Interview * Lindy + Manuella * Macedon Ranges Interiors

Who / Lindy Priest + Manuella May
What / Macedon Ranges Interiors
Where / Piper Street Kyneton
Why / Interior Design + Store + Accommodation
Facebook / MacedonRangesInteriors
Pinterest / lindypriest

12345If ever a set of stunning heritage French doors have earned their place in country Victoria, then it’s at the entrance to Macedon Ranges Interiors in Kyneton’s Piper Street. Today we introduce you to Lindy Priest and Manuella May – two wonderfully talented women who share a passion for interior design and styling using quality sustainable products of integrity and distinction.

“One day, this delightful young woman came into my shop seeking employment as an Interior Designer; so Manuella joined me in March 2008 and has been with me ever since.” – Lindy Priest

Influenced by European and Japanese aesthetics, Lindy and France-born Manuella often travel overseas to source exquisite artisanal pieces from small owners/makers including homewares, linens, a small range of beautiful clothing, accessories, blankets and throws, handcrafted Madagascan rafia shoes and Penhaligon Fragrances.

“As a designer, I think the world over-consumes and throws away far too readily. We try to work with products that last, have an honour in the way that they have been made, are not mass produced, and are not available everywhere.” – Lindy + Manuella

As well as managing her Piper Street store and interior design and styling services along with Manuella, Lindy also owns Apartment 61A, boutique accommodation located next door in the iconic 1860s former shopkeeper’s residence.

Lindy and Manuella’s success in business has everything to do with loving what they do, sharing their knowledge, connecting with like-minded folk, supporting small-scale creatives and caring to contribute to and inspire their local community.

Enjoy! x

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Tell us a little bit about your background/s – what were you both doing before you formed your creative partnership at ‘Macedon Ranges Interiors’?

Manuella Tom and I lived in Bayside before we moved to the Macedon Ranges. I had an interesting job, working for a New Zealand Company exporting machinery to the French Islands, mainly in the Pacific. But as I always had a passion for decoration and design, I decided to change career and study Interior Design and Decoration as a mature student for 2 years. As part of my course, I did work experience for an architectural/Interior Design firm in South Melbourne and was offered permanent employment at the end of my study, which was wonderful. I really enjoyed working with incredibly creative and inspiring people but when I fell pregnant with our first child, Tom & I decided that it would be fantastic to raise a child in the country rather than in “suburban Melbourne” It took us one year to make the move happen, but we have never looked back! Macedon Ranges was the obvious tree change location for us, Tom had grown up here and was able to get employment locally. When our second child was about 12 months old, I walked in Lindy’s shop and immediately formed a friendship with such a wonderful person. Lindy offered me to work for her on a casual basis and progressively I became more involved with Lindy’s business.

Lindy My background is in Finance and Management particularly in Public Hospitals and Medical Research industries. I travelled from Kyneton to Melbourne for work for over 17 years. One of my career highlights, was as CEO of Broadmeadows Health Service, where I was intricately involved in the planning, financing, designing, and then the build of a unique 120 bed public health facility where 17 different organisations came and delivered services to the communities of Broadmeadows and surrounds. I loved working with the Principal Architect Sirdar Baycan of Tectura and his Team, as well as the Builder Multiplex. We analysed spaces, colour, effect of light on patients, and how furniture alters spaces. This was a three-year, $47 million project.

However, I have always loved furniture, fabrics design and buildings. I love the juxtaposition of furniture collections whether it be modern Scandinavian designs, French provincial simple farmhouse pieces or selections from the English Georgian period.

After deciding that I had had enough traveling to and from Melbourne and realising that I was spending a day of my life in the car; I said goodbye to the demanding world of government grants, visiting Ministers to plead your case and the promises that take forever to deliver in the Biotech industry; and purchased 61 Piper Street in 2005. It was a wreck, but I realised that it had enormous potential. Annie Smithers had just opened up her café a few months beforehand, Piper Street was very quiet, with lots of empty shops, it had not yet been “discovered”.

I researched, completed my business plan and knew that there was an opportunity for an Interior Designer, but also a retail homewares that sold beautiful pieces not readily available in Australia. In addition, I could use the original 1860’s shopkeeper’s residence as short-term accommodation. I opened in October 2006. One day, this delightful young woman came into my shop seeking employment as an Interior Designer; so Manuella joined me in March 2008 and has been with me ever since.

Tell us about the vision behind your beautiful store, design services and accommodation.

Retail – So often people are confronted with mass-produced throw away items. My pieces are sourced from small companies, owned by the designer/maker. They make only small quantities, often made to order. They are pieces to treasure, to keep, to hand on. We go to France to source many of our products, but also have collections from the UK, Germany, Italy, Scandinavia and Japan. So, we like to think that those who walk through the delightful French doors of my shop will have a unique experience and are able to buy pieces that they have not seen elsewhere. We mostly import directly from our suppliers. However we are very proud to say that we stock Flynn Silver, Dan and John live and work in Kyneton, and we are their only retail outlet.

Interior Design Services – We love our Interior Design work, and over the years have been privileged to meet and work with some fantastic clients. Not all our work is able to be shown as we have to respect some client’s privacy. We undertake all facets of Interior Design work, from soft furnishings, selecting furniture, art work, colour consulting, planning a new home, stylising homes for sale; upholstery, bathrooms and kitchens. Through our wide network of international suppliers we can source exclusively some really beautiful pieces for projects. Last year we expanded our Design services and now operate out of a separate building from our retail space. It is behind 61 Piper, once a rundown tin shed, we have built a 2 story Interior Design space where we can meet our clients in comfort. We initially worked with Architect, Nicky Thomas, Spring Hill Peony Farm; as well as Ian Murray, another local Architect, and partner of renowned photographer Simon Griffiths.

Accommodation – I first opened my own accommodation in 2006, simply named “Apartment 61a”, it would have been the shopkeeper’s residence above and next to my shop. It is only small, 2 bedrooms sleeping 4, but is fully modernised, and has access to a rather delightful and sunny courtyard garden.
Some years ago we had the opportunity to work with the owner of some classic Piper Street buildings, and Circa 1860 was born, we worked with the owners to create a very grand 5 room self-contained apartment for 2, just up from “Source Dining” (Annie Smithers Bistrot rename).

What makes you so passionate about interior styling, design and homewares?

Manuella – For many years now, our Australian market has been invaded by mass produced products from overseas that all look the same or copied. Having grown up in France with mainly locally sourced products and beautiful linen, furniture and accessories, I have a passion for unusual, ethically designed products that have a story as well as beautiful fabrics. The whole process of meeting a client, understanding their needs and working with them to achieve a beautiful space for them to live in is a very enjoyable and rewarding process. It may be as little as “throwing” a few cushions for a splash of colour or texture or redesigning an entire space for them. Every project we undertake is unique in the sense that we never use a “design template”. We always personally source for our client items/fabrics that are individual and suited to their needs/environment. I always feel a great sense of excitement when a beautiful item that we have sourced from Europe arrives finally in the shop and we can present it to our clients. We have a clientele who has a great appreciation for these unique pieces that we source for them and to see their joyful reaction is truly wonderful.

Lindy – So often you are confronted with really badly designed rooms, furniture and accessories in an otherwise well designed home. Both Manuella and I are deeply committed to enhancing the lives of our clients through good interior design, styling & decorating, not just using the latest fad or colour. Purchasing items for your home is expensive; we want to help our clients make the right choices. Pieces that are not throw away the next season, but are kept and loved.

Your creativity, styling skills, eye for gorgeous homewares and love of custom bespoke décor are so impressive. Can you give us a little insight into your creative processes?

Lindy – I am not sure that I can easily put into words my creative process; I have always loved reading about homes and gardens, looking at international magazines, on-line images, and social media exposes of homes of creative individuals. I love architecture, and analysing what makes a room work, looking closely at the décor of a room. It can be from the simplest Scandinavian image with their beautiful use of wood, and simple lines. To something far more elaborate in a Paris salon, or again the simplicity of a French provincial farm-house. I think the secret to making a room stand out is to have at least one very good piece, whether it is a piece of very good furniture, or a piece of art, or some handmade glass, and then to bring in colour, texture and warmth through accessories.

You have both traveled extensively including buying trips to France. When sourcing products for your store, where, who and what do you draw your inspiration from?

Manuella – A few years ago, we started feeling quite frustrated about the lack of original homewares that were presented at trade shows in Melbourne and Sydney. Most homewares that you find in Australia now are made in China on a large scale. We decided to head to Paris in January 2013 to a trade show called Maison & Objet and now regularly make this a destination. It is held biennially (January and September) and showcases the latest products and designs from all over the world, but mainly from Europe. There are certainly some very big companies there, but also some very small businesses. We were so happy to find the smaller companies, often the owner is the producer, making unique and beautiful products; we have forged great friendships with the makers/manufacturers. It is a however a long process from finding homewares we loved there, to have them showcased in the shop, but extremely satisfying.

Lindy – I have travelled extensively and prior to settling in Kyneton many years ago both my GP husband and I lived and worked in the UK. The opportunities to slip over to the Continent for a weekend away exposes you to shops and products often sold in the tiniest of little stores. Attending Maison Objet opens up a different world of products that we just do not get access to in Australia. There are so many talented artisans and small companies that of course have access to the larger European market and therefore can survive.

Our journey to Paris to Maison Objet is both tiring and thrilling all at the same time. The trade show is set at the Parc des Expositions on 115 hectares and comprises 8 Halls of inspiration over 246,000 m2, the largest space for such an event in Melbourne is about 3,000m2. We get exhausted, arrive at 9.00am and leave at 7.00pm for 5 full days. We draw inspiration from the owners’ stories, we prefer to deal with only smaller businesses that possibly do not have any representatives in Australia. We look for products that are different, designed beautifully, with love and integrity. But also suitable to the Australian market. We also source from larger companies, but again look at their traditions and what their values are based upon. For instance a new find was a Scottish company that uses locally sourced linen and wool, and artists from the region to come up with unusual cushions and home accessories, we can now get their fabrics by the metre for our interior design work. Or a Belgium paper manufacturer that still hand makes their stationery products, or a French knife company where we learned that the technique of fabricating the knife with a handle of box tree, marked by their well-known logo has not changed since the 15th century. The original models remain hand-made, with a blade forged into place and a handle of wood, trimmed from the forests of the region and pyrographed with the logo.

Are there particular principles and philosophies that guide your creative work and the products you select?

Lindy & Manuella – Our philosophy and principles are based on operating all aspects of our business with integrity and sourcing quality, innovative and elegant products, that are made to last. We certainly look at trends but our buying and use of products is not based on using the latest trends. As a designer, I think the world over-consumes and throws away far too readily. We try and work with products that last, have an honour in the way that they have been made, are not mass produced, and are not available everywhere. We have to look at sustainability in a more momentous way and in all aspects of our lives. Purchasing items that are made using “slave labour” and not paying fair and reasonable wages or manufactured in appalling and unsafe conditions is part of a world globalisation issue that as a so called advanced nation we need to a stand on.

You are both so good at so many things! Who does what? Do you have complementary skills and viewpoints?

Lindy – Rarely in business do you meet someone where there is such convergence of ideas and tastes? However, Manuella in that typical French way will speak up if she does not agree with something that I choose. So on buying trips that works well. We are making decisions to purchase for our shop that cost a lot of money by the time they arrive in Australia, you hope that you do not get carried away, so easy to do when you see stand after stand of beautiful pieces. You need to be mindful of conversion back to the AUD, the enormous cost of freight o Australia, the GST and duties and other charges like AQUIS, and then actually making some money. Manuella, will be the one who corresponds in French back to our companies, so that we can establish a good working relationship, with whom we buy from. Manuella can also see things from a younger point of view, her children are still in Primary school, we need to select items for all age groups and tastes.

What does a typical day in the life of Macedon Ranges Interiors/Lindy & Manuella look like; from when you open the store to when you close?

Lindy & Manuella– we are lucky enough to be in the heart of a street with great coffee and eating opportunities, so I must say our day commences with coffee at Little Swallow – we can usually be seen walking across the road with our takeaway coffees.. after that and a quick swap and update it is down to work, answering emails, looking at what we need to order, updating information on our work with clients, updating our website, suddenly it is then 4 – in between seeing some lovely customers both local and further afield who make our day by complementing us on our stock.

Do you consider yourselves to be ‘Countryphiles’? i.e. Do you love country life? Why?

Lindy – I am not sure that I should give away how long we have lived in Kyneton, but it is certainly longer than I have ever lived in the city. I love Kyneton and did so within a week of arriving with my GP husband and I knew this town, which was so welcoming to us, would be our long-term home. Our 4 boys and one daughter were all born here. We moved out from Kyneton town to a farm about 15 years ago, I can see no lights at night, and get an enormous thrill taking in the changing seasons – I do love the cold, autumn and winter would be my favourite months.

Manuella – I grew up in a very small country town in Western France so I have always felt very connected to country life. I had a decade of living in cities in Europe and Australia but the call of the country was too strong and Metcalfe is now where I love spending time with my family and friends. Spending hours outside attending to the garden, vegetable patch and animals gives me great pleasure. The friends that we have made here over the years here are also a huge part of our country life.

What is the most CHALLENGING and the most PLEASING aspects of interior design and styling?

Lindy – I enjoy going into people’s homes and working with them on how they would like to change a room or a whole house, and visualising and creating for them how they would like that room to feel and look once we have worked with them. Having had 5 children I know the issues that goes with having children and pets, so often designers fail to take this into consideration, and it is a challenge. Also you need to take into account each person’s individual budget and lifestyle. You are working with a client to create a home, not necessarily a showpiece.We also are undertaking more work in stylising homes for sale and love this aspect of our work, it is often a challenge.

Manuella – Over the years, we have met so many interesting and beautiful people and it has been incredibly rewarding to work with them to design spaces for their families. It is getting to know our clients, understanding their lives, what is a comfortable and enjoyable space to live in and of course work within their budget. Sourcing the right item, fabric, lighting can sometimes be challenging but a thrill when finally it all comes together.

Tea or coffee? Your favourite country café and why?

Lindy – While we are spoilt with choice, it certainly is easy as I said before just to cross the road. People joke when they may see our lunch being delivered across busy Piper Street. But I also love Piper Street Food Co, St Beans, Localita.

ManuellaLittle Swallow Café and Mr Pierre are my favourite places for a café Latte but I could really add another 5 to the list of favourites in Kyneton, we are so spoiled for choice!

What and where was the last great meal you enjoyed/shared in the country?

Lindy – it is sometimes very hard for us to decide where to go. I think most women could go out every night, I know certainly I could, but Chris prefers a home cooked meal, but after a busy day the last thing I feel like is cooking, so Monsieur Pierre is a favourite haunt, but a special night would see us at Source Dining or Mr Carsisi.

Manuella – We have the same problems as Lindy when it comes to decide where to go out for dinner in and around Kyneton. For a very relaxed night with children and friends, we always enjoy going to Taradale Wine & Produce. Marg & Mick always welcome guests as if you were at their home for dinner and their pizzas are always delicious. For a more romantic dinner or a grown up only evening, Mr Carsisi and Midnight Starling would have to be our favourite places.

You stock beautiful kitchen homewares and our readers love to cook. Do you have a favourite recipe to share?

Lindy – I enjoy eating from fine porcelain, and now stock a modern dining setting from Limoges, France, so fine, but still dishwasher proof. I love Asian fused cooking as well as Italian pasta dishes, but my favourite is cooking a slow cooked beef casserole based on a traditional French recipe with red wine; using locally sourced beef, bacon and field mushrooms.

Manuella – I have just come back from France and my mother gave me some madeleines cooking trays which I have been using a lot since. Madeleines are delicious served warm, sprinkled with icing sugar and I always add a hint of lemon in my mix, très bon!

What ADVICE would you give those dreaming of redecorating their home?

Lindy – Start with your own mood board. You can do this is an old fashioned way, flicking through magazines, or on Pinterest. We start all our projects with a mood board, which is a collection of textures eg fabrics, images and text to create design themes. Do your research; know your prices, set a budget per room, and be patient. A home is not completed in months, but years.

My main piece of advice is buy something really beautiful and of quality and build around this, too often design is depicted as what is the latest trend. But often the images that are depicted in serious design magazines portray rooms that are built on layers, acquired over many years. Start collecting something that will become a focal point. Go for natural colours and patterns and build colour and texture through the addition of artwork, ceramics, glass, cushions and throws, these of course can then be changed seasonally. Seek help if you are unsure, you can make expensive mistakes if unsure, or swayed by what you may have seen in a TV show or magazine that bears no resemblance to your own life. Your home has to reflect “you”.

Manuella – Lindy has summed it up perfectly!

What can we expect NEXT from you/Macedon Ranges Interiors in the future?

Lindy & Manuella – We are planning commencing in the spring to run some small lectures in our new offices, bringing in visiting guest speakers to unravel the intricacies of Interior Design and Architecture. We are also working on an updated website so it will be easier to purchase online from us.

What would be your DREAM project or collaboration?

Lindy – we have been fortunate enough to have had some wonderful clients since we established our business, a dream collaboration is doing an entire house, and everything in it, and importing goods specifically for the project.
Manuella – Also working more actively with architects.

Can you list for us 5 specific things you turn to/do when you need of a ‘dose’ of city life and style?

Lindy
1. Going to an art house movie, I love the Elsternwick Classic Cinema
2. Having an outstanding Japanese meal, particularly with fresh fish
3. Walking along the beach
4. Visiting some of my favourite streets where you can see some fabulous small business e.g. Gertrude Street,
5. Looking for fabrics, furniture and antiques
Manuella
1. Have lunch or dinner with my lovely French friends for a dose of France in Melbourne
2. Go to the NGV and other galleries
3. Stay overnight, watch a movie
4. Go to the Footy with my family
5. And of course retail therapy…

Just Acorn

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