You’d be hard pressed to find someone who hasn’t stumbled across her work in some capacity, be it during an Instagram scroll or Pinterest sesh, or for her work on acclaimed boutique hotel Halcyon House on the NSW north coast. As well as serving as head designer at Black & Spiro with renowned designer John Black (which she later took over and rebranded to Anna Spiro Design), in 2014 she published her first book, Absolutely Beautiful Things, and in 2016 she launched her own Anna Spiro Textiles collection.
Here, the Audi ambassador opens up about what style means to her, the changing landscape of the design industry thanks to the rise of social media, and her best career advice.
What does style mean to you?
Style for me is about having the confidence to run your own race, being true to yourself and your taste, (and) not worrying about what anyone else thinks.
Where did your love of interiors and design begin?
I grew up with a great influence and appreciation for design through my mother’s keen interest and beautiful style. We always lived in beautiful, interesting houses, which Mum designed and decorated. Being surrounded by such creativity gave me a very keen interest in all things design related.
When did you know you could turn that into a career?
In my last year of school my grandmother’s friend and interior designer John Black had a job opening for a young assistant. This was my leg in the door.
Where would you be now if you weren’t doing what you are doing? Did you have a Plan B?
Once I got the job with John I really never looked back. Before that I had toyed with the idea of doing something in fashion, but this rare opportunity arose and I jumped right into it. I have always loved what I do and feel very lucky for the early opportunity I was given.
What is the most challenging part of your job?
I think managing clients’ expectations with regards to the cost of having beautiful things made is very challenging and something I still struggle with on a weekly basis. I think our industry is starting to feel the impact of the same fast-fashion symptoms the fashion industry has had to deal with over the past decade. I think this concept is very challenging. I personally prefer to spend a little bit more and have beautiful things custom-made for my home and my clients’ homes that last and stand the test of time. However, I feel our younger clients are caught up with trend-driven and of-the-moment cheap items, which just end up adding to landfill and waste. It’s really concerning.
How has the way you work evolved?
I started out just doing small-scale decorating for clients, however, my business has grown into a much larger-scale design business. We design rooms, houses, renovations, commercial projects. We do design and decorating, including drawing, specification work and we even do graphic design and brand identity development for our commercial projects. We do everything, so it’s really grown since the early days!
What is the biggest lesson you have learnt along the way?
Always trust my instincts. If it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it.
What is the best piece of career advice you have received?
It’s really simple but my parents always taught us to never give up! When there’s a will there’s a way. I live by that. Things can get pretty hard, but you’ve just got to keep striving ahead. You will get there in the end. You won’t get there if you give up halfway.
What is your biggest career highlight to date?
Definitely the beautiful house project we did at Sorrento in Victoria for an amazing, amazing client who basically just said to me – no budget, no boundaries, whatever you want to do is what we will do. We worked on that house for three years and it is the most beautiful thing I have ever created and I am extremely proud of what we did there.
What is your next big career goal?
Well, there are always a lot of things I want to do, but I am keen to start working on my next book and also a furniture collection and maybe open an office in Melbourne. There are lots of things on the table at the moment.
How do you define success?
We live in a world where design can be accessed very easily through social media and the internet. There are so many designers out there and I feel that success is defined in these times by those who challenge the trends and continue to stay true to their own style. True success is still being able to come up with new ideas for new projects, new designs for my collections and brand new concepts for my clients.
What is your advice for someone hoping to get into interior design?
Start an Instagram account and post things you love and try and show your creative capabilities. Connect via Instagram with as many people in the design industry as possible. Having that online visual record of your style helps potential employers see what you are capable of and your taste. I think it’s a window into your world and, if you are good and have great style and design ability, this will shine through and will stand out to employers. Studying and learning technical drawing and all the theory involved in the industry is key also.
Where do you look for inspiration?
Everywhere. I don’t stop. I can find inspiration in a colour palette I see in a street scene. Inspiration is absolutely everywhere. You just have to have your eyes wide open!