The annual Australian Interior Design Awards (AIDA), now in its 15th year, announced its 2018 winners on Friday evening at a gala in Sydney.

Victorian projects and designers dominated, taking out six of the major awards.

North Melbourne-based Russell & George won the 2018 Premier Award – the most prestigious honour of the night – for a “genuinely experimental project, Space & Time”.

“Dubbed a ‘genuine laboratory’ by the jurors, the uniqueness of Space & Time lies in its ability to morph into a restaurant, cafe, gallery, showroom, office, function centre or workspace.”

“This project is as unexpected as it is rigorous, and its design sets a new precedent for encouraging innovation and not merely copying what’s been done before,” said the 2018 jury.

The design firm is also responsible for what is surely one of the year’s most impressive hospitality interiors, at Ishizuka, where they transformed a subterranean space into a light and airy cocoon with a huge white dome reminiscent of a Japanese lantern.

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Toorak’s Ritz & Ghougassian, only two years into business, won the award for best Emerging Interior Design Practice. Jurors praised its “architecturally rigorous work … for its strong adherence to a set of shared design values and its avoidance of anything faddish or trendy”. One juror went further, applauding the studio for “designing by principles not Pinterest”.

In Melbourne, you can see their work in person at Bentwood, with its rich red theme and exposed brick in Fitzroy, and Morris and Heath, a sleek daytime diner with extensive and dramatic timber panelling on its walls and ceiling, in Hopper’s Crossing.

Another Melbourne design studio, Bicker, won the award for best Residential Design for its transformation of a tiny workers’ cottage dating to 1874. “This project demonstrates self-assuredness … through a boldness that quietly champions a less-is-more aesthetic,” the jury commented. Two Melbourne firms – Breathe Architecture and Ritz & Ghougassian – received commendations in this section.

Chris Connell Design won the award for best Retail Design for the gallery-like interior of L'eclisse, a shoe store in Armadale, where attention to detail and artistic flair stretches from the footwear to the fit-out. Connell played with colour and metallic fixtures to showcase John Rizzo’s refined shoewear, which sits on John Chamberlain-like plinths. Jurors were impressed by “a genuinely innovative fit-out, exquisite level of detailing and single clear concept” in which the space acted as an art gallery “seductively showcasing the brand’s meticulously crafted shoes as objects of art”.

“It could just as easily be a shop in 1970s Venice, such is its timeless appeal,” the jury commented.

Last year Nathan Toleman’s Higher Ground won the award for best Hospitality Design. This year, a project in Dubai took out that award, but Carr received a commendation
for its work on Jackalope, on the Mornington Peninsula.

Of the five commendations for the best Residential Decoration
 Award
 (a Sydney firm won), Melbourne took out four of them, including Golden, Sibling Architecture, and Robson Rak Architects & Interiors, which was commended for two different projects.

London-based Grimshaw together with Melbourne-based Buchan won the Award for Interior Design Impact for their work on Highpoint Shopping Centre’s new north-east precinct development. The award “celebrates the transformative effect that design can have on organisational outcomes; this year’s winner sees the world of retailing re-invigorated by design.”