Celebrating travel through architecture and design

We all keep and share our travel memories differently- many through photographs and words, some through recipes and souvenirs.

Rebecca Caldwell, one of Australia's favourite and upcoming architects celebrates her travels in a more unique way - incorporating her memories and travel trends into home design.

We sat down for a chat with Rebecca who heads Maytree Studios to learn more about how certain locations have inspired her design style, what her favourite trends are at the moment, and how her profession translates across the globe.

What holiday destination has inspired your own architectural style the most and why?

I didn’t get to start travelling extensively until my late 20’s.  I did travel a lot between NZ and Australia growing up travelling a lot in the Otago region around Queenstown and Wanaka.  I always loved what I felt was a romantic connection of their buildings to the rugged landscape of the region. If there is a prevalent style to my work, it would be that of the country modernism you see in that region of New Zealand.  I love it because it is simple – nothing is decorative that doesn’t have to be.  The pared back finishes reflect the region’s natural materials and the buildings have a timeless quality to them that I am drawn to.


Without major renovations, how can people incorporate travel influences into their own home?

I think one of the key things you discover when you travel, is how other cultures use colour and decoration.  Every trip we are on, I buy something that speaks to me of the people or the place that can be used or hung or displayed in my home.  It means an eclectic interior, but the layering of stories and pattern is a beautiful thing and stops our homes having too much ‘sameness’ to them. My partner is an avid collector of maps – you will often find us trawling through antique map stores on our last day wherever we are, trying to find the most unique map we can.  My favourite in our home is our map of Edinburgh.  It was an old postie’s map and you can still see the fold marks of this well used map.  When I stop and look at it, I’m often taken straight back to the holiday we had there with two special friends and amazing seafood and beer!


Are there any international influences you are noticing right now? Any popular trends inspired by somewhere in the world?  

Lots and lots of steel framed doors!  I guess you would call it a french styling – plenty of brass and velvet and the bold use of a rich colour – teals or greens.  The great thing about social media is that you get to see what is happening around the world.  The bad thing about it can be a kind of homogenisation of the design industry.  I think its always important to look locally, be authentic about your context and respond directly to that, rather than replicate a trend.  We recently completed a luxe hair salon which blended local recycled timber and local crafts, with a lightly Parisian kind of opulence and styling – so I’m not saying don’t look or be inspired by what you see, but we try to always tie it back to something that speaks to its context.


What’s your favourite thing about being an architect in Australia?  

Australia has a really rich history of climatically and contextually excellent architecture.  As an architect in Australia, you have such solid examples to draw on, of buildings that improve our lived experience.  We live in homes without corridors, with minimal interior walls, with broad openings between the inside and outside – homes that breathe.  I think we take this unique living condition for granted.  This is a way of life that has been forged by architects who revolted against tradition and designed for this climate.  It is a pleasure to be able to continue that tradition, but to continue to push the boundaries on how we live.


If you could be an architect any where in the world tomorrow – where and why?  

I think when I first landed in the Netherlands, I felt like I was home.  I really loved their public buildings, the beauty and form and order in their designs.  I love the way they cycle everywhere – there seems to be a real understanding that the built environment serves the people and the community, so they invest in it.   


Whats the craziest thing a client has included in their brief that’s been inspired by travel?

Most clients have some odd artwork that we find a special spot for in their new or renovated home.  There’s nothing crazy anyone has ever asked for, but I have often had clients talk about their experiences with Japanese architecture and want some elements of this replicated in their space.  Often this is about formality of rooms, or the scale of the spaces.  Sometimes its been to incorporate shoji screens into the design.   I think its a testament to the exceptional nature of Japanese architecture that so many people are inspired by it.  I’m heading to Tokyo and Kyoto in May and can’t wait to experience it first hand!


Favourite place and why?  

Two places!  I recently spent some time in the Canary Islands and fell in love with their use of colour.  Stunning pastels and complimentary colour schemes that jumped off the volcanic landscape and rich blue skies.  I can’t wait to find a project that can reference the colours I saw there.  Secondly, I spent a little time in Helsinki and absolutely loved the city and the great modern architecture.  But we also spent a day in the woods and I think it was one of the most beautiful, relaxing days I have ever had.  The people there are really generous and lovely as well.

Travelling for inspiration? We can capture the moment.