The big decision about what to be when you grow up is even less clean and simple when your talents lie in multiple areas. Whanganui’s Natalie Bradburn thought she wanted to study fashion, but ended up on an interior design course, which led to a Master of Architecture. She’s been working as an architectural designer ever since, along with running her own bathroomware business, Clean Clean Clean, while raising two beautiful children, Marlowe (7) and Frances (5), with her partner Ben Mitchell-Anyon of Patchwork Architecture. To her, all the work is connected, and she quite likes the ambiguity of not falling into one category.
So how does your architectural work inform your designs for Clean Clean Clean, Natalie? Working with various scales allows me to think about all the ways in which people live — everything from how you arrive at your house, to how you feed your friends, to where you hang a wet towel. It all relates to how the body operates within a space. Architecture can seem slow at times because of the scale of the work and the number of people involved. Being able to work on a smaller scale allows for a similar kind of customisation, but with faster lead times.
And why bathroomware? Bathrooms have been on my brain for a long time. They’re a very intimate space, more so than any other room. We’re so exposed and vulnerable in them, even if only to ourselves, and I think that serves as a good place for a design enquiry. I also think that if you’re going to get naked, it’s better to do it in a space that makes you feel good and reflects who you are.
The bathroomware first came about when I designed a toothbrush shelf while on maternity leave with Frances. I love being able to go into the tiniest of details, like how a toothbrush is stored, and Clean Clean Clean allows me to do that.
What are some of the usual inclusions — like your old toothbrush cup that kicked all this off — that you’d like to see swapped for items that are more well considered ? I think everything could do with a review! I’m particularly bothered by the toilet brush.
What’s in the name Clean Clean Clean? The word ‘clean’ is thrown around all the time in architecture, in phrases like ‘clean, modern lines’, but what is a ‘clean’ line, and perhaps more curiously, what’s a ‘dirty’ one? It’s an ongoing enquiry of mine.
Why has powdercoated aluminium become your main material? I like aluminium because it can be reused after it’s had a good life, and turned into something else. I feel the same about powdercoating. I can recoat an object in another colour if the interior context around it changes.
What are three things that inspire you in your work? I love reading novels and coming across new styles of writing. It reminds me that there are so many ways to approach something, even with the same language. The same goes for design books — I love seeing how different approaches to design and architecture can create such wildly different outcomes, often with the same tools. Chef Yotam Ottolenghi is possibly my greatest inspiration of all, though. The way he combines the same ingredients over and over again in new ways never ceases to impress me.