We caught up with Space Available’s creative director and co-founder Dan Mitchell and got a peek into this Bali-based home, shop and museum. Dan talks us through a day in the life, why he left London for Bali, gaining a cultural education via skateboarding, building a circular school, and how he’s striving to reimagine and redesign a better future.
GH: For those who don’t know, who are you and what do you do?
DAN MITCHELL: Hi, I’m Daniel Mitchell, Co-Founder / Creative Director of Space Available. I’m from England however I’ve been living in Bali, Indonesia for the past 9 years.
GH: Can you talk us through a day in the life?
DM: Typically my day starts at 5am. I like to rise with the sun and make use of alone time as I wake up. My morning ritual is broken down into movement the body, reflection, gratitude and learning. So I’ve developed this habit to spend 1.5 hours in the am creating space for myself before the kids wake up and the days starts.
I’ll get kids ready and once they are off to school at 7:30am I’ll then hit the beach and surf. Often that will follow with sauna and an ice bath.
Then it’s spending the work day with the team radically recycling, upcycling and experimenting with bio design. Plus a lot of studio work such as branding, graphics, architectural projects and so on - all from my home studio.
We now have up to 20 people working in my home daily plus 2 kids, 2 dogs and plenty of wild life living in my garden and surrounding rice fields. So lots of visitors such as snakes, monitor lizards, frogs and so on. Most of our meetings are done in the garden or the kitchen (which has no walls) - being close to nature is very important to us.
We also have a gallery (the Museum of Space Available) right in front of my house, which I’ll pop into a few times over the day to plan for exhibitions or check in with the team over there.
Typically I’ll finish work around 7pm and spend time with my family before sleeping at 9pm.
GH: You grew up in Newcastle, moved to London, and now you’re in Bali. How did moving from and to each of these locations impact yourself and your creative work?
DM: Yes, I grew up in Newcastle which is such an amazing city, largely to do with the people. I started skating when I was 11 and that was my cultural education. In the mid 90s in Newcastle skating wasn’t ‘cool’ like it is these days. You would get your head kicked in at school carrying a skateboard. Thankfully I met an older crew outside of school, many of which were 10 years older and they were young adults or older teenagers. So hanging out with them was my shortcut to discovering music, art culture and just being part of the skate community traveling around the country skating at such a young age. I grew up fast. As I got to 16 I left school as quickly as I could to get a job… It was my way of making money so I could do what I wanted and the typical school system didn’t appeal to me. So I worked in shoe stores and fashion stores where I met new friends who again were older and inspired my to follow my dreams.
That then took me to London at 19 where I started doing my own club nights and starting designing flyers and record sleeve artworks (which was my first introduction to design, fully self-taught) and then I worked my way up into buying roles, which then took me to Paris and Milan. I then co-founded LN-CC when I was 24, and also ran music parties, events and so on in London. London is one of the most inspiring places in the world so like everyone else living there I soaked it all in and really got Involved. And had a lot of fun and sleepless nights :)
I then moved to Bali in 2014 which has been a dream and inspired me to live closer to nature and appreciate different things in life. Bali is very much rooted in craft culture and that has had a big impact on my interest and works since I arrived. As well as the rich music that exists here such as Gamelan and Bamboo - much of which I have worked with through my record label; ‘Island of the Gods’. I also worked as the creative director of Potato Head for several years and which was an amazing time and I’m still working closely with the team there on several projects so that’s always leading to inspiring creative endeavours.
GH: London can feel like ‘the place you need to be’ as a creative. How did you feel about leaving London whilst pursuing your career?
DM: Yes when I was younger it was the place I needed to be to strive as a creative. I developed my work and built a network of friends who were all doing very inspiring things. But I’ve always known deep down that for me the island life is what I need. The island vibe just suits me, and being in nature yet still having access to contemporary culture is the key… Both of which you get in Bali. London was great but after almost 10 years I felt it was time to move on and start a new chapter.
"BEING IN NATURE YET STILL HAVING ACCESS TO CONTEMPORARY CULTURE IS THE KEY"
GH: Can you talk us through the origins of Space Available, how it started and how it got to where it is today?
DM: At Space Available, we ask questions like: Can we show the value of ‘waste’ through innovative design? Can we offer alternative products that work in harmony with nature? How can we make space collectively for a better future? Explore the circular economy vs the current linear system that we are in. This philosophy behind the brand is something we have been personally passionate about for a long time, and it's very much in response to the ecological damage we are doing in our current system, an economy of ‘take, make, waste’.
Back in 2020, we were in our first lockdown, and it became apparent that the pandemic would bring about a monumental change. A new space became available for us to stop and reflect - offering us a chance to reconnect, reimagine and redesign a better future. During this pause, we began to set up the SA platform and gathered a global community that collectively can bring different skill sets in which we believe can lead to positive impacts within the cultural landscape.
At the same time, during the pandemic, the commercial world here in Bali stopped and there were huge empty billboards on every street which just said ‘SPACE AVAILABLE’. I felt this summed up this current moment on numerous levels and became a fitting name for our brand.
We kicked off with talks (space talks) and workshop series exploring new world recycling, upcycling and bio design through the lens of ‘makings space for nature’ - The idea was to become more of an educational platform that inspired through community driven, collaborative art, design and products… and the product and art side would then facilitate our education and programs which we offer free of charge.
The product and art sculpture side of things surprisingly has really grown and we are now in some of the the best stores out there (such as Goodhood) and we’ve seen the interest in people exploring more the plastic crises and how we can change our wasteful ways.
Since we launch we’ve now recycled more than 4 million plastic bottles since 2020 through products and architectural projects. There’s no such thing as ‘waste', only discarded material with no where to go. So our products show what can be done. We also have our chairs in museums around the world. So we hope
Over the past year we have opened own museum ‘the museum of Space Available’ (MOSA) in Bali which showcases the works of SA and the wider community. We believe plastic doesn’t belong in the ocean - it’s a valuable material that should be in museum. Hence why we built it.
This year we are building a school to give access and create more opportunities for people to learn. We see SA as an ecosystem that starts with Eduction and becomes a wider cultural platform to inspire change.
"IT'S VERY MUCH IN RESPONSE TO THE ECOLOGICAL DAMAGE WE ARE DOING IN OUR CURRENT SYSTEM, AN ECONOMY OF 'TAKE, MAKE, WASTE'"
GH: What does your creative process look like, how do you find your inspiration? What and who are you inspired/influenced by?
DM: The SA creative process is very much driven initially by research. We look into topics such as the plastic waste crisis, then build collection around that using waste materials based on our studies. We hope to communicate the issues through what we hope will be inspiring and useful objects and products that will initiate change in the modern cultural landscape. It’s been amazing that stores like Goodhood have supported us and helping to amplify the message.
Influences for us always start with the circularity of nature and we work from that starting point.
GH: If not Bali, where would you and your family live if you could live anywhere? Favourite item in your home?
DM: Right now Bali is the only place for us but if I had to move back to Europe I would say Portugal seems very appealing.
GH: Favourite room in your home, and why?
DM: Living Room, as it has all the things I love. Nature, hammocks, books and records.
GH: Describe Space Available in 5 words.
DM: Circular, cultural, ecological, educational, family.
GH: What made you relocate to Bali, and what made you stay?
DM: I’ve always wanted to live the island life. Be closer to nature and live towards building a a self sufficient lifestyle growing vegetables and so on. Hilda, my wife, is from Indonesia and introduced me to Bali many years ago… We just fell in love with the island, the people and it’s a great place to raise our two boys.
GH: Favourite artwork(s) you own, and why?
DM: The two main artworks on our wall are by our two kids, Isa and Theo and who painted them when the were very young. The raw abstract of kids art before they become conditioned by art teachers or the modern world and so on is incredible.
GH: Who or what is the inspiration behind your interior design choices?
DM: I usually just pick out pieces that I like and work to a juxtaposition between very natural, and handcrafted against pops of synthetics such as recycled plastic. Landscape is very important in all my projects.
GH: Can you talk us through the design of your home - the architectural choices you made and how you kept it eco-friendly during building it?
DM: Our home was very much designed to fit our needs as family. It has a split level approach so the spaces feel connected yet separated. That idea came from the home of architect Ray Kappe, his house in California is just incredible. We try to maintain as low energy usage as possible without air conditioning in main rooms, open walls, solar for hot water. But I wouldn’t call it an ‘eco house’ as such as we have used concrete which is not a sustainable materiel, but we have tried to offset that as much as possible. At that period in Bali there was no other alternative for structure other than bamboo which is the ultimate material - but for our needs it wasn’t quite practical to build at that time.
GH: Favourite book(s) you own, and why?
DM: Whole Earth Catalogue series. Just love the that counter culture era and philosophy, much of which has inspired Space Available through the teachings of Buckminster Fuller.
GH: What are you listening to at the moment?
DM: My day usually starts off with a Jon Hassell record.
GH: What’s your favourite project you’ve worked on this year?
DM: Building a circular design school in Bali. More on that to come very soon!
GH: What makes you happy?
DM: My family and Seeing my kids grow. Surf trips and new recycling machines.