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Founder of interior design studio ‘Composition’ Claire Perini on curating antiques and objects

For Claire Perini, a self-guided architectural odyssey sparked the inspiration for her Avalon showroom, Composition. Inspired by her trip encompassing ancient sites and modern marvels, Perini's keen eye for storytelling through objects, curated a space that transcends mere retail. Think vintage treasures whispering tales of antiquity, juxtaposed with the clean lines of mid-century design. The foundations of Composition's philosophy.

Below, we speak with Claire Perini on her approach to curating unique and antique objects that focuses on telling stories, and how she developed from national to a more global perspective by including international designs to her showroom recently.


1. Your extensive architectural tour of Europe in late 2018 made you realise Australia was missing a niche in design offering, how did this lead to the inception of your showroom Composition?

In 2018 my ex-fiancee and I packed our bags, left our prospective work places and flew to Poland. Our intent was to drive throughout the entirety of Europe via a self-conceived map of architectural icons to guide our path, while also following optimum weather. For the majority of the time staying no more than a night or two in each place. This complete immersion in design, culture, history and art had our creative souls humming. We watched as landscapes changed and thus design would evolve within their respective conditions.

Inspired by the countless antique stores, the ancient and modern sites, the incredible gift shops attached to galleries (absolute sucker for a good gift shop), including the rare books you’d find within them, and of course, inspired by our architectural forefathers and their creations. We decided that rather than returning to our former work spaces, we would create our own, a small architectural and interior practice with a conceptual store attached, focusing on a four pillar philosophy; Artefact (original vintage, priceless pieces) Object (New wares with a design focus), Interiors (Architectural solutions) and Print (Curated architectural literature, rare books and lithographic art).

My partner at the time had an encyclopaedic knowledge of architecture and art, while my knowledge was lesser I possessed an affiliation for composing spaces and storytelling. We felt with our powers combined we had the right skill set to create a showroom that evoked all of our inspiration, with the ability to share about each unique piece and bringing a sense of education into the showrooms equation.

2. When it comes to interior design, is there any period of history or place in the world that you find yourself drawn to time and again for inspiration?

Absolutely, but there are many. The common denominator is that my approach is inspired by a connectivity between objects, nature and history. I am particularly interested in ancient antiquities, just as much as modern design. I would say that my interests align with the notion of makers… where the human touch is visible in the works, whether the hand-beaten craftsmanship in stone, or an elegant signature, I believe it adds a richness to the interior. Growing up in a home with a Francophile mother, who also had a strong interest in interiors and ancient antiquities/history, I was constantly surrounded by good design. She influenced my connection to the mysteries of the ancient world, something which I find particularly inspiring. This brings the little je ne sais quoi to compositions offerings, objects that evoke memories of ancient Greek mythology, or items I envision would be sitting in the serene villas on the cote d’azur in the 1930s.

Compositions' initial offerings specialised in 20th century classics from Scandinavia and Western Europe, this wasn’t a conscious decision, more so, I had spent 6 months looking at architecture from the same period and had learnt so much I wanted to share. Now, I love to compliment the predominantly mid-century offerings with twists from ancient histories past. Reminiscent of the homes of my grandparents and their artefacts from holidays.

3. What are some of your favourite pieces in the showroom at the moment?

My favourite pieces that we currently have in the showroom would be; (1.) A special Andre Bloc angelfish ashtray, made from cast brass, it's small but its aesthetic has a big impact. (2.) A complete trio set of the covetable ‘Shell’ chair, sofa and side table designed by Hans Wegner, rare to see a complete set, and such a timeless design with feminine sensibilities with its curved round back rests out of moulded ply. (3.) We have a series of hand selected lithographic artworks from my favourite modern creators, such as Jean Hans Arp, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Jean Cocteau, Alexander Calder and more, these works I love to mix up and display to compliment different settings throughout the store. (4.) Obsessed with everything Helle Mardahl with special mention to the lighting display we have in store.

4. What is the selection process for curating pieces at Composition, considering the diverse range from antiques to second-hand and curated new items?

To be honest, at first, it was whatever I found that aligned with Composition's principles, and from there I would compose small vignettes around the store. One key point I try to make when curating these moments is to have elements of the four-pillar philosophy in each scene. Both new and old, mixing texturally rich items together and always having an element of surprise. Now, having grown and being afforded the opportunity to expand the level of offerings, I set myself more strict guidelines with each sourcing trip, composing collections now that can follow trends as well as whatever subject/location I found particularly thought provoking.



5. You have a passion to collaborate with up-and-coming artists. Could you elaborate on your approach to discovering and selecting these artists for collaboration?

Fortunately, Composition is positioned within an extremely creative hub within the Northern Beaches. Artists I tend to be drawn toward have a strong sensibility for creating from hand and almost all involve some sort of organic nature to their forms or connection to the land in which the forms were made within. I have no set criteria, but I always make sure that the works compliment the offerings already in store. This notion to support up-and-coming artists stems from my time working with NFP galleries in my younger years and from when I ran my own gallery/creative collab space in North Bondi. I always feel so lucky I've been able to do what I love most, and want to help afford the same opportunities to others.

6. Composition mainly stocked Australian products for the last five years such as The Avalon. Recently you have curated brands internationally such as Helle Mardahl and Frama, how do you envision this to impact Composition.

Over the last few years, since the pandemic, we saw a rise in Instagram based homewares stores and in boutiques with an interior focus, as a result of people spending more time in the home. My intent for Composition was always to have an array of offerings, with a European-focus. It has taken me five years to work towards housing some really unique brands. As Composition moves towards the future, the intent will be to have a highly curated collection - limiting offerings from brands to just the items I feel align with the collection at the time.

Recently we started stocking some amazing Danish brands such as Frama and Helle Mardahl, both of which align to the notion of total design with such vigour taken to their respective ethos. Soon, we will be introducing exclusive brands from Italy and France to the showroom. Despite seemingly turning my interests to European brands, we have also recently started collaborating with known Australian artisans such as George Raftopolous, Tony Assness and Corey Ashford. With more offerings comes more ideas, such as future plans to evolve the scale of Composition (potentially with an overseas location as well) and integrate a more immersive design experience.


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