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Nick McDonald, East Brunswick VIC

Images by Bobby Clark

Words by Ashley Gladwish

Nicholas McDonald’s minimalist approach to design doesn’t stray far from how he likes to live his own life. Citing the lifestyle in Portugal as a source of inspiration, Nick absorbs inspiration from the energy around him. Originally from south-west Victoria, Nick has a preference for all things understated. With his pup Roscoe by his side, he likes to spend quiet weekend mornings in his East Brunswick studio after conceptualising designs for a new piece of furniture the night before. We talk with Nick about his business, Made by Morgen, and find out why he gravitates towards certain spaces.

 

In your own words, could you tell us a little about what you do?

I try to create beautiful furniture, re-contextualising designs from the mid-twentieth century and adapting them into the new millennium.

You launched Made by Morgen only a few years ago, what was your thought process leading up to starting your own company?

I do what I love, and that’s really what lays at the heart of it. Having spent a decade in work that was challenging but didn’t nourish my creative side, something had to give. I’m not averse to taking the odd risk so I decided to roll the dice, pack in my career in construction and go out on my own. It’s been tough at times, but the satisfaction I derive from making furniture that represents my design ethos and work ethic is unbelievable. I’m a very lucky guy to be able to do what I do.

 

You love to travel, tell us about a place that has stuck with you?

The Iberian Peninsula in southwestern Europe is incredible. Southern Portugal is such a trip, it’s so beautiful, and everyone’s rolling around with such a great vibe. The Portuguese know how to live, that’s for sure. I would love to go back there.

Having a sharp eye for design, what tends to grab your attention first in a space?

I’m obsessed with light fittings. They can be beautiful, simple and elegant or entirely weird and wacky. A good light fitting sets the tone of a room. If lighting isn’t created properly I think it can be detrimental to a space.

 
Above: 100% Linen Pillowslip Set in Stripe and 100% Linen Duvet Cover in Stripe.

I’m obsessed with light fittings. They can be beautiful, simple and elegant or entirely weird and wacky. A good light fitting sets the tone of a room. If lighting isn’t created properly I think it can be detrimental to a space.

What do you love most about the neighbourhood you live in?

I’m pretty stoked to live and work in East Brunswick. The street life is great. There’s a really perfect mix between an older migrant population and a bunch of younger people who doing their thing, be it makers, artists, chefs or musos.

I love Lygon Street for its killer food and now some fantastic bars too. There’s an amazing bunch of people around here doing what they love, it’s a real community and I find that exciting. I really feel like we’re all working hard trying to put nice, quality products out there in the world.

 

With the ability to incorporate a wide array of materials, are there certain ones you like working with most? 

From the beginning it has always been timber, well predominately anyway. But recently I’ve been playing around with a few new designs that incorporate other mediums like marble, upholstery and charred timber. I don’t think i will ever stop exploring options.

Do you have any morning rituals?

I usually make a coffee or a tea, clean my teeth and head out the door. I bring my dog Roscoe with me everywhere I go next.

Do you enjoy any bedtime rituals?

I’m often at the workshop until late so by bedtime I’m pretty ready to crash. Lately, however, I’ve fallen in love with the films of Wong Kar Wai so I may watch one and then have wonderful meandering dreams set in sultry, steamy Hong Kong bars and apartments.

 

What attracts you to your sources of inspiration?

I would describe it like looking out the window of a train that you never get off. My inspiration comes from everywhere. Sometimes I might walk into an old cafe in Footscray and it has a beautiful timber bar from the 1960’s that blows me away. Sometimes it might be the typography on a Turkish chocolate bar I see while shopping, you just never know. I think the common thread is care and attention to detail. I can tell when someone has worked hard and have mastered their art. That has got to be the most inspiring thing you can encounter.

Are there any materials that you tend to gravitate towards in your wardrobe?

I don’t really have a thought process about what I wear. I’m a tshirt and jeans kind of guy so I think I have a tendency to like how cotton feels, so I wear it the most.

I want to keep pushing and refining my craft. There’s always so much to learn. I’m constantly learning new techniques and tricks. I love the feeling I get when I’ve been doing something a certain way for years and then bang, I come across a simple trick that makes it three times quicker, or look better, or both. Humans need to achieve, we’re wired that way, and you’ve gotta work towards that every day, or most days at least.

 

What are you most looking forward to in the future?

I want to keep pushing and refining my craft. There’s always so much to learn. I’m constantly learning new techniques and tricks. I love the feeling I get when I’ve been doing something a certain way for years and then bang, I come across a simple trick that makes it three times quicker, or look better, or both. Humans need to achieve, we’re wired that way, and you’ve gotta work towards that every day, or most days at least.

I’m also looking forward to kicking back on a beach somewhere a few hours south of Lisbon some time soon.

See more from Nick here.


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