Jeremy Bull has early memories of telling his mother that he wanted to be “paid to draw,” but the successful principal of architecture and interior design firm Alexander &CO, based in Sydney, says everything else in his career has been something of a surprise, as our interview reveals.
When did you realize you were interested in architecture and design?
I was interested in design very loosely from fairly early on. I used to draw as a child and have always been most comfortable by myself with a pen. [A love of] architecture came a lot later, probably the last year of my architecture degree, by accident—and in the nick of time.
Where are you from and what was your home like growing up?
I was born in Saudi Arabia to ex-pat parents, then later I lived in North Shore, Sydney. We spent a lot of spare time in the desert in Saudi and the rest playing in the various compounds in and around Riyadh. North Shore was a lovely suburban community. Home was mostly mum and my three siblings just conjuring up our own entertainment. Before computers and screens that’s just what you did!
When did you form Alexander &CO. and why is it called that?
In January 2013. Alexander is an old family name, my own middle name, and the name of one of my sons. The name seemed to have a special value, while it didn’t exactly “belong” to me. I like the idea that you can carry a name on behalf of a bigger journey. I hope that it can be passed on and that Alexander &CO. will outlast me.
You’re a one-stop shop—you do architecture, interior design, and even furniture and lighting…
I am a trained architect but have practiced simultaneously in interiors for most of my career. Learning to manufacture furniture and lighting came naturally to finish off this equation: our interest always being to tell a complete story and have the skills to do so. Likewise, the practice traverses residential, commercial, retail, hospitality, and so on. I always wanted to be able to say yes if the client’s creative mission fitted with ours, regardless of discipline or sector. Our positioning has always been highly crafted, highly detailed, handmade, and timeless. The rest is detail.
How do people find you and how do you approach a commission?
Tess, our marketing director (and my partner), produces beautiful images from our projects. I think this is a large part of how people find us. She has worked in PR and marketing for luxury goods and fashion for more than 20 years, knows the local and international markets, and has focused on building our social media platforms as well as using her extensive network and skills to tell beautiful stories in the media.
Our positioning has always been highly crafted, highly detailed, handmade, and timeless. The rest is detail
A lot of our work is also through word of mouth, although nowadays we work to a large degree with our repeat clients. Like all new relationships, we approach them judiciously. Excellent clients are critical to our business and our creative vision. We limit the new projects that we bring in to only those that we can generate genuine value for, with clients who love us for what we do and believe.
What questions do you ask a prospective client?
“What is your ambition for the project and what do you need from this partnership?”
Finding the spirit and truth of each place through craftsmanship, innovation, and timelessness is at the core of everything we do
Which of your projects are you most proud of?
The long-term relationships that stand up to the pressures of life. These are the best projects. Partner, children, team, and wonderful clients.
How would you describe the Alexander &CO. “look”?
We get asked this a lot, but we don’t have a “look” as such. It is always client and project-specific. Overall, our work is generous and authentic. Finding the spirit and truth of each place through craftsmanship, innovation, and timelessness is at the core of everything we do.
Tell us about your current projects?
Very varied, but our usual split. Many houses within and around Sydney, a handful of fashion retail, and plenty of restaurants, venues, and commercial masterplans. A lovely and challenging collection of new stories.
How is technology changing how you work?
Communication has sped up; in fact, everything has sped up. There is data for anything and information everywhere. We have tools to produce better images and anything can be done from anywhere. The fountain pen is becoming a foreign object, but I still believe it is the most effective tool.
If you could live in any building anywhere, where would you choose and why?
A shearer’s shed in Tasmania, Australia. Beautiful, worn utility in one of the most beautiful places on earth. What could be better?
What is your own home like now?
Very personal and lived in. We have four sons, so our home is a machine. It is filled with the quirks of ideas that could never get to another client’s project. It is a petri dish of ideas.
How would you describe your personal style?
My uniform is boots, jeans, and a T-shirt. Quality and simplicity are key.
What do you always carry with you?
My Lamy fountain pen.
What does “home” mean to you?
Mostly noise and cleaning. Followed by infinite love.
What do you love about Sydney?
Sydney is a truly remarkable town. There is still so much work to do to fix what’s broken; our environment, our relationships, our indigenous culture, but I love this place.
Banner image: Burleigh Pavilion, Queensland.