a necessity and earn its place. The other bonus of having such a simple, small cabin is knowing all your energy comes from the sun on your roof!

We hear you’re moving to Scotland Island! Tell us more about your upcoming move.

We’re still in the throes of designing a ‘home’, which is surprisingly hard, because rather than reacting to a client’s brief we are able to re-think the entire idea of a home, how we intend to live and how this would manifest on the site. Growing up between the Northern Beaches and the bush, Scotland Island really appealed to us. When we first visited the island we were struck by the enormous Spotted Gum forest, chickens free-ranging through people’s backyards and the absence of fences and cars. It is such a unique spot, with such an interesting, creative community we are excited to become a part of it.

We see you’ve been working on some interesting projects like the translucent sauna experiment. What was this like and anything else in the pipeline?

The sauna experiment was a project we created with Studio RJM and Collective Futures to explore the effects of intimate public space on an individual’s wellbeing. We received such a strong, positive reaction from the local community, that we are inspired to pursue future sauna projects, including a community sauna proposed for the Joynton Avenue Creative Centre in Zetland.

What tunes are you guys listening to at Fresh Prince Studio?

At the moment Idris Muhammed, Queen’s Hot Space Album, Nick Drake and the Empire Records Soundtrack are on heavy rotation.   Fresh Prince Studio Web -    Fresh Prince Studio Social - Instagram

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