Our house: Rosie Tainsh, artist and designer

If you are a regular visitor to this blog, you will know that clients come to my home, sometimes for shoots, sometimes just for planning meetings or to design albums and the like. And you will know that the first ten minutes or so of every first visit to our house is spent talking about the house itself, whether we built from scratch, whether it was a renovation, what a lovely kitchen we have…..

Well, today I’d like to introduce you to Rosie Tainsh, a wonderfully talented lady who I am lucky enough to count among my friends. Rosie worked with us to design our fabulous kitchen.

Rosie Tainsh: Artist and Interior Designer

So how did this artistic life of yours start? Did you always want to be a designer?

I have always been drawn to art and design, and by the end of high school I was leaning towards studying architecture, but then I visited a friend who was studying at the National Art School and on seeing her messy studio space with canvases and paints everywhere and I thought, “That’s it! That’s what I want!” I enrolled in a fine arts course at what was then known as the Alexander Mackie College (now the College of Fine Arts and the University of New South Wales). I specialised in painting and print making (serigraphy).

And so what then? What does a graduate of Fine Arts do at the end of their degree?

Exactly! What do they do? I asked myself the same thing! At first I worked in an art supply store in The Rocks where I enjoyed handling the beautiful French and Italian papers, paints, inks and other luscious materials. Following on from that I became a print maker for Ken Done [artist and designer] and I worked for him for many years, all the while continuing to make my own art.

There’s a lot of art work in there. When did the architectural design come back into your life?

When renovating our own house I collaborated with Canberra architect and long time friend, Candida Griffiths. I had a lot of ideas on how I wanted the house to look. Well, not just about how it should look, but how it should feel and how to make it function well as a family home. And I thoroughly enjoyed the whole process of that. After that I considered another degree in architecture or interior design, but committing to another six years of uni? Not for me. I already had art, design and colour training, so I decided to enroll in an Architectural Technology course at TAFE, and it was wonderful! Such a thorough course! And so here I am, an artist and a designer.

So, you’re not just a ‘soft furnishings and paint colour’ kind of interior designer.

That’s right. Interior Designers have the role of making interior spaces both fluid and functional. In domestic projects we work on kitchen and bathroom plans and details, storage solutions, furniture layout plans, materials and finishes schedules. We often work with the architect on a new build or larger renovation. Alternatively, a client might simply want to make changes to a room or two and I love that challenge too.

 So what is your favourite thing? What kind of work do you love?

What I really love is having a variety of clients with different needs. The best part of my job is getting to know the people who have invited me into their homes to help them solve their problems. Are they a busy working couple? Do they have boisterous children to accommodate? Grown up children who have “left” home, but come back home  from time to time? Do they love to entertain, but have a kitchen that is tucked away in a corner of the house?

Most people come to me because they have an issue with their current house that they need help with. They often have some ideas of what they need or want, and I love to take those ideas and make them better. Sometimes I just have to say, “Have you ever thought about moving the kitchen to where the living room is?” or something along those lines, and then the answer to the original problem just falls into place and we’re off and racing. If a wall needs to be moved, say, I can organise an engineering consultant to make that happen.

 OK. So that’s kind of grand scale interior design, isn’t it? Not just a few scatter cushions.

I guess so. But I love to do the scatter cushions as well!

 You mean the soft furnishing side of things?

Yes, I do that too. Sometimes people just need help redecorating a room, updating the look, perhaps just giving new life to an old piece of furniture. I love textiles, and putting a scheme of fabrics together is a bit like making a painting, playing with the different colours and textures. Other times people need help with the whole house from redesigning the layout of the house through to painting and furnishing when the building work is complete. What I really enjoy is meeting the needs of individual clients, working to their taste and budget.

So you’ve kind of come back to what you thought you wanted to be when you were in high school.

I guess I have! But I’m still an artist, too.

Are you doing both, then?

Yes. Actually, I love the variety of the work I do.

So tell me, what does an ideal day look like for you?

Well, I quite like the fact that my days are so different from each other, and I enjoy that variety. One day I might be at the computer the whole day drafting plans or sourcing fabulous pieces for someone’s home. On another, I might take a client shopping for fabrics and furniture. Now, those are really fun days! I come home feeling like my soul has been fueled a little bit by touching and feeling all those gorgeous pieces and imagining how they will look in the person’s home. The next day I might be visiting with new clients and getting to know them, working out what they need. And on yet another day I might have the whole day clear just to paint.

Tell me a little bit more about the painting days, Rosie.

Oh, they’re luxurious!

Those days are like a counter balance to my designing work. When you’re designing, you have lots of constraints. There is a budget, the constraints of the existing structure of the house, and you have to meld with the tastes and styles of the clients. But when I’m painting, it’s just completely free: literally a big blank sheet of paper! I love to set aside a whole day to paint. I usually start around 9:00, and I paint all day. I love the feel of the paper, and the quality of the French inks that I use. They’re so rich and they flow onto the paper so beautifully. It’s about the movement, too. When my children were young, my artwork was small and detailed, and quite linear… structured almost. It was artwork that fitted in amidst the business of mothering young children. Now that my children are young adults, I’ve returned to bigger artworks and large brush strokes. There’s a freedom to it that I love to indulge in.

And you had an exhibition recently at Hunters Hill Art Gallery. Tell me about that.

Yes, I did. My paintings and some furniture by Ross Trembath were exhibited together. Hunters Hill Art Gallery  is a lovely space, well worth the visit if you’re in the area. My artwork was a series of pieces inspired by many visits to the N.S.W. South Coast. I always take a lot of photographs when we travel. Not so much travel pics, but rather studies of textures, colours, vistas. I had collated some of those images into a coffee table book, and after that, they just seemed to come out in my paintings. I did some limited edition etchings, too. They’re not literal images of a place, but rather an expression of the essence of the places we’ve visited.

Wakame 1

Wakame 2


Coastal Layers 2


Dawn to midday

Those are gorgeous, Rosie. Beautiful photographs and lovely paintings, too. So tell me, Rosie, where do you think your creativity stems from?

Hmm… I don’t really know. I guess it’s just a way of expressing myself. My mother was always artistic and creative. She made all her own clothes, and ours, too. She was a wonderful seamstress and a quilter. She also went to art school and was quite a talented painter, so I guess it probably comes from her.

What would your tips be for people who want to renovate or redecorate their house?

Small changes can make a big difference. You don’t have to do a full knock down and rebuild to make a not-so-delightful house into a home that is both beautiful and practical. Sometimes it can be as simple as paint, sanding the floor and throwing down a fabulous rug! If you think your home needs more than just a freshen up of its paint and décor, then it might be that you just need to think about giving existing rooms new functions to suit today’s way of living. Good storage is a must so that you can quickly and easily hide away toys and projects and archive away those things that you just have to hang onto. A home should be a place of activity but also have serene uncluttered spaces that are ideal for relaxing and entertaining. Most of the time you don’t actually need more space, just better use of the existing space.

Oh, and consider the light. If you get the light right in a room – as much natural light as possible – it becomes a beautiful and inviting space and you’ll love spending time in there.

And one last question: Tea or coffee?

Tea. Definitely tea. A really good Earl Grey poured from a beautiful Japanese iron pot.



If you’re interested in chatting to Rosie about your housing design needs, you can contact her via her website rosietainshdesign.com, and you can see more of her artwork here, or feel free to drop her a line at rosietainsh@gmail.com

NOTE: All images in this post (except the portrait of Rosie) are copyright to Rosie Tainsh, and are used with permission. The portrait is copyright Jennifer Taylor 2014.





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