Miriam Fanning of Mim Design | The Unparalleled Series
South Yarra, VIC, Australia

Ashley Gladwish

Lillie Thompson & Shannon McGrath

With a lust for unconventional, cross-disciplinary projects, Miriam Fanning, the founding director of Mim Design, states that the day she stops being inspired will be the day she stops practicing. With over twenty years as an interior designer, Miriam tells me about how she came to create her own practice and what she loves most about how it has unfolded.

Infatuated with visual formations and three-dimensional objects, Miriam scribbles endlessly while we speak on the phone.  “Interior design is like being a sculptor,” she says, “you utilise a mix of variables to create a purposeful environment.  Looking back now, not getting into graphic design was probably the best thing that could have happened.  I don’t think my admiration for spacial environments, proportions and shapes would have come through if I was working in branding and communication.”

Previously an associate director at an architecture firm in Melbourne, Miriam left with great hesitation before giving birth to her first child.  “At that stage a lot of women weren’t re-entering the industry after maternity leave.  I thought I could have more flexibility by working as an independent consultant picking up small projects. I didn’t envision juggling a pram in the office.”  Within her first two weeks Miram had two years’ worth of work.  Seventeen years later, Miriam now has a staff of twenty-five, including four architects and four directors.

JCB Residence – The complete rebuild of a Brighton Edwardian 1930’s home was a terrific collaboration between Mim Design and architecture firm, Nixon Tulloch Fortey. Photographed by Shannon McGrath.

“Our focus is to inspire our clients with a finished project that goes beyond their expectations. Our philosophy is to produce unique and individual design results that not only reflect our clients or their brand but enhances their lives.” – Miriam Fanning.

Accompanying a portfolio of residential, workplace, hospitality, exterior, hotel and retail, Mim Design has taken on seventeen new build projects this year, furthering their reputation of diversity within the field.  “I think the strongest minds in design come from taking on projects that are outside the box, the projects that aid new knowledge and optimise challenge.”  Inspired by designers who see different things visually, Miriam tells me that she looks for two things when hiring: emotional intelligence and people who love and live design.  “It’s fundamental for designers to utilise their own experiences in creating concepts.  When a new project comes on board ideas are workshopped in a team and the key designer presents the philosophy and planning.  It’s a process that requires the designer to articulate the boundaries of why their idea would add value, aligning with our philosophy: design for reason.”

Good design however, comes from something much more, Mim tells me.  “Design mandates a discerning degree of awareness and understanding of how a client lives their life or how their business operates spatially.  A timeless space can mean very little if it doesn’t utilise what a client places fundamental importance on.  Questions about their children, the time they get home and how they start their day aren’t as irrelevant as they may seem.”  Ultimately built for a client, Mim states that the process is about understanding the intended narrative so the team can build to maximise potential.

Growing up in a 1940’s cream brick veneer home at the top of a very steep hill, Miriam was always visually inclined as a child but was more often than not climbing trees or riding her bike.  With a long-standing admiration for animals, she idolised veterinary school for a time but decided her desire for creativity overrode her level of interest in mathematics. Having restored a 130-year-old Victorian house in Elsternwick, Miriam tells that her favourite part of her home is the central hallway for its 4-meter tall ceilings that make it feel like a gallery. Not far from Port Philip Bay, Miriam admires the tree-lined streets and the village-like feel to her neighbourhood.

Citing her relationships with clients as what she values most from of her work, Miriam feels lucky to be able to create spaces that nurture and improve the day to day lives of those that invest trust in her and the studio. Admiring the connection that two people conversing can share, Miriam believes design pulls people together and that the connection is one that is truly founded in creativity.

Photographed by Lillie Thompson, Sharyn Cairns & Shannon McGrath.

MAH Residence – From the front entry, leading through to the lounge with its elegantly curved fireplace, the space feels soft and warm. Photographed by Shannon McGrath.

Miriam Fanning of Mim Design, an award-winning Melbourne-based practice known for its creativity, high end finishes and attention to detail. Photographed by Lillie Thompson.

MAH Residence – Light streams through the windows, and natural elements such as smoked oak floors, elegant grey marble, and black stained timber, create a muted sense of luxury. Photographed by Shannon McGrath.

JCB Residence – The complete rebuild of a Brighton Edwardian 1930’s home in collaboration with architecture firm Nixon Tulloch Fortey. Photographed by Shannon McGrath.

REL Residence by Mim Design. Photographed by Sharyn Cairns.

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