interior designer jodi newnham is the curator behind mid century swag and swag design, sourcing vintage furniture and mid century décor pieces from the us to europe. the mum of two sat down to share with us her journey in the world of interiors and fashion, design aspirations, and the design principles she follows to balance contemporary and function for a busy family life
your career has taken you around the world. can you tell us a bit about your journey in the world of interior design and how you got to where you are today?
i went to art school to study graphic design and was exposed to so many different creative genres from working with metal, sculpture, illustration, print making, art and design history. i discovered i was more drawn to using my hands as i’m very visual and tactile so went on to major in contemporary jewellery, metal work and painting at the time
the yearn for travel and adventure came, and i toured around the world while basing myself in london for six years. after coming home to nz and unsure of what to do next, i decided to extend my studies into fashion. this led to a stint with a fashion brand learning production and even getting to see some of my designs come to fruition
it wasn’t until my partner and i decided to lay down some roots and buy our first home in my late twenties that interiors really came into play. during this time i gained a diploma in interior design followed by the launch of mid century swag which was born through my frustration of not being able to find interesting and unique pieces in new zealand. the more i searched the more i developed a love and appreciation of 20th century design as it was such a transformative period in industrial design
what was the vision for your home and what was the most rewarding part of the design process?
we bought our property as a renovation project. it was an old state house that had been modernised on a decent sized plot of land and after living here for a few years we decided to subdivide and build new. with a husband frequently working overseas and a family who love travel, the vision for our home was one that we could lock up and leave but with the right amount of space to keep everyone happy
materials had to be easy care with minimal maintenance as we are a busy family. we were touring around melbourne and managed to find a supplier here who could import a beautiful split face brick for us. we love its texture and long slim profile which you normally see in europe
the architectural style is a palm springs mid century modern vibe with a flat roof. the living areas downstairs have a three meter stud which was a must to create that sense of space. our pièce de resistance, the entrance which has a helical staircase, is showcased through a double height floor to ceiling, two story mondrian style glass window
i carefully selected materials and finishes for a forever changing décor while keeping the spaces clean and minimal. they also had to withstand the environmental elements of the rough and tough use of busy family life. each room has points of interest whether that’s through painted textured curved walls, cork tiles, marbleised concrete, to the brass and slate fireplace and stainless steel and stone surfaces of the kitchen
within your home, art and shape are highlights of your design. what key elements or design principles do you follow?
i tend to follow a yin and yang philosophy, a juxtaposition of pieces that are seen as complementary yet independent. think layering up different tones and different textures, such as soft against hard, shiny surfaces combined with matte. when looking at objects or shapes in my own home for example, the architecture has a lot of curves and soft elements. i like to mix it up. very in sync with your latest alchemy collection!
what are your favourite furniture / décor pieces that you have collected over the years? how do you incorporate personal mementos without overwhelming the overall aesthetic?
my soriana sofa set by afra & tobia scarpa for cassina i still have it in its original blue velveteen which works anywhere; it’s so curvaceous and i love the chrome detailing which appears to sinch in its form. i will eventually recover it when the time suits, but for now it works well with kids and a dog
i also have a wiggle side chair by frank gehry constructed out of cardboard. i just love its sculptural shape, it tends to move around the house when i get bored
i have lots of personal mementos, pictures or artworks my children have done. i love displaying or having my children’s artworks framed and integrated alongside artwork i have collected. kids art is the best! it’s so authentic and an expression of their uninhabited imagination
what would your advice be for investing in statement pieces?
1. research and educate, learn about different artists, styles, trends. get familiar with the history, value or the pieces you’re interested in
2. set a budget! decide how much you’re willing to spend and consider all the associated costs like insurance, transportation, whether it need restoring. visiting local dealers or showrooms can take a lot of the unknown risks away as they have done all the hard work for you
3. seek professional advice through dealers, interior designers or art dealers as they can help you make informed decisions
4. investing in art or furniture should not be about financial gains; it should be about enjoyment. choose pieces that resonate with you and reflect your style and taste. it's also worthwhile seeking out an interior designer that you admire and share the same taste
what’s on your moochi wish list from palette 3?
1. the barrel pant. i love the cocoon shape and the cinched in waist and leg. it is such a staple piece, super flattering and so easy to dress up and down with a pair of heels or flats
2. conclude vest. i love the dropped shoulders and the warm biscuit colour. it works great with a white shirt, layered over a slip dress belted or unbelted – there are so many options!
3. regard blazer in navy. my number one favourite staple piece. i love the navy colour and that it can take you from day to night. the fabric is so luxurious and doesn’t feel too heavy when worn
4. swerve dress. a beautifully cut silhouette and looks super flattering when layered with a knit jumper or blazer
what are your top 3 tips for an effortless chic wardrobe?
for me it’s about investing in quality essentials such as a great pair of jeans, a well made blazer or a beautiful slip dress that i can dress up or down and take me from day to night. i like to get maximum wear out of my pieces, so they need to be versatile. my style has settled on casual chic, but i like to throw something in unexpected to spice it up a bit, whether that be a brightly coloured pair of shoes or handbag. mixing femme with something grunge for example, a beautiful dress with a chunky pair of boots or accessories are a great way to do this
you have such a beautiful home with a refreshing indoor/outdoor flow. how do you entertain friends and family during the winter months?
when building our house, we took into great consideration how to maximise our living spaces inside and out. we did this by designing an l shape courtyard with wrap around sliding doors and a three metre stud. this ensures our living spaces are connected to the outdoor space
during winter you feel connected to the outside, even with the doors closed. we have created a sun trap as the design captures all the natural light. i open the sliding doors pretty much all year round. we have hosted a few parties and family christmas’ now and by being able to open the whole of the lower floor living spaces, the lines are blurred between inside and out. it’s our own little oasis where it feels like summer always arrives early
how do you unwind? do you allocate ‘me time’ and what does this entail?
as a family we are quite outdoorsy. i love getting out in nature whether that’s in the forest or at the beach. both have a calming effect on me when i feel in need to decompress from our busy family life
what’s next for you (what are your design aspirations and what are you doing to get there?
i’m really enjoying getting back into my art, rediscovering my love of working with my hands and exploring new materials and techniques. right now, i have been making brass sculptures and combining a painterly aspect by using different patinas to create different effects. i’m also thinking of how i can apply this to functional objects, so i’m currently looking for a creative space to explore these ideas; all while continuing to import beautiful vintage pieces via mcs and working with clients on their own homes
quick fire questions
last book you read? the better brain by julia rucklidge
last film / tv series you watched (and quick thoughts)? succession – narcissistic dysfunctional family, crudely entertaining
what are you listening to?
depeche mode – enjoy the silence
favourite piece of clothing?
vintage leather jacket – carboot sale in london
vintage snakes skin handbag, a beautiful green opal, gold ring my dad bought for my mum in the 70’s- i always get compliments, it’s a treasured piece
favourite international designer
vladimir kagan, george nakashima, vincenzo de cotiis, hannes peer, paul evans
frank stella, dale frank, stan bitters, salvatore scarpitta,
your interior designer icon?
kelly wearstler, india mahdavi, billy baldwin, jacques grange, pierre yovanovitch
favourite destination – local / international?
l.a, london, italy all for different reasons, culture, food, art
favourite design / culture / store / restaurant place to visit and what is it about the ambience that draws you in?
the window, la always full of unique and interesting finds reform gallery, melrose ave amazing, rare and handcrafted furnishings and decorative arts specialising in californian modernism. chahan gallery, paris
who would you invite to a dinner party, past or present?
i would love to have my dad back for dinner who i lost when i was 16, to meet his beautiful grandchildren
this or that
summer or winter? summer
autumn or spring? spring
staycation or travel? travel
sunrise or sunset? sunset
beach or bush? can i have both?
couch or nature? nature
eat in or eat out? eat out
dog or cat? dog
film or book? film
find out more about mid century swag here