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48 Hours With Megan Morton

Megan Morton is one of Australia’s leading and most prolific stylists, author of three books, founder of The School (“We worship anyone whose talent is able to be taught”), sharer of extensive interiors knowledge and devoted mother of three (Millie 16, Sebastian, 15, and Bea, 5). Morton is someone you really want to be friends with, thanks to her all encompassing cool, warmth, grace, hilariousness and knack for making everyone feel good. If you haven't already, join her legions of followers on Instagram and become part of The School ‘family’ for interiors insights and eloquent and thought provoking personal observations.

She is full of lovely snippets of wisdom – “‘Clever friends’ is how I decorate”, “Mark making and art are important to me so I ensure it’s an everyday practice for my kids; instead of an ‘activity’ it is a daily duty” and “We enjoy the ‘found versus bought’ aspect to our styling practice the most. Because beauty is for everyone and is everywhere!”

While Morton hosts styling classes all over Australia (and now the world – The School will unleash its love in New York City from 8th-11th October) to help people ignite their inner creative, what many of us don’t know is how she approaches motherhood and family life. Morton believes, “Each joy and each challenge is not permanent. They really are to be cherished (the joys!) and forgotten (the challenges!). In an age of over sharing and parenting strategies by the book, feel your own way, trust your instinct and proceed with joy. My house runs on a manifesto. Like a rulebook of how we are treated and how we treat one another (based on Dr Brené Brown’s wholehearted manifesto).”

Her beautiful Sydney home near Redleaf beach is measured and understated (with some seriously enviable parquet floorboards) – a stark contrast, Morton admits, from her previous home in Lane Cove, which was “deliberately overdone and heavily styled”. She is candid about the look of her children’s rooms. “Two teenagers used to have 'No styling allowed' signs on their doors. Fair enough and that pretty much sums up their rooms! And of course I have abused the youngest's unawareness of styling and decor and done hers in a white on white, French carpentry, blanc dream, bunk-room! Complete with ridiculous vintage books, portraits of people she doesn't know and vignettes opportunity shelves everywhere.”

Morton cautions that styling hasn’t always been an easy career choice while juggling motherhood. “I always wanted to be a role model for my daughters especially and decided that small steps early on was the best bridge. I had to do a lot of compromising and I missed out inevitably on a lot of things, but I knew to enjoy a long-term career, stepping-stones and increments are important. People ask ‘can you bring your kids to a shoot’ and ‘I want to be a stylist or a photographer because it looks so family friendly’. It is not. And you can't bring your kids to work. You can't leave at 2.45 for pick up. It is a profession and like anything needs commitment, endurance and hard work. This is why I had to work for myself so I can work hard on cue, then manage pick-ups on the days I am not booked formally on a job,” says Morton.

So sit back and enjoy this little 48-hour snapshot into Megan Morton’s creative world… (and check out The School’s amazing kids program too).

Motherhood taught me…
That the only real job is to love them unconditionally, everything else can be considered superficial.

Our children’s needs change so it is more of a constant check in…
Giles and I handball them often. Sometimes one needs more emotional support, another one needs you more in a physical sense. One size doesn't seem to fit all with our age groups, so our strategy has always been to pass the baton to whoever can pick up, while the other holds court in another area.

Our eldest daughter has inherited my creativity…
She is fighting it, as of course you do at 16. Our son is a state ice hockey player with his own sports press clippings so 'sport, relax, eat, repeat' is his mantra. Definitely a no for him! And Bea our youngest makes wonderful creations, builds incredible micro Lego cities (sign of a kid with a ten year age gap to her siblings!) for hours on end as well as broad-brush crayon drawings based on her Uluru dream-time pics. But everyone thinks their own children are amazing, talented and creative, don't they? That is our job to blow their trumpets until they can blow them themselves.

The School is off to New York next month…
We have been lucky enough to have our classes hosted by the best in the business - our Instagram class at Bellocq Atelier. My Styling Classes at the incredible-public-not-allowed-usually Chandelier Creative and other incredible locations. We have a beautiful affinity with NYC as I have shot a lot of my best houses and spaces for my book, so NYC seemed a natural next step for us. We have gone around Australia now three times and we wanted to ensure anyone who wanted to learn from us locally (classes in Adelaide next week and Tasmania in September) had the opportunity before we headed overseas.

'You are not your children'…
I would want them to know this very clearly and deeply. I live for mine. I work for them. I love them fiercely but I am not ‘them’. And in turn, I hope that they all come to adulthood knowing this for their own selves and families. I would want my daughters to know that you just can't be good at everything. Especially when you become a parent. And there needs to be something to look forward to learning later! As I don't cook, I spend our money on people who can. I don't want my kids to think food comes from assembling, or watching mummy take Dinner Ladies out of the freezer (which I also use). I want them to see people cooking beautiful food from scratch. I want them to know real food made better by loving hands. So I live off cooking my family kick-ass full breakfast (to show my love), they make their own lunches and then dinner is someone cooking in our kitchen, my friend Michelle's Love & Bones Broth goulash or soup or plain broth and Dinner Ladies. It's not ideal but it's the best I can manage and I can then put my energies in other areas. You only have two hands and never not ask for help. Source it, buy it, contra it but get it if you need it.

We have lived in our home for two years and it's heaven…
Simple, a true nest in every sense of the word. It's not like my other homes, which have been deliberately 'overdone' and 'heavily styled'. I have gone slow here and invested in all those invisible touch points - like amazing mattress toppers from Bella Casa Linen on all the beds (so amazing we call them 'the clouds!'), invisible sound systems, beautiful-to-the-touch-door-hardware, to perfecting my floor stain palette. I am going slowly to get all my ingredients list right! Things that don't show up in a picture but are felt strongly IRL (in real life). While it is tiny, it sits next to the most charming piece of water in Sydney, Redleaf beach. I believe in living outward. The idea of having the best bits of your home life intertwined with nature, and the broader community.

My passion for interior design started with…
Understanding the acute joy of people loving where they live and thriving because of it. On the flip side to that is also understanding the idea that people who are displaced can not statistically get on with their lives. With the bonus intel of being on the receiving end of my 96 year old grandmother’s happiness… Jean Newtown has lived in the same house since she was 18 and you have not met a happier, more satisfied beautiful person.

My philosophy when it comes to decorating is to…
Let the house speak, listen to it and interpret it well and the rest is decorative high fives and success. And if this sounds like a strategy for you, join our next Styling Inspiration Class that will give you the exact tools to do this!

My home was always a bit of a bomb site, still is…
I was one of those monster 'you can't put your stuff here or here' mothers for about a year. But we all got tired of it. I learnt very early on if you hold the reigns super tight at home, like I used to, it robs you of what you can offer and do outside the home. The more you let go at home, for me anyway, the better I am at my job.

Maxi skirts for me are like track suits…
People ask me 'where are you going afterwards'. I say 'home to eat toast in the bath'.

There are two moments I live for…
1. When the whole house is sleeping and I watch our fire burn out and read something delicious from my neighbouring bookshelf. 2. Getting my florist delivery to my back laundry that I have designed to be like a laundry/flower room. Custom Shelves by Wood & Willow hold all my vases and vessels, large concrete double sink, linen curtain to hide the big white machines and my custom air-drying rack! Basically it is my way of tricking myself into doing the washing... by involving cleaning vases and making flowers!

Megan’s little list of loves:
Investigating a new coffee machine. I am conflicted. I am resorting to Choice magazine for all things fair and right!
I am planning my kitchen renovation. And am excited that navy (such an underused colour) will feature.
I am loving Asko! (Thanks Choice mag!) I recently invested in a new washer and dryer and they are - for big white machines - magnificent beasts! The dryer is 10kg capacity. For me with five, I am in bliss-ville!
I am obsessed with Bea's violin teacher, who uses his training in music to make the most beautiful art. I am trying not to force my love for the violin on her but hoping it sticks! We go twice a week as he lives on our street and it's like a half hour pocket of heaven for all the senses!
I am at Woollahra library as much as I can before it is relocated. The most incredibly beautiful library and its energy is inspiring when you are trying to work and it's not working at home or at work.

Photography by Aimee Thompson | Calligraphy class photography by Dan Hocking | Styling by Megan Morton and Katie Randell | Words: Georgia Macmillan

“Our Rosebery compound is like no other. The joy to work here is highly motivating.”

“Tear sheets used to be our currency. They still are but we love to make content that is digital, moving as well as printed.”

“My recent trip to Sicily had me picking up a camera for the first time and now I am hooked!”

“I have my embroidery master on speed dial and she makes me bespoke patches and shapes for my jeans. I adore anything indigo.”

Morton with stylist Tavlin Charter in studio, checking shots for Lee Mathews.

“Found at the swap metal yard, we enjoy the ‘found versus bought’ aspect to our styling practice the most. Because beauty is for everyone and is everywhere!”

“Antique ribbons are my go-tos! I always swap out my trench belts to ribbons or old curtain trims.” Country Road hat. Lee Mathews trench, (“uncrushable”). Rosie Assoulin bag, from Moda Operandi

“I dress from the fingers and wrists up! I lay them out each morning and the rest works from this board."

“Spending on smalls is my weakness. I like anything that tells a story.”

“Empty candle holders as cutlery canteens, foraged wattle and painted road side furniture. It’s part of the stylist’s responsibility to show that inexpensive can be beautiful too.”

“Tea time is big for The School. It always involves baked goods of some kind.”

“Our Extreme Knitting class at The School with Jacqui Fink is one of our proudest moments? of 2015. The beauty of it, her story and method is beyond.”

“Our studio is deliberately blanc on blanc, so the endless possibilities can be imagined and explored."

“Extreme Knitting is like watching a knitting orchestra!”

“We aim to show students new and different spaces and places. Maybelle’s Calligraphy class is particularly beautiful to style."

“We worship anyone whose talent is able to be taught. Maybelle is nothing short of magnificent."

The-Grace-Tales18 Hand painted paint colours. “The antidote to computer generated yucky colours."

“Maybelle’s kit is beautiful but ridiculously helpful and handholding too."

Latest work (and custom bed) made for Castle and Things. Bella Casa Linen

“We often shoot things purely for our own pleasure. Things we find beautiful are these sculptures by At Plaine."

“We shot a jewellery campaign for our own eyes! A mix of Louis Vuitton, Elke and Estate Jewellery. I wanted to show how clunky bigger jewels can sit with skinny barely-there pieces."

A handful of Hermes pencils. “Sometimes you just need to drop everything and photograph your things!”

"Melissa Harris bracelets and some of my favourites to mix with big chunky ones.”

“My eldest daughter, Milicent’s room. Sixteen, fierce and a plant lover.” Hat by Sarah J Curtis. Slingshot by Douglas and Bec. Portrait of Sebastian Morton by Michelle Ball. Screenprint artwork by Rachel Castle. Plant portrait from Danish Vintage Modern. Mirror and light from Ikea.
“I had a French carpenter build (and carve Beatrix’s name into the wood by hand) an attic bunk bed.” Bea’s monogram PJs from Masini & Chern. Rabbits by Mr Finch.

"Talented friends’ works, like James Gordon and Heidi Moore Gill, fill my home.”

“Of course I think she is the most talented hand in the family. Millicent’s botanical drawings are my prized possessions.”

“Our dining table is the epicentre - everything happens here! Homework, tax returns, monopoly!” Bea wears printebebe.

“I am obsessed with Millicent’s hair colour! Like darkened straw!”

“Our son Sebastian, 15, refuses photos so we let him be and use any 'authorised' pics as decals to everything we can!”

Printebebe top. Vintage hat. Vintage shorts by Matthew Williamson. “The benefit of hand-me-downs."

“My husband has ensured they are all epic backgammon players. Bea beats us all!” Vintage backgammon from France, via ici et la

“Our family game bought for Giles for Father’s Day."

“Vintage clothes and bentwoods are my weakness. I buy every child their own bentwood at 10 and engrave their name underneath. This is Bea’s mini one, as she couldn’t wait! We will upsize her at her 10th birthday!”

“‘Clever friends’ is how I decorate." Drawers handmade by Morrison Polkinghorne. Light by Apparatus. Painting by Heidi Moore Gill

The-Grace-Tales42 The-Grace-Tales43
“Our kitchen is basically built around an old baker’s marble top bench that acts as a kitchen island."

“We have lived at Redleaf for three summers now and feel like the luckiest people alive."

“I don’t cook but love having people over so I make lovely drinks!” 

"Mark making and art are important to me so I ensure it’s an everyday practice for my kids; instead of an ‘activity’ it is a daily duty.”

“I gifted this to Giles to commemorate our family's month in India.”

“I am always reading and re-reading my favourite books. Cabana is the only magazine I ever want to read.”

The-Grace-Tales54 The-Grace-Tales56
“My son’s room has typically only one semi-clean side! This one!” Drums photograph by Max Doyle

“I have designed my laundry to be a part florist station. Come Saturday, I am washing, potting and planting my heart out!”

Poltrona Frau ottoman from Cult. 

“The highlight of my week is taking Bea to her violin lesson with our neighbour, artist Adrian McDonald."

Bea’s dress by Minouche