Coco Republic- A night with Neale Whitaker
Eliza Fairbairn | On 06, Jun 2015
Last Wednesday night, 27th of May, the directors of Coco Republic invited exclusive guests to join them for an evening with Neale Whitaker discussing international design trends.
Showcased throughout the room was the breathtaking furniture of Coco Republic. The aesthetics of the open spacing quickly made evident the beauty of the products that this brand has on offer. The fabrics and textures within the space created a comfortable atmosphere suitable for everyone out there, with “showrooms” ranging from the sophisticated modernistic family to the retro chic couple.
The night was full of delicious food, charming conversations and bubbly champagne as groups huddled around Neale Whitaker in an attempt to capture a photo with the one and only. His veracious, generous and humble personality has allowed him to become loved as one of Australia’s top design gurus. Being renowned for his previous eight years working with Belle magazine and his current position as one of three judges on channel nine renovating series the Block, Neale had time on Wednesday evening to celebrate his recent appointment as editor and chef of Vogue Living.
Being born in the outer south-eastern suburbs of London, his culture and background significantly influences his design decisions. Whitaker’s stylish career spans a total of 25 years in 2 countries where he has inspired and made designers across the globe envious of his work. Neale has explored a juxtaposition of styles, such as modernism, as he takes the approach of designing rooms using a limitless range of materials to create various art forms. Although he takes his work very seriously it quickly became obvious that his heart lies at home with partner, stylist David Novak Piper and their two bounding Weimaraners Otis and Olly.
His knowledgeable yet humble charm echoed throughout the room as the audience listened into an exclusive conversation with Neale Whitaker.
Coco Republic: What are your perceptions of Brisbane’s architectural and interiors market?
Neale Whitaker: Brisbane is a city that really excites me. I have been living in Australia for 16 years and in that 16 years I have seen the city change so much. Every time I come to Brisbane I see new developments, new energy and new dimerism in so many projects that arrive across my desk. I think it is fair to say that it is the most dynamic and exciting city in Australia at the moment, in showing the most growth in terms of architecture and design.
Coco Republic: Do you have any particular examples of these growths?
Neale Whitaker: So many, I mean the immediate things that springs to mind is the hospitality projects happening here like restaurants, bars, things that are creeping onto my radar, things that we published in Belle and are now looking to publish in Vogue Living. Every time I come here the city feels bigger and busier, in a good way, showing extraordinary growth. I don’t feel like that about the other places that I travel to.
Coco Republic: Is there a Queensland style?
Neale Whitaker: Definitely. You could argue that the Queensland style is basically the style that the world has accepted as the Australian style. I mean the thing that we are known for is the way we fuse indoor and outdoor living, it’s something that we do practically well in this country that is being sold back to Europe and the rest of the world. You could defiantly argue that this style really originated here in Queensland, because you have the climate that suits it the best as well as having the best practitioners of that indoor/outdoor style which has now become the trademark look for Australian homes.
Coco Republic: Moving onto Vogue Living, coming into this role from Belle, what were your impressions of Vogue Living having come into it as a competitor and what were some of the challenges that you faced?
Neale Whitaker: Well my first thought in that first week was what the hell have I done, I had a really good gig at Belle. But seriously I have had 8 wonderful years at Belle and I enjoyed every moment of it until I reached that point in my career where I though enough is enough, time for the next challenge. Then I was offered the role at Vogue living, which brought with it a regular weekly newspaper column. The biggest challenge facing me is that I have now inherited Vogueliving.com.au, which is a massive entity all to itself because it’s like having a daily newspaper to edit on top of everything else. Vogue living has a phenomenal presence online and in social media in fact just this week we exceeded in excess of 1.5 million Facebook likes which puts us way ahead of any other magazine in Australia, putting us on the same level internationally as magazines such as Architectural Digest.
Coco Republic: Now onto the Block, we know that you spend a lot of time with the judges, what are they like, I mean is it all roses?
Neale Whitaker: No look, we get on really well actually and when I say that it sounds so lame, like people are like of yeah right, but no we actually do. I learn a lot from those guys. Its funny, over the years of doing so many series of the block everyone presumes I am an interior designer, well I’m not, I’m a magazine editor. But Darren and Shayna of course are interior designers and have a different eye for everything but I learn an awful lot from them and hopefully they lean something from me too. We all respect each other and occasionally disagree but when we disagree there is this huge shock, I mean television is an amazing thing, they make it sound like that Shayna and I are at each others throats because we didn’t like the leopard bed-head, you know it’s a moment but of course it’s in the hands of the editors.
Coco Republic: So what about the contestants?
Neale Whitaker: Look I don’t really know that much about the contestants in the new series. We don’t actually get to meet the contestants very much I mean the producers keep us at arms length from the contestants for as long as they possibly can. So we don’t really get a sense of them till quite a few weeks down the track.
Coco Republic: What do you think about what gets delivered on that show in all honesty?
Neale Whitaker: Look truthfully what they deliver these days is very impressive. I mean when I first started doing this show it was tough because I actually did struggle to find positive things to say. Seriously, this was back in the day when they were much more restricted as to what they could use and where they could use it from. I’m not mentioning any names but there were some major sponsors and everything had to come from the major sponsor, so it was very hard because they were all using the same thing. These days its very different and I think there is a lot of genuine creativity and sometimes they let themselves down but on the whole I think its really impressive.
Coco Republic: How many more blocks do you have in you?
Neale Whitaker: I love doing it, it has become part of my working life. I think the honest answer to that question is as long as they want me I will keep doing it.
Coco Republic: Will they ever do a Block in Queensland?
Neale Whitaker: The million-dollar question. The answer to that, I know it sounds like I’m sitting on the fence but I don’t know the answer. Who knows? It is very much a Melbourne based production so I don’t think it will move out of Melbourne any time soon but I would love to go to another city.
For more information check out:
Vogue living’s Website