Mel Hartwright

Interiors Stylist

Mel Hartwright, Stylist @ Georgica Pond Blog

“Don’t be dictated to by fads, or trends and fashions, or too much by other people’s work. They can influence and inform your style, but not restrict it.”

Mel Hartwright is an interior designer and stylist based in the Southern Highlands of NSW. She lives on a beautiful five acre property with her husband and three young children. Mel is the voice behind the successful and popular blog, Georgica Pond, which launched her home based design business some years ago, and has become synonymous with classic American decorating and design.

She is particularly well known and regarded for her passion for decorating with “blue and white”, a favourite and timeless combination she has used successfully for over 25 years. Georgica Pond incidentally is not her name, but a charming village in the Hamptons and the inspiration behind the blog.

Mel has many years of experience as a magazine stylist with many of Australiaʼs leading lifestyle magazines, and worked as a freelance TV presenter for 7 years on shows such as Good Morning Australia, Better Homes & Gardens and Mornings with Kerri-Anne.

Melʼs voice is genuine but informed, authentic yet amusing and light-hearted. She has a formidable following on Pinterest with nearly 200,000 followers. Despite the beautiful surroundings and quest for perfection, she always manages to keep it real!

1 Tell us about your career path and how it has evolved over time?

My career started out quite differently after I left uni (where I studied Commerce) as I had wanted to be in the performing arts for a long time. This never transpired, so I ended up working in theatre production and actor management instead. After that I started to develop and recognise my creative side and began working as a wedding planner, which lead me to opening a wedding store.

From this I became a magazine stylist, working for many years with ACP and other large publishers. I did many years working as a presenter in TV as well, and then started to hone my passion and skills for interior decorating and design. My outlet for this lead to the blog, where there it all started.

2 How has your personal design style developed over time?

I think my style has always been rather similar, although I have wandered off the path occasionally. But I can confidently say I am a traditionalist at heart when it comes to decorating and design. I love classic, timeless interiors although I like to make them current and contemporary without being modern. I am hugely influenced by American design, architecture, decorating and feel that is where my creative heart lies.

3 How did you build your portfolio when you first started in the industry?

I was lucky I had the blog, which really launched and kickstarted my business. I had a ready made client base once I made it known I was open for business. Had I not had the following from the blog, and the exposure and popularity, then it would have been a hard slog trying to get my name out there and getting people to trust me.

4 What are the different services that you offer your clients? Tell us about what’s involved in each.

I started out offering a number of different services, both online and in person, because I was trying to be all things to all people. This became too onerous and hard to manage, particularly once I moved out of Sydney to the country and my internet became non-existent. I also found that online services were a bit hard to make cost effective, because you generally put many more hours in that you get paid for. I have now narrowed it down so that I just offer a one-off consultation in the home, or a full interior decorating/design service. It’s more manageable for me with three kids and living out of the city.

5 How did you find owning your own business as opposed to become part of a larger company?

I never wanted to work for a larger firm, because I was only interested in doing residential decorating and design and I had a very firm idea about my style and my taste. I didn’t want to have to be answerable or influenced by a larger firm. I really am happy offering my particular look and I get plenty of business doing that. However, that has its pros and cons, because I have not had the benefit of learning from and being mentored by an established firm, and have had to learn on the run and teach myself everything. I still feel like I’m a beginner and have so much yet to learn and figure out, but I’m getting there. It’s a lot of trial and error, research and asking lots of questions.

I’m lucky I have had a lot of interior designer friends who have been very generous with their time, knowledge and experience. I also prefer the independence and flexibility of working for myself, which suits me and my lifestyle and family commitments. I have no desire to be the biggest and most awarded and busiest interior designer in the country. I’m happy with a small boutique business that I operate from home, in school hours largely, taking clients that I like and want to work with and who like my particular style.

6 You are very successful on Pinterest, how did you build such a large following? Do you get many business leads from Pinterest?

I guess because people like my style and I am very active on it, much more than any other social media. I don’t really get Twitter so I don’t use it, and I dabble in Facebook a bit. I used to do Instagram a lot more, and should probably get back into it, but do find that it can be very distracting and time consuming, when there are many more things I should be doing! But I find Pinterest completely addictive as well as extremely useful for my work, and my library of images is pretty big, so I guess people know it’s constantly being updated and they like my style. Again, I don’t spread myself thin and cover all manner of styles and looks, it’s very much my taste and my followers know what they’re going to get.

7 Anything else you would like to add?

I have learned from experience that you have to be true to yourself and your taste. Don’t be dictated to by fads, or trends and fashions, or too much by other people’s work. They can influence and inform your style, but not restrict it. I think it’s worth finding your style and sticking to it. I’d rather have a niche clientele and business, and be great at that, rather than trying to be everything to everyone. All the best and most successful designers in the world have their particular style and that’s what they are known for.

I have dabbled in other looks occasionally, particularly with my own house, and it’s always been a mistake because it isn’t who I am innately and it doesn’t make me happy. I have to remind myself to trust my instincts all the time and have confidence in my style and skill, but it can be hard when it’s such an intangible and often emotional, highly personal and fluid skill.

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