The home of Sophie Tatlow and Bruce Slorarch is one you don’t want to leave. As avid collectors of Australian design, their home is a beautiful, eclectic mix of kookaburra mugs, vintage glass collections and vibrant artworks. You can’t look anywhere without seeing a great stack of books. But what’s really striking about their home is the light. Morning sun streams through to every possible corner of the house. “It’s one of the things I truly love about Sydney – the light,” says Tatlow. “The light here is so special. Particularly dusk, and how that smells; the sweet stickiness. When I first moved here it amazed me just walking through the streets of Paddington and Surry Hills, how every now and then you get hit with this smell of a frangipani bomb. I love that.”
Both originally from Victoria, the two first met at bills in Darlinghurst, where Tatlow was working while studying object design at Enmore TAFE. “Bruce used to come into bills all the time. He was heavily addicted to a strong macchiato back then, and one day after a while he asked me out!” Since then, they have been partners in business and life. Slorarch's experience as a textile designer (he was previously the design director at Mambo) and Tatlow's knowledge of object design fostered the start of their two creative companies; Deuce Design and Utopia Goods. Deuce is a multi-disciplinary design studio based in Surry Hills that has been delivering creative solutions for clients since 2000. They manage each project between the two of them; Slorarch heads up the design department and Tatlow handles strategy and art direction.
With Deuce the pair undertake a variety of projects from complex visual way-finding systems to environmental branding. In 2011 they worked alongside the Government Architects Office and Railcorp to design and develop an expansive mural to visually connect local histories with the refurbished Newtown Station. “We really like the idea of designing something that helps suggest a greater sense of place, a physical thing that can give people a sense of where they are,” Slorarch says. Through Deuce they have worked on numerous murals and design projects in the public domain. “It’s heritage interpretation, taking ideas from the history and heritage of Sydney and reinterpreting those into stories or a physical built form.”
As the two list the environmentally based projects they have been responsible for over the years, the understated impact they have had on the city of Sydney and its culture is obvious. “We have a lot of books and archival material in the studio for our work with Deuce, and in a way, doing all these projects with Deuce over the last 12 years led us to start Utopia Goods. Because there seemed like a real gap in the market for beautiful Australia-centric pieces.”
Tatlow says nostalgia is a driving force in their work. “There is such a need for well-designed and high-quality Australiana.” For them, it’s all about the native flora and fauna. Waratahs, flowering gums, kangaroos, cicadas and birds abound in the pair’s designs, in lively prints and colour palettes of indigos, greens and reds. The process of development for Utopia Goods is a true labour of love and a chance for the two to really use their hands and build something from scratch. Slorarch works on countless exquisitely hand-drawn sketches of native flora and fauna, which are then printed onto stable quality fabrics such as linen, oxford canvas and cotton drill, and translated into a remarkable range of homewares and accessories.
The year ahead is a promising one. In the coming months they would love to expand the Utopia Goods team and extend their design work to wallpaper. “This is something that we get asked for a lot,” says Tatlow, who also dreams of having a bricks-and-mortar store for the brand. “I would love a space for Utopia Goods – a lot of people want it from us, too. There would be lots of plants, like a botanical salon, lots of textiles and textures, it would be an experience, a place you wouldn’t want to leave.”
Right at the end of our conversation, when the tea has gone cold, Tatlow adds: “Oh! And those secret views. Sometimes, when you are driving around Sydney, you just get a glimpse of water through two buildings. That is what I love about this place.” The commitment they both have to representing their surroundings is obvious. They have a special way of interpreting their environment into immaculate pieces of design, which isn’t surprising seeing as they always seem to be looking for the splendour in it all.
To view Utopia Goods range and shop online, head to utopiagoods.com