Experiencing a Technical Difficulty

Join Dr Catriona Quinn on a journey through Australia’s rich interior design heritage and a deep dive into the studios of design educators in Sydney in the 1940s, 50s and 60s.

After World War II, Australian interior design education was shaped by a shifting social and economic landscape, and it was during this time the new profession of ‘interior designer’ emerged. Interior design’s association with craft, commercial and ‘feminine’ practices means it has often been overlooked or misrepresented in public discourse. In this lecture, Dr Catriona Quinn presents a history of interior design in Australia that emphasises the value of technical education and offers new insights into the issues faced by the profession today.

Focusing on rare mid-century student portfolios and archives held in the Caroline Simpson Library collections and the interior design program at the former East Sydney Technical College, Dr Quinn examines the work of the college’s graduates and their impact on Australian interiors.

Interior design

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Equestrian Statue of the King, Astor Flats and Chief Secretary’s Building

The Astor, 1923–2023

Upon completion in 1923, The Astor in Sydney's Macquarie Stree twas the largest reinforced concrete building in Australia, the tallest residential block, and this country’s first company title residences

Detail of the four poster bed and beaded watch pockets in the Principal bedroom, Vaucluse House

Watch pockets

Watch pockets hung on the head cloth of a four-post bedstead and originally served in place of bedside tables, which were uncommon in the 19th century

Acquisition of the John and Phyllis Murphy wallpaper collection

Wall to wall: a marvellous wallpaper collection

A remarkable donation of over 3,000 wallpaper samples by John and Phyllis Murphy adds to our existing collection to form Australia’s largest repository of historic wallpapers

Two women on the steps of a sandstone building. One is crouching and holding a wooden tool, an axe rests beside her. The other and one sits on the step at a easel, under an umbrella

Queering the Interior: London, New York, Sydney, 1882–1929

Design practices of five figures from queer history: Irish playwright and poet Oscar Wilde, American actress and interior designer Elsie de Wolfe, and Australian artists Eirene Mort, Roy de Maistre and Adrian Feint (1894–1971)