89 – Zoe Gilpin: The DIY Decorator

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In this episode, I have a special guest in Zoe Gilpin, The DIY Decorator. She is a qualified Interior Decorator with over 14 years experience in the home industry, specialising in affordable home decorating and proving that anyone with any budget can have a beautiful interior. Zoe will share with us how The DIY Decorator started and how it became her passion over the years in helping others finding items for their decorating within their daily budget and making their space beautiful.

Listen to Episode 89: Zoe Gilpin The DIY Decorator

Podcast: Download (Duration: 25:44 — 25.71 MB)

Episode Highlights

  • ​[00:03:21] Country girl with a love for interior decorating
  • [00:03:32] Started as a visual merchandiser
  • [00:04:21] E-design and becoming an Instagram influencer
  • [00:05:43] How The DIY Decorator started
  • [00:06:40] Her love for affordable decorating from she was 13 years old
  • [00:09:51] Upcycling
  • [00:11:13] Renovating their old house
  • [00:12:47] Creativity runs in the family
  • [00:14:21] Budget planning
  • [00:14:32] An interview with Money magazine
  • [00:16:47] Her favourite supplier
  • [00:19:30] Dealing with Instagram trolls
  • [00:21:11] Being genuine has contributed to her growing followers
  • [00:22:18] 137K followers on Instagram and 18K on Facebook
  • [00:23:19] The Reno Library
The School of Renovating and She Renovates Podcast with Bernadette Janson


​And a lot of I think my success in DIY decorating is me being genuine. I am who I am and I’m simply sharing what I love. I don’t pretend to be anyone else. I give honest reviews and just try and be a nice person.


This episode is sponsored by the She Renovates Live, one day conference where we focus on women transforming their lives with renovating. At the event, you’ll have the opportunity to celebrate the passion for creating beautiful homes, to connect with other like-minded creators, to grow your skills, to fan your inspiration, and to be updated on what’s working right now in our industry. This is an exclusive event being held on November 1st in the gorgeous Grounds of Alexandria Atrium in Sydney. The delightful Natasha Moy will be facilitating the conference and we have a lineup of truly engaging speakers such as Zoe Gilpin, the DIY decorator who is traveling all the way from Western Australia to share her wisdom and her hacks with us. And we also have a range of top speakers on all aspects of renovating and property from around the country. You’ll be pampered with delicious Grounds of Alexandria cuisine, goodie bags and prizes and so much more. As I said earlier, this is a very exclusive event and already 60% of tickets are gone. And so if you are planning to join us, please jump in and grab your spot at www.theschoolofrenovating.com/sherenovateslive. See you there.

Well, hello, renovators. Today I have Zoe Gilpin. So Zoe is booked to present at our She Renovates live event and you may know her better as The DIY Decorator. Now, Zoe has built a career based around her love of creating beautiful spaces, and she has articulated that in a slightly different way to most of us. And as a result, has built an incredible following on Instagram and is the queen of cost-effective decorating.

Now, I have asked Zoe to come and join me to really get a bit of an understanding of where her passion for homemaking came from and to really just know a little bit more about her. So she is here today and I hope you enjoy the episode.

Bernadette​: Okay, so I have got a really special guest today. It’s Zoe Gilpin, who you may know as The DIY Decorator. So if you’re on Instagram, what’s the word? Instagram aficionado? Then I’m pretty sure if you’re in our area of expertise, you would certainly have been following Zoe. And I’ve asked Zoe to join me today to really just get a bit of an understanding of who and where she’s come from in her journey with executing on her passion for creating beautiful spaces. And so and for those who don’t know, Zoe is – provided Covid behaves itself – Zoe is going to be presenting at our She Renovates Live. So I thought it might be a good idea to get to know her for those who don’t. So welcome, Zoe.

Zoe Gilpin​: Thank you for having me.

​Bernadette​: Would you like to firstly give me, well, share a bit of who you are and what you do?

Zoe Gilpin​: Yeah, for sure. I’ve been an interior decorator now for around 14 years. I started as a country girl who had no idea that this was even a job or a career. I just thought it was something that people on TV and in books did because there were no study options where I lived. After finishing high school, I did a bit of research, found out that you could actually move to the city and study. It’s exactly what I did so after getting my diploma in interior decorating back in 2006, I started working as a visual merchandiser, which I loved. I actually think I learned a lot more there than I ever did in a classroom. Being hands on kind of job I went to a couple of really well-known furniture and homeware companies over the years and really built up my knowledge of how to create a beautiful space.

​From there, I went on to do some property styling, so decking out properties for sale to try and help them sell a little bit quicker. And then these days, I’ve kind of ventured into more of the online interior decorating site, the e-design, which is all working on by email and social media so I don’t particularly need to go to people’s homes anymore, like I used to say 10 years ago. E-design is what I am predominantly doing these days but as chance would have it, I decided to start an Instagram account 5 years ago with no means more than sharing what I like to do with my family and friends when I had a newborn son. And it turned into this big kind of community for people who like me, love decorating but have budgets, like to do things themselves. And yeah, it’s kind of going from there so I’ve really done a lot over the years. Never thought I’d end up doing something like I’m doing now, but it’s where I’m supposed to be. I absolutely love it. And it’s amazing.

​Bernadette​: Okay. Thank you for that. The thing I love about your account, look, I don’t really spend a lot of time on Instagram, but you did catch my attention because for us, when we’re selling a property I like to do my own styling. And I’m not going to spend $2K on a chair for a property that I’m going to sell and so you do all the research for us.

​Zoe Gilpin​: Yeah. And that’s just something I’ve personally always been interested in. And so when I started The DIY Decorator I was sharing what I loved for me and then quickly learned that that’s what other people liked as well. And I think you go back a few years ago and interior decorating was thought of more as an expensive thing that only people with money could do. You only use the interior decorator designer if you had the money to do so. When I kind of started building The DIY Decorator I found that there was this whole niche for everyday people with everyday budgets looking to make the homes look beautiful without spending all that money. So that’s kind of how my account kind of grew into this but it’s always something I’ve loved. I’ve always loved the country girl in me. I’ve always loved affordable decorating because when you live in the country, you don’t have all the shops and you’ve got to make do so you DIY and you do the budget stuff, which is where my heart is. I love designers. I love expensive stuff as well but my heart is with affordable decorating. And I found a whole lot of other people that love that just as much as I do.

​Bernadette​: Oh, look, I’m completely with you. And I think the country roots do have something to do with it because I was also brought up in the country and certainly it was an affordability thing when I was a teenager and you’re right. You don’t have the range of stores to be able to just, I guess, these days is probably different because we have so much on. But in those days, you just did have to be creative and produce it yourself.

​Well, I did my first round when I was 13.

Zoe Gilpin​: Oh, wow. That’s impressive.

​Bernadette​: Yeah. So I have it in my blood and it’s interesting. The thing I find fascinating is the different paths people type with that passion. So you’ve gone a different way, the way I’ve gone. And I think it’s all about you know, I think you’ve just explained what happens to you on the way. Like, who you bump into, where you end up working? I was actually a nurse, so it’s never until I decided to start renovating myself. It was never really something that I would have done professionally.

​But, yeah, I think that’s interesting and that’s what I love about it. It’s so flexible. And I think the other thing which is probably interesting is that these days it’s not unusual for someone to engage an interior designer to help them map out their space and have it look the way they want it. Whereas, a couple of decades ago, that was quite an unusual thing.

Zoe Gilpin​: Yeah. Even in most recent years, a lot of it has to do as well with retailers making more affordable products has been a big thing. So like for example, I started my account 5 years ago. And that’s the same time that Kmart, someone smart there came up with the whole let’s do affordable homewares. And that’s how I kind of grew because I was able to share this affordable stuff. And you look everywhere now and the majority of retailers are offering affordable items. I even saw this morning Rivers​, the clothing brand. They’ve just launched a home set of stuff, so where Woolies and Coles, my local ADA, has homewares. So it’s just showing how much people want it. There’s a big need for affordable decorating, affordable products because I mean, realistically, most people have everyday budgets and that’s their only option. And these retailers have done a very smart thing catering for that.

​Bernadette​: And the other thing is I really love upcycling, like just taking in something that looks ordinary and giving it a new look and I often think about it. I think like I have actually been out and spent $4K on a chair so if I really want something, I can do that. But I get so much more satisfaction out of that creative process.

​Zoe Gilpin​: Absolutely. I love thrifting curbside finds. I found some fantastic rattan chairs recently which were dumped and bit of love and I love them. Yeah, I’m exactly the same. I feel more excited doing it myself. And whether it be upcycling a piece of furniture or we just did a budget kitchen reno, which cost us under $500, and we did that in 2 weekends and yeah, I like walking in my kitchen now. I love it because it’s what I wanted but we did it as well. And that’s a nice thing. And a lot of my followers, I was tied to one just this morning, a lady who saw my kitchen renovation went ahead and did her own and said how proud she was and she never would have even attempted it if she hadn’t seen me do it and say,”It’s not hard. You can do it. It’s not expensive. It’s not hard.” And I love that. I love that people try things outside of their box kind of thing.

​Bernadette​: Yeah. I think also for women, it’s a good thing, too, because I think most women undersell themselves.

Zoe Gilpin​: Absolutely.

​Bernadette​: So it’s a confidence building thing, you think, “Oh, actually, I can do that.” And then you do.

​Zoe Gilpin​: Yeah, that’s right.

​Bernadette​: And so you’re renovating. Awesome.

​Zoe Gilpin​: Just little bits here and there. Our house was built in ’96 so it’s not old but it’s old but it’s just boring, it’s a real box of a house. There’s no shape. There’s no character. If I had my way I would buy an old wreck and do it from scratch because that’s what I love but we are where we are. And my aim with this house was to do a budget renovation to make it a little bit more me and add some character. So simple things like adding in timber rails, halfway up walls and then painting different colours to give it that character on that old look, things like that. I did that in our laundry. I did a little budget laundry renovation. And it cost me under $100 because most of it was paint and timber and it looks a lot more interesting than a rather typical box. And I love doing things like that. I love the budget but making it look like you’ve spent a lot more.

​Bernadette​: Exactly. And that’s for a renovator, that’s the real skill. And that’s really what we’re about. Like, we don’t do DIY, but we do that’s how we add the value. We make it look more expensive than it’s worth. And then someone comes along, falls in love with it, and then we’ll pay for it. And that’s how we take our profit. So did you get any much inspiration from your family?

Zoe Gilpin​: My mum always says, “I don’t know where you kids got it from,” because my sister is also very creative. She has our own jewelry range so we’re both really artistic kids and like my bedroom as a kid, I was always rearranging furniture and painting things and driving my mum mad. But my stepdad, actually, has a panel painting kind of background but he’s very creative. And even now he’ll come over and “Oh what are you up to?” And he’ll give me ideas or  give me a yank in a hand so I think a lot of it comes from him. But I just feel like I’ve always had that arty thing within me, like at school I always loved art. I do as much as I can. And I’ve never wanted to do anything else. Like I’ve taken jobs in the past but it’s always, my heart’s always been interiors and I think always will. And I don’t think I want to do anything else. It’s just ingrained in me.

​Bernadette​: It’s interesting that sort of creativity is manifest in the home. I sort of have this theory that it’s sort of an extension of the nesting instinct because we have that sense that we want the home to be really beautiful and welcoming. So what would be your favourite? What’s the part of the process that you love the most?

Zoe Gilpin: I like planning. It’s my thing that comes into budget as well. I think most people kind of don’t. They get excited about the process and they kind of skip over that budget bit. And that’s where you make your mistakes. Like someone like me who likes making the mood boards. That’s something I tell people that they should do, because then it gives you that little inside look before you’re committing to anything. So planning is a big thing for me. I did an interview recently with Money magazine and I was saying to them that don’t rush into it, spend weeks, spend weeks planning on it. You don’t have to go to the shops anymore. You can sit on your couch and do it all on your pad and you get your prices, your pitches, you can put it all together and see it. As much as I love the physical doing it, I really like the planning because I think that’s the obsessive compulsive in me knowing that I’m gonna be able to do the project and get it done and not have many faults and bumps along the way.

​Bernadette​: I’m with you. We are just kicking off two projects at the moment, and I like to have all the decisions made before we actually take possession of the property. And I was just saying to my husband the other night that I’m so in my happy place. It’s like you would be searching for chairs and baskets over there and I will be searching for tapware and kitchen designs and I’m the same. I just love it. And I love that quest of getting what you want at the right price. It’s a real quest, isn’t it?

​Zoe Gilpin​: I think you must go hand in hand like the organised people and want your home and everything to look beautiful, whereas some people just go, “I just don’t care about my house and my car.” How do you not like it?

​Bernadette​: It’s amazing. Although I must admit, sometimes I look I come home and I think, “Oh my God, I’ve left something really beautiful.” Not that our house isn’t nice but it’s just never very tidy or organised. I’m not really domestically inclined, I used to be, I had 4 kids, but not anymore, because I have better things to do.

​So who would be your favourite supplier?

​Zoe Gilpin​: Well gosh, I think based on what I do and what I share and everything with affordability, I probably have to go with Adairs because they are one of those retailers that is constantly bringing out new trends. It’s not just a seasonal thing like three or four times a year like a lot of other retailers do. I check their websites daily and they’re constantly adding new things. They’re a little bit flexible with their trends, whereas like Kmart and that kind of stick to the Scandi and the things that people want. Whereas Adairs is kind of branching out a little bit and they also have really good sales.

​And I love that. I mean, you can pick up things at a very well priced probably one my favourites at the moment, but not by not being very biased. I just love homeware and furniture. I love it all.

​Bernadette​: I think Adairs tends to be a little bit better quality.

​Zoe Gilpin​: Absolutely. Yeah.

​Bernadette​: I saw this movie the other night called “Greed” and it was about this English guy who started up a business in the rag trade and it talked about, it showed you basically how he treated these people that worked in these factories in China, not in China, in India.

​And when I got off, I thought, “Oh, my God, I hope that’s not how Kmart stuff’s made,” so I’m not going to go and look because I don’t want to know.

​Zoe Gilpin​:  There’s a  section on their website about where everything’s made. A lot of it’s made in Indonesia apparently. I think all these retailers are changing with the times and doing their best and I think these days you don’t have a choice. You can’t hide behind that anymore because social media and everything else, you’ve got to get questions on you constantly and it’s a big thing.

​It’s a big topic and something that I quite often get trolled over, which it’s like I always say, it’s unfortunately, it’s got nothing to do with me. It’s just I’m that middle man between the retailer and the shopper. And it’s your choice if you want to purchase and you do it. I’m not making anyone make any decisions, so.

​Bernadette​: Well, actually, let’s get into Instagram because I know that there are a lot of people in our community who are interested in doing better at Instagram.

​So you have trolls?

​Zoe Gilpin​: Oh, yeah. I always say to one of my friends, you can only imagine what celebrities, mummy bloggers, people in politics mentioned the trolling they get because I mean, I have an interior account. What is there to troll over? But yeah, I’ve been trolled. It’s not like ruining my life but yeah, I’m the kind of person that will talk about it.

​And that has stopped it quite somewhat because it was getting to the point where people were trolling me over ridiculous things. So I speak up in my stories and I just say, “It’s not on. I don’t accept bullying,” and it has slowed down a lot. But it’s always silly things that I get trolled over to so I would say nothing really important.

​Bernadette​: Well, that’s good. Okay. And so are you on Instagram constantly during the day?

​Zoe Gilpin​: I usually spend 20 minutes in the morning dedicated to answering messages and then again in the afternoon and then during the day. It just depends on what I’m doing. So today I’m actually doing some DIY so I’ve been sitting and doing that and I have been checking out a little bit more while my glue dries, but it varies day to day. I do make more of an effort not to be on there as much anymore because you can find yourself spending way too much time on it. So yeah, I mean, it’s hard because if I don’t spend enough time on it, my messages build up and I can’t catch up.

​Bernadette​: And so are you actively growing it or is it just all been organic?

​Zoe Gilpin​: It’s all organic. Yeah. I started 5 years ago and just share what I love and it’s just growing from there. As a lot of people that do their own thing and they buy and they do all this other stuff to grow their numbers but I really don’t believe in that. I think it’s a waste of money and it’s just not genuine. And a lot of I think my success in DIY decorating is me being genuine. I am who I am and I’m simply sharing what I love. I don’t pretend to be anyone else. I give honest reviews and just try and be a nice person. And I think it’s got a lot to do. And what I have grown to where I am, and I’m very, very thankful for that.

​Bernadette​: Beautiful, beautiful. That’s really a great news story because it’s nothing like, anything natural has to be better. Doesn’t it?

Zoe Gilpin​: Absolutely. Yeah.

​Bernadette​: So are you at 55K?

​Zoe Gilpin​: 137K on Instagram and I’ve got 18K on Facebook and so I don’t put as much effort into Facebook simply because Instagram’s got all the features, like stories and everything like that. Yeah. But it just happens how it happens. But yeah it’s pretty amazing. I’ve grown quite a lot this year. I’ve had some really good features, worked with some really good brands this year. So yes, opportunities definitely help as well.

​Bernadette​: Beautiful. Well, I think we are done. Until we see you in November. Yeah. I guess that’s what we’ve got to look forward to next. And of course, I’ll touch base with you before then.

​But thanks for coming on. I think this has given us good insight into who is The DIY Decorator and thank you. Take care.

​Zoe Gilpin​: Wonderful. You, too. Thank you.

​Okay. I hope you enjoyed that. 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. We’re getting quite close to the century so there’s quite a lot of resources in there. 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.

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Bernadette Janson

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