We chat to stylist, author, interior designer and collector, Sibella Court who, after 10 years in New York City, landed in Sydney’s Paddington and started the first retail experience, The Society Inc. Today, her ‘imaginarium’ is based in Sydney’s St Peters, where she has expanded into an enviable post-industrial warehouse, combining all of her talents to produce a destination full of wonder and creativity.
What inspired you to open a retail store?
“Prior to residing in New York, I would stay at The Gramercy Park Hotel (pre-Julian Schnabels refurb!) and loved to wander around this old-fashioned leafy pocket of NYC. I would peer in the huge first floor parlour windows of the brownstones that line it - many of them are old members' clubs and I wanted to create a ‘society’ where people of the same ilk could come and go, exchange ideas, experiment and toss around crazy ideas, forever changing and never finished, full of magic and fantasy.”
“I have a love affair with historical buildings. I found Precinct 75 which was starting its transformation from heavy industry to creative hub - it is the original Taubmans' paint warehouse, built from 1901, which felt just right with my own paint range with boutique company, Murobond.”'
“It’s part hardware store, part haberdashery and total make-believe.”
A sense of the historical is evident in everything you do…
“My love of history, particularly the year 1856 and its ‘experimental gentlemen’, are key in the concept of The Society Inc. They include some of my favourite historical figures: Charles Darwin, Joseph Banks, William Dampier, John Bartram and Peter Collinson, who were either members of The Royal Society or were desperate to be members!
At The Society Inc our membership is free and everyone is invited. However you do have to adhere to The Royal Society's motto, 'Nullius in verba', meaning 'Take nobody's word for it’.”
Once inside, what will we find?
“Furniture, textiles, books, homewares, art, oddities and curiosities, sourced locally and by traversing the globe seeking treasure. I celebrate the master craftsman. I seek them out and pop them in my pocket; I showcase their wares in my shop, collaborate with them to make an idea outstanding.”
What does a day at The Society Inc. hold for you?
“Throughout any given day I will welcome visitors from far and wide - my ‘members’ stopping by, my blacksmith dropping off my new sign, the signwriter finishing his gold leafing on a mirror, samples arriving from India – all hand tinkered and smithed – amongst many, many other people and projects. It’s part hardware store, part haberdashery and total make-believe.”
“A sense of discovery & adventure is what I always hope for…”
A must-have product that sums up your philosophy?
“Trouvé Clip - designed by myself and made from honest materials (brass and zinc), hand-beaten and tinkered. This humble clip has many uses. Just because something is practical and useful doesn't mean it can't be beautiful!”
What's new to the store?
What can we look forward to in the future?
“The Society Inc are excited to introduce the Henry Mercer Collection later this year – a collection of objects that celebrates the hand-touched beauty of ancient old trades. Each piece is rich with character; hammered, blackened, etched and braided; the pieces are tactile and hold the essence and charm of those who made them. Inspired by and named for anthropologist and collector Henry Mercer, ultimately this range will expand to include soft furnishings and candles.”
“We hope these objects bring warmth, magic and curiosity into your own unique spaces."
For more information, head to Sibella's website or visit the store:
Warehouse 3.02 - 75 Mary Street, St Peters, NSW, Australia, 2044
T:+612 9516 5643