Contestants on the very first series of The Block a decade ago, Gavin Atkins and Warren Sonin, otherwise known as Gav and Waz (and The Designer Boys), have come a long way. And despite moving to Byron to enjoy a simpler life, they’ve never been busier.
Still working as interior designers for private clients, in the last 4 years, it is their wholesale art business, Designer Boys Collections, that has really taken off.
‘’We had always been successful at buying, renovating and selling properties together in Sydney and then we were selected for The Block in 2003 and it literally changed our lives forever,” said Gavin “The executive producers obviously realised that we had a talent for interior decorating and renovation and that we had (and still have) a very solid relationship.’’
Realising the opportunity to capitalise on their popularity, the first same-sex couple to appear on Australian reality TV started their business, Designer Boys, as soon as the show wrapped up. Initially, they focused on styling properties for sale, racking up more than 750 properties in less than 3 years! “The hands-on experience we garnered was just what we needed to take the business to the next level, where we focused largely on interior design and decoration for commercial and private projects.’’
In 2007, after a very full-on few years, they took another leap of faith and moved from Sydney to a 120 year-old farm on 60 acres in the Byron Bay hinterland. “We realised that we wanted to enjoy a more balanced, carefree lifestyle and to have a greater connection to nature,” says Gavin. “Now we are very settled with our Jack Russell Charlie and our 30 cows! We’ve realised that living a simple life makes us happy. Have we achieved this so far? Absolutely not! We both think we work harder than ever to make our simple life in Byron work!’’
Inspired by their own experience and finding that most of the artworks available to interior designers were mass produced, Gavin & Warren started their art business 4 years ago, to offer something unique and beautiful. ‘‘The trend towards using the natural aesthetic and textures in design will continue to move from strength to strength. As the world gets busier, as more people move to the city, people will increasingly yearn for beautiful products that are recycled, made from natural materials, are hand crafted and have beautiful texture,” Gavin says.
“The new luxury is all about product that it beautifully hand crafted, has soul, meaning and nothing to do with price or the label.’’ It’s certainly proving to be true, with many of the country’s top designers using their beautifully framed work in homes, hotels and resorts.
During the last year, the boys have travelled to some of the world’s most populated and isolated places. “We’ve photographed and sketched along the way with a mission to create a travelogue of objects of desire, drawing on the striking colours, exquisite textures and natural beauty around us. We have worked with the most talented craftspeople to bring our creative designs to life. Our collective objective is to work in an environment where creativity remains supreme and our love of natural beauty is honored in our artworks.”
Despite life not being as quiet as they’d hoped, Gav and Waz have no plans to sit still just yet and continue to work on both the wholesale art business and the interior design business. “We’re currently in negotiations with one of the biggest homeware brands in the US to develop an exclusive Designer Boys range for them, so that’s very exciting! Ultimately, we would like to have distributors in the US and Europe. However, we’re very mindful to build our business slowly to ensure we remain authentic and never get too big for our boots.’’
And with that humble attitude, shared passion and a strong relationship as a couple as well as business partners, they can’t really go wrong!