Christina Symes, East Melbourne VIC
Images by Tasha Tylee
Christina Symes lives in a sunny apartment in the inner city suburb of East Melbourne and along with her friend Jessica d'Abadie, is one half of the interior design studio We Are Triibe. IN BED visited Tina on a warm summer’s day to speak about building a business, her creative process and the importance of feeling truly at home in a space.
“I’ve only been living in my apartment for 6 months, however, I took my time to find the right place – I enjoy spending time at home so I wanted to find somewhere that was a good location, nice natural light, quiet and had a bit of character (you know, basically everyone’s prerequisites looking for a new rental). So after three months of trawling realestate.com each day, I thought of the greatest rental life hack which I will gladly share with you… I began contacting Airbnb hosts of apartments in great locations that I loved the look of and I asked them if they’d be interested in renting their apartment full-time to me. I didn’t even have to contact that many, I had three hosts respond straight away to say that they were interested, and within a week I had paid my deposit for this apartment and began planning my move. No open house inspections, no competitive rental market and no real estate agents – you’re welcome!”
“Although it’s a quaint one-bedroom art deco apartment, I like to live simply, I have all the necessities, I purchase everything with intent, and it’s the perfect space for me right now, especially before I decide where I want to eventually buy. My usual program when I walk through the door is shoes off, hair up, music on and straight into the kitchen to cook up something nice to help slow down the pace for the day. Something along the lines of Pink Floyd ‘Breathe (In The Air)’ or Sigur Rós ‘Svefn-g-englar’ have been on high rotation recently to help aid a lower heart rate and a steady hip sway whilst making a meal.”
I purchase everything with intent, and it’s the perfect space for me right now, especially before I decide where I want to eventually buy.
“Environmental psychology is a big driving force behind what we practice at We Are Triibe and something I strongly believe in; that a space has the ability to positively (or negatively) impact the way you feel, and for me it’s so important for wherever I live to feel like it’s a home I genuinely love hanging out in – and thankfully, whether I’m cooking, reading, working, goofing around or even cleaning, this apartment makes me feel really happy and content.”
Environmental psychology is a big driving force behind what we practice at We Are Triibe and something I strongly believe in; that a space has the ability to positively (or negatively) impact the way you feel.
“My two large artworks that were both surprise gifts from close friends for my 30th birthday are both very special to me. The green and black painting in my living room is by my business partner and best bud, Jess d’Abadie, who’s become such an incredible painter in recent years. And the abstract sausage dog painting in my bedroom is by my other dear friend and renowned artist, Christiane Spangsberg, who mostly paints people, however, this is a painting of my dog that lives in Sydney, and if you knew how much of a little legend he is, you’d understand he’s very worthy of his own portrait – plus, it always puts a smile on my face.”
“My local neighbourhood East Melbourne is this little hidden pocket right next to the city with incredible art deco buildings, terrace houses with beautiful gardens and so many amazing parks, including Fitzroy Gardens that I take a stroll or run through quite often – and the local community are so lovely, I’ll often get a friendly nod and “hello” from passerby’s, which is a rare nicety these days.
The suburb itself is mostly residential, however it’s so central that most places I frequent are a stone’s throw. I definitely can’t call myself a local, as this is my first time living in Melbourne, but some spots I enjoy heading back to are the Japanese café CIBI which also has an incredible store within it, HUB General Store for homewares and little knick knacks (and the staff are delightful), Alimentari is always a nice vibe for lunch and meetings, Marion or Napier Quarter are great to tuck yourself in a corner with a nice drop, and any one of the plethora of pubs in the area for a low key dinner and drink with friends.”
“The catalyst [to starting my business] happened over dinner with Jess (and admittedly, a fair few wines) when she suggested we should start an interior design company together. We were both at a crossroad in our careers – she was working as an exhibition designer at GoMA and I was working in fashion styling and production, however we were both looking for an out, and she knew I had a big interest in interiors. Within three months I had packed my bags and moved to Italy to study Interior and Furniture Design at the Florence Institute of Design International. I cannot recommend this course more highly, I was like a sponge and learning from some of the best, including having lecturers who were part of the Italian radical design movement in the 60’s and 70’s.
Following the completion of my course, I moved to Berlin and worked as head interior stylist for a Swedish company called Fantastic Frank, where I would style properties they were selling, however we would treat each shoot like an editorial and work with the best photographers, the crème de la crème of European furniture brands and do wild things like fill the bath and sink with plants, smash food on tables, write on the walls, and sure enough, the images would go viral and their properties would sell in a heartbeat.
But my intention was always to come back to Australia to start the business with Jess, so as soon as I arrived back, Jess and I both moved to Sydney together and launched We Are Triibe – that was over 6 years ago now.”
“Together we’ve developed a really seamless creative process at We Are Triibe which enables our clients to have a very clear understanding of what the end result will look like prior to going to build. We execute all our projects in a five-stage process that includes two conceptual phases at the beginning and is always a really fun and collaborative effort with our staff and clients to bring everyone’s ideas to life. We often find a lot of inspiration in art, nature and natural elements which we will use as a foundation to build the concept from and to create a really cohesive scheme throughout each space we’re designing.”
“I am proud of and love all our projects for different reasons – it’s such a fulfilling experience to see a completed space after it was just an initial idea or a simple sketch on paper, especially when that space has a really positive impact on the people that inhabit it. Aside from working on an array of projects across Australia and abroad, a couple of unique projects that we’re working on is a high-end cannabis boutique in Toronto and 7 holiday homes outside of Mexico City which I am so excited to share once complete.”
“Outside of the studio I like to live a pretty steady and calm lifestyle, and as long as I get a healthy amount of time outdoors in nature or regular swims in the ocean, I’m stoked. I also do yoga regularly and frequent the farmers markets most Saturday’s, either in Richmond or the Prahran markets. There’s something really therapeutic about picking up local produce and taking my time to cook a nice meal with good music playing and a glass of wine.
I’m also a big advocate for baths and believe the secret key to happiness is eating a little tub of ice-cream while reading a book, listening to a podcast or watching a movie on my laptop in the bath. That, and also hanging out & having a good laugh with close friends often – the simple pleasures, really.”
Outside of the studio I like to live a pretty steady and calm lifestyle, and as long as I get a healthy amount of time outdoors in nature or regular swims in the ocean, I’m stoked.
Tina’s three pieces of advice for anyone wanting to bring new energy into their own space:
- Clear out (sell, give away or repurpose) items that aren’t necessities, or you don’t feel an attachment to. It’s incredibly cleansing creating space, and you’ll have a newfound appreciation for your home when you feel an appreciation for all the items you own/ retain.
- Ensure the flow and scale of furniture is appropriate for your space, as the positioning and size of furniture can really dictate how big or small a space can feel. Try moving your furniture around to accommodate a nice openness and swap out tables or bulky furniture if you feel they take up too much floor space.
- One crucial item that can really impact the overall mood and ambience of a space is lighting. Ensuring your main lights have warm globes as opposed to cool light will automatically improve how you feel in your space. Additionally, by using floor or table lamps as the primary lighting in your living areas, it will not only create a really welcoming and cozy atmosphere for yourself and guests, but it also helps calm your nervous system prior to going to bed and you’ll likely have a far better sleep.