If your shelves are adorned with interiors magazines as ours are at The Grace Tales, then while you may not know Julia Green by name, you will certainly know her work...
As the founder of Greenhouse Interiors, this interior stylist is a mainstay in the Australian interior landscape. As well as being a talented stylist, Julia is also a writer, producer, speaker, brand-ambassador, TV-host, consultant and mum to two gorgeous boys. What inspired us most about Julia, however, was not her (incredibly impressive) list of accomplishments. Rather, it was her refreshing honesty and candour. She shared heartfelt stories about what it takes to build a brand, musings about how business and family can (or can’t) work alongside each other, and why it’s never too late to follow your dreams. We know that after reading this tale, you’ll be ready to follow along with whatever Julia’s story holds ahead. Just like the rest of us. Photography by Sarah Wood | Go to www.greenhouseinteriors.com.au for more and to shop pieces from Julia’s beautiful home.
Tell us a little about yourself and Greenhouse Interiors...
I am an accidental interior stylist – I never meant to become one. I spent years and years in the pharmaceutical industry as a drug peddler, sales manager, recruiter and marketer amongst many other gigs, and they all left me feeling empty and aimless; like I was still waiting to work out what I wanted to be when I grew up. I’d wake up and ask myself what the point was, other than earning money to pay for a mortgage. But like all things in life, that course was all part of the ‘journey’ and set me up with a huge range of skills that I would otherwise not have had. In retrospect, I feel grateful for all I have been able to bring with me from that corporate landscape to this creative land I now live in. That training ground gave me the best platform to start my own business from. And I was almost 40 when I made the change. It’s never too late to change, chase a passion or make things happen. You have got to just get out there and make it happen. Be a doer, not a gonna. When on maternity leave with my second child, I had a chance encounter with a photographer from Vogue (he bought a couch of mine from eBay!) who told me I should be a stylist. I had no idea what they did but took his card anyway. He said my house had ‘soul’ and was beautifully styled, and he assumed I worked for a mag. When I told him I sold drugs, he told me I was wasting my time. And the rest is history. I took a leap of faith and called him six months after the birth of my second child, and have not stopped running from job to job ever since. It has been a fast and furious accidental ride, with so much to learn along the way. But now, Greenhouse Interiors employs five staff, and we also represent 40 plus creatives. I have developed a core group of people I work with, and attribute much of my learning to Armelle Habib, the photographer I choose to shoot with. Her wisdom and eye are respected worldwide. She is a gun. And a delight. I feel lucky to know her and to have learned from her. Like so many other small business owners before and after me I am sure, I used to wear every hat there is to wear in this company, but after 7 years of no sleep, no balance (what is that anyway?) and no life, I chose to scale up and bring in the reinforcements. Now my husband runs the operational side of the business, whilst I style and write for magazines, do the odd TV gig, and represent a growing stable of creatives taking their wares to the world. In that time, I have tried hard to be a good mum to my two beautiful boys. I often feel I have failed by many other mother’s standards and checklists of what being a good mum is. BUT, I can say hand on heart, my children are so sure of my love for them, and as such, are well balanced beautiful people who know regardless of how often I am at home or even in the country, their mum’s love for them is too big to fit into her standard-sized heart.
“ Knowing you are loved is the most important thing of all. It sets you up for life when your parents love you unconditionally ”
My husband is one of a kind. We met when were 16 and he came to my school formal. I loved him from the moment I met him and here we are 31 years later still a rock-solid team. Now, with two boys and our beloved pooch, Mr Wolf. I’ve been lucky in love. It hasn’t always been smooth sailing and like all marriages, ours has had its fragilities at times, but there is something to be said for a man who has stood by your side for that long. He knows me better than anyone and can read me like a book. That kind of love is what matters to me, as loyalty has always been the most important core strength I have looked for and admired in people. It runs deep in my veins.
Can you tell us a little more about your life before Greenhouse Interiors, and what life is like now running your own large business?
Life before GI was uncomplicated in retrospect. I had a job that gave me so much time to engage in other activities, have friends, take holidays, read books, exercise and sleep. I can honestly say that now very little of the above factors into an average day, and after almost nine years, I can admit that the badge of busy-ness is no longer a badge of honour. It has become a badge of resentment. There have been endless sacrifices, and I often question them. If I knew what I know now, I may doubtfully have taken this life on that I now lead. But being blissfully ignorant to begin with is what likely saved me somehow. How’s that for the honest truth! I think people look into my world and assume my life is full of pretty things and fun days on set. But behind the smoke and mirrors of it all, there have been times when I have curled up in a foetal position and cried. Like a baby. From sheer exhaustion. I am sadly an all or nothing kinda girl, and that can be good and bad. I have used it for ‘good’ professionally speaking but to the detriment of my own mental health. Nothing falls off trees when you run your own business. It’s a hard slog. And I often question if I am truly cut out for it. I feel things deeply. I wear my heart on my sleeve. I am my own worst critic – nothing I do is ever enough. Which can be exhausting. I never think I have ‘made it’, plus I have zero ego, and I think that may be why things just never feel enough. I am told often that I am very easy to work with, my energy is contagious and my enthusiasm unrivalled, and whilst that may be true by day, there isn’t a lot left for the ones I truly love by nightfall. My mantra for 2019 is to change that. To very very selectively chose whom I expend my energy on and with, and to ensure there is enough of it left for myself and my family. It’s key to surviving the distance.
How would you describe your style?
Strangely, people say they see an image and know I had a hand in helping create it, so we all clearly have our signature! I am predominantly known for colour. I think I have a boho streak, and my mantra is that money doesn’t equal style. I was brought up in a very humble but creative home with a mum who could turn a run-down old house into a colourful palace with her own bare hands. I think I am a maximalist sometimes trying hard to be a minimalist and I don’t know why I still bother even trying to be something I am not! I think it’s just my dislike of clutter for the sake of clutter. I find homes with very few, expensive items dotted around utterly soulless. I don’t understand anything about the person who lives there other than their income potential, which is not something I give a shit about! I like a house to tell a story of the person who lives there. Those kinds of homes excite me. I love to understand where they have been and what makes them happy.
You have such a wonderful use of colour. How do you suggest we incorporate more colour into our homes?
It needs to be authentic. So ideally, not trend based. You need to know what colours you like and how they make you feel, then surround yourself with them. It’s that simple! I like to understand the emotion attached to each colour, and to use it accordingly. An example is our bedroom. It’s actually quite low-key in the colour stakes, and that is deliberate as I don’t want to be stimulated in there. I want to calm the hell down and quieten my busy brain, and soft colours do that for me. On the other hand, vibrant greens are dotted elsewhere in our home as a homage to life, which is what green represents to me. I love green, and it has always been my favourite colour. Find yours and surround yourself with it for instant happiness.
What does your process look like when working with a client to style their home?
First and foremost, I look to understand the person. What makes them tick, their likes, dislikes, etc. I ask for mood boards, words, sounds, colours, ideas and anything that gives me insight into their inner thoughts. It’s a consultative process, and an individual process each time. No two homes look alike. And that’s how it should be! When I am styling for a magazine though, it is a different situation. You need to work to a brief (and each is different!), and the way things look styled through the lens is often completely different to how they look to the naked eye. So there are two very different processes depending on who I am styling for – a magazine, or real-life people wanting their home styled for living in.
For women looking to enhance the style in their own homes, what tips do you have?
I’m so old-fashioned – I still tear sheet mags and build pinboards of images I love. I then analyse why I love them. Once I land on what it is about the image that I love, I look for ways to recreate it with my own things from home. The trick is to back yourself a bit. You always know what you like and what you don’t like. Then, you have to roll up your sleeves and give it a go! If you don’t enjoy doing that, or feel like you missed the mark, employ someone from my gang, and we will do it for you! I’m all about the outsourcing. Decorating should be enjoyable, so if it’s stressful, find someone else to do it, and focus on doing other things you love.
What pieces do you suggest we invest in when it comes to decorating?
This really depends on what stage of life you are at. I am almost 50 and just bought my first “forever” couch. There was no point bombing the cash beforehand, as the kids were too young. Now they can respect it as I need them to, and they understand how long it took for me to invest in that piece. Which is a damn good lesson for them to learn! So, invest in key pieces when the timing is right, invest in things you love, try to buy original, timeless pieces and wait to save up for them rather than contributing to landfill. That said, accessories and soft furnishings have a place when it comes to changing up a look easily and affordably. I have a cushion collection that is too embarrassing to confess. But, they are my quick fix and change up a space so fast with minimal effort or cash!
What’s a fast, inexpensive way to elevate a room?
Often, less is more. Editing is as important as adding in the world of interiors. So allow one thing to shine, and let it be the hero. This will make for a more considered look.
How do you go about selecting the beautiful brands and pieces you sell?
It’s just a gut thing (story of my life!). Everything I do is measured by my gut axis. It’s not just the piece; it’s the people who make it and their values and ethics. If they don’t share my vision, there is no point representing them, as it will never work if we are not aligned. I am also big on teamwork. I’m big on individual success and creativity too – and I like to see people shine for what they do and who they are – but know it takes a tribe for success to happen. And I know that when creatives share a vision, the goals are achieved better and faster. I am moving into 2019 with this as my core strategy. It’s not about money (it never has been). I chase a dream with values, not with a dollar sign attached to it. The money comes eventually if the rest of the equation is right.
If we’re interested in exploring design as a career, what steps do you suggest taking to see if it’s the right move?
The design world is a big and varied one. I run courses on ‘creative career change’ that cover off a lot of ground, as there a million and one ways to do it. Firstly though, I think you need to have had some hands-on experience, even if it’s just being a fly on a wall. Whether this is in a design studio, or on a shoot, or with an artist for the day. It’s important to understand not just the pretty, glamorous parts of the job, but the realities of it. For instance, I may shoot one day, but before that, there have been two days of pre-production and a million emails. Then the shoot needs to be pitched to magazines for coverage, and the whole process is a long one, requiring a lot of experience. I would talk to people who run their own company within the design field and ask lots of questions. Having said that, sometimes the best way is to just dive as I did. I learned on the job, which worked best for me. Had I known what I know now, I may not have done it! BUT, being commercially wise about it is also sensible. A solid business plan that maps out how you will survive in this design world is wise. It’s not an easy world to make money in, so serious thought needs to be put into it. I also really like the interior course “Design School,’ as its focus is not just on the technical, but is very hands on. No amount of theory could have prepared me for the competitive world I work in now. So hands-on experience is essential.
As the mum of two boys, how do you manage the children’s toys/mess/paraphernalia!?
When I had time, I used to care about the mess. I used to pack it all up before going to work. Since becoming a stylist, I simply don’t care and have no time. I tidy the place before people visit, or before we shoot. Otherwise, it’s just an everyday suburban house like any other, with mess everywhere. Kids just come with stuff; it’s a reality. From an early age, however, I did provide ample storage for the kids, and taught them how to store their stuff to hide the mess. My youngest has grasped it and runs with it. My eldest blissfully ignores it and doesn’t seem to notice the 248488 towels and undies that scatter his floor. It’s not his focus or interest, he tells me. GAH. So I shut the door. And if I am ready for a fight, I pick one, and usually win with an overhaul of the room. But it’s short-lived. In life, I have learned to pick my battles.
What does a typical day involve for you?
There is no such thing as a typical day. Every single one is different. I shoot, write, prepare concepts, decorate, present, run workshops, host videos for brands, caption, run my social media, manage an endless inbox, talk to artists and clients most days, sell, market, host trade fairs, and occasionally walk the beach. Days off-site start very, very early (with a LOT of swearing) and days working from home are strangely the longest as I get lost in the labyrinth of my inbox, and then realise it’s 9 pm and I haven’t been to the toilet. It has been manic for 9 years. The inbox is NEVER clear, and the to-do list is NEVER empty. And that is so frustrating and something I have never been good at coping with! Next year, I have outsourced quite a few jobs to others and hope it will bring some peace and clarity of thought.
How do you make the ‘balance’ work in your family?
I don’t. It’s that simple. I’ve never had balance personally. I am not sure it exists either, and I think people talk about that word loosely like it’s a thing. But it’s not; it’s actually a state of mind. My brain is always busy, always thinking, and I want to flick a switch. But I’m just not wired that way. I am starting surfing and meditation in 2019 in all of my spare time, and hope it can make me feel a little more nourished. My mum says it took her losing her leg (she was hit by a truck last year and lost her leg) to find balance. She too used to work 24/7 in her business and had no work/life balance. She keeps warning me to change, and not to wait for a life-threatening illness or injury to facilitate that change. And I know she’s right. She’s always been right about everything. (Except husbands – ha!)
What are your style predictions for 2019?
Style is not just about what you can see; it’s about what you can touch, smell, hear, experience … And so style should become more all-encompassing than pure aesthetics. I think 2019 will bring that. Oh and pastels. EVERYTHING is apricot.