It took something as simple as a school quiz for Brett Mickan to realize his love of interior design, and for more than 20 years he has taken his passion and love for it and turned it into an award-winning career.
Brett, the leader of Brett Mickan Interior Design, works to create spaces that are aesthetically extraordinary, but at the same time don’t sacrifice functionality, livability or originality. He’s worked across the spectrum in terms of design, including in film and theatre, as well as in the design of yachts, and both commercial and residential properties.
Brett loves integrating contrasting colours, and contemporary and vintage pieces and also finding one-of-a-kind elements such as vintage rugs that tell a story within a room. We sat down with him to uncover more about what inspires him when he takes on a project.
1. When did you first decide to become an interior designer and how did you get started with your design business?
In my final year of high school we were required to go to a guidance councillor and fill out a survey to establish a profession we were suited to. The results of the survey said I should be an Interior Designer.
At that time I was not sure what an Interior Designer was, so I read a job description and thought, Yes , that is exactly what I want to do. Seemed to fit like a glove.
My first jobs where for family friends, then there friends and so on.
2. What do you think is the main difference between your Australian and American clients and their design expectations?
Americans are very proud people and have the confidence to imagine and commission homes that reflect there individuality. That love of having something nobody else has.
When I first moved back to Australia it was a process to find such clients. Australians have the tendency to want you to create a look they have seen. I now have the luxury of finding brave clients, that with some confident coaching, can be guided to create interiors that reflect the best of them.
3. What is the most challenging part of your job?
Unfortunately our projects don’t get installed in one day, like a makeover show and most often the clients will be there as the spaces develop. I guide the client through change and help them understand that design is a balance of elements. Not until the design is complete do all the elements feel like they sit naturally within the space.
I have had more than one client tell me they did not like the paint colour when it first goes up, especially if it is a deep tone. It is my job to ensure them that I hear their concern, explain that this is the first layer and how it will work with the other elements and then tell them to trust me and wait until its finished.
4. Is there an interior design style you favour and do you have your own design aesthetic?
I like to think I appreciate good design in all its forms. I think it is important to read as many mags as possible, see a diverse range of movies, spend time listening and socialising with creative people and travel extensively. This knowledge then provides me great resources to draw from when developing design concepts.
I have been told by some people that they can recognise my work, so I guess there is some consistency. I do favour the use of colour and the energy that clashing colours introduce to a space. I love the clean forms and craftsmanship of mid century design. I do strive to make an interior feel like a collection of elements that talk about the clients and the architecture that somehow sit harmoniously together.
5. Who are other interior designers you admire?
I do love the theatricality and use of colour of classic American designers like Sister Parish, David Nightingale Hicks and Dorothy Draper. I love the mastery of Christian Liaigre to seamlessly create individual project relevant languages in each of his projects. I love the energy and theatricality of work by Miles Redd and am inspired by the layered and innovative use of colour by David Flack.
6. What inspires you?
I'm inspired by design combinations I have not seen before, creative use of colour and conversations with creative people.
7. What do you think is the essential piece of furniture we should all have in our bedroom?
It may be far too obvious, but in my opinion all that is essential in a bedroom is a quality mattress, luxurious pillows, great linens and the ability to control sound and light.
8. What key element do we all need for a chic living room?
Dimmers and a beautiful vintage rug to ground the setting. After 25, let's face it, we all need a little help from the lighting, so the ability to dim the lights and create a focused area is vital. I love the history, texture and colour that come from beautiful vintage rugs. A great rug can make unmatched parts feel like a whole and bring both luxury and imperfection, necessary for any inviting chic living room.
9. Do you have a favourite project or story behind a project?
I am very lucky to have worked on many beautiful homes, so a favourite is hard to choose. I do have a story. A friend of a client, knowing she had been agonising over how to create her interior, spotted a living room on social media that he thought spoke volumes about her. He forwarded it to her stating, ”saw this pic on line, think it would be a perfect space for you.” My client happily replied, “That is my living Room”.
Having won numerous awards both in the U.S. during his time working in Miami, as well as Australia, Brett’s work has also found its way to the pages of Vogue Living, House & Garden, and Home Beautiful, among others.
He continues to seek out bold clients who are excited by the energy of his designs, and when he’s not crafting showpiece rooms, he’s traveling, spending time with his partner, and reveling in dinner parties with friends.
Let's Get Personal .....
1. What else are you passionate about besides your work?
My partner Nick and travel.
2. What is your most treasured belonging?
Last year I commissioned a custom steel dining table for our new home. A 6mm steel top with the warm touch of the beautiful timber veneer has the illusion of floating. It is built in 2 pieces, on gold powder coated steel drums, so with a simple turn it converts from dining for 12 to 14. Designed to gather friends and induce conversation so it already has many great memories.
3. What's one thing people may not know about you?
That I have a design degree from NIDA in Set and Costume design. Definitely an influence on my use of colour, lighting and the power of setting a scene.
4. In 10 years I'd like to be ....
Working on beautiful homes in Australia and the US.
5. What can't you live without?
Dinner parties with friends. We work in what can be a superficial industry, so honesty and humour are vital.