6 tips for decorating your rental property.

There's an abundance of colour, pattern, texture and layering in my bedroom to make up for what I can't have.

There’s an abundance of colour, pattern, texture and layering.

This past weekend I put the final touches on a little side project of mine.  My own bedroom.  It’s been patiently waiting for an update, which I was avoiding because 1/ I’m my own worst client 2/ I live in an inner city rental so quickly feel defeated by all of the constraints.  What’s an Interior Designer to do without wallpaper, architectural details or custom curtains?  Here’s what I decided on.

1. More of everything (else).

For practical reasons wallpaper, custom curtains, even a lick of colourful paint are out.  This means that stepping up all of our usual elements is in – think more colour, pattern, texture, scale and layering.  Here, I’ve used pops of colour in the soft furnishings and accessories, the patterns are quite bold on the cushions and blanket, I’ve mixed different textures and had an extra tall (145cm) headboard made.

2.  Invest in quality furniture that is transferrable, not temporary.

I’ve been gradually building up a collection of good quality furniture.  I’d like to think I won’t be renting for much longer but the reality is I live in Sydney and have a penchant for pretty inner city suburbs beyond my current reach.  Ikea is just not going to cut it while I wait to win lotto.  Invest wisely and look out for sales on key pieces and really enjoy the home you live in, today.

3. Multitask

I like to look out for furniture that is versatile so that it can be moved around to different rooms and used again in another home.  This antique desk is currently a bedside, was previously a stand for my TV and I’m sure will make a great entrance console one day.

If space is an issue, multi task areas.  I'm loving the trend for bedside tables that also work as desks.

If space is an issue, multi task areas. I’m loving the trend for bedside tables that also work as desks.

4. Hang great artwork

I really think it’s important to hang proper artwork that you love.  Removable velcro strips are a godsend.  I’m lucky enough to have beautiful water colour paintings by my partner’s father.  So much more sophisticated and personal than that new sticky wallpaper, washi tape or decals that scream RENTAL!  Don’t you think?  (I have also found some amazing paintings in Vinnies so no excuses!)

5. Floor rugs

Floor rugs are a great opportunity to bring in that first layer of colour, texture and warmth.  An over scaled rug (so long as it fits in the room!) will make the room appear bigger and more luxurious.  They’re also transferable to your next home so a good excuse to spend a little more on something nice.

6. Accessorise

As with any interior, accessories finish and lift the room.  Try to find accessories that you love and are personal to you in some way, then layer them on top of books and make vignettes.  I find weekend markets a great source for unique accessories.

I pulled the blues and greens used in this scheme from the water colour painting in this pic.

I pulled the blues and greens used in this scheme from the water colour painting in this pic.

How I started an Interior Design business

It’s been a little while (ok, a long while) since my last post, so it seems appropriate to get up an running again with what I’ve been up to these last months.  I resigned from my secure job as an Interior Designer and started my own Interiors business freelancing.  Exciting, isn’t it??  I’ve learned a lot and thought it good karma to share my advice and experience with others thinking of doing the same.


Really, the biggest step is making the decision to just do it.  I decided to make the jump with no photographed portfolio or client base.  I weighed up two questions – am I crazy for taking this risk now? Or am I crazier to work yet another year for someone else and have nothing further to show for it?  I think it’s important to focus on what you do have, which for me is many years industry experience, design and computer skills, extensive industry knowledge and supplier contacts.

It’s so important to have faith and trust in your abilities.  Surround yourself with a cheer team.  For me it’s family, close friends and positive colleagues.  Unfortunately I’ve found there will always be someone who wants to push you down.  I was told once that I would never be a designer as my personality was too flat!  Well guess what, here I am and my clients love my personality.  (In hindsight, Oprah was told early on that she was ‘unfit for TV’, so really it was probably a good omen for my future success 😉 ). Push the negativity out best you can, it’s more about them as a person than you.


* Register an ABN (in NSW).  It’s so easy – go to the Australian government website abr.gov.au and a few minutes later you’ll have a number.  If you register as a sole trader you don’t even have to think of a business name yet, it’s just your name.

* Open a business banking account at your local branch.

* Set up a business email.  I used gmail.  Done in 5 mins.

* Get some simple business cards printed with your contact details.

* Make sure you have basic equipment like a mobile phone, computer with the programs you will use, printer, basic stationary etc.  Working from home initially will save you $$$ and you can claim a portion of your rent/mortgage on tax.

Are you wondering why you haven’t done this yet?


Experience is so important and the hardest part of working in the design industry.  Do everything you can to get it and watch your ducks start to line up.  Always be observing what the best in the business are doing and make those contacts.

Finance is also a big one.  Everyones circumstance is different but everyone needs a clear plan.  Have at least 6 months pay saved to give yourself a good start.  Financial stress is the LAST thing you need when starting a new venture.  You will also need a good accountant.


Tell your family, your friends and suppliers of your plans.  I was phenomenally lucky and had two big residential clients sign up right at the start.  I couldn’t in my wildest dreams have expected such luck.  It’s amazing what comes back when you put yourself out there.

It’s really important to stay active in the design community so attend any functions you can and visit suppliers regularly. Be visable.  My favourite saying at the moment is ‘opportunity dances with those already on the dance floor‘.


This has been my weakest point as I had to hit the ground running much quicker than expected.  You will need to;

* Decide on your design fees and margin.  This has been trial and error for me.  I find a competitive hourly rate + a conservative margin on product sold is a good combination while getting off the ground.  I also pass on discounts to clients where I can as everyone loves a discount and it helps to build trust that they are not being ripped off.  You’ll soon figure out if you’re making enough money.  RUN from people who make issue of paying or bargaining you down from the beginning – you’re already giving them a very fair deal.

* Decide on your branding. Who are you?  What do you do?  What’s your website, social media and profile going to look like?  This will evolve in time so try not to freak yourself out on it too much (like I do).

* Admin.  It’s unavoidable.  Do yourself a favour and get a program like Freshbooks.  I use Freshbooks to create invoices, enter payments and record expenses.  It’s been a life saver and I don’t recommend running a business without it or a program similar.

* Make templates for everything to save time.  This should include a fee letter, a contract, presentation / floor plans, purchase orders and invoices.

* Educate yourself with online information and business books.  They will help you outline a business strategy and set goals.  I like The Big Book of Small Business by Andrew Griffith.

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Mirror, mirror on my walls: which colour is the best of all?


Image from mackenziehoran.com

Lately I’ve been pondering covering my living room wall entirely in mirror.  Doubling the size of the room and bouncing extra light into every corner, mirror panels are a relatively inexpensive way to create impact and add drama to a space.  Vast expanses of mirror can look harsh, so I will be softening the look by layering furniture, art and accessories in front (as shown above).


Image from silverwoodinteriors.com

The entry to your home is also a great place for mirror, bringing light to a sometimes small and dark space.  I love attaching wall sconces to mirrored walls, treating a neglected area to even more light and drama.  Just watch the feng shui, you want to be directing those positive vibes the right way!


Image source unknown.

Mirror comes in a variety of colours and finishes.  Silver is a colour that everyone will be familiar with and is perfect for contemporary spaces.  Grey and bronze are great colour choices to create a moodier effect.  The image above shows how bronze mirror can warm a space and add a touch of glamour.


Image from thelennox.com

A popular and favourite finish of mine is the antiqued effect.  No two mirrors will be the same because artisans use a variety of interesting techniques to achieve the look.  The mirror can become an artwork in itself.  I find antiqued mirror adds such an interesting element to most interiors, sitting happily in the most glamourous rooms as well as amongst traditional antique furniture.

It’s a big decision, so just like a new paint colour, getting in mirror samples to see how they look in the space first is the best first step.

Colour of the moment: Radiant Orchid


Image source unknown

Beautiful colours flow in and out of fashion with changing trends, seasons and locations.  Whilst I always recommend using a base of neutrals for the large and often expensive items in your home, it’s the accents of colour found in art and accessories which will personalise the room.  If you’re looking for some fresh colour inspiration, why not try a colour that you wouldn’t normally consider?



At the moment, I’m loving ‘Radiant Orchid’, which has just been announced as the colour for 2014 by colour forecaster, Pantone.  This bright magenta cross fuchsia purple sits surprisingly well next to all neutrals, from white to greys and even the deepest charcoal.


image source unknown

Ease in to this colour with scatter cushions, throws or a new accessory.  If you’re feeling bold, paint or wallpaper an entire room.  The trick is to ensure there is another expanse of neutral colour in the room for the eye to rest on, such as a sofa or floor rug.


image from Barbara Groen

Have a look at my instagram @thedesignanthologist for my interpretation of using this colour with beautiful fabrics.

Interview with Stylist + Photographer Meghan Plowman


Meghan Plowman

On a recent trip to Perth, I was lucky enough to meet and work with Stylist and Photographer Meghan Plowman. I quickly discovered Meghan was a wealth of information and inspiration for anyone looking to make the move into a freelance creative career. After much hard work, Meghan is now enjoying the beginnings of great success turning her two passions, styling and photography, into a full time career. Shuffling around living room furniture, we got to chatting about the challenges of living a creative life, creating our own job descriptions and taking the leap of faith from a stable full time job to chase a dream. I knew I had to interview Meghan and share her knowledge!


Photograph + Styling by Meghan Plowman

DHS – Hi Meghan, how did you get started in the styling and photography industry? Did one come before the other?

MP – I actually began my career in graphic design however I have always had a passion for photography, film and telling stories through imagery. I had been photographing for a few years before I decided to embark on a styling career.

It was during my search for a way to tie together my interests I came across the role of a stylist through the work of mentors such as Sibella Court, Vanessa Colyer Tay and Glen Proebstel. I knew that I also wanted to create these images that were far more than products on a page, but clever story telling. I was hooked!

I began to build up a portfolio by styling and photographing my own work, then approached editors and agencies for experience. Networking with those in my industry exposed me to some great opportunities, which have grown from there.


Photograph + Styling by Meghan Plowman

DHS – I imagine that venturing out on your own comes with some level of risk and a fear of the unknown. How did you manage the transition from a stable full time job in to freelancing?

MP – There was definitely some fear of going out on my own that’s for sure. I know I couldn’t have done it without the incredible support of my family and friends.

Whilst working for an interiors boutique (before I ventured out on my own), I had the opportunity to work closely with the local papers. I found myself contributing ideas and images for interiors stories and assisting on photo shoots. It came to a point where I couldn’t say no to the opportunities coming my way and I had to trust in both my instinct and passions that more would follow and that I had to take the next step.

Learning to schedule my time has been the biggest challenge, which is different from and a lot more time consuming than a full time job – but I am still learning more about managing this as I go. It can also be quite a lonely journey for a freelancer; being someone who loves people I ensure that I stay in touch with other freelancers in my network who I can bouce ideas off and discuss challenges with – I feel really blessed to have these people in my life as extra support in my business and now personally. They have become my co workers in a way and I also couldn’t do this without them.

Photograph + Styling by Meghan Plowman

DHS – You’ve enjoyed great success and attracted much of your business from your Instagram profile (16,000 followers). How did you attract so many followers? Please share with us your tips!

 MP – I have been so incredibly amazed by the support I have had from Instagram and the community it has helped to build. In fact I am seeing this worldwide with Instagram helping build connections and business in huge ways. It’s essentially the real ‘social’ media!

I began using Instagram as an outlet for my own photography and styling work, because I love taking photos. It’s still the reason I use it but it’s become more of a daily portfolio for me – I have developed my style and will keep developing it through the constant inspiration and quality of images I see everyday.

I think my main pointers with building a following on Instagram would be to interact with people, don’t be afraid to comment on their images and be specific. Tell them what you like about a certain image and why. Also, try to find your own consistency and build your own style, be it through your subjects, editing, and even the way you speak to your following. I follow some users who simply make me laugh! 


Photograph + Styling by Meghan Plowman

DHS – What advice can you give to upcoming Stylists and Photographers hoping to build their own profile and portfolio?

MP – I’d definitely recommend looking for other creatives you admire who are also starting out, and collaborate on a project. That way you can all help build your portfolios together. I recall assisting on a shoot in the beginning where the team including a hairdresser, model, makeup artist, photographer, stylist and assistants were ‘paid’ in images. If you can come to an agreement with your photographer then everyone involved benefits from a professionally produced shot for their portfolio.


Photograph + Styling by Meghan Plowman

DHS – I can’t wait to see you upcoming projects, what’s in the pipeline?

MP – I’m really excited to have the opportunity in the new year to work closely with Mobilia and international design studio CulDeSac on an exhibition they are bringing to Perth called Design Circus, an adventurous concept to spark the imagination and challenge the way we see design.  Think a full circus experience mixed with clever visual display of industrial design!

I will also be continuing work with a number of U.S. brands such as Hearth and Mornings Like These, where I will be developing branding as well as contributing lifestyle stories and photography.


Photograph + Styling by Meghan Plowman


Photograph + Styling by Meghan Plowman


Photograph + Styling by Meghan Plowman


Photograph + Styling by Meghan Plowman