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DESIGN Canberra: Nine highlights not to miss

HerCanberra Team

Not ‘into’ design? Sound a bit too high brow for you?

Whether you call it your aesthetic, your taste or just ‘that Scandi style I really like’, design touches all of our lives and whether we realise it or not, we are all curators. We curate our homes, our office desks, our bedrooms and our gardens to lift our moods, make us feel comfortable and express our personal style.

However, if we’re being honest, some of us are a little more curatorial and creative than others, and that’s what will be celebrated this month when DESIGN Canberra Festival 2017 takes over the city from 6-26 November.

Now in its fourth year, the festival’s aim is to shake off any preconceptions that might come with a phrase like ‘design festival’ and prove that design is accessible, all around us and that excellent design deserves to be celebrated. From sneaking a peek into some of Canberra’s coolest houses to seeing artists at work in their studios to pop up events that will make the city come to life, here’s what not to miss.


Tom Skeehan. Image supplied.

Tom Skeehan. Image supplied.

Ever wanted to own a ‘design piece’? A truly unique piece of work that you will love for years to come? Perhaps you’d just like to attend a really good party?

Sell Out: design auction party will celebrate the best of Canberra design and will launch the festival with an opening-weekend party. Music, food, and local wines, local brews and spirits, hosted at the historic Canberra Fitters Workshop, will kick off the festival with a bang.

Limited edition and one-off pieces from Canberra’s leading designers will be displayed on the night, highlighted by an experimental lighting design installation by Matt Adey of House of Vnholy, who have performed at Dark Mofo in Tasmania.

Almost all the works by established and emerging Canberra designers, artists and makers will be auctioned via online bidding, while Zoe Brand’s Sell Out disc pendant, made especially for the event, will be live auctioned on the night at the Fitters Workshop.

Participating designers and works include HerCanberra favourites Tom Skeehan and Alison Jackson as well as Christina Bricknell, Simon Cottrell, Kate Nixon and many more. Click here for the full list.

10 November | 8pm | The Fitters Workshop | 21 Wentworth Ave, Kingston | Cost: $10 online—$15 at door | BOOK | $10 online—$15 at door (first wine, beer or softdrink free)

The online auction opens the week before Sell Out, with bids closing between 9pm and 10pm on Friday 10 November, giving successful bidders the chance to take home a unique piece of handcrafted creative work on the night.


Harriet Schwarzrock Photographer: Madeline McGuigan

Harriet Schwarzrock Photographer: Madeline McGuigan

Canberra’s annual design market that showcases talent from Canberra and beyond is back for 2017.

Undercurrent Design Market is home to the handmade, the unique, the local and the perfect Christmas gift. Now approaching its eighth year, the blockbuster market encompassing ceramics, jewellery, clothing, paper craft and glass (to name a few) is back for another long weekend of shopping in the award-winning surrounds of the National Portrait Gallery.

24-26 November | Friday 5:00 pm—8:00 pm, Saturday10:00 am—5:00 pm and Sunday 10:00 am—5:00 pm | The National Portrait Gallery, Parkes | More information here


Photo: Adam McGrath H Creations

Photo: Adam McGrath H Creations

Object Subject will explore the way design speaks to us, and the way we speak about design. The inaugural national design writing conference will be held at Roy Grounds’ iconic 1959 Shine Dome as a signature DESIGN Canberra event. For the first time, designers, writers, critics, bloggers, researchers, collectors, makers, curators and design lovers will come together to explore the creative and important ways that writing has become essential to the future of design.

Featuring internationally acclaimed design critic Alice Rawsthorn (New York Times, Frieze magazines) and Dana Tomic Hughes, interior designer, curator and editor of Yellowtrace, one of the world’s most influential design blogs.

The conference will be followed by a Research Forum, presented in partnership with the University of Canberra on Saturday 11 November.

Find out more about the conference here.

10 November | The Shine Dome | 15 Gordon St, Acton | Cost: $120—$290 | BOOK



Canberra Modern was initially inspired by Palm Springs Modernism Week and spearheaded a small team of local heritage and design professionals. They hope to promote the appreciation and conservation of the unique mid-century modern places which make an irreplaceable contribution to Canberra’s unique historic urban and designed cultural landscape through fun and inspirational events such as walks, talks, a vintage market, a dinner and a martini masterclass that celebrate Canberra’s modernist soul.

7-16 November | Various locations across Canberra | Click here for more details


Image: O'Connor House by de Rome Architects

Image: O’Connor House by de Rome Architects

DESIGN Canberra 2016’s smash hit, Living Rooms lets you into real people’s homes to see how good home design influences their everyday life.

Yes, that means you can peek behind the front door of Canberra’s most elegantly designed houses. And not just peek either, but walk around and chat with the owners about their design choices.

12-26 November across a range of locations | Find more information here


Alison Jackson in her studio. Shot by Tim Bean Photography

Alison Jackson in her studio. Shot by Tim Bean Photography

If you loved the Makers Mark piece in our latest then you’ll love the change to stickybeak into Canberra artists’ studios while they work.

From metalwork to glassblowing, furniture making to ceramics, you’ll be able to see the master in action.

Various dates across a range of locations | Find all the Open Studios here



Mary Featherstone is an Interior Designer and was one of the inaugural inductees into the Design Institute of Australia Hall of Fame. Mary was the life and design partner of Grant Featherston which included collaborations with iconic Australian mid-century architects Robin Boyd and Roy Grounds.

Mary is also an influential and sometimes controversial designer of child-centred learning environments and is a Fellow of the Design Institute of Australia and a Senior Fellow, University of Melbourne. This is a chance like no other to hear from a design icon.

18 November | 3:30 pm—4:30 pm | National Portrait Gallery, King Edward Terrace, Parkes Cost: $20 | BOOK


Image: The Benjamin Residence or 'Round House' as the locals call it, designed by Alex Jelinek in 1956. Photo: Darren Bradley

Image: The Benjamin Residence or ‘Round House’ as the locals call it, designed by Alex Jelinek in 1956. Photo: Darren Bradley

With Canberra’s unique history as a ‘designed city’, it stands apart. The city was planned during the early 20th Century, at a time when people were embracing utopian ideas about community and humanity. A self-proclaimed “urban archaeologist”, photographer Darren Bradley has spent free time in Canberra seeking out the vestiges of the visionary designs that are the heart and soul of Canberra.

Read more about Darren Bradley here.

12 November | 4pm | EastSpace, 44/40 Queen Elizabeth Terrace, Parkes | Cost: Free


The Pop Inn.

The Pop Inn. Image: Supplied.

Canberra’s city centre comes alive with music by local acts at iconic mid-century sites, a series of large-scale graphic interventions, and an award-winning architectural pop-up wine bar, The Pop Inn. Featuring Peter Lyon and Endrey Band.

10 November | 4:30 pm—6:30 pm |  Shine Dome | Cost: Free

the essentials 

What: DESIGN Canberra 2017
When: 6-26 November
Where: Hundreds of locations across Canberra
More information: designcanberrafestival.com.au

Feature image: Alison Jackson’s studio by Tim Bean Photography


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