I am often asked how or why I decided to expand on my design background of more than 16 years and open a retail showroom. What’s it like? What do you do each day? But why?
Depending on the day, I liken the decision with free-falling on a wing and a prayer and other days I credit my journey to something closer to having a strong vision and capitalising on an opportunity in the market I felt I could explore. Karma or crazy, the verdict is still up in the air, but what a ride it has been!
In the Beginning…
I got my first break under the marque of Byzantine Design, with Belle magazine in their Luxe Issue June/July 2010 - there was a callout for natural stone products, for a photo shoot with uber-stylist, Steve Cordony. I dropped a sample off to Belle’s head office in Park St Sydney.
The sample was approved and excitedly I loaded up my little Mazda 121 bubble car with 10sqm of Zagora 600x300 limestone to a photography studio situated at the back of Redfern.
My poor little car struggled under the weight on both journeys but it was the break I needed. That editorial resulted in my first big client, so I actively sought further product placement,and Belle magazine kept supporting me, by placing more of my products in their magazine.
With several of my pieces being included in these design and product features, a real buzz was generating, with interested people from Melbourne contacting me based on theeditorial. I had some momentum building, including a feature as a tile expert in InStyle Magazine and a guest editor spot on the Interiors Addict blog.
|My first editorial in Belle June/July 2010|
Written in the Stars
OK, I admit it, far from being a completely modern and independent woman, my next decision was based upon a chance meeting with a boy….
My personal life was at a bit of a standstill and always wanted to open a store that was morethan just a retail tile store. I was on holidays in Perth and met a guy from Melbourne who was fun and before I knew it I decided that I needed more fun and would move to Melbourne to open a store. After all, the design community in Melbourne is amongst the best in the world. Oh, and the thing with the guy? Surprisingly it wasn’t true love, but it was definitely destiny to quote Disney, as it fizzled within weeks. He was obviously just a catalyst for me to move. I moved to Melbourne in June 2013 and opened my slice of tile paradise in May 2014.
|My instagram from the night before opening|
It Doesn’t Happen Overnight…
Having worked across pretty much every facet of the tile industry, I knew that there was a market for a design based gallery, so I created one. I had absolutely no idea of how the showroom would work beyond designing the gallery-style space and opening the doors;
possibly naïve, but I had a kind of 'if you build it, they will come' attitude (thank you Kevin Costner).
I remember sitting at my shiny new desk on the first morning and deciding I would clean my keyboard. I promptly flooded it and had to close the shop and head to Officeworks to buy a new keyboard. Not exactly something I’m proud of but in the interests of a good story, you have my confession.
The first 12 months were hard, 6 weeks into feeling like I was the master of my domain, I fell over and progressively got worse from there. Three months into being a freshly minted tile mogul, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS), and was in hospital and the showroom closed for a week. Luckily we weren't really busy so I don't think anyone noticed we were closed.
I think the reason why I am still here today, two years later, is that I have a design background, and I live and breathe what I do. I have designed so many projects from bathrooms and kitchens, splashbacks and bigger scale installations and I think that this understanding of how to work within a timeframe, budget and to a client brief means I really get it. I see my role is more relationship and education-based than purely transactional.It's vital to work closely with designers and architects on a project right from the beginning, so that the tile selections are a carefully considered part of the build and should be budgeted for from the beginning, rather than as an add on. I also believe that the designer/architect is an extension of my business and I am a part of theirs. My design background and 16 years of product knowledge make a genuine specialist in this area.
…But It Does Happen
Byzantine Design is a niche business. It takes experience to work out what your strengths are. It takes time to build a reliable team of suppliers; it takes time to recognise the cycles of a business, the natural ebb and flow of trade, and the relatively long life cycle of the decision making involved for each client purchase. I do think that a lot of tile merchants try to be everything to everyone. It's too hard, you just can't just throw everything against a wall and see what sticks, and be successful.
Today Byzantine Design specialises in mosaics, natural stone and the business has now evolved into supplying sisal, terrazzo and solid oak flooring from Northern Europe. I am a purist so I like to sell natural products. I even resisted porcelain tiles initially. Now we have a heavily curated range that complements our mosaics completely.
|The storefront today|
Where to Now?
So, it’s been two years this month! We are planning an extension to the showroom, introducing Northern European solid oak floor boards, a couple of design and product collaborations are in their early stages of forming, and we've just ordered a neon sign!
We have been involved with so many exciting projects with incredible people, and I have met the most inspirational people doing what I do. I simply love what I do and couldn't imagine doing anything else. The support of magazines such as the interior design Bible, Belle makes a huge difference in the life of a small business; to have their belief in you and what you are doing means the world and secures you a level of exposure and recommendation that is essential when establishing your brand.
|Some of the new finishes we will be using in our extended showroom|
So this was the true story of the highs and sometimes lows of my first foray into taking over the world. Unlike Trump, I have a fairly uncontroversial hairstyle and unlike Branson, I like my drinks more Bloody Mary than Virgin thank you.
That's it from us for this week, 'til next time our tile obsessed friends...
XOXO Byzantine Design
Changing the World one tile at a time.