The summer months are prime entertaining months! I love nothing more than throwing a party for a group of friends and especially if it’s nice weather so that the doors can be opened right up, the cocktails can flow and no one is shivering in the corner! My next book that I’ve started writing this week has a huge focus on entertaining and I thought I’d share a few tips about entertaining that I’ve learnt from parties I’ve thrown for friends as well as parties I’ve thrown for clients over the years. These photos are from my 31st birthday at the end of last year. PINK PINK PINK!!
PARTY FOR THE SENSES
- TASTE – Probably one of the most important elements of hosting, what to serve! Determining a food theme will help you work out what to serve your guests, or help you delegate certain dishes to the guests to bring. I’m a huge fan of serving giant cheeseboards that people can graze from. If you aren’t known for your cooking skills you could always outsource and get takeaway that you then dish up in beautiful platters for your guests to help themselves to.
- SIGHT – What sort of theme is your party? Typically mine feature some level of pink! Working out your style theme will help you to decide what props you need for the table to fit the theme. Make sure your party is properly lit too, if your event is running into the evening you’ll need to account for adequate lighting. The IXL Fresco Aurora is a great option for lighting your outdoor area all year round.
- SMELL – Food helps with this one but lighting candles also helps to add to the aroma of the room and in the evenings adds a nice warm glow too. I always burn a couple of different candles on the table and around the room as well as in the bathroom and on the kitchen bench.
- TOUCH – What will your guests be sitting on? Will it be cooler later in the evening? Thinking about the temperature and preparing ahead of time won’t go unnoticed if the weather changes. We installed the IXL Fresco Aurora prior to Christmas in our outdoor area and it came in handy not only to light the area at night but also to warm us up when it got a bit cool for a few days after Christmas. It doesn’t get as hot as a mushroom gas heater but it definitely takes the edge off and allowed us to sit outside a lot longer than if we were out there without heating.
- SOUND – Party tunes are a must! Or if you’re aiming for a more relaxed vibe, some nice atmospheric music is a nice touch. No one wants to sit in silence at a dinner party with people they don’t know very well and try to make small talk that the entire table can hear. Soft background music is a nice filler. I like to create Spotify playlists before the event and just have these playing throughout the evening.
I was generously gifted the IXL Fresco Aurora to test out just prior to Christmas. I installed it at the family property in the Hunter Valley as that was where we were having a big family Christmas. We tend to entertain all year round in the outdoor area (even when it’s freezing outside we still gravitate towards the outdoor entertaining area) so we were keen to test it out and it is a great gadget that will get a tonne of use. There are various coloured light options and we can control the light with our phones so while we’re out doing things on the property at dusk we can turn the heater and light on back at the house and be toasty warm when we sit down for the day.
The IXL Fresco Aurora retails for $1,499 and is available to purchase here.
I’d love to know what some of your favourite tips are for entertaining. I’m always looking to simplify the process for myself as I always tend to over-cater and over-decorate!
2017 has been one for the history books. Not only did I release my first decorating book, run decorating workshops with West Elm, travelled to Bali for a photoshoot and got the book into my all time favourite store Anthropologie and now I can add Country Style cover shoot to the list of achievements for the year.
A few weeks ago the Country Style team travelled out to my family farm in the Hunter Valley to take some photos of the house for their Christmas issue. Country Style has been my favourite magazine for as long as I can remember so I was jumping out of my skin with excitement when we got the phone call!
We spent a fun filled two days with the team styling up a storm and wrangling all the farm animals to behave perfectly for their close ups! We have four fluffy donkey friends on the farm and little Toby was the one who landed the cover along with our resident wallaby friend Cracker who wanted in on the camera action and literally just hopped up into the shot. It was such a magical moment out in the paddock and one I’ll remember forever.
As a stylist myself it was fascinating to watch the team wander through the house and style things differently to the way I would have styled things. It’s always great to work with other stylists to see how they work and expand your styling skills. John Mangila the stylist brought the most amazing flowers with him to make the stunning garland over the fireplace. Brigid Arnott did a beautiful job capturing the magic of the farm in the photos, we will treasure the pictures of the farm for life.
I don’t share a tonne of my personal life online but the Christmas issue of Country Style shares a lot about my childhood and life at my family farm in the Hunter Valley so I thought I’d share a little bit about “the farm” here.
- My parents bought the farm when I was 10. We would go up every weekend after school sport and my two younger brothers and I would make motocross jumps for our motorbikes (much to mums horror).
- Mum and Dad renovated a number of years using sandstone quarried from the property.
- We spend most family Christmas’s at the farm and go tree hunting once everyone arrives to find the perfect Christmas tree.
- I had an Appaloosa pony “Jay-Jay” when I was a kid. Now we have 4 of the cutest donkeys you could ever meet.
- Mum and I have spent years collecting bits and pieces to add to the farm’s decor and every time I visit we redecorate or revamp something (wonder where I got my skills?!?)
The team from Sixty Four Films were there to capture the behind the scenes magic and put together this breath taking video.
For more of the stunning photos of the farm grab a copy of the Christmas issue of Country Style Magazine and read more about how magical the farm is.
At the start of this year I made a little list of things I wanted to achieve/do/see/experience. A fair few things on that list have already been achieved and I’ll reveal more throughout the year but one of the things high on my list was to work with West Elm. I didn’t know how I would collaborate with them but I just knew I wanted to find a way to work with one of my favourite stores. So it is with great excitement that I can announce that we have teamed up with West Elm through The Look School to host two spring themed workshops in September.
Join me for a fun filled workshop showing you exactly the formula needed to pull a room together. I will run through step by step the 5 elements I use in all my client projects (hot tip, they also feature in the book!) and we’ll have plenty of time together to talk about your own decorating or renovating troubles. Bring along photos and floor plans so we can chat one on one about your plans.
Tickets are super limited so that I can spend as much time with each of you as possible so jump on and purchase tickets asap if you’d like to attend.
We will be running two workshop time slots.
DATE: Sunday 24th September
TIME: Workshop 1: 11-1pm. Workshop 2: 2-4pm
LOCATION: West Elm Chatswood Chase
TICKETS: $79 (includes snacks and drinks)
Discounts available in store and for any book purchases on the day.
Click here to purchase a ticket.
Warning! This is a very long, wordy blog post with not many pretty pictures 😉
Since publishing my book in March I’ve had a lot of people reach out and ask about the publishing process, how I got published and just general book questions so I’ve collated them all together in one place. Hopefully my answers will help you understand the publishing process as well as shed some light on how much effort is put into creating a book (hint: a lot!).
If you have any questions that haven’t been addressed here please feel free to comment below or email me and I can update the blog post. I’m more than happy to share because I went into the publishing process with next to no experience in that world and definitely made a tonne of mistakes so if I can help in any way just shout out!
Q: How does a book deal work? Are you paid an advance and the publisher royalties or is it the other way around?
Every book deal is different so there’s not one single answer for this question. Some publishers pay their authors an advance, others don’t. Your publisher will outline all of this in your contract at the time of offer and they assess the commercial aspect of your book and the topic you’re writing about so this will dictate a lot of what you’re offered in advance anyway.
Q: Things you wish you knew rather than had to learn the hard way?
There are plenty of things I wish I knew! For starters, I wish I had known to engage a lawyer earlier than I did. Getting the contents of the book together wasn’t the most difficult part but most people assume it was. If you know what you’re talking about (which presumably you do because you’ve been commissioned to write a book on that topic!!) then actually writing it isn’t a difficult task, it’s just lengthy and time consuming…
One of the hardest parts is usually negotiating contracts and knowing your rights as you lose a lot of control in the publishing process when working with a publishing house. If you self-publish you have the majority of the control so you can choose every tiny detail down to the fonts you use inside the book. Once you hand over your manuscript to a publisher this becomes their domain and that’s partly why we all opt to go with a publisher in the first place. Publishers have YEARS of experience, sales data and knowledge to back up their decisions. Sometimes though, they just don’t mesh with your vision for the book and you need to know your legal rights so that if you aren’t happy with the direction the book is going your copyright is protected and your personal brand reputation won’t be damaged should a book you aren’t 100% happy with get published.
Q: At what stage of your business development should you consider a book and why?
I never imagined I would be able to say I was a published author by the time I turned 30 so this is tricky one for me to answer. I still remember clearly signing the contract when I was 27 years old and thinking “am I even allowed to be doing this?! Surely I shouldn’t be doing this for another decade?!” That’s totally my own issue though because I’m pretty hard on myself and had this perception that if you were a published author you needed to be a certain age (not in your twenties!), have reached a certain stage in business or earn a certain figure each year… That’s all total cr*p. If you are getting recognition in the industry you work in, have built a network of fabulous clients/customers/patients and have enough experience under your belt to know you could write 50,000 words on a certain topic then your age/income bracket/resume/sex/race etc. shouldn’t come into any of it. Hardie Grant Books didn’t question my age or my abilities when handing me my contract so I should probably remind myself of that more often when I question opportunities given to me before I think I’m truly ready!
You should only really consider writing a book when you are confident that you can write to a certain word count and back it up with examples you’ve experienced in your career. You’ll easily be found out if you aren’t able to do this and book sales will show this very fast!
It’s also important to know that writing a book isn’t going to make you a millionaire over night, it’s a long road, a lot of work and probably won’t make anywhere near as much money from a book as you would from a number of really well paying clients. Writing a book is an excellent opportunity for self promotion, business marketing, profile building and brand awareness but it’s not necessarily going to translate into overnight millionaire status so if you don’t think your business is at a stage where you can take the financial risk of taking time out to firstly write the book (it took me 3 months while working full-time) and then promote the book then hold off until your business is more established or you have employees that can take over when you need to go on tour.
Q: Details on are negotiating contracts.
Hire a lawyer. Plain and simple. Don’t try and do it all yourself, a lawyer will be able to break down the contract jargon in a way that you can understand it and know what you’re signing up for. Don’t send your lawyer in to negotiate the contract though, this needs to be you but it doesn’t hurt to get some professional advice so you know what you are negotiating for and why.
Q: Did you write a little each day, or slog it out for a blocked set of time? How many drafts did it take?
I haven’t ever checked how many drafts I wrote but I just looked and I had 11 different drafts saved before submitting it to the publishers.
My book is based on the decorating workshops I was already running in regional and rural Australian towns so I had a basic framework to work from already. I just expanded it and turned it into my table of contents when I sat down to start on the book. I then separated it out into chapters I thought would be best for ease of reading (note: the publishers only made one change to the layout I created when it came to editing and made entryways it’s own chapter where as I had had it lumped in with lounge rooms).
Once I’d nailed down the table of contents I wrote the first chapter first which was detailing the 5 elements of decorating. From there I knew I wanted to go room by room explaining how to use all 5 elements in each room so it was an easy formula for me to follow. I didn’t write each chapter in order, I wrote bits and pieces and came back sporadically until I was happy with the overall flow.
I asked my mum and a handful of friends to read the first draft once I was relatively happy with it and then made any necessary changes based on their feedback until I was happy with it all.
I was given 3 months to write the manuscript and it was over the Christmas period so I definitely procrastinated A LOT for the first month. Partly because December is typically a very busy month for me with styling and decorating work and I wanted some time out to relax over Christmas. Once Christmas and New Year was over I used the first few weeks of January to make a good start on the writing process because January is a lot quieter for me with client work I had enough time to work on projects but also schedule in some good chunks of time to write. I took advantage of my parent’s property in the Hunter Valley in those weeks to go up and write in silence without any of the distractions I would have had in Sydney. Getting away from your usual routine where you can be distracted by emails, office co-workers, employees or social activities is really useful if you can wrangle it!
Q: Would love to know what you thought was the biggest challenge during the process, and how you overcame it. Either in writing the content or getting it published?
The biggest challenge for me was the time it took to get the book on shelves. I’m a very impatient person and as a business owner if I make up my mind about something I want to get started on it immediately and get it done so sitting back and giving the control over to someone else and their timeline was definitely a challenge for me. Luckily Hardie Grant’s team are fabulous and they were very good at keeping me updated with their progress so I knew where they were at with the book most of the time and I had been given a publish date at the time of signing the contract 12 months earlier so I knew I had a goal to work towards and also a timeframe to get things in order behind the scenes with my business to allow me to go on tour with the book and still have money coming in.
Writing the content wasn’t anywhere near as difficult as I thought it might be. I think that was mostly in part because I knew what I was talking about and taught decorating workshops for years so had plenty of detail in my head that I just needed to sit down and focus to get it out onto paper. (I say paper because initially I hand wrote a lot of the ideas for the book before switching to a Word document, don’t worry I didn’t write 30,000 words by hand before typing them!!! YIKES!)
The only other challenge was logistically matching up illustrations with the content of the book and making sure the illustrations really did correspond to the paragraphs I had written. If I was talented enough to draw and illustrate myself it would have been easier because I would’t have had to explain my thoughts to another person. I was so lucky to work with my friend Maddison Rogers on it though so we could collaborate freely together. Maddison is in Brisbane but I’m in Sydney so I flew up twice for a couple of days at a time and stayed with Maddison and we just lived and breathed the illustrations the entire time I was there. It was intense but also good to block out our time together to make sure we were both on the same page (pardon the book pun!)
Q: Why did you choose to use drawings/illustrations rather than photos?
I had always envisaged that the book would be illustrated and wouldn’t be full of photography and never swayed from visualising it that way. My ideas behind this was to make the book a more classic, timeless piece that would be relevant in two decades time because decorating itself is a timeless art. I knew adding in photography of my client’s homes or styled photoshoots would probably date a lot faster just due to the nature of homewares and furniture trends. I also wanted the reader to be inspired by the illustrations and have a go at being creative in their own homes rather than being caught up in trying to replicate the exact same look as a certain room in their own homes. My approach to decorating is to allow as much of the client’s personality and style to shine through as possible and not to limit their creativity with my own design opinions too much so illustrations worked in perfectly with my business philosophy. I also made sure I included diagrams and how-tos for people to see rather than have to read and interpret, I didn’t want them to be confused by any jargon and the easiest way to demonstrate that is with visuals. Thankfully Hardie Grant saw my vision in the same way and never encouraged me to add photography to it.
Feel free to leave any comments below if I haven’t answered anything you’re dying to know 🙂
Melbourne listen up! I’m coming to visit your lovely city! The books are back in stock so I’m rolling into town with a wagon full of books! To celebrate I’m also hosting a 2 hour workshop at the gorgeous United Interiors showroom in Moorabin.
- Where to find inspiration with your decorating project
- What you can’t ignore when starting a project
- How to keep your confidence up when you’re in the middle of a reno
- The importance of lighting your home correctly and so much more!
What are the details?
BOOK SIGNING – free for anyone to walk in and check out the store and come have a chat.
WORKSHOP – 6-8pm Friday 28th April.
Address: United Interiors Showroom at 253 Wickham Rd, Moorabbin, VIC
- All participants get a FREE book valued at $30!
- Nibbles and drinks provided throughout the 2 hour workshop.
- PLUS a $25 voucher to use in store. Hello awesome deal!
Ticket costs $99 so that’s pretty great value if you ask me.
Bring along a notepad and photos of your home or plans for your renovations as there will be plenty of Q&A time where we can work through any areas you are stuck on. You will walk away with a head full of inspiration and ideas, ready to put into action as soon as you get home.
SPOTS ARE LIMITED – FOLLOW THIS LINK TO PURCHASE YOUR TICKET.
Looking forward to seeing you in Melbourne!
Earlier last year I wrote a blog post about hiring a decorator and it’s been one of the most read articles I’ve ever written so I thought I’d expand a little further on it today and give you a bit more insight into what it’s like hiring a decorator.
For most of my clients working with me is the first time they’ve worked with a decorator so I need to spend a bit of time showing them how the process works and easing any worries they may have about using a decorator (usually that’s mostly to do with the myth that interior decorators are expensive). I leave a welcome packet with each client I meet which details my office hours, preferred methods of , basic terms and conditions and a little diagram showing how the process works so they can check in at any time to see what’s next in the process.
Generally there’s about 4-5 steps in the decorating process and it’s relatively similar to if you were buying the furniture yourself except you have a helping hand making sure you’re making all the right decisions to keep your project on track.
Step 1. Meet & Greet
The initial consult is the get to know each other meeting. If you can do some homework prior to the initial consult you’ll get the most out of the meeting as possible. Show your decorator some examples of rooms and styles you like, have a list ready of the rooms you want help with, any furniture you want to keep and anything you’re desperate to get rid of. It’s also a good opportunity to discuss colours if you’re re-painting too and get instant feedback from a professional. Use the hour wisely, you’ll be working together quite closely as the weeks/month’s progress so share as much as you are comfortable sharing. I love meeting new clients and discovering all sorts of things about them and their families. Often no room is left unturned when I visit and I get a real insight into how the family lives. This then helps me create the best space possible for them.
Consultations cost anywhere between $200-$400 depending on the decorator. You can check out my pricing here.
Step 2. Mood Boards
After the initial meeting I gather as much inspiration as possible and start sourcing products that fit my client’s brief. I have a huge array of trade only suppliers I source products from that my clients don’t get access to. It’s no wonder people struggle to find the right furniture and homewares when there are so many trade only furniture suppliers. I spend a lot of my time educating myself on supplier’s products and quality standards so that I can source the best possible pieces for clients so when you’re paying a decorator to source products for you know that they have spent years honing their supplier database and sniffing out the best range of products for you.
I present all the items I’ve sourced to the client in form of a PDF mood board which shows all the items beautifully collated together to give the client an idea of how the room will look when it’s finished.
I always quote up front with a client how many hours are required to source the items we discuss in our initial meeting. For some clients, they don’t have the budget to get all the rooms done at once so they go room-by-room over a period of time. My hourly rate is $125/hr but you can expect to pay anywhere between $70-$300/hr depending on the level of experience the decorator has.
There’s usually a bit of back and forth about a couple of items before it’s all decided on and we can start ordering products.
Step 3. Ordering Products
Like I mentioned, I have access to a huge range of furniture wholesalers so that means I take care of the ordering and delivery of the items to my client’s homes. This requires a bit of back and forth between the supplier, me and the client. But it’s the fun part for my clients when their goodies start arriving and they can put their home together. I generally have all items delivered directly to the client to save on double handling costs if I were to collect it all and deliver in one hit.
Step 4. Styling
Once all of the pretty things have arrived I pop back in and style up a storm. This generally only takes a few hours and not always necessary but a lot of my client’s find it helpful to have me come through and move furniture around to where it looks best in the space.
So what are the benefits of hiring a decorator?
- We save you time – so many of my clients are time poor and wish they could wave a magic wand and fall back in love with their home again. I don’t have a magic wand but I do my best to make it look like I’ve waved a wand and jazzed everything up by the time I’m done.
- We save you money – yes you’re paying a decorator’s fees but how many times have you had a piece of furniture delivered and had that pang of regret that maybe you should have gone for the other colour/shape/style? We’ve been there done that and made all those mistakes so we know what to look out for that could be an issue for your home/style and how to avoid it. Plus I pass on my trade discounts to you too so you can expect to save around 30% off retail pricing.
- We deliver beautiful spaces – many of my clients are fed up with their space, sick of trawling the shops on weekends and just generally unsatisfied with how their spaces work for them. My job is to get you to fall back in love with your home and enjoy coming home to a beautiful space.
- We act as a mediator and save relationships – Okay, that’s a little far-fetched I admit but you would be surprised how often I’m used as the mediator between husbands and wives who can’t decide on furniture pieces. I hear the phrase “Emma suggested this so we should do as she says” and that’s the end of the discussion 😉
If you have any questions about my services or want to have a chat about how I could potentially help you with your home shoot me an email for an obligation free conversation – [email protected]
Due to the overwhelming success of the last few workshops I’ve hosted this year I’m pleased to announce I’ve locked more dates and more locations for April, May and June! Whoop whoop! Please see details below of the upcoming workshops.
Friday 28th April 6.30 – 8.30pm – United Interiors – Moorabin, VIC – to book click here.
Thursday 4th May 6-8pm – Hamptons At Home – Dural, NSW – to book click here.
Saturday 5th May 10.30am – 12.30pm – Hamptons At Home – Dural, NSW – to book click here.
Thursday 11th May – 6-8pm – Hamptons At Home – Dural, NSW – to book click here.
May – Tara Dennis Store – Wahroonga, Sydney – DATE TBC – please email Avalon to register your interest – [email protected]
Thursday 1st June – 6-8pm – Hamptons At Home – Dural, NSW to book click here.
Saturday 6th June 10.30am- 12.30pm – Hamptons At Home – Dural, NSW to book click here.
We are keeping numbers tight on each workshop so that you get as much time with me as possible so spaces are very limited and we do have a waitlist for some of the workshops already.
What Happens At The Workshops?
Good question! We cover all the juicy decorating details like, where to find inspiration with your decorating project, what you can’t ignore when starting a project, how to keep your confidence up when you’re in the middle of a reno, the importance of lighting your home correctly and SO much more. We have plenty of question and answer time so you can bring photos of your home or plans for your renovations and we can work through any areas one-on-one that are troubling you. Plus there are snacks and treats too! It’s a fun morning of decorating and you’ll walk away with a head full of ideas to implement as soon as you get home. Signed copies of the book will also be available to buy at each workshop.
I will keep this blog post updated with any further details of the workshops too so keep checking back in. I’m hoping to host more workshops as the year progresses so if you’ve got a retail store that you’d like to host some workshops in please get in touch!
Hope to see you there!
What a night! It was so fabulous to host my friends, family and media s last week at private business club CUB in Darlinghurst.
I ummed and ahhed about hosting a book launch party for a long time and then decided that it was worth the effort and money to do it as I would probably regret not throwing a huge party to celebrate. I couldn’t let the release date pass without some sort of party so I embraced it and threw a big party.
It was a bit like when you are a child and you invite your entire class to your party and then sit and wonder if anyone will actually turn up. I was blown away when I made my speech looking around the room and seeing 50-60 of my favourite people in one place.
How I Styled The Venue
I use the CUB private business club most weeks for meetings or to work from so I was lucky to have a beautiful space that only needed a bit of styling and I could access the venue well before the event started and make a mess arranging flowers!
The book launch was on a Thursday evening so the day before I was up at 5am to go to the flower markets and purchase as many pink roses as I could find. I didn’t have a flower theme for the event, I just knew I wanted the flower to match the book and the roses at the markets kept appearing in the perfect colour combinations so roses it was. I also raced around ordering big balloons for the entry way and a few more vases from West Elm (you can never have enough vases right?!) then to buy tissue paper to wrap any book purchases in and white paper bags.
I had already ordered a Square credit card reader to take credit card payments on the night to sell the book, candles and my stationery range with Little Branch so I was all set up and ready for books to fly off the shelves.
On the Thursday morning I was up early packing the car with props, flowers and all the books ready to take to the venue. I stopped and got my hair and make up done on the way in so I didn’t need to fuss about later in the day and then Alicia (my PR manager from Harper Collective) and I picked up the balloons and headed to the venue to start setting up. We started putting the flowers together at about 3pm into all the vases and the lovely staff at CUB moved two beautiful mirrored bookshelves into the entryway ready for me to style up a storm. I roped my business pal Elyse into helping me set up the bookshelves and she did a fabulous job of collecting props and stacking the shelves with books. I varied the items on the shelves by mixing up horizontal stacks of books with vertical stacks of books, I grouped candles together and then popped the vases of roses in the blank spots. It all came together reasonably easily which was a win!
It was a bit of a pink explosion on the shelves, I don’t think I’ve ever been allowed to go SO rogue with pink ever in my life, it was so pretty!
Once the shelves were stacked with books I quickly got dressed and was ready to greet guests at the entry. One by one they all filtered in and my lovely friend Dorina came in holding the most beautiful tray of cookies she had baked for the occasion with the word HOME stamped into them and watercolour fondant in the same colours as the book. So much love!
We all chatted and mingled for an hour or so before Claire Bradley, editor of Inside Out Magazine got up and introduced me to the crowd and then I had my turn thanking all the amazing people that helped me along the book journey. It was so nice to be able to publicly thank them and acknowledge all of their efforts. It might be my name on the book title but it wasn’t a solo effort to get it onto shelves.
After speeches were done everyone ran to the shelves to buy their own copies of the book for me to sign. It was so fun being able to write little notes in my friends books and to think that they’ll have it on their shelves with a personalised message for years.
We continued to party until late and kicked on with some family and close friends at the local pizza place! It was a bit of struggle to get up the next day and pack things up but it was worth it 😉
A huge thank you to Alicia for all her efforts helping me organise and set up the event, to Elyse for hustling like there’s no tomorrow for the entire set up and at the launch and a huge thank you to everyone who came along and supported me on the night, it was so magical to share the occasion with you all. As I said in my speech, often we only stop and celebrate achievements in our personal lives rather than business or career achievements so I wanted to stop and celebrate this milestone with my favourite people.
Although the book has now sold out on my website you can pre-order a copy via this link for delivery mid-April.
I have shared images of the front cover of my book a million times but I have hardly shared any peeks inside the book so it’s about time I showed you just how pretty it is on the inside.
How I Found My Illustrator
I’ve written previously about why I decided to have the pages illustrated rather than using photography but it’s time I told the story of how I found my illustrator, Maddison Rogers. Maddison and I met back in 2014 by chance one day when I was running a workshop in her sister’s store Gifts At Teacup in Roma, she had come to help out at the workshop. Between workshop classes Maddison and I got chatting about business and decorating. I mentioned to her that I was starting work on a book for a publisher and needed to find an illustrator to bring the vision to life. She casually mentioned that she could paint and I’m sure she’s regretting ever saying that because I put her to work almost immediately!! Maddison lives in Brisbane and I am in Sydney so we had many phone calls back and forth about the project and I flew up to Brisbane a couple of times to work on the illustrations with her. Together we put together a huge list of illustrations (almost 100) that needed to be painted to suit the content I was busy writing. Every few weeks Maddison would send me photos of the progress she was making and I would squeal and drop my phone with excitement each time she’d message me. Maddison runs her own pet product online store Forester Rogers, is working on a medical device with a couple of friends, works full-time at Coco Republic and still managed to find the time to paint for me. Oh and she’s still in her early twenties. Amazing right?!
Writing The Content
I had a 3 month time period to get the content and illustrations ready to submit to the publisher. I love procrastinating (I could write a book about how to spend your time procrastinating but I’d probably be too busy procrastinating to ever write it) so giving me a deadline is a very good thing. I think I wasted the first month thinking “yeh, yeh I’ll get to it soon”. Luckily I had worked out the table of contents for the book very early on prior to meeting with the publisher so I had the basic framework ready to go (I’d actually taken a lot of it from the workshops I run so it was rather simple to put together). The 3 month writing period fell over a Christmas break so I took the chance to write over Christmas/New Year and got about 80% of the book content finished before I had to dive straight back into client work again. I found the whole writing process relatively easy which was surprising, I always thought writing a book would be tedious and drawn out. Having a deadline significantly helped that’s for sure and knowing the topic you are writing about back to front definitely worked in my favour! The biggest challenge was motivating myself to sit down and write. I wasn’t writing all day every day, it was more like batching. I’d sit down and write for hours and hours then not touch it for a week or so.
I roped my mum and a handful of friends into reading the first draft. Mum read the manuscript three times, marking up changes in red pen as she went. I’m very grateful for her editing skills because every time I sat down to read the manuscript I’d get too caught up in judging my own work I’d forget to check spelling and grammar mistakes!
Maddison finished her illustrations a few hours before the deadline to send in the finished product. Just like Uni assignment days! Off it went to the publisher and the next stage of the journey began. I’ll write about that journey soon. I think I’ve probably bored you enough by now 😉
There are 11 chapters in the book and each one has a number of beautiful illustrators scattered throughout. One chapter that I spent a lot of time working on was the Home Office chapter. More and more my clients are converting spare rooms into a home office or study so I knew it was an important room to cover. Here’s a look at the opening pages of the Home Office chapter.
If you watch the book trailer here you’ll see a few more pages inside the book and if you follow me on Instagram I’ll be sharing more over the coming days.
I’d be delighted if you ordered a copy of the book here.
I’m hitting the road and I’m not coming back… Jokes….. I’m gearing up for one of the biggest months in my career to date. My very first book HOME hits bookshelves on 1st March and to celebrate I thought I’d get on a plane and fly around to some of my favourite stores and thank everyone for their support. It’s been a mammoth task (to say the least) to get this book out there in the real world. For so long it was just a word document in an ugly font and a Dropbox folder full of scanned illustrations from Maddison my illustrator. So to see it in the flesh is pretty damn amazing.
If you’d like to come and join us for some fun and grab a copy of the book see the details below.
BOOK TOUR DATES
Saturday 11th March – join me at the Tara Dennis store in Sydney’s Wahroonga, there are very limited spots available for this intimate workshop. To reserve a ticket jump over to Tara’s website. If you haven’t already checked out her store you should, it’s absolutely stunning!
Thursday 16th & Friday 17th March – I’ll be setting up shop in my second home, Oaten’s store in Casino NSW (near Lismore/Ballina). You’re welcome to pop in at any time either day as I’ll be there working some styling magic in store. You can purchase a signed copy of the book too!
Saturday 18th March – come and visit me at Fine Things Gifts in Benowa on the Gold Coast from 10-12pm. Pop in between those times and chat all things decorating and books!
Sunday 19th March – my lovely friends at Sheets On The Line are putting on a little celebration for the book in their gorgeous Brisbane store at 11am. Just mosey on over to purchase a copy of the book in store and to chat all things decorating.
I’m so thrilled to announce that my book Home is officially now available to pre-order. It isn’t actually released until 1st of March however anyone who pre-orders through the site will be first to receive their copies from that date and I will even sign it for you! 😉 (What a draw card right?!)
I was lucky to receive my first author copy of the book in December and it’s been so difficult not to share a photo of it every day since then but the release date for the book is not until the 1st of March so I don’t want to bore you all with too many photos of the book until you can actually start purchasing it.
Where Is The Book Sold?
Because I have published the book with Hardie Grant Books the book will be available to purchase in all good bookstores across Australia as well as the big online book retailers,I can’t wait to walk into a bookstore and see my book on the shelf (a word to you all, if you see it on the shelf pull it to the front so it’s on full display please ;)). I will also be selling the books directly from my website which means I can sign them before I pop them in the snail mail to you.
Book Trailer Video
My videographer Lisa Zhu and I spent a long time filming a beautiful trailer to show you a bit more about what the book is about in a thinly veiled attempt to encourage you to pre-order. Take a little look below to see the inspiration behind the book as well as some peeks inside – I might be biased but I think it’s the prettiest book I have ever seen.
HOME: The Elements of Look Book Trailer from 4freebies.info on Vimeo.
In the coming weeks I will be rolling out some other exciting products I’ve been working on with Little Branch and Maison Blanche but I won’t ruin the surprise just yet.
It’s been a while since I’ve written a long newsy blog post but it’s been for good reason, I’ve been busy writing something else… My very first decorating book!
We are a little while off pre-selling this bad boy (official release date is 1st March!) but I wanted to share the story of how this whole book came about before I start pressuring you all to buy it 😉
This is hands down the longest, largest project I’ve ever worked on. It has been full of highs as well as some significant and trying lows. This all started back in 2014 but I hardly told a soul… Looking back now I realise that’s because the first book publishing opportunity ended on a bad note and clearly I had some sort of gut instinct telling me this or I would have been shouting it from the rooftops…
Never in a million years did I expect to be the author of a decorating book by the age of 30. In fact, when I first spoke to a publisher about writing a book I even said “I always dreamed of writing a book one day” and literally meant 10 years from now! I guess the universe had other plans for me and brought that goal forward significantly. I won’t bore you with the details of the first year of the book journey because it was a long and difficult process that resulted in exiting from the contract and starting from scratch with a new publisher. Everything happens for a reason though and thanks to a number of lovely people in the industry I landed a publishing deal with Hardie Grant in February 2016.
How Did This Come About?
My vision for the book was for it to be a timeless classic full of decorating advice that follows a formula anyone can follow and something you could refer to for years and still be inspired by. This meant I wasn’t going to use photography. I’m an avid reader and have the largest collection of decorating books you could ever come across but one thing that bothers me is that some of my favourite books while the content is relevant and useful, the imagery is dated and uninspiring after a couple of years. So if I wasn’t using photography, how would I still have an engaging and useful interiors book…?
Illustrations tell such a different story to photography. They are evocative, expressive and not to mention, gorgeous to look at. My aim for the book is to spark creativity for the reader and inspire them to start a decorating project and watch their style evolve. I was worried that photography would mean readers would get caught up looking at the images and trying to find the exact same lamp/sofa/cushion for their own homes rather than using it as an opportunity to develop their skills. Illustrations allow for interpretation and they are also a timeless visual. Umm hello look at the cover, it’s beeeeautiful! (Biased much?!)
I had already started working on the book without giving much thought to who would actually illustrate the book… Luckily during a decorating workshop I was running in Roma QLD I got chatting to Maddison Rogers, who was helping out in the store during the workshop. I mentioned my book project to her and she casually mentioned she can illustrate. One thing led to another and before we knew it we were mapping out every single illustration in the book against my content plan. Maddison is based in Queensland so we worked a lot via email and hours and hours of phone calls pus a couple of flights up to see her work in the flesh to get the illustrations just right. Maddison took my vision and ran with it. Very rarely did we have to make any changes.
What’s Inside The Book?
The whole framework for the book was based around the 5 elements of decorating I teach at the decorating workshops I’ve been running for a number of years now. It was relatively easy to come up with the table of contents based on the workshops and then I expanded on each topic from there. The book starts off detailing the 5 elements of decorating and then moves room by room through the home showing you exactly how to apply the elements to each room yourself.
I will be sharing some photos of the inside of the book in the weeks leading up to the launch on March 1st so check back soon for a behind the scenes sneak peek.
Was it difficult writing a book?
I never thought I was much of a writer. I wrote countless essays at university but always left it to the last minute and took full advantage of the +/- 10% word count rule (hint, I was always in the minus 10%!). Yet writing the content for this book was not a difficult task. I certainly had moments of procrastinating but overall I quite enjoyed writing all 30,000 words. I think when you’re writing about a topic you are passionate about it comes easily. I will admit proof reading my work was a real struggle. I much preferred writing than re-reading so I enlisted the help of my very patient and clever mother who read the manuscript at least three times in full marking up her changes and advice as she read before I submitted it to the publishers. (Don’t worry, I thanked her in the book so she knows how grateful I am!)
Yes the book has my name on it but it took more than just me to get this book on shelves! Obviously the book wouldn’t be anything without the help of Maddison Rogers and her illustrative skills. There were a number of other special people who helped keep me focused and motivated to get it written and I have thanked them profusely in person and in the book.
Having now gone through the publishing process with two different publishers I can’t speak highly enough of the team at Hardie Grant. It’s a difficult thing handing over your manuscript and illustrations and entrusting your vision to come to life with a team you hardly know but the team I worked with understood what I wanted the book to be and brought it to life 100 times better than I could ever have envisaged. So many of my friends who have seen the front cover can’t believe how much it epitomises my entire being: my design aesthetic, my portfolio of work, my personal style and every photo I post on Instagram.
You’ve probably lost interest in the story now so I’ll wrap it up for now. A lot of people find the book publishing process fascinating (I certainly did) so I will share more soon.. I’ve been busy working on a super cute video to show you more of the book as well as a range of products with Little Branch and Maison Blanche. I won’t spoil the surprise yet but they are looking very very lovely so stay tuned!
If you’ve scrolled straight to the bottom, the book is released to all good book stores on 1st March. It will be available for pre-sale via this link very soon. You can enter your email address to be notified the second we are pre-selling!