Mariah Burton is an Interior Designer and one half of studio Folk. From a young age, Mariah knew she wanted to be a designer. The act of ‘giving something new life’ was instilled in her as a child - the notion that things can be reused and reloved. This thought process developed into the idea of transforming spaces; interiors that no longer spark joy but have so much potential. We spent an afternoon with her to learn more about her design ethos and how she is incorporating sustainable practices into her design process.
Hi Mariah! Tell us about yourself, what motivated you to embark on a career in interior design?
Ever since I was a kid I have loved ‘fixing’ things. I would find old bed heads and chairs on the side of the road and bring them home and refurbish them. The act of ‘giving something new life’ was something instilled in my growing up - the notion that many things can be reused and reloved. This thought process developed into the idea of transforming spaces; interiors that no longer spark joy but have so much potential. I knew I wanted to be an interior designer from the age of about 7 years old; I used to go to my friend's homes and do ‘design consultations’.
My belief that your home environment plays a huge role in how we feel when we go to bed and how we feel when we wake up has never shifted - I have always seen good design as an essential role in our wellbeing.
Founded by you and your best friend Chris, Folk Studio endeavours to support clients to make informed decisions; nurture their vision, curate their existing treasured objects, and provide innovative and beautiful spaces. Can you tell us more about the Folk Studio ethos?
Chris and I are best friends that started Folk Studio two years ago. We wanted to challenge the idea that interior design had to be this inaccessible and exclusive service. The word Folk means ‘People in General’ and this is exactly what we stand for - providing a wellness brand that focuses on good design, personal wellbeing, and transparency.
After graduating, you were given the opportunity to go to New York as a design representative at the 'World Business Forum', where you discussed the social and environmental impacts of modern architecture and interior design. In what ways has this experience informed your approach to design?
As designers, we have a huge responsibility to ensure that all our processes consider the end-user, the environment and society. Chris and I are always discussing how we can lessen our impact on the environment when we take on any project and we also feel a responsibility to ensure that we are doing our part as a brand to discuss, educate and listen when it comes to any social issue - especially ones we feel particularly connected to.
How have you incorporated sustainability into your business?
We not only design our projects, but we also project manage them. This is not common practice at design studios but we are incredibly hands-on and like to ensure every process we have implemented is actioned. By project managing our jobs, we can ensure that building materials are disposed of properly and no toxic paints and building materials are used. We also support local makers who are like-minded in their process and create sustainable products and where we can, design and produce our own furniture to eliminate mass production.
Tell us about your home, what was the inspiration behind the renovation and were there any challenges along the way?
We purchased the worst apartment we could find, knowing that if it had good bones, we could fix it. My husband is a carpenter and he works on nearly all our Folk projects, so he understands my process and how to work with me - which makes renovating much easier. We live on the Northern Beaches, so our home certainly has a coastal aesthetic with many 70’s inspired elements. We also have a love for mid-century modern pieces, as well as earthy hues. I always purchase items for my home that tell a story and that have been made with love, which means that 90% of our decor and furniture in our apartment has been made or sourced by local makers.
What does your creative process look like?
That is a tricky one as it often changes! My creative process involves a lot of time outdoors and being inspired by different forms and materiality I see on the way. I am incredibly tactile, so I usually come up with new ideas by simply playing with numerous textures.
What are your top 5 tips for styling a small space?
- Maximise how much floor space you can see. This means that you should have furniture pieces that sit off the ground and have a subtle leg profile ie sofa legs, dining table legs, and chair legs.
- Less is more - don’t over complicate the space with too many plants, art, decor, and bulky furniture. Your home should be seen as one big Jenga game; it’s something you continually add to or take away from.
- If you are struggling with styling different colours in your home and are not sure what works with what, I suggest viewing your home as an outfit you would wear. What colours do you often pair together and how do they make you feel when you wear them?
- If you have limited storage (as most small homes do) then see it as an opportunity to style some of your beloved items with the use of beautiful hooks. You can purchase ceramic, brass, terracotta, and leather hooks that are not only practical but become a feature in small spaces.
- When styling a small space, everything within it should serve a function or be something you love. Step back and ask yourself “What purpose does this serve” and “how much do I love this”. Every piece should be carefully considered and you'll find once you have styled your space with the furniture and decor you love, your home becomes a reflection of who you are and how you live.
Where are your favourite places to shop for furniture and decor?
I frequently shop at Jardan, as all their pieces are Australian made and sustainably made. I also love IN BED linen, Anchor Ceramics for their lighting and vases and Tigmi Trading in Byron Bay for their rare vintage furniture. My clients know that I love finding rare pieces online from Gumtree and online marketplaces that I can refurbish for them, as well as hard-to- find pieces sourced by shops like Curated Spaces, Engold, and Smith Street Bazaar.
Do you have a favourite object in your home, one that’s extra special to you?
I have so many but I do love my Louis Poulsen Lamp and my Marcel Breuer chairs - these ‘spark joy’ every time I look at them.
In what ways do you nurture yourself? Any daily rituals?
I am a big foodie, so I ensure I nurture my body with nourishing foods each day, perform my thorough skincare routine (Sans Ceuticals skincare is my go-to) and then I start my day with probiotics by The Beauty Chef and BEAR. I always begin my morning by seeing the ocean on a brisk walk before I start work; there is something so wholesome and calming about a morning walk by the ocean. Once I finish work for the day I go and workout and stretch; stretching for me relieves any of the day's stresses and helps ease me into the evening.