iscd Alumni: Kylie Monteleone

Posted by rachel on November 13

Alumni Kylie Monteleone runs her own colour and design business, Spacedresser. We recently caught up with her to discuss her experiences since being out in the industry!

Tell us a little about yourself before you studied at iscd…

Before starting at iscd I had an invested career in marketing and communications. I loved what I was doing, but the upheaval of starting a family with a high pressure job wasn’t doing my sanity any favours. After many, many nights up feeding and changing nappies, I harnessed some deep soul searching and realised that the parts of my job I loved the most were all centred around creative problem solving. I saw an opportunity to up skill my communication qualification and tune my creative thinking to a focus on design and colour. This decision was one I could never have prepared for! It was a sideways leap that I had never imagined, but boy I am glad I did it. With the endless support of my family and friends, I parked more than a decade in marketing and went back to school. My kids thought it was great that we could all pack our school bags together and do our homework together. 

When we say “Design your way” what does this saying mean to you?

For me, design is such a personal thing and that’s what makes it so exciting. We all draw from our own personal experiences, personal preferences and personal surrounds so no matter how hard we all try to keep up with trends or the Jones next door, no two spaces will ever be the same and I love that. When processing a clients brief, it isn’t ‘designing my way’, it is ‘designing their way’. I love for each space to be an extension of those who reside there, and with the right balance of design and personal bits and bobs we can achieve that in a way that is truely ‘theirs’.

How are you designing your way in the industry?

I have a personal preference for natural tones and materials. Living on the Northern Beaches, most of my work seems to come from local pockets on the coast and the challenge is to not make the same specifications each time even though each brief may be very similar to the last. I use a collaborative approach with my clients and spend the time getting to know them, how they live in the space and understanding how the space is intended to be used for years to come. This pragmatic approach gives me a really good feel for what colour and design elements are best incorporated in to each job, ensuring it’s unique each and every time.

What does a typical day look like for you?

Hmmm…the only thing typical about my day is getting the kids to school, then coffee! After that, each day takes its own course and for me that is exciting. Some days will be back to back colour consults, whereas other days I feel like a door to door sales lady flying in and out of supplier showrooms all over Sydney gathering treasures for jobs I have on the go. It is a very rare day that I am at my desk, but those days I love wearing comfy clothes with the music up loud whilst getting on top of the admin and cleaning up the chaos that my desk can end up in after a good week out and about.

What is the best thing you have learnt since being out in the industry?

Having spent some time working in other business and now my own, the best lesson is being honest with yourself and more importantly honest with your clients. I think it is easy to get caught up in the fast pace of specifying moving trends, that we know wont fit the ‘forever home’ brief or gently letting a client know that their idea of a fuchsia wall might not be the best for their childs’ nursery if they ever want their baby to sleep. We are being paid for our experienced advise, and even though the truth can sometimes be disappointing or difficult, honesty and authenticity will conquer!

Where do you get your inspiration from?

Not that it happens often, but if I’m taking a walk I will always come home with a piece of foliage or a dried plant that has the most amazing colour combination. I spend waaaay too much time on instagram and have an abundance of folders saved with images I can reference at a later date. I sometimes draw inspiration from art, especially if it is something significant to a client! Oh, and fashion. I’m not a huge fashionista, but certain brands like Gorman which use colour in abundance get me really excited and that is when ideas can spark.

What are your highlights since graduating?

For me, my first referral client from a paid job was a big day! Knowing that someone who wasn’t a friend or a family member was not only happy to pay me for my advice, but then encourage one of their friends to also pay me for my advice was huge validation that I was doing a good job! Since then, I have had the opportunity to work on some amazing projects, with some amazing people and for that I am really grateful.

Favourite projects you’ve worked on since running your own business?

It’s a tricky one! Every job is so different, and the scalability of my service means some jobs are no more than a 60 minute consult whereas others are ongoing 18 month consultation for fittings, finishes, colours and the works! Each job has presented its own challenges and highlights, but for me I think it is the people that live in the spaces that really makes it memorable. Bring invited into the most private parts of people’s lives is a rare experience, and having an impact on their family is a real privilege. Currently however, I am working with a family who are building their dream home from scratch. Being involved in projects from its inception is super exciting. To see how the design process evolves when a team of experts are on the one job is just awesome! I’m a visual person, so every meeting I can see the finishes I’m specifying already on the floors and walls. I can see myself in the kitchen already. Nothing beats the real deal though, so I can’t wait to do the walk through once it’s done. Watch this space!

What’s one thing you wish you had been told when you were starting out in the industry?

YOU ARE ENOUGH! I think so much around what we do with design is aesthetic, and ego can get in the way. It’s never about how many instagram followers you have, how fancy your wardrobe is or how long you have dreamt about making a start in design. As long as you have the passion to make positive change in people’s lives through creative application of colour and design, you are enough!

What advice would you give to someone looking to study interior design?

Network! Network! Network! We can’t be all things to all people, so we need to rely on the support of other industry experts to get it done. Spend time with your local kitchen, bathroom, flooring, paint and tile showrooms. Get your head around their lingo, their processes and their businesses. It’s all of these people that we need to arrange samples, quotes and bounce ideas with so establishing good rapport makes it all the more fun.

Are you feeling inspired by Kylie’s story and want to learn more about our interior courses?


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