In this episode, I have a special guest, one of our guest speakers coming to our event the She Renovates Live conference in November. Emma Blomfield is an accomplished interior designer, decorator, renovator, author, and businesswoman.
Emma’s passion for homemaking and creating beautiful homes are the same things that we love as renovators and the thing that binds us together, appreciating how you can execute your flair and drive for creating beautiful homes.
Listen to Episode 87: Emma Blomfield
Podcast: Download (Duration: 22:13 — 22.49 MB)
- [00:01:45] She Renovates Live early bird tickets
- [00:03:00] Started out e-decorating
- [00:04:41] Photoshoots and renovating Airbnbs business
- [00:06:37] Having a business degree
- [00:08:17] Started visual merchandising
- [00:09:31] Property styling
- [00:10:39] Her family’s passionate interest in interiors
- [00:12:04] Helping clients achieve their dream house vision
- [00:15:12] Renovating as an inevitable part of decorating
- [00:18:00] Sydney born and bred
- [00:21:23] The Reno Library
Hello, renovators. It’s Bernadette and today I’m interviewing Emma Blomfield. Emma is a very accomplished interior designer, decorator, renovator, author, and businesswoman.
And so what we are going to be doing today is really finding out a little bit more about Emma and her background and her passion for homemaking because I think that’s the thing that really binds us together. And you’ll find that Emma has certainly taken her love of beautiful homes to the next level. And the reason that she’s here is because she’s going to be presenting at the She Renovates Live event and I just wanted you to get a little bit of a sense of her passion and her love for the same things that we love. And that’s really the thing that unites us all. And so really to appreciate how you can execute your flair and drive for creating beautiful homes in a way that’s appropriate for you.
Now, we’re going to hear Emma’s story. If you don’t have your ticket to She Renovates Live, I suggest you jump in and get it because the price is going up on the next day and it will never be cheaper than it is today. We’ve had to reduce the numbers significantly so I’ve had an early bird special going on for some time. Now it’s time to move forward. Ticket sales are going really well but I don’t want you to miss out. Okay, let’s get into it.
Bernadette: Okay, so I got Emma Blomfield here today. And the intention is that we’d find out a little bit more about what Emma does and how her passion for beautiful homes creating beautiful spaces has played out in her life. Emma’s going to be presenting in She Renovates Live so I thought it would be good to actually meet Emma first. And so welcome, Emma.
Emma Blomfield: Thank you so much for having me. It’s very exciting to be part of your podcast.
Bernadette: Thank you. And so do you want to just tell us a little bit about your business for a start?
Emma Blomfield: Sure. I started my business nearly 10 years ago. I was about 24 years old, knew absolutely nothing and just thought, let’s have a crack at this. I had lots of friends meeting out and setting up their own homes for the first time and I was already working for an interior designer who was doing more high-end residential decorating and design. And so obviously, my friends couldn’t afford her rates to help out with their new apartments and new homes. So I was helping them on the side on the weekends and weeknights and I had noticed a trend called “e-decorating”, which we’re all familiar with now. But at the time it wasn’t so popular, it had popped up in the US and was starting to sort of make a bit of an impact in Australia. But there weren’t very many people offering this service in Sydney. And so I thought, well, that’s something I can do on the side as well as working full time because being online meant that I didn’t have to go and meet with the clients. I just worked with them by email and I could do that at any time of the day or night.
That’s how I started out offering e-decorating and then it just morphed into people wanting me to come to their house as we got further through the project. And then I’d gone into different jobs in the meantime, while still offering this as a part-time service and then went full time a couple of years ago and now offer mostly in-home decorating. And e-decorating is probably more like 20% of what I do now so it’s kind of flipped around the other way.
Bernadette: And you don’t just do decorating?
Emma Blomfield: No, I don’t. I do design decorating. I also do event styling, obviously not doing too much at the moment, and catalogue styling for big brands and photoshoots and that sort of thing as well.
Bernadette: Okay. And renovations?
Emma Blomfield: I do renovations, yes. So I’ve got a few on at the moment. Some of them are investment properties that we’re renovating for Airbnb and others are renovations for family homes.
Bernadette: Amazing. And so in terms of your business, you’ve added an education on to that as well, haven’t you?
Emma Blomfield: Yeah, I had a lot of people coming to me after I wrote my first book in 2017. I had a lot of people asking, “Oh, how did you get this feature? How did you get that feature? How did you end up with a book deal? And how did you write e-courses?” So I ended up offering a mentoring program based on the amount of enquiries that I was getting from people asking for advice and offering to take me to coffee. But there’s only so many coffees you can go to.
It ended up becoming a bigger program. And that ties back into the e-course that I do as well, which is similar to the books. It focuses more on learning to decorate as a passion, more so than something to monetize. And then the mentoring programs also help designers setting up their business and navigating the fun world of entrepreneurship.
Bernadette: That is definitely a very steep learning curve, isn’t it?
Emma Blomfield: Oh, yeah.
Bernadette: It probably wasn’t so bad for you because you would have experienced the digital age coming to school but for me oh my God like, seriously, there’s so much I’ve had to learn to have a business. And I think I certainly found it’s been the quality of the mentors that really sped up that process.
Emma Blomfield: Yeah, I would have to agree. I’ve had a few mentors and business coaches along the way. I mean, I did a business degree anyway. I didn’t actually study interior design and I majored in marketing, so I had that as my fundamental base. And I still have employed and I couldn’t even tell you how many people I paid for advice over the last decade. And I think I’ve learned more from them and obviously experience than I did from the degree but it was good having that as the base before I started.
Bernadette: Exactly. Actually, I remember it was fairly early in my business because I’ve been doing it for nearly 10 years, I actually can’t remember. And I was going to buy another iPhone and the children said to me, “Don’t do it, mum. You’re so hopeless. Blah, blah, blah.” And I thought, “Blow them.” So I went out and bought it. And like, I often think now they come to me with their tech issues and say, “How do I do this? How do I do that?” And I think, well, that’s what’s been the difference because I’ve just had a constant diet of coaching and mentoring and to get to a point where I’ve left them for dead. But what that story is I bought the iPhone, I came home with it and within 24 hours two of our children have gone out and bought themselves one.
Emma Blomfield: Oh, really? You started a trend.
Bernadette: I did, so that was pretty fun. Okay, let’s get back to you. I guess you’ve sort of balanced this so you got started in your post-uni days?
Emma Blomfield: I did. So I finished uni and it was actually during the GFC so I couldn’t find any marketing jobs anywhere and it actually suited me quite well because I realized I didn’t really want to do that. And I was working for art and at the time doing some of the visual merchandising for their windows, I thought maybe I could go into doing this full time. And just by chance. When you search for visual merchandising jobs on Seek, it comes up in the interior design category. And a job came up for this interior designer in Mosman in Sydney and I applied for the job. It was 3 days a week at the time. She just needed some help with marketing, as well as loading products to her online furniture website and sourcing and styling some of those online elements so she gave me the job and within a month, I’d gone full time. And we did all sorts of fit-outs for. We did a whole tower of apartments in Townsville. We did apartments like luxury apartments in Sydney for retirees through to family homes in the Sydney suburbs as well. So it was a really broad category of projects.
And then after that, I went into property styling. That’s when you really learn. Because I was learning all of the suppliers and the wholesalers and that sort of thing with the design job. But I wasn’t getting as much hands-on practical experience with proportions and sizes of products and where they should be placed to suit the room. And then in property styling, you did 4 houses a day minimum so you get thrown in the day really quickly and learn what size bed fits in what size room and the most important thing was what size of sofa and what size bed fit down the hallways of a terrace house.
Bernadette: Oh yes. Up the stairs. Wow. And so you talk about your book, sort of the talking about a career that stems from a passion for beautiful spaces or creating them. How do you, where do you think that came from? Like is that something you’ve always had? Or it just came as a result of the exposure to that type of work?
Emma Blomfield: Yeah, it’s interesting. My parents both have a really passionate interest in interiors even though they’re not related to the industry. They’ve never worked in the industry. They’ve built two homes that we’ve lived in as children. And yeah, I think it was just living through that process. And then we also lived overseas for a couple of years when I was a child and I saw a mum setting up a house from scratch twice in 2 different countries and was just fascinated by that process. And she always made sure that she incorporated elements of the cultures that we were living in as well. So I saw not just the IKEA of Tokyo and then the IKEA of Hong Kong, we really made an effort to make sure that each house had elements of the country that we were living in. And there are still pieces that are in our family home today that are really meaningful and I think I’ve taken that with me into my career as well.
Bernadette: Yeah, that’s interesting. It’s interesting hearing people’s stories and where that sort of spark came from. And I haven’t heard yours before, so that’s interesting. So what aspect of all the things that you do, do you love the most? So in terms of mapping out the design, what is it that’s your happy place?
Emma Blomfield: I always say that the business of decorating and design is not about stuff. It’s not about the things I put in the house, it’s about feelings. And sometimes they can be very overwhelming feelings for people and they get really caught up in the decision-making process. And that can be difficult to manage, especially as an outsider looking in and seeing the vision for the project and then being caught up in the tiny detail, that’s just another part of being a designer. But yeah, for me, it’s working with the client and achieving the outcome that they’ve had because a lot of the time they’ve created a Pinterest board for years that they’ve added to their Dreamhouse board that has always just been a dream. And then they finally get to a point in life where they can afford to go ahead with it and bringing that to life for someone is actually really cool. It’s a privilege to be able to do that for somebody that they trust you with this vision that they may have had for decades and then you’re actually implementing it for them and making it happen and seeing it come together with them, which is really cool.
Bernadette: Okay, so it’s the actual articulation of someone’s vision.
Emma Blomfield: Yeah, and hopefully making that happen. And then, of course, every designer loves the end process when you can walk into the beautiful space and see it all finish it. For me what I get out of it the most is when a client turns to me and says, “Thank you so much for bringing this vision to life. It’s everything I ever wanted and more.” That’s what I strive to achieve every time I work with a new client.
Bernadette: Awesome. And so have you ever been in a position where that vision didn’t convert into reality, that it wasn’t viable?
Emma Blomfield: If that’s ever been the case, it’s probably more come down to budget. And it’s just been that we haven’t been able to execute the entire project. There are some clients that I’ve been working with for years, and we’re still chipping away at things just based on their budget. And they said “This is our forever home, so we’re not going anywhere. We don’t need to have it finished within 12 months because we’re going to sell it. We’re working on this because we will be raising our family here and then we’ll stay once the children have left home.” So it’s things that they would just do over time.
Bernadette: Yeah. It’s really interesting because I’ve often found, like particularly with the family home, that when I first make a decision about what I want to do with it. And if I don’t do it straight away often by the time I get around to doing it, the plan has changed completely. So I think that it’s good to have people to be working with someone who is able to convert what you’re thinking into reality. And often that will require some adjustments because more often than not, the things I change, the things that probably wouldn’t have worked.
And so tell me about your renovating because that’s really how our community really articulates their love for what they do. So why did you add renovating to your toolkit?
Emma Blomfield: Well, it’s an inevitable part of decorating. There’s always something, ask anyone, even someone that’s just finished building a new home, there’s always something they want to change. And when you start going through that process with someone at the very beginning of the process, it’s often they call me in to talk about changing the sofa or someone in the family who’s gone and purchased a new item. It might have been just upgrading the TV, and then it’s had a huge knock-on effect of, “Okay, well, actually, we need to sand the floorboards or we should probably paint the walls while we do that since we’re moving all the furniture out.” “Oh, well, actually, the bathroom probably needs a bit of an update and maybe the kitchen could do with an update as well.” And that happens a lot. I’ll get called in for one thing that’s quite small, it ends up being a full renovation. I just have it happening so often that I say, “Okay, well, I need to offer this as a proper service”, because there’s so much of my time that’s spent on a consultation with a client, giving them advice around colours and textures and changing things and then ending up being a full scale renovation that we get builders involved in pretty quickly after that.
Bernadette: That’s amazing. And I think also it’s good when you are having someone help you with design that they have an understanding of the process that’s required to bring that to life.
Emma Blomfield: And also having the contacts as well because a lot of people say to me, “You know, we’ve wanted to build for a long time but we just have no idea who we need to have onboard the project.” They may have never renovated or built before in their life and so they’ve got no idea where to find a good plumber. Where do you find even a builder? How many quotes should you get from the builder? What does that process look like? What is the whole council situation? And if you don’t know, it’s really hard to find that information. There’s not like a single place that you can go and find the builder for your area, your plumber, your electrician. So you need to have someone that’s able to help guide you.
Bernadette: And so in that process, you actually design the layout or do you bring in an architect to do that?
Emma Blomfield: It depends on the scale of the project. If it’s just moving some things in an existing space and updating like cosmetic changes then we won’t do that. We’ll just get the builder in straight away. But if we’re moving walls and obviously needing D.A. approvals, then we will have an architect or a just person involved.
Bernadette: Okay, so is there anything I should be asking you that I’ve not so far?
Emma Blomfield: I don’t think so.
Bernadette: Well, that’s awesome. The idea was just to really get a bit of a sense of who you are. So you live in Sydney? Just a little bit personal.
Emma Blomfield: Yes. I am Sydney born and bred but my parents have a property in the Hunter Valley, so I spend a lot of time up there. We’ve got 3 fluffy donkeys that need lots of love and attention up there so I try and go out there once a month. And that’s also been another creative outlet for me because I got there and there’s a beautiful garden, there’s a beautiful house. Do a little cooking, a lot of floristry work up there. I also host a lot of parties up there for my friends as well, because it’s a nice place to go and escape from the city. But travel is a big part of the inspiration for me and I haven’t been able to do that this year so much. And I don’t know when that will happen so it’s been a weird adjustment trying to work in interiors where travel is a huge part of what inspires me with projects and not being able to do that. You just gotta go and look for inspiration in other places.
Bernadette: Look, I agree with you. Actually, we had just spent a month in Europe when the lockdown started, and I thank God for that because seriously, I’d bet last week was crazy and I haven’t been anywhere so I was very grateful that I got that in.
And we like to go to Bali with our Wonder Women because I think Bali is such a rich source of inspiration. But I had to cancel that, too, so we haven’t really. Yeah, it’s been really tragic.
But there are lots of beautiful places in Australia to go and the Hunter Valley is made for anyone in Sydney is a really great source of inspiration so you’re really fortunate to have that.
Emma Blomfield: I know, I’m very lucky to have that. We have had that since I was a child so it’s very nice to be able to escape somewhere when things are getting a little bit too hectic in the city.
Bernadette: Yeah, so in terms of She Renovates Live, we’re very excited to have you. And so for those listening, you will have some sense of Emma’s accomplishments. And one of the questions Emma asked me when we started was, what are you doing about Covid? And just in case you’re concerned about that, we have halved our numbers in order to exercise a reasonable amount of social distancing.
And also we’ll have all the kit there, like the masks and whatever for those who would like that. And I have a history as an occupational health nurse, I’m very conscious of looking after everyone’s wellbeing. If by chance you have bought a ticket and the travel risk restrictions preclude you from coming, then of course we are providing a full refund. I think in this environment we need to be very flexible, which we are. And Emma’s just given me a great idea for facilitating some live streaming so I’m really now going to look into that. And yes, so that’s great. So thanks again, Emma, for taking the time to talk this morning. And I’m really looking forward to your presentation on the 1st of November.
Emma Blomfield: I’m very excited about that. And thank you very much for having me today.
Bernadette: You’re very welcome. Take care.
Emma Blomfield: Thank you.
Okay. I hope you enjoyed that so if you are not already a member, I want to let you know that we have a free membership for podcast listeners called The Reno Library. And in it, you will access all the show notes and resources from every episode we have ever published so we’re getting quite close to the century. There’s quite a lot of resources in there so if you’re not already a member, please go over to our website, follow the link from this episode and join up to The Renovation Library.
See you next week.