Style Council Spotlight: Mr Nick Tobias
View from Lavender Bay House of Sydney Harbour, photograph by Mr Justin Alexander, courtesy of Tobias Partners. Inset: Mr Nick Tobias, photograph by Mr Tony Amos
Not many men can lay claim to this, but Mr Nick Tobias has been on MR PORTER’s Style Council since its inception. Sydney-born and bred, Mr Tobias founded Tobias Partners nearly 22 years ago and has long been regarded as one of the most well-renowned architects and interior designers in Australia.
Cruise along Sydney’s iconic coastline and you’ll spot several examples of Mr Tobias’ work. His specialty is amazing, highly bespoke houses that reflect Australia’s rugged outdoor lifestyle. Mr Tobias loves to use locally sourced natural stone and timber and all his projects proudly acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which they are built. He is also a board member of the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA), and has a passion for local and contemporary art that represents the diverse culture and history of Australia.
As part of this Style Council Spotlight series, we spoke to Mr Tobias about living and working by Sydney’s iconic Bondi Beach and how the Australian way of life has his work as an architect, as well some fatherly style advice. (And, if you still haven’t taken a moment to check out MR PORTER’s Style Council, you can do so right here. It’s packed full of global recommendations, just like the ones Mr Tobias shares below.)
How would you describe Australian architecture?
Australia, by its nature, is so culturally diverse and people want to really connect with the Australian lifestyle and really connect with the Australian temperate climate, and feel that in their architecture all day, every day. So, our houses are generally really robust and in Sydney especially you can come off the beach and cruise around in bare feet.
Does that extend into artwork, too?
I’m on the board of the MCA, which only collects the work of living Australian artists. We’re a young country, and so contemporary art has a big place in helping us and our connection with the First Nations people and indigenous culture has been on an amazing, exponential trajectory. Artists like Bowja Patricia Butt, a tiny indigenous woman who has painted this massive intricate piece of work about 12 metres long, which is all about her channelling what's happening in nature. I’ve witnessed her lying on the ground and painting this work in the desert. She’s incredible.
What are some of your favourite buildings in Sydney?
In the last 10 years, there’s been a boom of amazing buildings. There’s a building down at Barangaroo that’s Sydney’s biggest CLT [cross-laminated timber construction] building. Judith Neilson is this big philanthropist and she’s built this gallery in Chippendale. It’s a multimedia sort of art centre and it’s incredible. And even some of our public buildings – especially swimming pools – are amazing. There’s this new one in Green Square called Gunyama Park.
How would you describe Aussie style?
What can be quite sexy about the Australian stereotype is the slightly more ruggedly elegant man. We’re a very outdoorsy country and are pretty engaged with nature, so when I think of iconic Aussie men’s style, it’s got a roughness to it.
How do you dress for work?
It’s funny because, 10 years ago, style was something that commanded a lot more of my attention. But I think my style’s improved because I care less. Things that last a long time and have a quality to them are important to me, and what dovetails in with that is that I love simplicity. I don’t like trends and fads. Whether it’s in clothes, furniture, architecture, whatever it is, I’m always looking for simplicity, authenticity, timelessness and durability, which is sustainability in a lot of ways. For example, I will buy a good shirt and I will wear it till it literally just falls off my back. That, to me, is a sign of a good fashion choice.
What are some of your favourite places for food and drink in Sydney?
My favourite restaurant is Barbetta, where I always order the risotto al mare. For drinks I like to go to The Island, they’ve got the best view in town.
The Island, Sydney, Australia. Photograph courtesy of The Island
What are your go-to brands?
As life has gone on, I’ve relied more heavily on my go-tos. I pretty much live in Acne Studios jeans. I have a stack of Sunspel T-shirts, which I just love. The colours, the type of fabric and the cut are all awesome. And I basically have a set of shirts that I get made for me by a local tailor here, P. Johnson. Every year, I go and order another five shirts, and I just tweak the colour and the cuff, and this or that just a little bit. I can wear his shirts with a suit and tie, with a pair of jeans and trainers, or as it gets older over a pair of board shorts to the beach.
What about your footwear of choice?
I have a beautiful pair of R.M.Williams boots that I really like, and I’ve got a pair of black, nearly school-looking SAINT LAURENT trainers, which look great as an architect running around building sites and all that type of stuff. And I have a great pair of brown John Lobb monk-strap shoes that are scuffed and just look so much better because they're older.
Do you impart any style advice on your kids?
I very quickly realised rule number one: pushing your children to do anything is a failed experiment, whether it’s fashion, sport or a musical instrument. We are all born with our own identity, and it ties into style and architecture and furniture and art, all these things.
Mr Nick Tobias’ Style Recommendations
Sydney-based interior designer and architect Mr Nick Tobias is an award-winning creative who has worked in the industry for more than 25 years. Mr Tobias specialises in bespoke residential properties, many of which are dotted along Sydney’s iconic coastline.
Everyone is born with an absolutely unique blueprint of DNA and your style is locked up in that.
When in doubt, go for the simplest, plainest thing and you’re much less likely to make a mistake.
I don’t wear suits a lot, so I love to invest in them and keep them for the next 20, 30 years. I’ve got great suits by Dior or Louis Vuitton, Prada.
I bought a Panerai on a rubber strap about 13 years ago when they relaunched and used to wear it every day – but then the past two years, I got an Apple watch so the kids can ring me when I’m out windsurfing or kiteboarding or something. I’m kind of done with it.
A lot of saltwater. I’ve been using a Sodashi face cleanser and a moisturiser for years. Christophe Robin does this sea salt hair scrub when you really need to exfoliate your scalp, which is just epic.
I love Aspesi as a brand. Their simple stuff is great.