To say I have long admired Melbourne stylist, decorator and retailer Lynda Gardener is a major understatement. In my high school years, I distinctly remember visiting her Albert Park store ‘Empire Vintage’ with my mum – at the time it was a treasure trove of vintage kitchenware, crystal and incredible vintage gowns in every shade of pastel. I was always intrigued by the glamorous, friendly lady who ran this store.
Since those early years, Lynda has garnered a reputation in Melbourne as a supremely talented designer and prolific creative, with an intuitive knack for creating beautiful spaces.
Having opened her first retail store 23 years ago, this month Lynda comes full circle with a new retail offering – Lynda Gardener: CURATED. It’s about time we interviewed her!
Lynda Gardener has an incredible eye for uncovering vintage furniture and accessories, and has turned this uncanny knack into an artform over the years. She is well known in Melbourne for her signature aesthetic – a soft neutral palette, with antique and rustic details, layered to perfection. This distinctive look defines each of Lynda’s various design and decoration projects.
Having started her career at just 19 as an in-house visual merchandiser for Levi Strauss, Lynda’s passion for all things vintage was sparked. It was then, before the term ‘stylist’ had really hit popular vernacular, that Lynda realised her calling. She’s now been in the design, retail and styling industry for 34 years, and never seems to slow down! She is always dreaming up the next beautiful project.
Lynda takes on decorating and interior design projects through Gardener and Marks, with business partner Amanda Henderson-Marks, which will operate until the end of this year. She also runs FOUR beautiful boutique accommodation properties – The White House in Daylesford, The Estate Trentham, The White Room in Fitzroy, and, most recently, The Apartment in St Kilda! Each location is decorated exquisitely in Lynda’s signature style, and is available for accommodation, events and photoshoots.
This week sees the opening of Lynda’s latest project – Lynda Gardener : CURATED in Albert Park, a re-incarnation of her popular retail presence.
Lynda Gardener : CURATED
63 Cardigan Place
Tell us a little about your background – what did you study and what path led you to what you are doing today?
Ever since I can remember I have always wanted to work in fashion and a creative industry. When I was younger I wasn’t really sure how this would present itself in terms of a job, so I always did my best effort to follow my gut instinct. This led to landing a job with Levi Strauss when I was 19 years old, which led to becoming their in-house merchandiser for all of their concept stores. I was kept busy travelling Australia to merchandise their store and buying props, it was a match made in heaven! This is where my love of sourcing and styling with vintage pieces really started.
After 12 years or so doing this, I decided it was time to do my ‘own’ thing and I opened my first store, Empire, in Albert Park. This was a shop filled with vintage pieces hand selected and sourced from country flea markets, collectors and great contacts on my travels! Now, 23 years on, I have, as of last week, re-opened the store under the name Lynda Gardener: CURATED. It is a place filled with vintage and industrial homewares and curiosities and I couldn’t be happier.
In between my retail and styling work, I also operate a few boutique accommodations in Daylesford, Trentham, Fitzroy and St Kilda. I love nothing more than creating a beautiful space!
What drives your passion for styling, interiors and retail after all these years?
From the earliest age I can remember, my mother loved decorating and making sure the home was always looking incredibly stylish and detailed. She loved going to markets, and as a young teenager I would join in with her, always fossicking for that special find.
I loved going to markets and bought my first piece of vintage furniture when I was 17. Even to this day, no matter where I am in the world, whether in my hometown of Melbourne or travelling overseas, I always will visit a local Sunday flea market. I have been in the business for 34 years, and still enjoy the feeling of never knowing what you may find and uncovering that something special to add to your collection. For me it’s not about money and how much an item is worth, it’s about discovering the discarded and seeing new life within it. I have pieces worth just a few gold coins that have ended up in my house and completed my collection.
How would you describe your work, and what influences the signature ‘Lynda Gardener’ aesthetic?
I guess my signature has always been mixing old pieces with new. I don’t think there is one property or interior of mine that doesn’t have something old in it. That’s my stamp, and my love of vintage pieces is always obvious in everything I do.
Over the years I have added a touch more ‘new’ to my overall styling and interiors work, mainly when adding rugs, cushions or lighting, and mainly because right now there are so many new options to choose from, especially here in Melbourne.
Last week, you opened your third retail offering Lynda Gardener: Curated! Can you tell us a little bit about this store and what we can expect to find inside?
I started my original store Empire Vintage over 23 years ago, and last year opened Gardener and Marks alongside Amanda Henderson-Marks. The latest retail incarnation, Lynda Gardener: Curated, will be a constantly evolving shop, where each month I will curate the collection on offer. The shop stocks a collection of the old and the new in terms of homewares, furniture and everything in between. Bit by bit I will add to the shop things I have collected and found in my private collection, to be honest it might take years to get through everything!
What does a typical day at work involve for you?
I generally operate on two different daily schedules. A days every week are spent sourcing, which means I am out visiting flea markets, wholesalers, checking in with my collector contacts, picking up stock or rifling through my own warehouse that is filled to the brim.
On the other days, I like to start the day early at 7.00am, and do some business admin that ensures everything runs smoothly. I start these days with about a 3 hour block of emails, responding to customer queries, running my four accommodation properties and staffing. I then head into the store, where I am either styling or working, I am generally in the store three days a week.
Which other Australian designers, artists or creative people are you loving at the moment?
1. I am always inspired by other stylists and bloggers and decorators. One who springs to mind, for one example, is my friend Kara Rosenlund for her stunning images, words and zest for life, expressed through her stories and travels. She always inspires me.
2. Glen Proebstel because every thing he touches and styles is perfection.
3. Martyn Thompson because I love his photography work and his textile range.
Can you list for us a few of your favourite resources, across any media, that you turn to when you’re in a need of creative inspiration?
1. Instagram – so many stories, photos and daily creative inspiration for me.
2. I will always love interior magazines, and find inspiration flicking through their pages.
3. I still turn to my decorating friends for inspiration and one person in particular – my decorating partner Amanda Henderson-Marks. I love chatting and discussing our thoughts on all things interiors, and I find something so simple as discussion, conversation and updates with one another, very inspiring.
What has been your proudest career achievement to date?
Oh there are a few! The fact I have been able to manage and run four accommodation properties, including setting them up, decorating and designing them from scratch has been a huge achievement for me!
The Estate Trentham was recently featured on three different well-known covers for international and Australian magazines! I was beyond proud! I am also so proud that I have had and run my little store now for well over 20 years!
What are you looking forward to?
Every day I wake up and I look forward to my day ahead, and that makes me really happy to be honest.
It’s a great pleasure to do what I love every day and having a great supportive family and partner who believes in me and my crazy ideas. It means I can always dream big and look forward to the next adventure!
Your favourite Melbourne neighbourhood and why?
Fitzroy, I couldn’t be happier living anywhere else. I have made this my home now for 25 years or more. Fitzroy is always lively and fast paced with a new cafe, bar, restaurant that seems to open every few months! Fitzroy is a hub of all things creative, an ever changing area with such a great vibe and feel about it.
What and where was the best meal you recently had in Melbourne?
Neighbourhood Wine in Fitzroy North. We had a three course meal with friends and it was truly delicious.
Where would we find you on a typical Saturday morning?
Resting after a big working week. Weekends generally are catch up times to see friends, sit in a favourite local cafe and enjoy the weekend ahead. Oh and walking our dog Jack!
Melbourne’s best kept secret?
There are so many, but one of my favourites is the freshly made ricotta filled doughnuts at the Mediterranean Wholesalers on Sydney Road in Brunswick.