Geoffrey Hatty: A Life in Design & Decorative Arts

Geoffrey Hatty: A Life in Design & Decorative Arts

Geoffrey Hatty is widely regarded as one of Melbourne’s most influential 20th century decorative arts dealers. He was born in Moama in 1957, growing up along the banks of the Murray River. He lost his father at a young age and was raised by his mother and sister. Despite not being wealthy, his mother had a sophisticated influence on him, and a modern aesthetic that emanated throughout their house.

Geoffrey Hatty - In his studio
Geoffrey Hatty – In his studio

Geoffrey moved to Melbourne in the early 1980s to become a hairdresser, which in his own words “was simply to meet women”. He moved within the alternative arts scene, living in shared houses where his love of decorating continued. “As long as I didn’t move my flatmates television, I could do whatever I wanted.”

His first shop was on Carlisle Street in St Kilda, later to become the famous Galleon café where his painted pink and grey walls remain. He was soon invited to open another store on Greville Street Prahran, when the strip was buzzing with fashionable cafés, clothing boutiques, and record stores.

By the late 90s, Geoffrey had established himself as a serious and respected Melbourne dealer. He took the standalone shop at 296-298 Malvern Road South Yarra. His initial business name, TCD (Twentieth Century Design), had unfortunately been registered by someone else, however “adversity turned to advantage, and what better way to sell, than with my own name”.

For the next 27 years, Geoffrey Hatty Applied Arts became an institution for interior designers, collectors, and stylish clientele. He was renowned for his keen eye, and interest in design movements that were outside the box. His buying trips overseas would see him return to Melbourne with elements of the Bauhaus, Arts & Crafts, and early Italian design, then a rare sight in Australia.

In the lead up to his career closing auction, we asked Geoffrey a few questions about life and design, and find out what has kept him inspired in an ever-changing industry for so many years.

Geoffrey Hatty: A Life in Design & Decorative Arts
GIO PONTI BAR CABINET Pearwood, etched mirrored glass and brass. Internal shelving, slide out drawers with Gio Ponti bar service set in sterling silver.
Italy c 1930s $60,000 – 70,000

What is your favourite piece in the upcoming auction? 
A pair of Bauhaus ceiling lights designed by Marianne Brandt, model DMB26, acquired through a friend in Munich who originally purchased them from the famous German photographer, Herbert List.

Describe your home aesthetic. 
My home aesthetic is obviously very personal to me, each room has its own different theme. The most beautiful things are generally the ones nobody wants, and that is why I love them.

Geoffrey Hatty: A Life in Design & Decorative Arts
Vase with majolica archers highlighted in gold and pewter (Novecento Ceramiche italiane) Vol 1 (#3581)
Italy c1930s $22,000 – 28,000

What is your favourite design period? 
Modernism, from the 1920s – 40s, particularly the works of Josef Hoffmann and Gustav Siegel.

Do you have a favourite auction memory, or purchase? 
Most of my purchases are special to me, I enjoy buying new items, things with some history to them or a story to tell; that’s sometimes as important as the item itself. I won’t buy anything I don’t personally like.

Any advice for the new generation of collectors? 
Buy what you would like to have around you, even if you’re buying for investment, you still need to live with it.

Is there something you sold that you wished you had kept? 
Probably lots of things. Back in the older days of Leonard Joel I purchased an Arts & Crafts sideboard with Christopher Dresser tiles… should have kept that.

What is the biggest misconception about 20th century design? 
That everything manufactured is worth something.

Spanning a career of over four decades, what are you most proud of?
Surviving. And of course, getting better with age.

ANNA GRASSHAM / Head of Modern Design

July 2022