George Livissianis is a man of few words. Softly spoken and very reserved, he offers little insight into his design practice, and prefers to listen to others’ interpretation of his projects rather than explain what it is he sees in them. But then his design aesthetic hardly screams for attention, either. To flick through his portfolio – which, by the way, you can’t do, as he doesn’t display a back catalogue of work on his website – is the best way to get a sense of Mr Livissianis’ character. ??Largely grey in tone, his projects, such as interiors for The Apollo restaurant and knitwear label Jac+Jack, are dappled with fresh, natural light, multilayered with natural materials, such as concrete, marble and timber, and seem, interestingly, quite un-Australian in their design. These are sparse, but not cold, interiors that share more in common with the likes of John Pawson and Carlo Scarpa than they do with typical Australian design, evidence of Mr Livissianis’ unique approach and a mind interested in an “emotional response” rather than tapping into trends.
“I favour texture of colour, pattern and decoration,” explains the interior architect of his approach to design. “It’s why there is a lean towards the neutrals. I like calming spaces that are not fabricated, that enhance rather than detract from what’s being offered, whether it’s food or fashion.” It’s an approach evident in the recently-opened Strand Arcade store of Jac+Jack, with its quiet sense of luxury. In connecting the various store sites, Mr Livissianis used a paving motif that helps to create a sense of flow, with counters appearing as though they are extruded from the floor pattern. “The intention was to create the same ambience of softness and calmness as at the Paddington store, but with a different form and composition of the material palette specific to the Strand Arcade,” he says.
Mr Livissianis graduated with honours from the University of New South Wales with a degree in interior architecture in 1998, and was subsequently awarded the Herman Miller Design Prize. A stint in the United Kingdom was followed by roles at design firms Geyer and BKH before he finally launched his namesake practice in 2007. As well as the high profile and award-winning projects for Jac+Jack and The Apollo, Mr Livissianis has created interiors for Café Paci, a pop-up restaurant by Pasi Petanen in Darlinghurst shortly due to close, and Longrain restaurant, Surry Hills, and residential projects for clients predominantly in Sydney. While he admits that there is an underlying approach that ties the various projects together, “I feel that each one responds to their respective brands and briefs,” he says.
His dream project is to design a boutique hotel for hotelier Ian Schrager, a co-founder of Studio 54 that has designed several highly acclaimed hotels, such as the Gramercy Park Hotel in New York City, which he did in collaboration with artist Julian Schnabel. Considering the dire state of hotels in Sydney – extremely limited beyond the likes of the Park Hyatt and the QT – Mr Schrager would be clever to invest in the local market, and certainly the calming, quiet interiors of Mr Livissanis would translate perfectly to a hotel interior.