Hare + Klein
It’s no secret there’s something about Meryl Hare and those lucky enough to be in her orbit notice it immediately. She has a charisma that resonates, a warmth that envelopes and a humility that’s admirable. Her genuine excitement in what she does is contagious and her care for those she works with and designs for is palpable. Unsurprisingly, Hare is one of Australia’s most renowned interior designers, having especially made her mark designing some of the country’s best residential designs.
Born in South Africa and raised in Zambia and Swaziland, Hare was a graphic designer when friends started asking her to help them decorate their homes. “I realised I was in the wrong profession,” she openly admits. Following her heart, she decided to undertake some extra qualifications and then started practising interior design full-time. “As a twentysomething, I was incredibly optimistic, although it was a steep learning curve,” Hare says. “With young children, I was doing the balancing act. But I had always wanted to transform interiors not just adorn them.”
Hare was in her thirties when she migrated to Australia in 1988 and the following year established Hare + Klein. Now based in Sydney, she celebrates the way Australian architecture and design has come of age in the past two decades. Her contribution is a portfolio of beautiful interiors that are cohesive and harmonious; an elegantly resolved fusion of luxury and down-to-earth comfort. Each project exhibits a meticulous attention to detail, sensitive response to place and richly layered material and colour palette. And not to mention her unfailingly signature client-centric approach.
As Hare explains, “The most important opinion about Hare + Klein’s work belongs to the clients who live in the spaces we create for them. We like to take them beyond the brief and always make sure they’re heard and understood so we can help them realise their vision for a unique home.” Hare doesn’t have a favourite project and instead considers her greatest achievement to be her body of work, which includes the textured, fresh modernism of The Old Dairy and understated charm of Dover Heights House, as well as the austere stylings of Woolwich House and refined chic of Cloud Apartment.
Many of Hare + Klein’s projects have been shortlisted in national awards and a lot have deservedly won. Hare herself has received extensive industry recognition, most notably a citation for services to the design industry and being inducted into the Design Institute of Australia’s Hall of Fame in 2011 and the Australian House & Garden Hall of Fame in 2018. She is characteristically modest about such accolades, but counts them as significant milestones in her career, along with the publication of two books (Texture Colour Comfort, 2014, and Interior, 2020) on the practice’s work and rug collections handmade in Nepal and launched with Designer Rugs.
Ask Hare what she admires most and the answer is longevity in design. She thinks Patricia Urquiola is producing work that will be relevant for many years to come and likes Antonio Citterio for his humility and recognition that his work is first and foremost about a collaboration with makers and manufacturers. It’s something that Hare herself acknowledges when undertaking her own practice’s product design projects. “And while I appreciate what’s happening right now, I also really admire the architects and designers whose works have stood the test of time,” she says. Of those, Gio Ponti is a favourite and so are the Scandinavian mid-century designers.
As much as she is inspired, she inspires, and there’s perhaps no greater evidence of that than within the Hare + Klein studio. Hare makes it a priority to nurture a supportive, caring environment, where everybody’s achievements are celebrated and everyone lends a hand if someone is struggling. A great camaraderie exists amongst the team, which currently stands at 14 people, and she sees her role as that of a mentor, having trained many designers over the years. Passing on her values is certainly Hare’s greatest legacy, as is working towards enriching people’s lives through design. She is an example of commitment and grace, at a time when things seem to be particularly fleeting.
When she’s not at work, Hare loves travelling and has recently been cycling around Australia. In fact, she’s travelled all over the world with her bicycles – Cuba was the most fascinating and she’s been to India twice, as well as Vietnam and different parts of Europe, including Portugal, Croatia and France. It’s her passion and the experience of diverse cultures, art and architecture is what she finds most appealing.
There’s nothing Hare would do differently if given the chance to do it all again. And while her portfolio continues to be highly regarded, it’s also Hare’s distinctly generous, empathetic approach that will long be remembered. “When I look back at everything, it’s all about the people; those we’ve worked with for many years and the clients that return,” she says. “We’ve watched their families grow and watched their tastes change, seen them become collectors of art and become entwined in their lives. It’s been an amazing career.” One we can all aspire to.
Copy by Leanne Amodeo, featured in Indesign Magazine #84