I very much hope I don’t offend all the other wondrous and talented stylists I have met and interviewed when I say that Megan Morton really is the absolute bees knees of Australian interiors! Luckily it seems everyone in the industry knows and loves MM as much as I do… so I’m sure most will enthusiastically agree with me as I gush gush gush about the many talents and charms of the wonderful Ms Morton.
Megan’s fabulousness (and friendliness!) has to be seen to be believed. She is absolutely the most down to earth, warm, and supremely entertaining person you will ever meet. (More gushing here, if you’re interested).
Things to love about Megan Morton
- Her hysterically funny twitter-esque abbreviated and/or grammatically creative terms in everyday conversation and email. Examples include ‘for reals’, ‘so-not-ok’, ‘the hotness/the goodness’, (ok that’s not abbreviated but I love it!).
- She is 100% genuinely modest and totally unfazed by the glamour most people associate with her job.
- She is disarmingly generous with her time, advice and contacts. She shares everything with anyone. She hoards nothing.
- Her energy and enthusiasm is totally infectious. You just can’t help but come from a meeting with Megan buzzing with new ideas and excitement!
Megan has worked with a plethora of top name photographers and publications both here and overseas, she’s been flown to exotic locations for editorial shoots, and she has even sourced the perfect sailor hat and plonked it on the head of Nicole Kidman! But the truth is, Megan is equally happy styling homes for private clients, giving genuine, heartfelt advice on even the smallest of jobs – from bathroom renovations to paint colours. Megan also shares her decorating and home-styling advice weekly in her DIY Home column for the Sydney Morning Herald, and her first book, HOMELOVE – a collaboration with author Julie Gibbes at Lantern, Penguin, is also due out in April next year!
If you take a little time to read her words below, it will quickly become clear that above all, Megan is just 100% in love with her job – ‘house whispering’ as she calls it!
Tell me a little about your background – what did you originally study, and what path led you to what you’re doing now?
After marketing studies, I worked at Dolly magazine and invented the Dolly Club – from then on I worked with the major publishing houses on marketing their brands, offers, clubs and other reader-relative concepts as Marketing Director. I always had a fascination with houses and would spend all my spare time at open houses (this was also a great opportunity as the seed to my later business, www.thepropery.com.au). After my daughter was born I was asked to work on a `living with children story’. I started at a time when lifestyle was really gaining momentum and luckily, I lived across the road from one of Australia’s best creative agents at the time, who took me on soon after my first couple of editorial shoots and represented me in the advertising arena. My other businesses work around my styling life – which is what I am most passionate about. The studio was built to make stylists life easier with beautiful space, clear access, no stairs to lug props up! And the props room, is an additional bonus for creatives when they shoot at the studio space, we carry chairs, surfaces, fabrics, tableware, decoration – all the elements to make a beautiful shoot.
In addition to your prolific editorial styling work, you also collaborate with designer Sara Silm on HOME, a home-decorating consultancy for private clients. How did this venture come about, and how have you found balancing this with your existing workload!?
HOME is a true working service for home owners who want to improve their space. A lot of houses I would photograph lack the essence of what makes a house a true home. This is where we come in. We have a multitude of projects on at the moment – an 8 bedroom family home, a Melbourne renovation, three bathrooms, a weekender. People use us because we don’t use a signature formula, we respond to what the house / budget needs to achieve our end result which is why we can do such a variety of atmospheres as well as work with such a broad group of clientele. It sounds odd, but its really house whispering – listening to what the house needs and working to put its best foot forward. Because of the nature of our work, our clients are celebrities that we wont name, families, apartment dwellers, commercial business people and everyone in between.
HOME’s upcoming paint range with Bauwerk is about giving those who can’t necessarily afford the service of a design team genuine tips and fool proof colours.
I am busy but I share my work load with really clever people and it rarely feels like real work. Plus my work is solely visual, so I just have a few applications for it. It’s the same principles at work that make a single page look amazing as it is for a room or a large scale installation. It’s just the degree of application.
How do you characterise your design approach?
Informed each and every time by the house or space. There has never been a duplicate approach. There are some things I like, but never done in the same way. Each brief presents itself so differently, it’s the designers responsibility to attack it as a brand new challenge each and every time.
How would you describe your interior decorating/styling aesthetic in your own home? How does this compare with the aesthetic you bring to your commercial styling work?
The job of a true stylist is to be able to bring modern and hard edge to a job on day, whimsical and charming the next but be preparing for possibly kooky and clever the next – so when it comes to my own preferences, they are based mostly around the luxury of space. I have a true appreciation of most styles and genres and am inspired by the modern, the aged, the pedigreed, the found as well as the simple but most of all I like colour. Ravishing, knock out colour as well as the soft subtle combo’s that can creep up on you types.
As far as my own home then, I used to be a vigilant homeowner and had everything in its place. My houses used to be picture perfect that they were used lots for ads and locations. The minute I dropped the ball at home though, I had lots more decorative energy for clients and my work. Wherever my family is feels like home. What I covet most about my current home (I have been a reformed house flicker/home mover) is the space. Its the greatest luxury of all. My present home sits smack bang in the middle of an ever so slightly raised large block where I have chickens, a healthy kitchen garden and lots of beautiful untouched space. The insides are a screaming `before’ shot but I believe all things come with time, and due to my old erratic house ways, I have patience for these things now. After years of working with multi-million dollar homes, you realise that picture perfect spaces make for beautiful pictures, but don’t guarantee a happy home! At the core though, I chase simplicity, colour and a feeling of handcrafted.
Which designers, artists or creative people are you inspired by?
My florist, my super clever friends, artists, architects – I love ANYONE who does something with conviction. You can only be respected this way. I am inspired by other stylists. It’s a very challenging job and while it looks easy, it really has its challenges. I work with paper designers, set builders, specialist painters, upholsterers, letterpressers, people who hand mix paint by hand, artists and picture hangers. In styling and designing, although its one vision, it really is a collective effort.
Where else do you find inspiration – ie books, magazines, your environment, travel, your family and friends?
While I get lots from travel (I recently found a pic of one of my favourite old school style lobster restaurant in NY and used its facade colours for a story – powdery blue with old time red with hints of copper. Such goodness. But mostly I love books and its my greatest expense. I don’t need to be in the thick of it, I read a lot and keep a full memory of things.
What does a typical day at work involve for you?
To give a sense of pace to what can be an open work day, I start every second work day with a super early start (5 am) and spend 2 hours catching up on googling, product research, reading, design detective work, styling ideas and story ideas for my DIY coloum in the Good Weekend. I try to read The Moment from the New York Times as well as all my favourite design blogs (TDF is a def local favourite!). I will then go to a shoot, work on production on an upcoming story, private consult projects or work on our upcoming paint collection and colours. We also work on large scale events or grand gestures for commerical people, so I might meet a specialist maker, or view and event location. During all of this, I am keeping my eyes out for props for my beloved props store and listening attentively to my gps (I am infamous for my bad navigation skills!).
What do you love most about your job?
I wake up and can’t believe I get to do what I do every day. I am really blessed. I am lucky enough to work three times a year internationally (London and NY) so I can bring our ideas over there and the energy of these two amazing work cities back home to my local work.
What are you looking forward to?
South of France. Every year we pack up camp and holiday at my husbands parents holiday home. This year, as I am having another baby, I am unable to travel, but its here where I get a lot of inspiration for our Bauwerk paint collection.
‘Things I like best’
citrus trees in large zinc pots / schnauzer grey / dark bed linen as an antidote to white / padded bedheads with zero fuss / belgian linen / tom dixons work / sister parish‘s decorating ethos / muriel brandolini‘s abuse of colour / foxed (desilvered) mirror / oversized peonies / fancy cutlery for everyday / simplicity for special occasions / meadows and green hills / horses breath/ the silk rolled edging of hermes scarves / klein blue as a highlight colour / the concept of a craft room / eiderdowns / castleandthings heartfelt embrodiery / american interior glossies / my `the cat was a minx but we loved her so’ paint palette from bauwerk / gooey cheese / coloured le crueset / marc jacobs for waterford wedgewood plates / exterior lighting to support moon light / tadao ando‘s church / featureless mail boxes / built in recessed doormats / grand gesture entrances / wooden boards / coffee in all its forms esp affogatto / song / hidden televisions / pimped up bathrooms / bentwood chairs / secret storage / random acts of kindess / fresh eggs / the architecture debate
You favourite fossicking spots in Sydney for unique furniture and home accessories?
Definitely the Southern Highlands for twig tables, fabulous upholsterers, craftspeople with an edge. Not being from Sydney I have never been put off really by the traffic or distance so the hour and a half drive to the Southern Highlands is thinking bliss for me with the bonus of fabulous booty at the end. Its an incredible pocket just out of Sydney where major major things are happening.
What and where was the last great meal you ate in Sydney?
While I am up for anything new, I am a creature of habit. I eat religiously at Fratelli Paradiso, Challis Ave in Potts Point, IWA for wagu beef salad in Chatswood, vietnamese bake house in Mascot for lunch and Miss Chu for my work lunches which are incredibly delicious and delivered. Unfussy french favours is my favourite though so I love Bistro Moncur for its reliable deliciousness and I am lucky enough to work with cooking greats like Jamie Oliver (his fish pie is crazy good) and Bill Granger whose restaurants and recipes (butter chicken, oh thank you Bill!) make me feel supremely lucky to live in Sydney.
Where would we find you on a typical Saturday morning?
In a Sydney traffic jam transporting children to a party/tae kwon do lesson/music class but double parking along the way at a bake house, auction house or open house!
Sydney’s best kept secret?