It all started with a handmade lampshade for a friend and then another, followed by another. For a while, Tamara Watts was a visual merchandiser by day and a lamp designer by night. But before long, she left her role at Country Road and in 2009, started Retro Print Revival, a homewares brand that specialises in European Modernist-inspired lamps, planters and vases.
European Modernism includes a wide range of experimental trends that characterised the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th. Tamara’s love for it is evident in her bold and fun creations, evoking the peace, love and music of Mid Century Modernism. “It’s the simple lines, the warm timber, the craftsmanship, and most importantly the beauty and function at the same time,” Tamara says.
This love is also reflected in Tamara’s own personal aesthetic and home. “For those that know me, they know that I live and breathe the style of my brand. It’s not about a trend for me, I have always (and hopefully will always) appreciate the bygone era of the 60s-to-80s. My own home is like stepping back into a time-warp, filled with Mid Century furniture and decor, exposed brick, slate floors, wall hangings, and lots of warm, earthy tones.”
Her creative process is similarly inspired by the things she sees and observes as a freelance stylist and visual merchandiser, constantly saving images of all sorts of objects, textures, images of interiors and colour combinations. Her mix of materials and textures result in simple and beautiful creations that emphasises her pure design approach. “I just design what I love – I’m grateful that other people love it too.”
Supporting Australian production and local manufacturers remains at the heart of Retro Print Revival’s ethos. Since day one, using local suppliers has been at the forefront of Tamara’s business. “Not only does it minimise our environmental impact, but it supports other local creators and businesses. It means the people that buy a RPR product can know they are not just supporting me, but seven other Australian businesses. The pieces are of high quality. I look over every single component and make sure it’s made to the best standard, ensuring they’ll be in homes for many years to come.”
With the explosive popularity of houseplants recently, Tamara says there’s also been an increased demand for planters “Beyond the health benefits of indoor plants, such as reducing stress, and filtering air, it’s refreshing having plants in your home. You can’t go past a great planter housing your favourite houseplant, it’s like giving them their own home.”
And when it comes to lamps, she says their role as decor in homes is sometimes overlooked, with the use and placement of your lighting playing a lead role in how you feel. “I’m a big fan of moving lamps around from time to time to create a whole new look. Remember lamps aren’t just there to look pretty, they’re another light source and can add a sense of warmth and ambience with the flick of a switch.”
Retro Print Revival release a new range yearly, generally consisting of one or two lamp designs, as well as new fabrics and planters. This year, Tamara is exploring the design of a pendant light but her current favourite piece, the Athena lamp, was released last year and named after her third niece! “I love the unique shape and earthy glazes. I had an accidental surprise recently where my ceramicist glazed some in black by accident, and they have proven to be really popular, so I will now be keeping the Athenas in matte black as part of the range.”