Emily Priest Interview

Resident collaborator Emily Priest of Cheshire Architects refuses to accept disciplinary or typological boundaries within design. She leads a team of designers that push the studio’s work beyond building and into interior, graphic, product, web, furniture, lighting and textile design.

Emily was the project lead for The Hotel Britomart Interiors, The Libraries and a range of Freemans Bay and Queenstown Residences featuring Resident product.

Emily co-designed Residents Fulcrum Table Lamp, Foundry Floor Light, Parison Pendant and Parison Table Light. 


Emily, tell us a bit about yourself, did you grow up here in New Zealand? 


Yes I did, my earliest memories are filled with rolling hillsides and deep clear gorges tucked deep within the Paraparas, a section of high hill country down in the middle of the North Island. It was a rugged but beautiful landscape to be immersed in. I’m told that from a young age I was often found staring into the distance - I like to think I was in awe of the landscape. Now my husband, little girl and I live in the sleepy suburb of Point Chevalier, Auckland just a short walk from the water. This is worlds apart from the rolling hills that I was raised on, but one that shares the slower pace of life. We are currently preparing for our second child, as I step towards maternity leave and juggling a busier household, I am sure.


When did you discover your passion for design, was this always a natural path for you to take? 


I vividly remember feeling the beauty and scale of Botticelli’s Venus and Fra Angelico’s The Annunciation while living in Florence, straight out of school. I knew from this moment that creating things by craft or by pencil brought me closer to my true self.


Can you tell us about your role within the Cheshire eco system?


My role at Cheshire spans across a number of areas, from master planning to interiors, bespoke furniture design, styling, all the way through to the menus that sit before you at a restaurant. I love playing between the blurred lines of design as a discipline, but ultimately, I care most about the unified cohesion of design within a space, and creating moments for people to experience and cherish. 


What challenges do you face in your role? 


Every new brief comes with its own design challenges, but underneath it all, the managing of budgets and timelines while seeking a uniquely creative outcome is a constant reality. The challenge of course is to achieve all three: time, money and design. It’s a precarious dance played out in each project. Freeing myself to create boldly, rather than feeling constrained by the parameters, is the great challenge to overcome each time. 


You have worked on four products for Resident, do you have a favourite? 


For me, that would be like favouring a child. Each piece we have created is treasured as an object, but also for the time spent together unfolding its potential. However one very close to my heart is the Fulcrum lamp, perhaps because it’s the latest of our pieces, or because of the warm atmosphere it creates. I am lucky enough to have one at home, and I adore it's simple, sculptural form and how it adds a richness to the space without overpowering it.


What is the essence of Resident to you?


Resident has provided us with an incredible outlet to create and try new things. Its unique platform of local designers and artisans with a sensibility of craft and material is what makes it so special. Working with local artisans and fabricators is a treasured pastime and I’ve always loved this about Resident.


In 2018 you travelled with Resident and spoke on the panel for New York exhibition ‘Travelling without bags’ how did you find this experience? 


This experience was enlightening in many ways. Being part of such a large event in the city was exhilarating, but on a personal level I also felt a sense of vulnerability as a female in the middle of a seemingly male-dominated space. As the only woman on the panel, some pointed gender-related questions were asked and have helped shape my current design sensibility and awareness.


When you aren’t designing what do you like to do for fun? 


I love to eat! Whether it’s creating a dinner party for friends or trying somewhere new, it is my favourite thing. Sadly, it doesn’t happen as much these days with a small and very strong-willed toddler, but I certainly savour it when it does. There’s something so life-giving when you gather around a table and share good food and company.


And finally can you tell us what you’ve been reading or listening to lately? 


I am an absolute sucker for Brené Brown and religiously listen to her podcast ‘Dare to Lead’. I have been rediscovering Axel Vervoort’s book, Wabi Inspirations, which is inspiring and enchanting with its use of raw materials and textures. And as I prepare for my second child’s arrival, I have been refocusing on Nurture by Erica Chidi Cohen to remind myself that I am in fact about to have a newborn!