Alex Cuccovia, Cale Mason and Maja Sedic are hands-on designers. When Broadsheet meets with the Lazarus Studios team, the trio is halfway through turning the old Ace Pizza site into Highgate Drink & Dine; Mason’s hands are more paint than skin, Cuccovia is covered in dust and the camera-shy Sedic is holding a bespoke light fitting designed for the project.
Lazarus Studios might be only 18 months old, but its members have serious runs on the board in their respective fields (Cuccovia is a veteran restaurateur, Mason a designer and Sedic comes from the world of architecture). Although Leederville’s Blue Flamingo was Lazarus’s first official project, the team’s collective CV – in particular, its work on fun-loving venues such as El Publico, Mary Street Bakery, Late Night Valentine and the aforementioned Ace Pizza – reads like one hell of a night out.
Despite this impressive track record, any next-big-thing talk is quickly waved away by the team.
“We just want to change things,” says Mason. “I have a checklist of what I’d like to experience when I go out. Whether it’s a burger or a drink, there needs to be good service, flow, lighting, music and food. They all play a part in your experience, and that’s what we design, experiences.”
We talk to the quiet achievers about design, the importance of soul and the joys of mid-century modern architecture.
BS: Tell us about the Lazarus Studios approach.
CM: Anything we put our hand to, whether it’s an event or a space, has to be touched. Otherwise we’re not happy. It’s not just designing and building something. We try and add something unique to every project, whether it’s a piece of lighting or a couch. It’s always nice to do something that can’t be replicated easily.
BS: How did you all get together?
CM: Alex and I had worked together on a few projects. I then got Alex involved in a couple of my projects, and then a year ago we decided to combine. I also met Maja around the same time.
MS: We all pitch in and do different things, but Cale is great with the creative and design side.
CM: Alex’s aesthetics and hospitality background are why it felt so right to join forces. I was designing things and he was operating them, and he knows the best flow and how to design a space. Alex is great at the business side of things, so he can take over that and then I can just be fully creative with Maja.
MS: I came in for Late Night Valentine, to draw up the project drafting-wise. When I left the architecture industry and started working, I wanted to change the scale of things and look at furniture and product design. I lay down lots of plans so we can flesh out ideas, especially when it comes to building furniture and production.
BS: Tell us about Highgate Drink & Dine: it has a different look to your previous projects.
CM: We’re celebrating the room. We designed it in a way to show off the bones of the space, whereas Ace Pizza didn’t. There’s a ’70s vibe, warm light and lots of timber. I’ve wanted to design something like this for a long time, somewhere you feel comfortable eating and you want to hang out. Some of the design is a response to what I think is happening in the city. Everything is so clean and cold. I just wanted to create a really beautiful and warm space with soul.
AC: It’s a bit timeless and mid-century, which I haven’t really done before. Blue Flamingo was more ’50s–’60s Palm Springs.
MS: We also incorporated quite a few custom pieces, like the lighting and furniture.
CM: The parquetry for the tables was actually ripped out of a ’60s house in Fremantle. It’s a warm space. Everything we create, as soon as you interact with it, it feels like it has a soul.
BS: What are you working on at the moment? And what’s on the cards for Lazarus Studios?
AC: We have a few projects on the go including Meat Candy in Northbridge. Then there’s Mad Dog Jungle Bar, a winter pop-up in the old Nine Mary’s space. We’re putting people on notice that you can get a good experience and demand the best.
CM: We don’t want to be limited to hospitality and bar spaces. A retail space would be nice. More lighting, furniture and product design.