The recent opening of the new lifestyle precinct in the Canberra Centre has brought with it a fantastic range of home and style stores!

One of my favourite new additions to the precinct is top3 by Design.

A concept born in Australia and unique to the world, top3 is about editing options, not limiting choice – reducing the excess that falls outside the top3 parameters of quality, innovation and style.

With excellence at its core, top3’s range features well over a thousand products, but never more than the 3 best items in their respective class by merit of design – everything from homewares and accessories to kitchen and dining.

Ahead of her upcoming masterclass this Saturday at the Canberra Centre, we had a chat with Founder of top3 by Design, Terri Winter about her brand and business, and where she gets her creative inspiration from.

Terri, tell me about your background – what led you to become the Founder of top3 by Design?

We have just come up to 16 years since I started top3 by design!

I was frustrated with the lack of original design product in Australia. My husband is German and we spend a bit of time in Germany, Italy, Paris, Austria and Copenhagen, and there was so much wonderful product we could not get here in Australia.

It was actually the tripp trapp high chair by Stokke that was the final straw. I was pregnant with my first son at the time, and although the chair was designed in 1973, it was not available in Australia and we had to ship ours in. It is now readily available throughout baby stores.

The concept evolved after we went to a Theatre restaurant in Germany called the “Tiger Palace”. You had to book well in advance, and did not know what you were going to see, but you knew that all the performers were the best in their field.  The concept bubbled around with the idea of an original design store and we realised one big frustration for people was getting access to information that could help them make an informed decision about quality.

That is when the concept of an edited selection of product by merit of design emerged. The concept became the name, top3 by design. Up to 3 products per category – the best in the world by merit of design.

How has the vision for your business evolved over the last few years?

Initially the concept was derived due to the lack of information for people to be able to make informed buying decisions. Interestingly the NEED for the editing has shifted, these days there is so MUCH information that it is difficult to make a decision.

So although the concept itself remains exactly the same – a curated collection edited by the parameters of design – the reason it is helpful to people has changed. When you can buy just about anything – how do you decide?!

How do you choose what to purchase for the store? 

I am a judge on several design awards, here and overseas including the Australian International Design Awards run by Good Design Australia so I am very lucky to be exposed to a lot of incredible product and design at its very early stages, so I find some product that way. Other products I come across through blogs or exhibitions and it is quick and easy to have samples sent over – and these days a lot of designers contact me directly as well.

Sometimes it is not easy to select. Other times it seems to just belong straight away! I do have a huge pile of really amazing product that for several reasons may not be part of the range. Over the 16 years we have developed an aesthetic that people do expect. An architectural and strong design edge to product. No decoration for decorations sake, so some product are simply not a fit with the overall range. The most saddening thing I come across is when there is a great idea that is badly executed. That is really disappointing.

And how difficult is it to purchase the 3 best items in each category? 

I think I have possibly covered this above! But often within the 3’s there is a different approach, take or material use of the product that sets them apart.

What does a typical day at work involve for you?

Different times of year are very different for me.

This time of year obviously my team and I are crazy busy with Christmas – so every day I am in the office around 6-6.30 most days and often here until late. I work 7 days a week from the end of November through to Christmas Eve, I will be doing whatever needs doing, picking orders, replenishing stores, chatting to customers on Live Chat etc.

Then, on December 24 I jump on a plane to Austria where I spend most of January. January then becomes a time of the year where I take a broader look at the business – I look over the year and plan what I want for the future. It is a fantastic time to re-evaluate and get some perspective and be inspired for another year! Then I come back to Australia end of January refreshed and full of ideas.

Throughout the rest of the year my day is based at my Crows Nest Head Office, and I start work just before 8.  Each morning I check emails. I try and do that periodically – rather then letting them run my day. I am guilty of getting behind!

I like to block my time out to ensure I get through things that I want to achieve.

Monday is assessment of sales from the previous week, working with my buyer on replenishment for the stores and assessment of performance so we can work on promotion or merchandise in the stores to boost performance where needed.

Tuesdays mornings always start with a meeting with my husband and my financial controller. My husband has his own business – an advertising agency – but we chat about business at home all the time – so one morning a week we have an official meeting so it is not always dinner conversation about business!

I have my stylist and photographer, Maria Laitinen is in the office 3 days per week, Tuesday – Thursday. On Tuesdays we prepare newsletter content, work on marketing and photography ideas, styling and merchandising in the store, and send off any press requests for product to journalists etc.

On Wednesday mornings I attend a breakfast meeting for my networking group called BNI, then head to the office full of enthusiasm and inspired by my fellow group members stories of their week.

After I get back from my BNI meeting on a Wednesday morning we often shoot or merchandise for the day. Then Wednesdays I work on online content.

Thursdays and Fridays vary – usually catching up on any specific projects or events we have and explore new products and buying and catching up with my managers in the stores and seeing how their week has been and making sure they are prepared for the weekend.

Where do you go for your creative inspiration, and what inspires you most?

I am most inspired by overseas travel. Because my husband is German and my eldest son lives overseas too – I am lucky enough to be able to travel regularly.  I am always inspired by involvement in Awards programs and love working with young designers.

I have most recently been a host on the Channel 10 TV Series – Australia by Design – Innovation and that has been an incredible experience to meet and interview inspiring innovators and passionate creators all over Australia. It is the first time I have done something like this and am very excited that Channel 10 want to run a second series and I am looking forward to filming again next year. The 5th episode airs this Saturday on Channel 10, then the final episode is on December 16. You can watch all the episodes on TENPLAY or at AustraliabyDesign.com.au.

My yoga inspires and relaxes me to enable clear thinking and creativity. When I don’t do yoga regularly I can be easily short tempered or stressed. When I am doing yoga I rarely every get stressed, it’s a pretty amazing thing.

What does 2018 hold for Top3 by Design? 

We recently released an Augmented Reality App – top3 AR which is available for free download through the App stores. Currently for iPhone 6S and up but we are working on other versions.

We will grow the range on the app – it currently has around 100 products available to view in high detail right in your own home. This has been such an amazing project to work on and I wan to explore more possibilities with technology and real tools to help people make informed buying decisions.

I am a huge believer in buying less and buying better, so always exploring ways to enable more customers to experience the thrill of owning original design.

I am looking forward to filming the second series of Australia by Design – Innovation for Channel 10.

I would really love to open Australian Design stores overseas and I think maybe next year is the time to start exploring that idea. I am visiting Berlin in January to look at some opportunities there – and have long wanted to open in Asia too. Maybe 2018 is the year for some of these pet projects!

I am a very passionate advocate for support of original design. It is so important that everyone make decisive choices about their purchases. We are living in a fast food, fast fashion, throw-away culture. The environmental impact of the wasteful attitude is so enormous.

I want to continue to spread the word on supporting original design. It is not about expensive elitist product, it is about making informed buying decisions. Buying quality everyday products. Products you care for and will keep.

If you are purchasing replica or fake product then you have to know the impact of that decision.

With every purchase we make we are casting a vote for the kind of tomorrow we want, and I really want people to consider their purchases. Making the right choices in furniture and objects for the home mean you can keep them for years to come, and classic pieces can easily be tweaked with styling to stay on trend without being part of the landfill and throw-away culture that has developed.

I want to support designers so that we can create the classics of tomorrow!

You can be on trend without discarding your decor every year.

Learn how to add key original design pieces to freshen up your home for the summer season – without discarding what you have., at Terri’s styling tips masterclass on Saturday at the Canberra Centre. Purchase your tickets here!