With spring just around the corner we thought who better sit down with in their favourite chair than Richard Unsworth, Creative Director of Garden Life. It’s hard not to feel relaxed in Richard’s company – his sunny disposition and open-hearted smile are immediately appealing. It’s always a welcome reprieve to enter his lush shop of foliage on Cleveland Street, Redfern. The serenity of all that thriving greenery has an immediate soothing effect. Richard has ensured that Garden Life is not only a shop full of healthy plants and exceptional pots but that it also offers full garden design services and ongoing maintenance.
Since 1998, Richard has been striving to bring mother nature into the homes of the inner city dweller. As his reputation for creative landscape design solutions travelled he soon found that the demand for his green thumbs outgrew his humble Darlinghurst shop. He moved to his current shop and showroom in Redfern with a café devoted to the other one of his loves, food. Richard has a team of warm natured loyal staff that are a credit to his direction.
Richard is the go-to for all that’s green in our built environment. His vast choice of plants are always exceptionally happy and his variety of vessels and decorative elements are joyfully eclectic. He understands the individual looking for a friendly fern, or the homeowner wanting their Eden realised. It is a true passion that extends past the commercial into community garden projects. Open in mind and spirit, when we caught up with Richard on a sunny day out the side of Garden Life he had a 16 year old local painting a large mural behind him. It was a super lively vibe. It’s this approachable professional personality that has seen us working with Richard on numerous projects.
Richard’s chair is a one of those unique treasures that seems to have found him, as much as he has it. With origins somewhere in West Africa it’s full of personality. The sturdy latticed base, stretched leather seat and the addition of the sheepskin just enhances the tribal craftsmanship. It’s where Richard seats his dinner guests “I’ll cook and they will tell all from the chair of truth!” oh the stories that chair has heard in its lifetime! Who built it, who brought it across the seas to end up in a little second hand shop – Dust – in Darlinghurst? It’s a seasoned seat that is a reflection of Richard’s curious nature to find the road less travelled.
Richard shares his years of experience with us in a new book ‘Garden Life’. It’s a picturesque journey full of specialist advice from the small apartment sanctuary to manicured manors. Each project is a beautiful reflection of the client and designer collaboration.
Feeling buoyant from this achievement Richard is enjoying life. He is one of those lucky people who have found their passion and is living and breathing it. Thank you Richard for taking the time out to chat with us in your chair!
Tell us about your chair? What is its story?
It’s West African, I think from Ghana or Nigeria. I found it years ago at Dust in Liverpool Street, just down the road from the old shop in Darlinghurst – I love fossicking around in there. It usually sits in my kitchen and mostly gets used when friends come round for dinner. I’ll cook and they will tell all from the chair of truth!
Proudest moment in your career?
The book thing is really, really exciting, and seeing it finally coming to fruition is definitely a high point so far (although I think it’s also my mums proudest moment, the whole of Yorkshire will soon know about it). When I first started out by myself and opened the little shop in Darlinghurst – I remember being so chuffed with that.
Your most prized possession?
It’s too hard to think of one stand out prized possession – I am a bit of a hoarder. I have a collection of old pots and planters at home that have been given to me, or that I have collected over the years – a cast iron smelting pot, French 1950’s hourglass planters, and old timber piece from Turkish travels. Winnie my old faithful dog, she is a total character and although not a prized possession is totally part of the family.
Each time I revisit a garden we have created after about a year or so – when there is loads of new growth and it’s starting to mature – to see plants thriving and starting to own the space around them – I always get a big kick out of that. Plants are forever changing, an integral part of life, an essential part of our existence. One of my earliest memories is sowing radish seeds with my father. As a kid we had to mow lawns and clip hedges for pocket money and I think something just stuck with me. For the fact I can make a living out of it, I have much gratitude.
King Gees or Jeans?
Jeans for sure. Can we please have Uniqlo in Sydney? Their jeans are the best, and the service is superb.
The most amazing plant ever seen is?
HUGE baobab trees recently in Botswana – some are over 1000 years old. I think its mind-blowing to think of what the tree may have seen, the events come to pass around it.
Describe your ideal studio soundtrack
Often it’s Radio National! or Something dreamy by Kate Bush/Ennio Morricone
What is the most treasured tool of your trade?
My secateurs – which I seem to use less and less… These days I can find myself sitting too much behind a desk. My hands and my eyes – where would we all be without them?
Describe your day
They are so varied, which helps keep me sane. I have taken up cycling this year, so it may be a morning ride to La Perouse or a dog walk before work, usually being at the desk by 730am. In the day I could be seeing new clients on site, discussing new products with Ebo in the store, working on current design jobs with Nick in the office. I could be re-arranging the shop, unpacking the dishwasher or jumping on a plane to go and find new adventures!
What I know about people who love plants is…
They can be a bit nutty and unique – especially people who work with them! Nurserymen are often wonderful eccentrics and I think prefer plants to people. C’mon we all love plants don’t we? We couldn’t be human beings if we didn’t.
To celebrate the launch of Richard’s new book Garden Life we are asking our readers and likers to get creative with their own #gardenlife. Take a creative snap of your own garden life – the very best sunny spot in your garden, your prized collection of succulents, your little rooftop terrace, your fruitful planter of veggies, a perfectly grown fragrant rose…
Thanks to Richard and Penguin Books we have 5 copies of ‘Garden Life’ to giveaway to our best entries. The competition will be judged by Richard Unsworth & Arent&Pyke.
Tag your instagram photos with @arentpyke_inout @gardenlife_syd and #chatinachair
1. You must follow @arentpyke_inout @gardenlife_syd on Instagram
2. You must tag your entry with @arentpyke_inout @gardenlife_syd
3. You must hashtag your entry with #chatinachair & #gardenlife
4. Competition opens 6am AEDST on Wednesday 27th August 2014 and closes at midnight AEDST on Tuesday 3rd September
5. The winner will be announced on Wednesday 4th October 2014 via In/Out design blog & Instagram. The judges’ decision is final.
6. Delivery of the book is only available Australia wide.
7. Full T&C’s are available here
Credits: Photography by Ben Pyke