Interview: The Artwork Stylists

At BusinessChic, we do love a good career change story and so it was a delight to meet up with sisters Amy and Sarah Chamberlain of  The Real Estate Stylist (“TRES”) and growing side-business The Artwork Stylist (“TAS”).

A former Early Childhood teacher and Advertising practitioner have created two very clever businesses right here in Melbourne. Over at TAS the sisters have worked with some wonderful artists and photographers who remain anonymous making their works all that more affordable if you need a tasteful something-something in your space. And then there is TRES where the sisters first started, working with real estate agencies to make properties appealing to prospective buyers. If you love a good before-and-after make sure that you check out the dedicated section on TRES and just try to not be impressed!

On top of all of this the Chamberlains are super-stylish AND they have a pet-friendly office! Read on for all the details, I hope that you enjoy!

Sara and Amy Chamberlain - The Artwork Stylist

L-R: Amy and Sara Chamberlain of The Artwork Stylist and The Real Estate Stylist Photo: Supplied

How it all began

What did you study? How did you each get started in the industry?
Sara- I studied Advertising Marketing and Law and worked in advertising for approx 6 years, before starting a retail store on the Gold Coast, which I successfully sold during the GFC. I then studied an Interior Design Course online and started assisting stylists on shoots for mags like Real Living and Belle in Sydney, whilst working as an Executive Business Coach. I moved back to Melbourne to start a home wares company and by fate came across Property Styling, convinced Amy to quit her job and the journey begun.

Amy- I studied Early Childhood Education and taught grades Prep-2 for 7 years. My focus in the last years of teaching was the classroom environment and how interiors evoke different emotions and learning behaviours for children. I successfully gained a research grant and travelled to Reggio Emilia Italy to continue my research. Upon my return Sara was waiting to ask me to quit my job and start a business with her. We had both started to move towards interiors in our prospective careers, it only made sense to try to make a go of it together.

The Artwork Stylist photograph in the boardroom

A work from The Artwork Stylist in the office boardroom. Photo: Cheryl Lin Rodsted

When did you know that you needed to start a business together? How long did the process take from having the idea to getting your first client?
We had always played “businesses” when we were little. Or let me rephrase…Sara had always played businesses, Amy played “Mums and Dads”, however Sara always forced her to play businesses. It was only fitting that at some stage we would go into business together. It was approx. 2.5 years ago we first had the idea. We didn’t tell anyone the idea as Sara had already started a couple of businesses prior and we had attempted to start something together a couple of years prior. We made our first phone call to an agent via getting their number off a friend of a friend, about 3 weeks into the birth of The Real Estate Stylist, he met with us the next day and gave us the keys on the spot. It was the most exciting moment ever.

What do you know about styling, managing staff or running a business now that you wish you knew earlier?
Both of us had already managed staff in our other jobs/businesses so that part we already had pretty sorted. We both have different managerial styles, which works really well as a twosome. As far as running a business that is based purely on the cyclical nature of Real Estate, we had no idea how hard it would be to project month on month takings. We had to bite the bullet and go blindly for at least the first year, and still we are very focused on figures, a bad month can make all the difference to the cash flow.

Styling is the hardest most labour intensive job we have both ever had. For a at least a year, approx. 100 houses,  we packed every box, designed every house, installed every house, sourced and bought each piece of furniture, ran up every stairwell, ironed all the linen, put every piece of furniture together and climbed over numerous storage containers to get furniture out. There was broken toes, sprained ankles and wrists, blisters, bad backs and lots of early mornings and late nights. I think if we had known how hard that first year was going to be we probably wouldn’t have entered the industry. We know lots of property styling companies who don’t make it through the first year, it’s too cash flow heavy and labour intensive…not the glamorous job that people would expect.

In terms on The Artwork Stylist, it’s still such a young businesses, we’ll let you know what we wish we had known down the track, I’m sure there will be plenty. 😉

The best and worst things about working with a sibling?
The best thing is that we can say exactly how we are feeling. We’re not afraid to have an argument in order to work things out. We couldn’t imagine trying to overcome challenges whilst trying to be polite with one another. We are also each others design half, ying and yang, masculine and feminie, which means that our designing and curating is balanced. We challenge each other and support each other. We are also best friends, which helps the hard days when you can laugh so hard you snort and splatter diet coke everywhere.

The worst thing…
We don’t ever really get a break and just be sisters. We have similar friendship circles and obviously the same family so at all occasions business can be talked about. We also text each other about 100 times a day with different business ideas, which I’m sure can’t be healthy!

Sarah Chamberlain of The Real Estate Stylist and The Artwork Stylist

Sara setting up for a morning in the office. Photo: Cheryl Lin Rodsted

Office Style

How do you set up your day for optimal productivity?
We have a big team meeting every Monday to get an idea of what’s happening during the week. Each day is usually set up from there and what we will and won’t have time for. Everyone is responsible for continually updating our online systems so we all know what’s going on at any given time. We have pipeline meetings for TAS and TRES once a day, and a design storm, then everyone can work independently on their task.

Describe a typical day!
Ours are very varied, we are always designing and quoting. We are installing less now that we have more staff and then this time is spent, meeting with suppliers, managing the business, networking, and creating new concepts for our business. Each day always starts off with a coffee and a catch up with the team.

What is your workplace dress code?
Our team usually all wear black. It’s streamline, sophisticated and easy. Sara and I wear clothes dependent on the days proceedings. Black basics for installing or something dressier for meetings. Maybe if we are feeling crazy a bit of colour!

How do you decide what to wear to work? Do you plan the night before? Do you have a uniform vs decide on-the-go each day?
A bit of both. If we have meetings we might plan ahead. But running a business doesn’t always allow time for planning the night before.

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Amy and Regina hit the office. “Art Work” print from The Artwork Stylist. Photo: Cheryl Lin Rodsted

What are your go-to outfits for (1) the office (2) meeting clients and (3) packing?

Sara
1) Puffer Vest, Blue Jeans and Brown Boots
2) Blazer, Skirt, Heels,
3) Black Red Back Work boots, comfy tee and Jeans.

Amy
(1) Black RMW Williams Boots, Dejour Jeans and a tee or shirt.
(2) Red Lipstick, Jumpsuit/Jeans and RM Williams, Leather Jacket
(3) Black Red Back work boots Comfy Tee and Jeans, leather Jacket

What are your favourite hair, make up and skincare products?
Skincare- Aesop moisturiser is always good to have in the handbag when we’re on the run.
Hair- Dry Shampoo…busy lifestyles
Make Up- Mecca Lipstick

In your own professional experience, what are the must-have pieces in your own work wardrobes? What’s the most practical? What makes you feel great?
A good black blazer/cape smartens up almost any outfit and is something we both have in our wardrobes.

Share your wish list! What clothing or accessories are you looking forward to buying next?
Ummm….everything. For two people whom are out and about a lot at various meetings/showings/appointments we never go shopping. I am starting to see the same outfits in some of our shoots so I think it’s time!! I think we are both after really beautiful jackets for this Winter.

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Sisters doing it for themselves! Sara, Amy and Regina checking over the daily Pinterest inspiration. Photo: Cheryl Lin Rodsted

Pets in the Workplace

Tell us about Regina! What’s her breed, how old is she and how does her personality and attire complement your work?
Regina Moonshine Chamberlain-Primrose is a 3 and half year old Maltese Shitzu, though she’s more Shit than Zu. 😉 She’s very sassy! We’d imagine her to be like a Missy Elliott. She’s a strong woman and she loves her hoodie. Her attire is very similar to Amy’s personality. Masculine. There is no frilly dresses in her wardrobe. She fits in with the rest of the staff when she wears all black.

You have a pet-friendly office. How do you decide which pets can come to work?
Size! Just about all of staff are dog lovers/owners, but size is the only thing stopping us from having a Labrador or a Bulldog running around the office. Could get a little crazy! Also nothing with scales!

Why is having pets at work good for work? E.g. Morale, productivity, team-bonding?
Having our dogs at work always brings a good energy to our office. Luckily all of our staff are dog lovers and love a good cuddle or play with the fur babies.

Toys, tools and accessories you like to have on-hand to keep pets happy in the office?
A bed, something to chew and of course a sweater.

What are some of your favourite stylish implements for Regina?
The go-to for Regina is her Addidog Hoodie. It gives her instant Street cred. (Which can be hard for a small fluffy dog to attain.)

The Real Estate Stylist Flatlay

Some tools of the styling trade. Photo: Cheryl Lin Rodsted

Tools and Tech

What tools are indispensable in your work?
We are Apple-happy at our workplace. We each have Iphones, Ipads and Mac desktops. Everything syncs easily and they are just sleek devices to use.

To cover or not to cover? Do you have a cover on your tablets and smart phones? What covers do you use and how often do you change them?
We do have covers on phones and iPads, however they are not a fashion accessory for us pure function.

What are your favourite apps on iPad or smart phone?
In terms of business- Dropbox, Basecamp, iTunes, Pinterest

Love your Instagram accounts @theartworkstylist and @trestylist– can you share your favourites?
@KAYLA_ITSINES– For daily motivation
@HUMANSOFNY-For daily inspiration
@ALIASMAE-pretty as shoes
@THETMRW -sexy interiors

Pinterest accounts you love and why? 
Small Space Living- We are both obsessed with making small spaces shine. It’s our job as property stylists to make every space a practical and inviting living environment.

Podcasts or music playlists that are helping you get things done?
Madonna, Gold 104.3, Hits of the 90’s, Triple J Hottest 100 best of 1993-2015. We constantly have music playing in the office. We just put on what we’re feeling at the time. Usually upbeat is best for productivity. But then again more time is spent dancing, so that can be slightly less productive.

Style us up! Have you come across some great accessories that BusinessChics should have to style up their desk or workstation?
We like to keep our colour palette neutral.

And keep it tidy. A tidy mind helps with productivity. Always have a lamp on!

Amy and Sara Chamberlain of The Artwork Stylist and The Real Estate Stylist

Amy and Sara of The Artwork Stylist and The Real Estate Stylist with little helper Regina on hand! Photo: Cheryl Lin Rodsted

Links you need

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