Brisbane-based, award-winning interior designer John Croft received his first taste of success in design at the age of 19 after he purchased a house to renovate. He studied interior design at night school in Brisbane, which allowed him to work full time during the day to support himself and his mortgage. Despite his mild dyslexia, John excelled at his classes.
“I wasn’t especially academic but in my exams it was the first time that I came top of the class,” says John. “I initially did the course out of interest and went on to complete the second-year diploma. After graduating I went on to find employment in the industry.” Step by step John gained experience in the industry, starting off at a curtain store before moving on to Brisbane company Natura Design, at a time when pine furniture was all the rage. “The business was owned by Hans and Ruth Booy — they were really very generous people,” explains John. “They gave you the freedom to develop and were very supportive, nurturing, progressive and dynamic.” John attributes Hans and Ruth as being strong influences in his design career. “They were my mentors. They helped, nurtured and encouraged me as I had no experience.” After four years with Natura, John moved on to Sabian Interiors. It offered a very classic, traditional style, which was completely different to his previous workplace, expanding John’s industry knowledge. “The Sabian Interiors business was run perfectly. There was very little wastage, it was a whole different education. It was something I really wanted and needed experience in because it was a totally different look.” Originally, it was John’s goal to open his own interior design business by the age of 27. However, he achieved this a year early, starting John Croft Design from his Indooroopilly home at only 26 years old. A few years later he expanded by opening a small shop in Toowong.
The following month, the stock market crashed and suddenly starting a business was a lot more challenging, but John persevered. “I persevered bit by bit. Then I bought my first building in Spring Hill, Brisbane, in 1987, which was double the size of my previous shop,” he says. This is when John’s reputation began to really grow and as his design skills and name became recognised, John’s business flourished. In 1999, he bought a much larger premises in Fortitude Valley, where the company is still based today with 10 experienced and professionally trained staff, including six interior designers. Famous British interior decorator and designer David Hicks has strongly influenced John. David is known for his employment of bold, shockingly vibrant colours, for mixing antique and modern furnishings and contemporary art for his famous clientele. “I was fascinated by his work,” says John. “He worked on big projects, such as for the royal family. He mixed mostly contemporary patterns with traditional furniture; it was a very eclectic look.” As a member of the Design Institute of Australia, John describes his style as “dynamic, exciting, not in a box and, most important, fun”! John’s projects are a demonstration of his passion for bright colours, which create excitement in any interior. “Even if we do traditional interiors there’s always a zing, something that makes our clients a little excited. Even if they have formal rooms, there is still a friendly, welcoming feel. I think colour is coming back in classic furnishings. The retro/classic combo is here, with fun. We need it; everyone needs a little excitement in their lives.”