Sarah-Jane Pyke creates spaces that are sculpturally composed but inherently inviting, drawn from the evolving needs of her clients at award-winning interior design practice Arent & Pyke. Warm, honest, with a raspingly dry humour, she thrives on the power of collaboration, a good splash in the ocean and the occasional romcom.
Dive into our conversation below in the fourth instalment of our series of the inspiring #womenofwest14th.
Tell me a little about who you are and what you do?
I run an interior design practice with my partner Juliette Arent, working on residential interiors in Sydney and around the world. We’ve been together now for over 10 years.
You’ve won a lot of awards in that time.
Awards are a great recognition of the work the whole team does. Everyone works so hard, it’s lovely to see that being rewarded within the industry. I think we’ve had a few great projects that have really resonated with people.
You were interviewed and photographed for Vogue recently. What was that like?
It’s never easy. I’m still not comfortable in front of the camera but I did have to pinch myself.
What are some of the highlights at Arent & Pyke so far?
We did the Alex Hotel in Perth three years ago. It was our first commercial project and a real stretch of our creative muscle. We won a lot of awards that year and the knowledge that we’d done something that other people related to was really exciting.
You co-principal the practice with Juliette Arent. Are your skills similar or different?
We’re really aligned on our values. How we want to run the business, how we see the practice, how we want it to grow and what it means to us. Creatively we run side by side but are quite different. It brings diversity and strength to the practice.
Arent & Pyke is an all-female staff at the moment. Was that a conscious choice?
It just happened! We do really enjoy being with a big bunch of girls but we started as a collaboration and the idea of combining, influencing and working together is important to us. Our designers have a lot of creative autonomy and contribute to the way the work develops. It’s not one vision that trickles down, there is a real group practice here.
What do you consider when you’re designing a space?
We spend a lot of time with our clients, understanding how they live, what being at home means for them, and how they see their life changing over the years. Our focus is always on creating something truthful, that people feel comfortable in and connected to.
The use of colour in your work is unusual but very sophisticated.
Colour is something we are very passionate about and have a huge interest in. We are interested in art and artists, and look for colour palette inspiration everywhere. It gives me enormous joy and energy, and is an integral part of my work, my home and my wardrobe.
You recently did a trip to London, Paris and Milan. What were the highlights?
London: The classic charm of Chiltern Firehouse made for a very soft landing.
Paris: Vintage shopping, looking at what might be interesting for our clients and bringing it in.
Milan: Being part of the international design community, soaking it up, seeing how we fit in to what everyone else is doing and seeing amazing homes like Villa Necchi.
Wanda Jelmini, of Missoni Home, said recently, “To be appreciated by everybody should not be the goal, because it flattens the potential for creativity and newness.” Can you speak on that?
I think in some ways our work may be recognisable but it’s so deeply collaborative and connected to each individual client that it’s never homogeneous. When you take your clients as your biggest influence, then environment and architecture, you never have the same result twice.
All the little details that make your work so personal. Where do you find that inspiration?
Everywhere. I often look to the artistic practice for interesting composition but I think as you get older and travel you draw from your own experience, your bank of moments. In the last few years I’ve been drawn towards nature, and have come to understand the calming influence it has on me.
Do you look to nature for the textiles you use, the clothes you wear?
Definitely. As designers we’ve always been drawn to natural materials, to feel things that are robust and solid. Natural materials wear well and have a strong effect metaphysically. I’m a tactile person, and love to see how things feel and how they fall.
When you tried on West 14th for the first time how did you feel?
I was surprised by how fine and supple the leather was. In my mind leather jackets are bulky and heavy, and these are sleek and soft. My shoulder to boob ratio makes it really hard to find a jacket that works. These fit beautifully.
How do you feel when you’re wearing West 14th?
I move around a lot and need to be comfortable. In my mind, leather are bulky and heavy, but my West 14th jackets are sleek and soft. The quality and fit are beautiful. My days vary between studio time, client presentations, being out on site and being with my son. My clothes have to be versatile.
You’re a Mum to a little boy. Is he a regular in the studio?
Franklin, he’s six and a half. He’s the best. He loves to come in here but he doesn’t very often. I’ve always kept the two worlds separate. Some people can multi task. My brain needs me to compartmentalise.
What do you and Franklin do together?
We do lots of good stuff together. At the moment he’s really into games and puzzles. We can sit down quietly and work through something together. Before that it was the scooter, the bike track. Our special times are reading together before bed and lots of cuddles. He has a good, eclectic musical sensibility that I’m trying to influence. There’s a lot of singing and dancing.
We hear you’re a sucker for a 90s Romcom…
I do love a classic romcom. A bit of Sandra Bullock and Drew Barrymore, Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion, Never been Kissed..I love them all.
What do you do to relax?
I swim. I’m desperate for the ocean. At any opportunity I go and get in there. This morning I had an hour and ten minutes between a school function and coming to the studio. I had a good splash then lay in the sun.
Your red lipstick…?
Pirate by Chanel. Inspired by the women of Milan.