Shannon Vos shot to fame in 2014. It was in that year that the tradie painter and part-time interior design student, together with his brother, won the hugely popular TV renovation show The Block.
Since then, Shannon has gone on to become a highly sought-after interior designer with his own firm, Vos Creative, and a regular commentator on design and what makes it good.
That’s why I was so eager to have him as a guest on a recent episode of the Spaces podcast. I was fortunate to have the chance to pick his brains about what really makes standout design, and what were his secrets that so impressed The Block judges.
As it turned out, furniture and frills were the last things on his mind. As Shannon puts it, “design is imperative, whether that’s spatial design, lighting design, architectural design or passive design. All of those boxes need to be ticked before you have a well-considered space.”
Thinking Spatial Design
The functionality of a space often comes down to spatial design, and Shannon sums it up neatly: “I look at spatial design on every job I do now. I want every space I design to have something different. I just don’t want to build a box and fill it full of nice stuff.”
So what determines a good space from a spatial design perspective?
“I’m passionate about spatial design. I’m passionate about how people use a space. I’m not overly excited about furnishings and colours. I get passionate about the way a space functions, how elements in a space come together to give a homely feel,” Shannon says.
“I look at a space to figure out who is using the space. What it’s going to be used for a majority of the time, and how people are going to pass through or stop and use that space and design accordingly.”
First up, it’s About function
Functionality and people need to be the most important parts of design. All the other bits add to a design, but it has got to be highly functional. It’s got to be about the people who are going to use it.
Shannon puts it like: “If your space doesn’t function, it looks pretty, and you spend a million dollars on a room and it looks nice but it doesn’t function as a space, it’s a waste of time, because you can’t use that space efficiently.”
“First and foremost, a space or a room or a home has to function well and it has to be utilised by the people who live in it – first and foremost. Secondly, it’s got to look good,” Shannon says.
Spatial Design Principles in Your own Home
First up, it’s important to know what you want from a space, and what you would be happy with at the end of the day. How are you going to utilise the space?
Shannon offers a bit of checklist for when thinking about spatial design in your own home. “I do have a list. Have you got kid? That’s a huge thing. If you’re designing a space for a professional couple with no kids, it’s going to look totally different to a professional couple with four kids they pick up from daycare every day,” he says.
In Shannon’s words, there are a series of questions to start with: “do you have kids? Do you work from home? What do you love about colour and texture? Where does the property sit, and what do you like doing in your home? Do you sit on the couch and watch Netflix? Do you like sitting outside and reading? If you love sitting outside, I’m going to spend more time designing an outdoor area that they will utilise, more than planning a lounge room to just veg out in front of the TV,” Shannon explains.
Then there are also questions about your movements throughout the day. “It’s getting to know what they like doing inside the home, and who is doing that inside the home.”
Some might argue that aesthetics, how the place looks and feels isn’t functional design – it’s the opposite. But from Shannon’s perspective, how a place feels is highly functional. That’s a big part of functionality.
Shannon puts it like this: “If a space doesn’t function, it’s not going to feel like home. To have a space function is vital to aesthetics, to a feeling, to the way it feels. If you’re relaxed doing what you want in the space, you’re going to get joy out of the space because it’s serving your needs.”
Shannon shares more great thoughts on the Spaces podcast. Listen to the entire conversation here.