Getting Lost in the Space with Danae Moodley

By The Apartment


Beautiful interiors are something we often take for granted, whether than be restaurants, retail stores, holiday homes or offices. As a Spatial Designer, Danae Moodley works closes with Architects to help shape the space. When she’s not busy doing that, she’s exploring local cafe’s and taking photos for her blog.


What is spatial design and how did you discover it was your passion?

Spatial Design is the study of spaces and how interactions occur within those spaces. As a Spatial Designer, I work with Architects creating dynamic and practical spaces. I didn’t discover it as my passion until after I left university and started working in the real world. Since I was about 12 years old I wanted to be an interior designer, so I went into my degree of Spatial Design, thinking I’d come out as an interior designer.

However I found out that there is so much more to Design than wall colours and cushions that I want to be involved with. I don’t remember what exactly drew me to spatial design, but I remember looking through my camera lense and imagining how that space would photograph better if there were just a few changes. Later in highschool I took a CADD course and LOVED it.

Being a spatial designer it seems you collaborate a lot with architects. What is the relationship between you like?

Architects are fantastic at being visionaries and dreamers. They see beyond what the standard person sees. As a novice Spatial Designer, it’s my job to help their visions become realities. The line between what the Architects and what the Spatial Designers do is very fine in small firms. Rolls are blended evenly among the team, so it is beneficial to small firms to have a range of different people with different design backgrounds. Architects also have profound building knowledge; they know the ins-and-outs of the “how to’s” in building, it’s something to aspire towards as a Designer. At the end of the day, I work with architects to create beautiful spaces.

From Danae’ Portfolio

Your blog (which is gorgeous by the way — beautiful photos!) covers a lot of cafe interiors. Is cafes a space that you hold a particular interest in?

Yes! And thank you. I love cafes, bars and restaurants. To me, those places have the most unique and pure social interactions. Everyone has a favourite “spot” and I love to unravel what makes those places so special, and even more than just being special is what makes these places so successful! What has this place done differently that draws this certain crowd to it?

The materiality of cafes and bars/restaurants is also so separate to that of successfully activated homes and I think it’s the materials used in these social places that draws me to them. The moment I walk into a beautiful cafe, my heart feels instant peace and I just want to spend the whole day exploring each angle within the cafe and tucking it away in my memory bank, awaiting the day I get to design such a space.

One of Danae’s many cafe shots

You seem to have such a natural talent for photography. How!

Thanks! I think it started with my mom, in my small town in Canada of 5,000 people. There wasn’t a lot of organised things to do, so I picked up the camera my mom was given through work and would just start photographing everything with her. I even won a few local contests. We worked on our skills together then I took some classes in highschool and have been hooked ever since!

I’m not so great at the technical knowledge of photography, but I know my strengths lie in the composition and lighting of shots, it all just takes practice. It accompanies my design practice so well in the respects that a lot of the primary aspects are similar — composition (how to compose a space), lighting (how to get natural and unnatural light elements to work together), etc. For creatives working within the creative fields, it’s important to have outlets that are separate from their work and for me that is photography.

Pop up cafe in Wellington

What advice would you have for someone thinking about getting into interior or spatial design?

Really think about it. It is a tough field to be in job-wise. I found myself explaining what my degree is in a lot of the interviews I’ve had! It’s a new field, but it is an exciting field. If you enjoy making spaces look stunning, then follow an interiors degree, but if you want to have more knowledge and understanding of how to make a space successful then chase after Spatial Design and make it your passion. Passion is so key to this industry. You have to stay on top of the latest trends, materials and designers (hence why I started my design blog). You also have to have the drive to keep pushing through the people who are unsure of what you bring to the table. You need to show people what you can do and own it.

Where is your absolute favourite place to have a coffee?

Oh man, that’s a toughy! The best for coffee would definitely be Prefab in Wellington. I’ve rarely have a bad coffee there and they roast their own beans, so it’s always fresh and delicious! In terms of atmosphere and just purely stunning environment, downtown Auckland in Britomart there’s a space called the Pavillion and it’s got 3 or 4 different cafes and restaurants all designed by Cheshire Architects — they flow together perfectly. On my last day in New Zealand, my husband and I spent the morning/early afternoon wandering through there. We want to design our home based on Ortolana (one of the cafes in the Pavillion). If you are ever in Auckland, it’s certainly top of the list to explore.

Danae is currently living in Brisbane with her husband and will soon be moving to Amsterdam to tackle Spatial Design in a European setting. You can follow Danae on Twitter or visit her Spatial Design blog for more.


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