HOT: Melbourne Open House, Melbourne

I think one of the best free events held as part of State of Design is Melbourne Open House. The 2-day event sees public and private buildings all around Melbourne throw open their doors for a rare opportunity for you and I to discover the hidden histories and spaces in and around the CBD.

There are more than 60 sites to visit, including bowls clubs, banks, residential buildings, libraries and rooftop gardens. It’s an amazingly popular event so to make the most of it take Melbourne Open House’s advice:

–          Plan your day

–          Know building opening times (they do vary) and if a building is running tours – click here

–          Be prepared for queues

–          Have a contingency plan and be flexible

For instance, I had wanted to check out the normally closed upper levels of Block Arcade, but all the upcoming tours were full so I ended up at the Melbourne Athenaeum Library and Origin Roof Garden instead.

The Melbourne Athenaeum Library is normally open only to subscription members and is the city’s oldest public institution, with the library’s collection starting in 1840. The densely packed dark wood bookshelves overlook the grand facades of the Regent Theatre and Melbourne Theosophical Society, and the library is a step back in time amongst the CBD bustle.

Every visitor is given a self-guided tour briefly explaining various items of interest, from paintings to a metal book press. My favourites were the classical lift façade (from 1930) and the beautiful Art Nouveau bronze lamp holders.

The Origin Roof Garden was a very different space. Designed by famous TV landscape designer Jamie Durie, the 458 square metre balcony garden is for Origin employees to meet, relax and eat lunch. There’s barbecue and cooking facilities, outdoor seating covered in artificial turf and the most distinctive feature, an open-ended cylinder covered in turf. The garden has been designed using sustainable, recycled timber products, artificial turf and drought tolerant and allergy-free plants.

Lucky Origin employees!

Get your walking shoes on! Melbourne Open House finishes today 25 July. Check out all the properties and opening hours here.

HOT: Design Made Trade, Royal Exhibition Building, 9 Nicholson St, Carlton

Design:Made:Trade was a 4 day exhibition (2 day trade, 2 day public) set up in the beautiful heritage listed Royal Exhibition Buildings and a keystone event of State of Design 2010, Victoria’s annual design festival.

The grand vaulted space was segmented with 3×3 metre VISY cardboard booths, each containing fabulous furniture, fashion and industrial design brands. It was inspiring to see how the designers transformed the same space to reflect their brand, for example by using felt circles, drawing silhouettes of gabled windows or turning it into a 50s lounge room.

A ‘no photographs’ sign was prominently displayed at the entrance so I felt a bit shy about asking permission from individual stallholders for photos unless I’d bought something from them. So unfortunately I can’t show you some of the absolutely drool-worthy lighting and furniture I spotted for my dream designer home or some of the more inventive stall decorative ideas.

Here is what ended up in my shopping bag:

Buro North Christmas tree. I’ve been eyeing the sustainable plywood Christmas tree from multidisciplinary design studio Buro North ever since I read about it in The Design Files and saw them on sale at the Melbourne Design Market. It’ll make a great hanging space for my Christmas ornament collection and for the rest of year, a nice place to hang my keys and other sundries!

Cycle Signs. Being an owner of a cycling accessories business, I’m always on the lookout for innovative bike products. Thanks to a tip from Miss Kish, I went hunting out Sydney industrial designer Trent Jansen‘s stall where he was selling Cycle Signs, reflective discs attached to spokes or the front shaft for extra visibility. He uses a water jet cutting method to fashion circles from old reflective road signs salvaged from scrap metal yards – a truly upcycled product.

Letterpress cards from Vince. Graphic design Meaghan Barbuto was part of the Craft Victoria stall. Her background is in graphic design and she’d always dabbled in letterpress as a hobby, but she’s now focusing full-time on her letterpress business Vince. Given the number of babies being born in my circle of friends, I bought a be-ribboned box of gorgeous creamy stock printed with a motif of three yellow ducks.

On the weekend public days the Australian Graphic Design Association also held the ‘Design Fete’, a contemporary take on the traditional fete by leading and emerging Melbourne designers. Here’s Stuart from design studio Chase & Galley, very convincing as the role of the Mad Scientist as he made crystals and slime, and the Psycho Tatt Parlour (something about reacting psychically to certain signs and having them inked on you – bizarre).

HOT: Preston Zly and the Red Shoes, Preston Zly Studio, Rear 219 Smith St, Fitzroy

I first saw the movie The Red Shoes as a child, fascinated by the beauty of the ballet, the fabulous costumes and the ultra-glamorous London-Paris-Monte Carlo life it depicted in scratchy 1940s Technicolour.

So I was very excited to see that one of the free events being held as part of State of Design 2010, Victoria’s design festival, was a screening of The Red Shoes. Not just at any cinema though – a screening held in the wunderkammer workshops of shoemakers Preston Zly, where everyone was invited to wear their red shoes.

We arrived at the dimly lit workshop via a nondescript carpark off Smith Street and was greeted by the smell of popcorn. Each guest was given a paper bag of popcorn, a glass of pink sparkling and a little chocolate – so cute! We were all asked to take a full –length photo with our red shoes – mine were red suede pumps by Georgina Goodman which you may have seen before. All red shoes worn to the event will form part of a photographic installation.

Inside the workshop red shoes abounded in the cabinets, on the walls and resting eerily on silenced shoe-making equipment – very Victorian Gothic.

Being early birds, we claimed the best spot – front row of the seats, behind the big mattress and cushions set out for the latecomers. My low easy-chair even had a granny crochet rug, a necessity after a while in the winter night chill.

As for the movie itself, many of you may be familiar with the classic 1948 film so I won’t delve into details – but if you’ve not seen it, get it out on DVD! The acting is a bit OTT compared to naturalistic modern methods but it’s still a lovely journey into my favourite place in the whole wide world – the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden – and the dream of ballet.

On leaving, we were all presented with a gift bag – a pair of luxurious Leona Edmiston opaque tights and a gift voucher of $100 towards a pair of Preston Zly shoes form The Signet Bureau on Gertude St. Time for some more red shoes perhaps?

Tonight is the last screening of Preston Zly and The Red Shoes – there may still be seats so RSVP at or call +61 3 9417 2176.