Inside Food Stylist Sian Redgrave’s Art-Filled Paddington Terrace
Welcome to The Makers. Each week, we’re celebrating innovators, artisans and crafters of all types, taking you on a private tour of their creative spaces. For this instalment, we head to Sydney’s eastern suburbs, where recipe developer and food stylist Sian Redgrave lives in an art-filled inner city terrace.
When Sian Redgrave first moved to Sydney from Perth four years ago, she did so with a suitcase full of clothes and not much else. Fast forward to today, and the food stylist and recipe developer lives in a cosy terrace in Sydney's Paddington, surrounded by an incredible collection of art, ceramics and – of course – cookbooks.
But, Redgrave tell us, it's not her dream home. Despite loving the classic terrace’s wooden floorboards, light-filled bedrooms and Paddington’s village-esque lifestyle, Redgrave still dreams of moving overseas in the not too distant future. To that end, she just tries “to make the house calm, creative and visually stimulating.” “My working hours are always intense so it’s a great pleasure to come home to a space that allows me to relax, read, watch films, do yoga and meditate,” she says.
The heart of Redgrave's home is in the kitchen. It's not surprising really, considering she’s a star baker. Redgrave was the winner of The Great Australian Bake Off, and was responsible for the gorgeous food styling on our recent Spreads. by Bed Threads. campaign shoot. It’s in the kitchen that Redgrave will listen to music and dream up new recipes, usually inspired by destinations throughout Italy. When she’s not in the kitchen, you might find Redgrave in her living room, sprawled out in her Gebruder Thonet Vienna armchair, an antique Persian rug that was once her aunt’s spread beneath her feet.
The bedroom is Redgrave’s favourite room in the house. “It has beautiful morning light, high ceiling and big wardrobes necessary for my shopping addiction," she says. Decoration wise, she has a gorgeous botanic drawing by Tane Andrews, and several other arresting artworks propped up against the walls. She sleeps in a mix of Rust, Pink Clay, and Terracotta linen on an ingenious bed frame by Karton, made from cardboard boxes folded and stacked just right. This room encapsulates Redgrave’s interior style: personal, playful and full of wit. “I’m not one for trends, so there is a pretty eclectic mix of things,” she says, “but I always like to find items that are interesting and unique.”
Hi Sian! This series is called The Makers. What is it that you make?
Hello! I am a maker of all things edible. I am a food stylist, recipe developer and basically an insatiable eater! I don’t think you can ever really love cooking unless there is a deep love for eating involved.
How does the act of “making” relate to your personality and who you are?
I would say I'm a true creative at heart. My guidance and perception of the world has always been driven by aesthetic and imagination, I’m definitely not a logical creature. Emotion also drives me, so to do something tactile is vital for me. All areas of the arts have been somewhat of an obsession for me; music, film, painting, fashion, architecture and interior design. I guess food is just where I've fallen for the time being, it feeds my need to nurture people.
Tell us about your career journey to date. Did you always know you wanted to pursue this line of work?
I left school and thought that architecture or costume design would be the path for me. I studied at The Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts, leaving with a Bachelor of Design. From there I fell into fashion, which is something I'm still deeply passionate about. At 24, a chance encounter left me winning The Great Australian Bake Off. Cooking had always been an outlet for me, but at that point it hadn't translated to a career. The path just opened from that point onwards. I realised that food was just another way of expressing my creativity and I had the ambition to turn it into a career. I will always be grateful for the tv show, it really gave me the direction I now have.
Talk us through your creative process. Where do you start?
I’m someone who is a great over-thinker and am constantly overwhelmed by ideas and concepts I want to create. I get inspiration from many different areas which all end up translating to the food I create. I might listen to a certain album or visit a particular place and then be a little consumed with the feeling of that and cook to reflect those moments. I find a lot of what I do comes back to my love for Italy and the history of its culture. Creating food that has a sense of nostalgia and warmth as well as visual stimulation is at the core of what I do.
What’s been the single most crucial tool or strategy you’ve used to further your career?
For me knowledge is truly power so I’ve seen it as crucial to constantly continue to learn. I don’t have days where I put myself down or feel as prone to fear of failure if I ensure I’m always pushing to stay inquisitive. It’s so easy to fall into comparison and believe you are off track, so my strategy is to keep feeding my mind, learn new skills, read as much as I can and realise that you never really “complete” anything, it's a fluid and endless path. Also remaining authentic and learning to say no is undeniably imperative to success.
What’s been the most challenging lesson learnt so far in your career?
Patience is undoubtedly a virtue in my being, I have really had to learn the art of allowing. I think I have passion and determination that sometimes blindsides me and I want things to happen before their due course. Cooking is something that you could never master in a lifetime, there are constantly new aspects of learning and growth. In the beginning I was rushing and wanting monumental opportunities to happen quickly but I think I've finally settled into a path of learning and enjoying, I'm happy to remain an intern for now so to speak. Impatience can most definitely kill inspiration and I think that happened to me for a while, I lost the joy in what I was doing.
What’s been the best thing that’s happened to you since you started your career?
I’ve only spent five years in the food industry so the whole journey has been very rewarding for me, with many times of uncertainty and then many of joy. I’ve been able to meet some of my idols like Nigella Lawson and Massimo Bottura, spend time cooking and training in Italy and work with some really wonderful brands. But I think the best thing has been gaining confidence in what I do and being at a place where I feel as though I’m now involved in projects where I’m included for my aesthetic and approach, instead of churning out work that doesn’t have my touch in it.
Do you have a single piece of advice you’d give to your younger self or someone looking to pursue a similar line of work?
I’m 28 now, so I don’t think I would necessarily advise myself to do things any differently, all failures and successes were vital to my growth. However I would love for those on this path to be gentle with themselves and not take things so seriously... At the end of the day we are just cooking, it’s not brain surgery, it’s supposed to be fun. I would also encourage as much collaboration as possible, the most profound ideas always seem to sprout from many minds coming together, and food is best when shared.
Now, the home stuff. How did you initially know this was the space for you?
The street itself was the most alluring thing to the house, lined with beautiful terrace homes and old workers cottages. I loved the village atmosphere of Paddington and the ability to walk everywhere as well as the mix of eccentric people that live in the area. Verona Cinema is very close by to see foreign films, an array of great cafes and restaurants, Centennial Park and many friends living close by make the suburb perfect for me.
Shop Sian's look with Rust, Pink Clay and Terracotta in our Build-Your-Own Bundle.
What was the thought process behind the way you’ve styled the interior?
I moved to Sydney with only a suitcase of clothes and not much else, so things just gradually fell into place in the house. Mid Century and brutalist design are amongst my favourites so pieces like my Danish sideboards were integral.
What are your favourite pieces in the home?
The Roman style busts from my friends' art school are something I adore. The Gebruder Thonet Vienna armchair in the living room, a collection of old Persian rugs which belonged to my Aunt, artwork from friends (especially the botanical drawing in my bedroom by Tane Andrews) and the shelves of ceramics and serving platters I have in the kitchen are my favourite items in the house. I also have a couple of Eames original moulded chairs, which can you believe, I found on the side of the road.
Do you have any special décor pieces you’re looking to add?
I would love to purchase some Pierre Jeanneret V-leg chairs, they have been on my wish list since I was a little kid, looking through my Father’s architecture journals. Next in line is a new retro fridge from Smeg and a Wilfred armchair from Jardan for my bedroom. Also adding to my Astier de Villatte collection, any bits and pieces I find in vintage stores as well as a travertine dining table.
Shop Sian's look with Rust, Pink Clay and Terracotta in our Build-Your-Own Bundle.
What are your top tips for a well-styled bedroom, and home generally?
Investing in items that are beautifully made and true to one's style is imperative. I would always rather save and purchase the thing I love rather than fill the void with something fleeting. Layering and playing with different styles, colours and textures also creates depth, I don’t like homes to feel orchestrated and rigid.
Do you have any projects coming up you want to talk about?
There are a million things circling around in my mind right now that I’m itching to do, but first on the list is a magazine I've been working on called Abbiocco. It will be a way for me to pay homage to all things creative that I love, not just surrounding food. I would also love to create a cookbook and draw some illustrations for it, I feel that it's time to bring that to life. In the meantime mastering the art of rolling orecchiette and becoming a formidable pasta maker is my goal!
For more from Sian, follow her at @sian_redgrave
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