Do you often wonder how people end up in certain careers? What it takes, how they got there, or why they chose that path? I do. I find it super interesting. Hopefully you do too, and that’s why you are here.
To kick off a series of interviews with inspiring creatives and small business owners, I’d like to introduce Michelle of Michelle Canny Interiors.
Warm and bubbly, Michelle runs her interior design business, originally operating in Melbourne, from our sunny holiday town of Nelson Bay NSW.
How and why did you start Michelle Canny Interiors?
I’ve always had a passion for design, but I worked in urban design for council for a period before I decided to study interiors.
I applied to the International School of Colour and Design through Sydney, as it wasn’t available in Melbourne at the time. I studied for two years via correspondence while I continued to work full time.
In 2016, a few months after the birth of my first child I started a blog as writing was something I had always enjoyed. I just felt the need to do something creative and to explore my passion. It was a design blog, focused on providing readers with ideas and tips on how to design beautiful but practical spaces with kids. It was something I was living at the time but I also knew other people were interested in it.
I never intended to start a business. The blog just started out as a side project, something I enjoyed doing, but it organically grew into a business. People liked the blog and it lead to me being asked to consult on interiors projects. I was picked up by a big an American publication ‘Mum Knows Best’ which was a bit random and unexpected, but it was great publicity.
The blog has become a bit evergreen. I try to write content that doesn’t really date, like tips and tricks that people can come back to and implement at any time.
A beautiful and calming functional living space by Michelle Canny
I guess that ties into the philosophy that good design is timeless, and by not just following trends, your interiors won’t ever go out of fashion.
Yes! I’ve never really been trend driven. Trends are ok. But first and foremost, design needs to represent who you are and what you love. I’ve always thought interiors should tell a story. They should tell the story of who you are, your lived experiences, maybe where you grew up or traveled. That’s more my passion and they type of design that I’m drawn to.
There is a quiz on your website people can take. Tell me about that.
It was developed back in 2017 and has evolved over time. The idea was to give people a quick snippit of what their personal interior style is. There is often a lot of psychology that goes into design and decorating and it explains why you like what you’re drawn to. For example, you may like the colour blue. It could be because it represents the colour of the ocean and that evokes memories of childhood holidays. Interior decorating is a lot more than ‘Oh, that looks pretty’.
Creating cosy layers in the bedroom
What sort of projects are you working on now?
I work on residential projects mostly. Whilst I have consulted on bigger commercial projects, I find myself working a lot with families. Families are often time poor so I take the stress out of decorating by helping them discover and understand their style and source items that create beautiful and practical spaces.
I can relate to families and their needs, being a mum of two small children myself. They have really become my target audience.
Tell us about a typical work day?
I have only recently starting working again after the recent birth of my second child. I have set days for work. I try to be structured with that time. Breaking up time to focus on admin, marketing and client consults.
I see clients both online and face to face. Sometimes the baby comes along to jobs too, if the clients don’t mind. The kids often come on sourcing trips. Gus has been to more furniture shops than most people I know! It is a juggle managing parenting and work. I need to be flexible these days. I need to be transparent with clients and set realistic expectations. I find that working a lot with parents, they understand.
You have relocated from Melbourne to Nelson Bay. How has that affected your business?
The move has actually given me more clarity. Melbourne was very much about the industry and what others were doing, the hustle and keeping up with the busy pace. Since moving I have found that I have more clarity around the type of work I want to be doing.
Melbourne was good for forming foundations and connections, which I still have but I have found new networks here. I have been exposed to new people and businesses here that I have had the chance to work with as the Port Stephens area including nearby Newcastle is full of creatives.
Do you have a particular style?
I don’t work in any one style. It’s about what the client wants and their style. It might be mid-century, or more coastal or industrial, it depends on them. I always try to be open.
Sometimes people contact me because they have seen my work and like ‘what I do’, and that’s nice.
I do know you ‘Can’t be everything to everyone’. High end spaces aren’t my style. I prefer to create ‘lived in’ comfortable spaces.
Tell us about a favourite project?
I really enjoyed working on a complete new build in Canberra. It was the entire job, including all the fittings, fixtures and décor. It was difficult but it’s also where I grew the most. I feel like I really found my voice and it was really satisfying working on the project from start to finish.
Seeing the project go from bare stud walls to a finished, styled home was really cool.
What would a dream project or collaboration look like?
I’d love to collaborate on a product. I don’t know how or what that would be, but collaborating on an actual piece of homewares would be great.
Something that was good quality and affordable. Not cheap, but not unattainable either.
Sustainability is important to me and I always encourage clients to purchase well. I educate clients on their own style so that they can feel confident in making purchases moving forward. It means they don’t just buy something because it is ‘on trend’, but continue to buy items that are their own style.
People can get really distracted by social media and Pinterest, but you run the risk of diluting your own style because of some shiny new object. Don’t get me wrong, I have done it myself. But after moving so many times, I have learnt that if you stick to your own style you will always love your home.
OK, now for the fast five:
I really enjoy ‘The House of Style’ podcast by Jono Fleming and Kerrie-Ann Jones and ‘The Slow Home Podcast’ by Brooke McAlary. It’s all about slow, sustainable and intentional living. She has a book called ‘Slow’ that’s also really good.
Best advice you have been given?
It was from my mum. ‘Never rely on a man to make your money’. She fiercely promoted independence.
Favourite thing to spend money on?
A good piece of décor or furniture. Or a holiday.
Last photo on your phone?
Luca (Michelle’s littlest bub), in his cute outfit today.
If you had to get stuck in a TV show for a month, what would it be?
This is going to sound so daggy, but Downton Abbey. I love period pieces. I like the history. Either that or a classic 1950’s Italian film. My mother is Italian and I have a real affinity with Italy. I’m drawn to these films.
You can click HERE find out more about Michelle and her services or take her take the DISCOVER YOUR STYLE QUIZ.
You can also follow along on Instagram HERE @michellecannyinteriors