28 August 2020

Making a home by beautiful design in the Windy City

Making a home in the Windy City

Pipa Bradbury

Interior Designer, Pipa Bradbury Design
Director of Interior Design, NORR
NCIDQ #027693, ASID, Registered Interior Designer Illinois
Bachelor of Arts (Interior Design) (now Bachelor of Interior Architecture)

Pipa Bradbury’s interior design career has enabled her to live out her dream; collaborating with artisans and manufacturers to develop beautiful products and spaces that enhance all your experiences.

As Director of Interior Design at NORR, and steering her own vision at Pipa Bradbury Design, she has seen firsthand the transformative impact design can have, and how during this pandemic it’s even more important that our space really encompasses the effect on all of our senses.

Her passion for interiors has taken her from designing the first Aesop store in Melbourne early in her career and having her furniture creations shown in Milan’s famed Salone Di Mobili, to conceiving palaces for middle eastern royalty and their London apartments with rich elaborate fabric and wallpaper designs, and even plans for a contemporary private air terminal in Brunei. Pipa’s career has been colourful and wide-ranging even before she branched out on her own and began her firm, Pipa Bradbury Designs.

She notes her design career, and subsequent success, has been strongly influenced by her first job at Nexus Designs under the tutelage of legendary creative director, Janne Faulkner AM. The late great always stressed the importance and placement of uniqueness and local art in interiors, and Pipa was given the opportunity very early on to design furniture as well as custom interiors for hospitality, retail and residential clients – her first product design being a proposal for radiant stainless steel products and high-end modular design-driven and curated stainless steel kitchens, which set the scene for the rest of her career.

Clockwise from top-left: Pipa Bradbury’s 2019 Schuster Residence Sub-Zero Wolf kitchen winner featuring her Aurora sofa; A new rug venture with artist Robert E. Paige; 2013 McLeod Atlanta bathroom; 2014 McLeod Atlanta kitchen and gold award at ASID Design Excellence Awards; 2018 ASID gold award winner, Chicago Webster kitchen
Clockwise from top-left: Pipa Bradbury’s 2019 Schuster Residence Sub-Zero Wolf kitchen winner featuring her Aurora sofa; A new rug venture with artist Robert E. Paige; 2013 McLeod Atlanta bathroom; 2014 McLeod Atlanta kitchen and gold award at ASID Design Excellence Awards; 2018 ASID gold award winner, Chicago Webster kitchen.

Now based in Chicago in the United States, Pipa takes her homeland’s sensibilities and experience down under – the diversity of Australian design, the outdoors and nature, attention to detail, the mix of materiality in a stylized way, and the ease of open spaces with good focal points – to the enormous stateside market that has begun to embrace our Aussie discernment.

However, it wasn’t all smooth sailing. Pipa really struggled at first to understand the American design style and imperial system, even having to study again for notoriously difficult exams for the National Certificate Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ), including Americans with disability acts, material and flammability, and building codes.

“Americans had their own style, fabric, furniture, lighting companies and back then not so much flow over from Australia, UK and Europe, which was a little disconcerting at first as I realised, I had a lot to learn – including the imperial measurement system,” Pipa says.

“But it totally was necessary and made me learn all I needed to successfully work in the US. I also joined ASID (America Society of Interior Designers) which enabled me to meet fellow designers and learn the ways they tackled pricing and client proposals.”

Interior Designer, Pipa Bradbury Design
Pipa (front, centre), at a B&B Italia event, has now made a name for herself in the US.

When Pipa first settled in the United States, she quickly became part of a large hospitality studio in Atlanta, and this spun out into her own practice which grew mainly from Australian clients in America, and as a result turned out many award-winning projects for kitchen and bath design. However, she soon fell in love with Chicago and all the possibilities that lay in The Windy City.

“I love the history of design in Chicago, the skyscrapers, the respect for the modernist architects, and the merchandise mart, which takes up an entire block of the city and houses many of the fabric, furniture, lighting and plumbing lines.”

“Directly behind this area is the more contemporary European design area, and before the lockdown in March there were constant product launches, panel discussions, and NeoCon, the largest US contract market design show. Having this all at your fingertips is very inspiring.”

On top of her massive interior design projects and overseeing how the different moving parts come together – the initial space planning, lighting, details, acoustic design, seating, custom pieces, textiles and art – Pipa has also always had a passion for furniture design and manufacturing. In doing both, it has enriched her design thinking and really developed her eye for detail.

: Pipa Bradbury’s new rug venture with iconic Chicago-based artist
Pipa Bradbury’s new Oscar Isberian Rugs venture with iconic Chicago-based artist Robert E. Paige.

“I think my passion for furniture started when I couldn’t find the right piece I was searching for, so it made sense to just design it,” Pipa says.

“Furniture design is great as it usually has a faster timeline. Although that being said, the rug collection I just launched with iconic AfriCOBRA artist Robert Earl Paige and Oscar Isberian Rugs, took two years to manifest and produce from our very first discussion.”

“The first time my furniture was in Salone Di Mobili in Milan, I thought my dream had come true. Now every time I get to go and see one of my designs and see people react to it, I always felt exceptionally lucky and grateful that people liked my vision creation enough to make it.”

“One of my designs – the Aurora Sofa – was a best seller for a few years and actually they just stopped making it after 16 years in production.”

Despite all her success, it’s still a thrill for Pipa every time she wins another award or experiences how rewarding it is seeing the difference that good design and ergonomics can make to enrich people’s lives.

“I’m always so grateful that my design peers recognised a quality in my work that they thought fit to celebrate with an award,” she says.

“We, as creatives, often wear our heart on our sleeve, and sometimes second guess some choices we make, so it’s always an honour being recognised in the industry.”

“I’m just drawn to people who truly appreciate and want to be part of the journey, who want the story telling so they can continue telling it once the project is complete.”

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