iscd Students and Merino Homes ‘Rebuild Down Under’

Posted by Emma Woodward on April 6


Recently three iscd interior design students (now graduates) were named as finalists in the Merino Homes Rebuild Down Under Design Competition. It’s always exciting to not only see our students honing their creative talents, but to watch as they become further involved in the design world. By partnering with fantastic Australian companies such as Merino Homes, we ensure our students can make the connections that they need to confidently pursue careers in interior design.  

The Merino Homes Rebuild Down Under initiative was originally envisioned as a response to help those devastated by the Black Summer fires. Now, the team at Merino Homes have partnered with companies Australia-wide to offer access to complimentary architectural plans, interior design layouts and briefs to those struggling with the after-effects of bushfires, floods and the devastation of COVID-19

iscd student Gonia Chylinksa edsign entry for Rebuild Down Under
Concepts by Gonia Chylinska


Our iscd students were keen to become involved with this worthwhile project, and after preparing concepts for each of the three Rebuild Down Under styles, the finalists were asked to each focus on a different style for Merino Homes, from ‘Modern Coastal’ to ‘Shed Movement’ to ‘Old Meets New’. 

We spoke to the three graduates about their experiences – Gonia Chylinska who now runs her own design studio, Atelier, Lynda MacRae, now a designer with eKitchens and Sarah Mangeruga of Sunday Studios. 


Congratulations on being named as a finalist in the Merino Homes Rebuild Down Under Design Competition! Can you tell us a bit about your entry and the process you went through to develop it?


Sarah Mangeruga: Thank you! This is a wonderful opportunity. 

My entry was for the ‘Modern Coastal’ style, I aimed for the concept to feel individual with a clear approach to aesthetics, but with a focus on comfort and functionality. When I thought of ‘Modern Coastal’ it evoked the feel of warm summers and lazy afternoons. With this in mind I brainstormed all the materials and colours that would portray this feeling best, resulting in a colour palette that plays with sandy neutrals and crisp whites as well as textures that are worn and organic. This concept is calm, understated and light.

iscd graduate Sarah Mangeruga
iscd graduate Sarah Mangeruga


Gonia Chylinska: Thank you. I was really excited to find out I am a finalist of the Merino Homes Design Challenge. I have thoroughly enjoyed preparing concept designs for this amazing Rebuild Down Under initiative for all affected by 2020 disasters. It is a great privilege to be able to contribute to the interior design for the ‘Shed Movement’, one of three home styles prepared by Merino Homes especially for this project.

When preparing my concept designs I tried to celebrate each home style with its individual story, purpose and layout. Each chosen scheme, style and all finishes have been carefully selected to accommodate the brief, budget and future clients. Whilst each style has its own unique ambience I wanted to create timeless and functional interiors for all three styles so that they can stand the test of time and appeal to a broader clientele.

Lynda MacRae: It is such an honour to be a finalist in the Merino Homes Rebuild Down Under Design Competition! I was enamoured by the premise behind this initiative and wanted to be a part of something that will offer hope to those that have faced hardship. 

I immersed myself into each space to develop a concept. I firstly like to imagine who will live in the space and how they will use it. The colour palette and furniture selections were then chosen in accordance with the Merino Homes allocated styles and participating partners whilst also considering practicality, comfort and durability. 


What does Merino Homes’ vision to ‘Rebuild Down Under’ mean to you? 


Sarah: Merino Homes’ ‘Rebuild Down Under’ is reaching out a hand to those who are in need. This initiative is a way to help the communities that were devastated by not only the bushfires but the ensuing floods and pandemic. ‘Rebuild Down Under’ means reflecting on those hard times and giving back to the individuals and families who were affected, as well as those who fought to protect them. 

Gonia: I know that Merino Homes specialises in custom-designed houses and quality renovations and extensions. I admire that they take full responsibility for the build and engage on each project with passion, professionalism and perfection. Their love of design is clearly visible in all their amazing home projects. The Rebuild Down Under initiative is such an amazing and thoughtful project that is all about giving back and supporting communities affected by the bushfire disaster. I am honoured to be able to contribute to such a heartwarming project.

iscd graduate Lynda MacRae concept board for Rebuild Down Under
Concepts by Lynda MacRae


Lynda: After the recent devastation of fires, floods and a pandemic, the ‘Rebuild Down Under’ vision is, to me, the epitome of the Australian spirit where we all come together to help lift our mates and rebuild what was lost. 


What was your background before studying a Diploma of Interior Design? And how did studying with iscd prepare you for your career in interior design?


Sarah: Even before I studied with iscd I was always quite creative and gravitated towards design, but my love for interiors started while I was working in visual merchandising. I really enjoyed creating displays that told a story or portrayed a mood and loved catching customers’ attention through visually impactful VM. 

Studying with iscd gave me the right tools to conceptualise a creative solution for whatever design brief is thrown my way. It gave me the courage to pursue work I’m inspired by and the chance to contribute to a forward-thinking industry. 

iscd graduate Gonia Chylinska
iscd graduate Gonia Chylinska



Gonia: Before starting my journey with iscd I worked as a visual merchandiser and display designer. I always loved art, design and architecture so studying interior design was always something I was hoping to do in life. Completing my diploma with iscd gave me the right tools and enough confidence to pursue a new career within interior design. Last year I started my own design studio and have been enjoying every challenge and reward of running a small interior design business.

Lynda: I have been a librarian and a human resources manager and a mum to two gorgeous kids. I am now in a new season of life, where my kids are grown and I felt the creative urge in me bursting to be released! iscd allowed me to express my creative self and learn so many new skills and techniques in the world of design. Because of this, I am now working as a kitchen/laundry/bathroom designer which I absolutely love. Bringing a client’s dream to life is so satisfying. I am using so many of the skills learnt at iscd such as technical drawing, colour and material selection, spatial planning, and joinery. 


Where do you get your inspiration from? 


Sarah: That is a hard question… inspiration usually comes from a feeling or emotion for me. This initial vibe can strike from an artwork I’ve seen or book I’ve read but it always starts as a spark of feeling. It helps me to imagine a story and create a mood which paints the overarching elements of the concept. I’ve learnt I design very intuitively and inspiration is unpredictable, so when it hits I just have to go with the flow. 

Gonia: I draw inspiration from the Australian landscape as well as art, fashion and architectural details. Most of my designs incorporate colours of the earth. Neutral palettes of sand, stone, clay, rust and caramel along with darker shades and rich textures are usually my go to tones for creating cohesive and timeless designs.

iscd graduate Sarah Mangeruga concept board for Rebuild Down Under
Concepts by Sarah Mangeruga


Lynda: Everywhere! I particularly find nature very inspiring; the colours and textures are so beautiful. However, I am especially inspired by ‘feeling’. I believe it is important to understand how a space will feel. This inspiration can come from music, sound, a memory… 


Anything else that you would like to add? 


Sarah: I would just like to say thank you so much! It is such an honour to be a part of this competition and have the chance to contribute to such an incredible initiative.

iscd graduate Lynda MacRae
iscd graduate Lynda MacRae


Are you interested in studying Interior Design? Do you want to know more about our online courses and where a career in interior design could take you? Contact one of our course advisors today.

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