Photo: Chris Warnes
Deborah Bibby has worn a lot of hats in her worklife. She began editing fashion magazines and moved into interior styling. She had a book publishing business and is now the editor of Australian interiors magazine Real Living. I was lucky enough to work for the same company as Deb in Australia and can vouch for her inimitable style. When she’s not busy editing or dreaming up new book ideas you can find Deb blogging at Real Living.
As editor you have an office in the heart of Sydney. You live about 45 minutes away by the ocean. How much time do you spend in your home office? What kind of work do you find yourself doing there? My home office is like my sanctuary – it’s my creative place and I often lose myself in there for hours on a Sunday afternoon. It feels indulgent to sit and dream up ideas for work or for myself personally. Work really is my hobby (ssshhh)!
One thing I never do in my home office is tax, bill-paying or any other day-to-day chore. Instead, the space is for me to get creative. Prior to Real Living I used to have a small independent book publishing company, so ideas for books are constantly popping into my head. I have one running around in there at the moment, about old-fashioned beach houses across Australia. I am determined to capture their essence before they have all disappeared.
A few days ago, the cottage in front of my house was demolished to make way for an uninspiring modern glass box. I am not against strong contemporary architecture – done well it can lift the soul – but I do find it a little depressing when it’s all about the money and there is no respect for the emotions of a place. The buildings are often cheaply built, purely functional, emotionless structures. Soon the original beach house will be more valuable than the bunkers popping up everywhere and developers will struggle to comprehend it. Apparently the “McMansion” loses value the minute contracts are exchanged. A positive that did come out of the GFC was that the pressure was taken off families to keep up with the Joneses. Suddenly it’s okay to be a little humble.
How would you describe your home office? What is the design aesthetic? Less about style and more about the heart. I’d say my office has evolved over the years and acquired layers. I love the scale of my old architect’s desk – it’s weighty and substantial and makes me feel secure. The drawers are deep and smell of sawdust and paper. The retro curved plywood bench saves the space and stops it looking dated. I don’t think my office has a particular design aesthetic, but if I had to label it, I guess I’d call it “classic with an Australian edge”.
Does anyone else use your home office? No, the space is deliciously all mine (although I’d be happy to share).
How do you organize the space? I don’t. I tidied it up for your shoot but usually there are books, magazines, notepads, pencils and piles of paper across every surface including the floor. I don’t have a computer on my desk – I spend so much time in front of one at work, I don’t feel the need. I love a more tactile work space and am surrounded by images, rolls of wallpaper, bolts of fabric and precarious stacks of magazines. Although I do tidy up before I start any work so my head is clear.
In your job you must see a lot of great home offices. What inspiration have you taken from them? Have you seen the shots by Mikkel Vang of architect Rob Brown’s simple shed in Mudgee? [Two shots below - for more go to Vang's site] It’s not a home office, but it is inspiring – I think it’s important to try and bring nature into the workspace to keep the balance.
What impact do you think colour has on a workspace? A lot. That’s why I prefer a neutral palette – so I don’t get distracted.
What desk accessory can’t you do without? Sharp pencils and my iPod.
Is there a piece of furniture you’d love to replace? No.
What inspires you? All things visual. I love French Vogue and the editor Carine Roitfeld is inspiring with her irreverence. Elle Decoration is also a magazine I look forward to landing on my desk each month. Photographers Arthur Elgort, Ellen Von Unwerth and Australia’s Richard Bailey. More recently I have been seduced by the images of lifestyle photographer Mikkel Vang. Artists Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Adam Cullen and Martine Emdur – I have their postcards (that’s all I can afford) taped into notebooks. Peter Beard – I only have to flick through his book Fifty Years of Portraits to get carried away; is that weird? Music – Damien Rice’s 2002 album O. I am sure it would inspire anyone. I am also inspired by the sound of the tide coming in, and gathered flotsam and jetsam from the beach, like the shark-egg cases on my desk – they make me want to sketch.