Last Word: Curated Spaces

At the helm of the massively popular online marketplace Curated Spaces, Pip Newell is no stranger to scoring vintage finds. She speaks to Maddy Matheson about the growth of the second-hand community, the importance of locally made, and the artists and designers on her radar.

MM: How did Curated Spaces originate?

PN: I started to get into the world of vintage furniture back in 2016 while I was at university and living in a share house. I would spend a lot of my spare time thrifting for vintage furniture around Melbourne. It was a fun and accessible way to fill our house with character. Once our house was full, I started to sell my vintage finds on a local Facebook group. One thing led to another and eventually I chose the name Curated Spaces and started an Instagram account for the business in 2017.  

Where does your love for furniture and interior design come from?

No one place in particular. I didn’t grow up thinking my career would be in furniture and design at all but looking back I can see how all the dots connect. I was always drawn to interior design and architecture. I enjoyed decorating my room as a kid and was lucky enough to grow up in house filled with interesting furniture, art and designed objects. While I was at university I had the opportunity to hone in on this interest and learn how to start thinking about art and design more conceptually. 

At university you studied photography – how do you think these creative skills translate into Curated Spaces?

One of the skills I learnt at university was how to frame and design a scene. I focused mainly on fashion and art photography which required a lot of thought and planning before the photo was taken. What to include in shot and what to leave out, where to place things, how to play with balance, how to use the natural light or improve it. This comes in handy for me in my everyday work each time I take a photo of furniture but it also informs my approach to interiors. 

Curated Spaces is about making great design accessible. Why do you think vintage furniture appeals to the masses?

Most people who like to shop vintage do so because they enjoy filling their homes with pieces that have character and history. It’s also a sustainable alternative to shopping at big furniture stores. I have found that many people have made the conscious choice to shop vintage and second-hand as much as possible with sustainability in the forefront of their minds.

As a trailblazer in the wake of a new generation of Instagram sellers, what is it about the platform that lends itself to selling vintage furniture pieces? 

For the sellers, I think Instagram offers people with a hobby or interest in vintage furniture an easy and low risk way to get started. They don’t have to worry about setting up a website or opening a store. You just sign up an account, pick a name and off you go! There is also a great sense of community among the vintage furniture sellers on Instagram, so you immediately feel like you have a support network of likeminded people. For the buyers, Instagram is now almost a marketplace filled with vendors selling their wares. It’s fun to explore and find new vintage sellers and see new ones pop up. Especially over the past two years with Covid restrictions making online shopping so important, Instagram really became a hub for discovering new online stores in an environment that doubles as a very accessible place to shop.

Curated Spaces collaborates with designers for locally designed and made pieces. Can you tell us a bit about these collaborations and the importance of supporting the Australian design community?

Selling locally made and designed furniture by Australian makers was quite a natural step for us despite the differences between vintage and new furniture. Working largely with vintage furniture that was made in a time before most furniture was mass produced to the scale it is now, taught us a respect and understanding for quality made and slowly made furniture pieces. The same attention to quality and design is echoed by so many great Australian makers today. Brothers Jack and Mark Fearon who are friends as well as colleagues were the first makers we represented, and it has been such a fun partnership. I have a huge respect for their craft and skill in both welding and design. It is also really rewarding to be building a platform that will be able to bring the designs of small designers starting out to a larger audience of design savvy people. 

Do you have a design ethos for your own home?

I have moved around from house to house quite a lot recently and each new place looks different. I think it’s important to always work with the space you have. Everyone generally has a few different interior styles they like so I think it’s always important to try and work with the style of the place and not impose a style that looks out of place. You have to work with what you’ve got!

Do you have a collection of art in your own home? Any stand-out pieces?

I don’t have a lot of art, which is something I really want to work on this year and next. I love textural and sculptural art; I think it looks great on walls. One of my favourite pieces I own is by Charlie Ingemar Harding which is striped fabric stretched and glued onto a frame. I also recently purchased some art from Sarah Shinners which has only just been hung and it looks really lovely, I’m very happy with it!

Are there any artists or designers on your radar that we should be keeping an eye on?

So many! I am keeping the focus on Australian designers that I think are making amazing, authentic pieces and are all on my wish list. I currently have my eye on Anna Charlesworth’s metalwork, bespoke timber pieces by Lex Williams, furniture pieces by designers such as Zachary Frankel and Nicole Lawrence, Shades Launay lamp shades by Lana Launay, Curio Practice blankets by Georgia Brunmayr, sculptural furniture by Lauren Lea Haynes as well as collecting artworks by artists such as Mia Boe, Ryan Hoffmann, Gem Leslie, Heath Wae, Gabrielle Penfold and Sarah Shinners.

What’s next for Curated Spaces?

We want to grow our community of vintage traders and local makers. That is one of the main focuses for this year. We also are working on our own range of furniture that hopefully will launch this year too!

Featured image: Pip Newell stands behind a Wassily Chair by Marcel Breuer. Courtesy: Pip Newell. 

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