Fostering design excellence

Garth Barnett

Pictured: Garth Barnett

UTS to carry on the legacy of a great designer

Acclaimed interior designer Garth Barnett was renowned for decorating some of Sydney’s best properties with an opulent fusion of neutral colours, Asian artefacts, fine antiques and contemporary artworks. At UTS, he is also celebrated as a mentor who helped students embark on a career in architecture and design.

Following Barnett’s sudden passing in 2015, close friends established the Garth Barnett Scholarship Trust for UTS Design, Architecture and Building students facing educational barriers. An auction of items from his collection of prized artwork, furniture and objects was held, with proceeds donated to the trust.

“His experience working with students really highlighted to him how important a university education is,” says Barnett’s friend and colleague, Jean Wright, who believes the gesture is a way to honour his memory and give disadvantaged students the opportunity to study.

"The experience of mentoring and supporting UTS students had a lasting impact on Barnett.”

The trust grants six annual scholarships with a total value of $108,000 for eligible students enrolling in an Interior and Spatial Design or Architecture degree. Additionally, a Garth Barnett Prize for Excellence in Design awards a $20,000 first prize and two $2,500 runner-up prizes for students with an exemplary portfolio of interior design work. A further $7,500 was given for outstanding work by three other finalists in the inaugural competition.

A sense of style

Despite not having formal training, Barnett worked as a designer and decorator at Farmer & Co. department store in Sydney (the CBD site is now home to Myer) and moved on to stints at fabric houses before establishing Garth Barnett Designers in the late 1980s.

He is credited as being one of the first designers to introduce architectural detailing, such as carved wood paneling, stepped ceilings and recessed lighting to Sydney interiors. Associates recall he had a gift of making the ordinary look extraordinary. Barnett’s drive to try new things attracted talented people to work for him.

Interior designer and former UTS student Greg Natale began his career as a junior designer at Barnett’s studio in 1996. In a 2016 Vogue Living article, he said: “Garth had a flair for creating luxurious spaces. He was also good at creating a total environment, building up layers so that the whole place told a design story. From him, I learnt to create a mood or a sense of romance in a space.”

Nurturing future talent

The experience of mentoring and supporting UTS students had a lasting impact on Barnett. “Before his untimely death, Garth had employed some of our students who had really impressed him and also inspired him to become an education philanthropist,” says Professor Desley Luscombe of the Faculty of Design, Architecture and Building, who helped establish the trust. “He’s certainly one of DAB’s most generous financial benefactors.”

Professor Lawrence Wallen, Head of UTS Design, is heartened by the valuable support that “demonstrates how well regarded our students are across the design and architecture industries.” The legacy gift enables UTS to continue to nurture future talent, and promote excellence in design and the built environment.