The Journal

Grace Lim on paper drawings & measuring tapes at brunch

It’s a likely story. Two designers meet, fall in love and decide to spend their time together in both life and in business. As one half of Melbourne-based interior design company Milligram, Martin Kwaskowski, describes it: “It was like, let’s go to lunch, let’s get married, let’s start a business.”

While that might seem a little hasty, we have come to see that Grace Lim and partner Martin are anything but. Take a look at the tools Grace uses on a daily basis to get a hint at the level of attention, craft and age-old technique that gets applied to a Milligram project.

“I can’t really do anything on the fly,” she says. “I’m usually thinking about what the detail might be before I can draw them. In that way I feel like I’m not really an artist, but more of a mathematician. Like, this actually has to be worked out like a maths problem.”

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A mixture of technical tools and life helpers in Grace's collection.

At architecture school, we were drawing by hand. Every single design had 3D drawings hand-shaded and sketched for plans, elevations, extensions. Now it’s all done by computer; I still do our space planning on paper.

Born in Texas, Grace grew up on the Hawaiian island of Maui, before getting an architecture degree from the University of Southern California and starting her career in small architecture studios around LA. When the economy turned in 2008, she headed to the golden shores of Australia to work for a large fashion group. She met Martin there in 2012. They started Milligram in 2015.

“Grace is the details side of the business,” says Martin. “She understands how to make it, actually, work. Where I’m just like ‘let’s do this here’, Grace will be able to make all the detailed junctions to make it work.”

“It’s all a big puzzle for me,” Grace says. “It sounds a bit geeky, but I’ve always been more interested in the puzzle than the actual image that comes out at the end.”

She’ll even take her measuring tape to brunch – and not be afraid to use it. “I’m always there, measuring,” she says. “We sit in all the best cafés, go to all the best shops. On weekends it looks like I’m window shopping, but I’m actually doing research.”

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“It sounds a bit geeky, but I’ve always been more interested in the puzzle than the image that comes out at the end.”

It feels too good to be true that a (now) Melburnian be allowed to put brunch down to ‘research’. But it’s not all smashed avocado and lattes for Grace. While others are inspecting the runniness of their eggs, her mind is in overdrive (and her measuring tape up the leg of a table). “Doing interiors, or architecture, or any sort of design, you’re always thinking,” she explains.

“The process is just as important as the outcome. But with interiors and architecture, you never know the outcome until it’s built. Even with 3D visuals, there are so many layers to a design that you can never execute the perfect space in one go.” We can see why she puts so much into the research...


Tape measures

This is my secret tape measure that I take to all the stores and cafés. To measure the thickness of tables, the position of fixtures, the height of the counter. If we like the proportions of something, whether it’s a chair or a light or the way that a pendant is hanging, I’ll always measure it. People will sometimes come up to us like, “um, can I help you?”. But when we explain that we’re designers and we just really like their table, they appreciate it.

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Grace takes a measuring tape with her, always.
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Perfume can neutralise even the toughest bike ride. Right?

Scale ruler

No one really has these anymore. Because everything is done on computer now, there’s a strict rule that everything has to be done in 1-50, 1-20, 1-10. But in the olden days, there were so many scales. At architecture school, we were drawing by hand. Every single design had 3D drawings hand-shaded and sketched for plans, elevations, extensions and now it’s all done by computer. Generally, I still do all our space planning on paper.

Pens and pencils

I have numerous pens, because when I draw, I have to use different thicknesses to show different materials. And then I’ll use a colour to highlight certain materials if I have to. And pencils… pencils are nice to erase the mistakes! If I’m not really sure about a detail or drawing I’ll mark it out in pencil first, and go over it in pen when I’m happy.

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The Classic Pouch keeps Grace's essentials together.
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Paper is preferred over screen.

USB stick

I have to have a USB because I’m always printing drawings and we’re not always in the office. When you’re working on a computer, it’s so hard to keep track of what you’re doing when the drawing is moving all across the screen, so I like to print them. Hanging on the USB stick is a girly little keychain that I got from Korea – USBs have gotten so small that I needed something to make it bigger so I’d stop losing it.


We are always cycling to meetings, and I don’t want to turn up sweaty, so I carry some perfume to freshen myself up with.

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“Everything is done on computer now. Generally, I still do all our space planning on paper.”

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Find Milligram on Instagram: @milligram_office

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