Melissa Bonney

The Design Hunter

Melissa Bonney

“If you’re not obsessed by this industry and don’t live it, breathe it, dream about it and do it for your hobby, then you won’t survive in our business.”

Melissa Bonney is the who, how and why of The Design Hunter. She brings to the business 18 years of experience in renovation and interior design, customer and project management, business marketing, and the study of human behaviour.

The result is a multi-faceted and holistic approach to creating functional and beautifully liveable homes for her clients. Melissa developed a passion for all things interiors after five years living in New York. Bringing with her a number of her own renovation experiences, and now an in-depth of knowledge working with clients in the Australian market, Melissa can add value at all levels of the project.

Full of smart ideas and and clever solutions, she has a sharp eye for design and a penchant for detail. Her passion for a balance between function and aesthetic, her skills in client advocacy and customer service, and her continual search for the beautiful and unusual, creates an unparalleled experience for her clients.

1 What is the Australian interior design industry like, how is it unique?

It’s an exciting time to be a part of the design industry in Australia as it’s really experiencing some significant growth which is making it more accessible to everyone! There are more makers, producers, retailers and wholesalers in homewares, furniture and design; more independent schools offering a huge range of courses to a wider audience of everyone from school leavers to mature age students going through a career change; more media and promotion through channels such as televisions shows, books, social media, and blogs. There is so much awareness about “design” and an increased interest in being a part of it.

2 What does it take to run a successful interior design business?

Two words - great staff!! Staffing is always the greatest challenge in any business, but good staff in a design business are vital. It’s a unique combination of skills, passion for what they do, people skills and project management. We have an end-to-end integrated business at The Design Hunter with our retail store and affiliated building company which means that we are able to work with clients from beginning to end. Having the right staff who understand our businesses goals and objectives as well as our philosophy for achieving them is the key to longevity and success.

3 What's the secret to staying relevant in the interior design industry?

We strive in our business to keep design relevant to the everyday person and available to as broader audience as possible. For us interior design isn’t all about pulling together “pretty” concepts and sourcing unique, interesting pieces for clients. It’s fundamentally about creating spaces that work, and delivering on that time and time again. Functional spaces, high on usability and that hopefully connect with us as human beings on an emotional level. Being able to truly achieve that has a lasting impact on the client, their home and their day-to-day life.

4 What are top 3 things employers are looking for when hiring a designer?

When we’re hiring, regardless of whether it's a design assistant starting out or a senior designer, we always look for someone who’s passionate about what they do. We have a fast paced environment with a high performing team who are obsessive about what they do. We often say “If you’re not obsessed by this industry and don’t live it, breathe it, dream about it and do it for your hobby, then you won’t survive in our business”. Although that seems extreme, the reality is that with so much competition out there, you have to be THAT passionate to make it work!

Secondly, someone who’s willing to do the work to stay on top of this ever-changing industry is important - reading both local and international magazines and blogs, keeping up to date on industry related social media, going to product launches, industry nights and trade shows. And lastly, someone who’s done the time, whether that’s study or work experience or a combination of both, experience in this industry is vital. Otherwise, how would you know how long a robe needs to be to hold a mens shirt with french cuffs?!

5 What software do you use on a day-to-day basis and how do you stay up to date?

Our design studio is a Mac based office where we use AutoCAD, Indesign, Photoshop, Sketch Up as well as the MS Office suite on a daily basis. Continual use and practice allows them to stay on top of their skills, but industry updates and training if needed is provided. With a team of 12, we have a variety of technical skills available, so this year we are running internal training on specialist skills by other staff!! We’re lucky to have some talented people!

6 What advice would you offer students looking to get into the interior design industry?

Be prepared to do some hard yards in the early days! The design industry is competitive and there are more and more people studying in one form or another whether it be design, decorating or styling. Try to get as much experience as possible to set yourself apart and ahead of the rest - internships are available at many firms so pursue them relentlessly or see if your school can help to organise something for you.

Also don’t be afraid of utilising any other training or work experience you may have had - working in the design industry is primarily about working with people and understanding them and that experience can be gained for so many facets of life. My background is corporate marketing and sales, project management, and psychology - and I draw on all of those skills every day!

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