Where you studied and what: I deferred a journalism degree to do PR and writing at RMIT.
When you started your business and how: I was working as a freelance publicist, but after 20 years in the game, I realised that I was always trying to get my clients to do home shoots so I could get in and style their homes. I started to approach all the home mags to get some experience, then a very fortunate meeting with the incredible Aleksandra Beare, the art director on Sunday Life magazine, lead me to trying my hand at styling and writing for Sunday Life and I haven’t stopped since. It will be 10 years this August!
The best business advice you ever received: Don’t try to be anyone else – back yourself and your aesthetic, and just do you. This advice came to me in various forms and from a few different people, and it took a while to make sense to me, but honestly, trying to be like everyone else will only get you so far in this industry.
Size of your team if you have one: A writing job means it’s just me with my dog and cat at my feet for company. On shoots, I’ll have as many assistants as the budget allows for – so generally there’s just one, or occasionally on big shoots I’ll hire two.
Your proudest achievement so far: I love working with start-up clients who have great products but no idea how to translate them into marketable, commercial and beautiful imagery. It’s a blast seeing their brand come to visual life, and to launch them into the world. The actual client shoot I’m most proud of is, of course, very hard to choose – but a recent highlight was creating the imagery for Cult’s 20th anniversary with my good friend, the photographer Mike Baker. Oh, and I was seriously chuffed to be part of a recent campaign for West Elm which ran in Inside Out magazine – I got to glam up my home and myself and pose with my dog – heaven!
When did you realise you’d made it? Oh I don’t think I will ever consider myself ‘made.’ I’ve got way too much left to do.
Best investment you’ve ever made in your business: Styling doesn’t require a lot of investment in anything but your time – there really isn’t a lot of equipment you need to get started. My biggest investment is the time I spend thinking about my clients’ businesses, how I can help them grow by making the most beautiful, commercially viable imagery possible.
What do you outsource? Really very little. My amazing husband, realising that I’d never get paid if it were left to me, does all of my invoicing and tax. I can run a budget spreadsheet, but GST, BAS, tax and all of that stuff leaves me cross-eyed.
Biggest challenge in running a business: The boring numbers bit, but thankfully my husband has that in hand. Also, doing admin things like updating my website always seems to take a backseat when I’m constantly busy working on my clients’ businesses.
Favourite project of all time: Oh, hands down it was the Christmas shoot my family and I did for Sunday Life magazine a few years ago. My friend and awesome photographer Armelle Habib shot it, and it featured myself, my husband Jem, and my girls, Annebelle and Alexandra, doing our Christmas thing. I shoot peoples’ homes all the time, but I didn’t realise how incredible it felt to wake up on a Sunday morning, race out and get The Age, and open it to see my beautiful family in our lovely home.
Whose work inspires YOU? Oh loads of people – my friend Kirsty Macafee who is an artist and is simply the smartest person I have ever met. Her work challenges me, a lot. Each of the photographers I work with as they all bring another layer of collaboration to my styling ideas on a job. Also, my occasional work collaborator Bree Leech, whose trend forecasting skills are unbelievable.
Describe your own home: It’s a 1904 weatherboard that really needs renovating – we are finally trying to do the bathroom and the kitchen this year as we always said we’d do it once the kids’ school fees were out of the way. But now that it’s time, I find myself completely hamstrung and incapable of making decisions for myself that I make so easily for others all the time. However, it’s got beautiful bones – high ceilings, great sized rooms, and a really lovely feel to it. It’s been the backdrop for so many shoots, and has had so many coats of paint, and I’m sure I’ll be struck by inspiration for the renovation soon.
How big should your rug be? As long as your toes can touch it from the sofa, I’m not too fussed if it sits underneath or out from it.
Your advice for would-be designers/stylists: Aspiring stylists should find an aspiring interiors photographer and just start shooting, shooting, shooting. Build yourselves a portfolio, and learn what makes a great shot by practicing loads.
What you’re working on at the moment: I’m doing heaps of really interesting work at the moment – some styling, some set design, and loads of writing. I’m creating the names and descriptions for an incredible range of terrazzo by Fibonacci Stone, which is the most delightfully creative process. My clients range from very high-end to high-street, and I adore that mix.
Do you love your job now as much as ever? Umm, I honestly think so – I mean every job is different, so there’s no getting bored on that level. I think as long as my clients keep asking me to come up with new ideas, and I can keep coming up with them, I can’t imagine myself doing anything else.
- Colour: Green. And pink if I can choose two.
- Piece of furniture in your home: The old pine dining table that was once my in-laws’. It’s a bit derelict now but I’m way too sentimental to replace it.
- International designer/stylist: Any stylist who does work for Spanish AD – my goodness their imaginations are off the hook.
- White paint colour: Natural White by Dulux.
- Accessory for a wow factor: Art, art and more art. Big art, small art, expensive art, cheaper art, posters. Unadorned walls depress me.
- Open plan or separate rooms? Separate. I love kitchens that are kitchens, with round tables in them.
- Luxe or casual? I’ll have a bit each way on this one…
- Neutral or colourful? Colourful. Really, really colourful.
- Linen or cotton bedding? Linen please.
- Wallpaper or paint? Paint, as even after working with Dulux for five years, I’m still in awe of the transformative power of paint.
- Bath or shower? A shower in the morning and bath before bed.
- Tea or coffee? Coffee by the plunger-full in the morning and tea in the afternoon. But both must always be served in tea cups.
Photography: Amelia Stanwix, Mike Baker and Armelle Habib