"That’s what I love, the confidence to do what you want and how you want and not fear what others might think or say.” ~ Lynda Gardener
Renowned interior stylist, hotelier & now author Lynda Gardener joins us for a conversation about how she got started in the world of interiors, her favourite part of any creative project and what she thinks of Harry Styles' style.
Tell us a little bit about you & what roads led to where you are now.
Well, it all started when I literally had no idea what I wanted to do in my life. I had no idea where I was heading and what career I felt was right for me, however, at 19 I knew the only thing that I was keen to be involved in was fashion. So believe it or not, I started as a secretary for Levi Strauss in Melbourne and from there I took the initiative to stay back late one night and completely restyle (using petty cash) the showroom and surprise everyone!! I went to the trash and treasure market and bought props, old leather suitcases, books, rusted tools etc and stayed back into the late hours and completed the space. To everyones shock and surprise the next day, they could not believe what I had created from so little and how incredible a space could look with a little more attention to detail. From there I was given the role of setting up all the interstate concept stores around Australia and buying all the props from markets and antique stores!! I was in my element.
From there I decided to open a small store in Albert Park by the seaside in Melbourne and sell all my finds and collections. My shop was called Empire which ran for 24 years and was very successful, the only one of its kind back in the day and it still holds so many memories that will stay with me forever.
I'm always interested in how community plays into a person's success, how important has the role of community been in your career do you think?
For me it was very important. If I didn't have the support of my community local and further afield the store wouldn't have lasted a year. It just kept building and building and many of my first customers returned and shopped till the day I closed. In fact I had many loyal customers like that, many who became long time friends and I am so grateful for that.
Your depiction of "What is an Interior Stylist" in your book Curate really struck me the depth at which you understand your own process & work. Have you been writing this book for years in your mind and how did the book unfold for you?
Funnily enough, quite the opposite. I am not a writer and would be the worst at writing about myself and what I do. Ali Heath is the author and she literally talked to me for days and weeks on end from the UK on the phone for hours and hours on my thoughts, inspirations and ideas. I would walk her though my rooms as if she was there with me; its such an amazing skill to write so well and I admire Ali so much for being able to create such great work. Together with our amazing photographer Marnie Hawson, we worked on it all last year and right through covid, on the phone pretty much every day. It was an amazing process and one I will never forget.
When you're in the midst of a project what part of the whole process energises you the most?
The end. I love seeing the end result of all the hard work brought together. For me, the final tiny styling elements, foliage and layers makes me feel the most energised. I literally still jump up and down seeing the end result of Curate.
Seven of your iconic homes are featured in the book, have their ever been moments in the journey where you felt in over your head managing so many businesses?
Yes quite a few times, however, never enough to give in. I love what I have created. I am so proud of everything I have achieved as it all happened for me from the ground up with lots of hard work, sometimes working 7 days a week and some years working three jobs to keep afloat, and yet, I always wake up the next day ready for a new day and the adventures that lay ahead.
A tricky question but what's one project you hold close to your heart and why?
Hmmm that is a tough one as they all have had their own stories along the way but perhaps the challenge of the only stand-alone new build I had with Room + Board in Daylesford. All of my projects prior to this have been old houses that I have re-created and kept the gorgeous charm of their age and patina. Room + Board was new for me and very stressful in dealing with councils and all their rules and not being able to do what I really wanted to do was very difficult. There were many tears along the way and for a brief moment thought it was never going to be the build I imagined in my head, however, it is now one of my favourites. Its so simple and open - it's spacious, bright and light and has a special feel of its own. As soon as you walk through the barn doors you never want to leave. So, the most difficult build has become the closest to my heart I guess!!
I was looking at your Pinterest & found lots of Harry Styles portraits, a celebrity crush perhaps?
Oh yes, I have many favourites! Harry Styles is flamboyant and confident, he knows the definition of style. He's always grounding his wardrobe with basics but then adding jewellery, handbags and having fun with the finishing touches like dresses, sheer blouses and so on. Truth be told I have actually never listened to his music, its all about his style and having the confidence to dress and do what you feel is right. He is confident wearing beautiful womens clothing and looks great every time, I really admire that! That’s what I love, the confidence to do what you want and how you want and not fear what others might think or say. And Iris Apfel at around 90 years of age is still doing what she does best, dressing how she feels comfortable. I admire people that dance to the beat of their own drum! Its everything to me!
How important has Instagram been for you and your many creative endeavours?
One of the best things I have ever done. I have met people around the world I would have never have met in my life. The community is so supportive, loving and kind, I have only had the best time over the years I have been on Instagram. It's also my newspaper into the creative world around me, I just love it.
What's your intention at this moment in your life?
To travel again. My life has always included travelling around the world so once we can travel again, I will be on the first plane out to all the countries I haven't been yet - to be inspired by the people and languages and to eat and drink in unique places once again.
Photo credits: Header image by Marnie Hawson, second image at Ship Inn Stanley and photo by Marnie Hawson, third image at Room+Board and fourth image at The Apartment St Kilda.