The Fitzroy–Collingwood Times:
Volume 4

A Walk & Talk, with Studio Tate

SMA Projects is collaborating with interior architects Studio Tate on upcoming residential projects in Fitzroy and Collingwood. Director Alex Hopkins shares her affection for the neighbourhood and the many makers who call it home.

“It’s the kind of place where people wear their design sensibilities on their sleeves. Whether they know it or not.”

Alex Hopkins has spent her fair share of time in Fitzroy and Collingwood. Like many in Melbourne’s boundless creative class, she bopped around Inner North sharehouses throughout – and beyond – her student days.

As the founder and Director of interior architecture firm Studio Tate, Alex is often working in the neighbourhood. One recent afternoon, Alex walked SMA Projects Director Martin Strode around some of her favourite local spaces.

Left to right: Alex and Martin wandering the streets of Fitzroy, the area is inarguably the homeland of natural wine in Melbourne

The neighbourhood according to Alex

Thanks for being our local guide today, Alex.

The pleasure’s mine. I never turn down an excuse to do laps of Fitzroy and Collingwood. So long as it ends in eating and drinking.

How is the wider area different to when you lived here last?

Fitzroy in particular is changing. Well, it has changed. When I was younger, it was still grungy. But you can still find parts of it that have authentic grit.

What’s an example of a local place with grit?

Well it’s just something casual and relaxed. I’m still always going to go for pub classics at The Standard. Although, what’s really unique about being around here is that you can be truly content at an old school pub, or head just a few blocks away for a more refined, sophisticated experience – like Marion or Cutler & Co.

What’s your personal connection to the neighbourhood these days?

Well, Fitzroy is all about coming together. Meeting, eating and enjoying a drink. Fitzroy is social – it’s where most of us at Studio Tate go for beautiful shopping, high-quality restaurants, great art and just a real sense of community engagement.

Another thing is that the whole neighbourhood feels very Melbourne. The rough, grey footpaths. Vintage furniture shops on your left, a groovy ice-creamery to your right – a red brick heritage house down the side street. That’s what I know Fitzroy as now. It’s layered, authentic and there’s always a sense of intrigue.

Left to right: The Hub General Store is a local institution for design, Alex and Martin enjoying the light afternoon sun

High design that still feels friendly

How do Fitzroy and Collingwood influence your work at Studio Tate?

We’re here all the time. So many of our projects celebrate furniture, hardware, ceramics, artworks and all kinds of things made in these postcodes.

This is the design capital of Melbourne, after all. Where was the last place you went on for work-related reconnaissance?

We frequent The Hub General Store often, as designers, because at Studio Tate we work across three key sectors – residential, workplace and hospitality. It’s an especially great place to go when we’re on the last stretch of our residential projects.

What makes it one of your go-to stops?

Well, firstly we love going to support Jaci [Foti-Lowe]. She’s a Melbourne icon, a successful business leader and just a fabulous person. But above all, she stocks quality product.

On any residential project, we like to work as much as possible work with our clients existing treasures, and then also layer that with some fabulous new things. The Hub is a great place to find new layers, but usually with objects that are practical and tactile. Things you might use or need every day.

And it’s such a nice retail experience.

Exactly. The space is so welcoming and filled with surprises, plus the staff is incredible and knowledgable. Taking clients there to explore is always an adventure.

How do your clients feel on these adventures?

They’re obsessed. And they expect this kind of approach from us. Our studio’s ethos is really pretty simple: try not to have too much stuff. Have less, but make sure it’s of quality. Places like The Hub that curate a wide range of high-end, well-designed products help us bring that ethos to life in every residential project.

Alex and Martin at Fitzroy Town Hall

A Mutual Affection

Is there an easy way to describe the design sensibility of the Fitzroy and Collingwood?

Well, yes and no. The essence of the neighbourhood is really tactile. You’ll find it all layered between the urban elements and architecture. It might be a heritage shopfront with steel framed windows, or intricate mosaic tile reliefs or even contemporary architectural forms with brick and steel.

It’s not one thing anymore. And that’s the whole point.

That’s why our SMA Projects team loves working on developments here.

Of course. It seems to me like your ethos is all about design longevity – delivering products that outlast trends and feels relevant to the areas they occupy. That kind of thinking ties in nicely with the suburb of Fitzroy, and the idea of authenticity more broadly.

What do you think it means to design authentically for the neighbourhood?

To me, Fitzroy feels polished yet nonchalant. It’s the kind of place we go to find quality experiences that are authentic, without ever being intimidated.

If we want to design things for the area, there has to be a lot of research into the history of any site before pen his the paper. The same goes for any neighbourhood. We always want to anchor a project to its past.

That’s the only way we can create a strong sense of connection to place and keep neighbourhoods like Fitzroy and Collingwood alive.

Thanks Alex.

The pleasure is mine.