8 easy solutions for your workspace problems

By Julia Cartwright

Most of us know intuitively that the spaces we do our work in have a big impact on how we feel as we go about our work. For example, a dark, messy desk with no storage can make the mere thought of sitting down to get started seem like a burden.

It’s really important to ensure that you have a dedicated physical space to store all your materials and records. Some of you might choose to have a dedicated room or alternatively a dual-purpose area that also functions as a workstation.

“Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning and focused effort" Paul J Meyer

As a designer, I am passionate about creating spaces that are not just beautiful but functional in the best possible way – that help you achieve what you want to achieve in the space. And this principle isn’t something that I merely pay lip service to; I live by it! So, for example, when I was setting up the online arm of my business, it was just as important for me to create a space for myself that would help me get my best work done as it was to get my website and marketing stuff right (even though no one but me ever sees my home office!). I wanted it to feel inspiring and organised, which are great qualities to bring to any creative workspace.

“A nice workspace at home will encourage you to use your talents and give more structure to your ideas and work schedule. Working in a nice area will always bring out the best in you” Irene Hoofs, Blogger

Your workspace is structured around your activities and needs. As a quick start guide you may want to refer to the following steps to get you started - 

Step 1 – Assessing your needs and requirements is your first port-of-call

  • What type of work needs to be done?
  • Will clients be visiting the space?
  • Will my teammates visit for collaborative work?
  • What type of materials will be referenced and/or stored?
  • What type of equipment is needed?
  • When will I be doing the majority of my work?
  • Ensure you have thought of space for activities such as “storing”, “retrieving” and “processing”

Step 2 – Getting organised

After you have looked at your requirements, it is time to get your own workspace set up, let’s focus on how to get – and STAY! – Organised. To begin with, ensure you have undergone the following initial steps:

  • Look at your space and only use items that are purposeful and functional.
  • Clear the clutter and dead energy! This is so important for our creativity and for getting organised.
  • Ensure you have enough daylight as well as artificial direct light.
  • Set up your Wi-Fi and computer.

Step 3 – Mistakes to avoid

There are some common mistakes you should avoid and these are:

  • Not having enough storage
  • Having a shortage of space for reference materials
  • Holding onto out dated equipment
  • Not planning for all the cords and adaptors

Step 4 – Equipment

You may be wondering why I am touching on the geeky stuff? Forget about quick and simple décor, you want to ensure you have considered all your practical requirements that allow you to operate professionally.

It is important to invest in equipment that provides you with excellent speed and efficiency. Stay away from the big and ugly items, like the large printers. There is such a large selection to choose from these days that I am sure you can find one that is not too obtrusive in size and colour. If you install a business phone, I would ensure it is set up separately from your home phone. You can then make sure your phone has the capability for messaging, conferencing and speaker functions.

Step 5 – Lighting tips are especially important and you should ensure you

Surround yourself with as much daylight as possible.

  • Use a combination of general and task lighting. A great task lamp on your desk will be essential for evening work, and when the natural light is not enough.
  • Use daylight bulbs for task lamps.
  • Keep your screen away from a direct light source; this will result in eyestrain.
  • Are aware how overhead lighting can result in a direct glare on your computer screens.

Step 6 – Layout

  • Select a desk big enough to support your computer and work related items
  • To prevent chaos, look for storage solutions for papers that may accumulate on your desk
  • Use pencil cups or trays to keep all writing instruments in one place

Step 7 – Ergonomics

It is important to invest in a chair that supports your comfort and posture.

A good chair should have the following features:

  • Adjustable tilt tension and tilt lock
  • Adjustable armrest height, armrest width, and pivot
  • Sliding seat pan for adjustable seat depth
  • Adjustable seat height
  • Optional lumbar support adjustability

If you are someone who is on the computer for a long time, you need to consider ergonomic mouse instruments shaped to fit your hand and soft keyboard pads that allow rest and relaxation for the wrist.

Step 8 – Colours for your space

When it comes to your office it is important to revisit colour psychology.

  • I would stay away from blues, greens and violets, as they evoke feelings of calm and may send you off to sleep.
  • Green can foster concentration and balance, it also and add a freshness and vitality to a work environment
  • Yellow is a happy attention-grabbing colour. It evokes feelings of optimism. Stay away from bright yellows, as they might be distracting or overpowering.
  • Red is energetic and generates feelings of excitement. It should be used as an accent colour only.
  • White, ivory, Gray and tan are colours that are subtle and can be combined with accent colours for vitality and energy.
  • Purple have been proven to stimulate imagination, focus and concentration.

How are you going with setting up your workspace?

Julia Cartwright is an Interior Designer, Property Stylist, and Creative Director at Julia Cartwright Designs. Julia helps people turn outdated or empty spaces into places they love.

She specializes in Concept development, Up-Styling homes using existing furniture, and Pre-Sale Property Consulting. Julia also also has an e-course The designer home style program that helps you create a home that not that only looks gorgeous, but also helps you feel better, achieve more, and live the kind of life you want to be living.

Design... By Committee

By Alexandra Riggs

I wish I had been told a lot of things before I started my children's fashion business Oobi, about 12 years ago. Oh, wait. I was! I was given so much sound advice, all sensible, all very serious, kindhearted, business-minded.

Don't do red for babies

Nobody looks good in yellow

Tutus aren't for day wear 

Tone it down a bit...?

Green doesn't sell

Some advice is good (have a business plan, work with great people, have a job where you can bring your dog every day), some advice is bad (see all of the above, oh, except the green bit, that is true). 

I've always marched to the beat of my own drum. My first range for Oobi was considered pretty 'out there' when I launched. Children's retail was a sea of "pink for girls and blue for boys" (plus unisex or 'neutral' yellow and beige - anyone remember those days?) and that was the tone of the time. And it wasn't even that long ago. 

But I did red. And red, and more red. Red with dots, and red with pink, and red with navy (boys) and red with aqua (neutral) and of course red apples. I did knitted knee-high baby booties with leather soles in red with pink polkadots (really), I did shorts with suspenders and multicolour buttons (girls AND boys), I designed my own fabrics because you couldn't just buy the wildness in my heart! I saw a niche in the market and by god did I fill it! I pushed it and pushed it and giggled and played. I put my blood, sweat, tears and late nights into a magical range that was fun, quirky, out there and unique in the children's fashion market.

And yep, it was a huge flop. Huge.

I couldn't believe it. I had designed and printed my own fabrics, I'd put so much love into the range, how could it not sell? I'd left my university degree half way through! 

This is the most devastating thing for a designer or business owner. How can you put your EVERYTHING into something and have it not work? 

As children we're often told that if we work hard, that it will pay off. And nobody feels the sting of that mistruth more than a small business owner. Sometimes you work and you work and you work and there's no pay off. And there's no pay cheque either. 

Everything is on the line and you've probably invested your hard earned savings. You've learned boring things like how to do your taxes and charge GST, you've done a 5 year business plan and gone to seminars, taking notes and drawing pie charts. You've done all that box ticking to make sure that your business sings, and then your designs, the thing you KNOW you're good at, is the thing that fails you. 

There are so many articles about how important it is to run a sound business, especially if you're a "creative type". I can probably walk into any library's business section or do any Google search that will tell you that because you're creative you'll find it hard to have a business brain too. So you know all that (and you can take that mistruth or leave it too).

But what I want to talk to you about is how to deal with failing at the creative side. Because you got your BAS in on time, you did the marketing, stayed up all night...but nobody bought your creations. Ouch.

But I'm here 12 years later and I'm here to tell you that eventually there were some customers who loved my designs because I stood by them. And those customers started to buy Oobi, and support the brand, and importantly, they told their friends. And then, the orders started coming... and then I realised that there was a world of customers out there who responded to those little touches that make us Oobi. Those little things that are just a bit different. Just a bit quirky. 

It's not for me to tone it down, to make sure that there are no 'failures', to play it safe. Because that is a sure fire way to kill your brand and your business. You have to have the freedom to make mistakes, to push the envelope, to give people some time to GROW to love it. Because design isn't always appreciated from the start. Sometimes you have to allow people the luxury of learning to like it. And that's cool. But that's never going to be something that opens the doors of every store.

You can't design to a committee. You can't do something just because it's trendy. And you can't complain if you try something first, it doesn't sell, and then someone else makes a fortune out of it. That's the bugbear of the 'Early Adopters' as the social commentator Everett Rogers so brilliantly coined it in the '60s.

Be an early adopter, stick to your guns, make it a little bit different and 100% you. Make sure that you can stand by every single thing that you produce, make, design, buy or sell. Because customers aren't stupid. They can smell a rat and they will love you for your uniqueness as long as you never water that down.

So yeah, I get a lot of "if you would do this, then we would buy more" but in the end, it's not those garments that capture the imagination of the people that I design for. And I know that that's what the people I design for love me for too. And they might forgive me a mistake (or 10) along the way. And take note, I'm still here and I make a living out of my small business and I employ people too. And, darnit, I get my BAS in on time too!

And I'm not saying that you can't be conservative or preppy, pretty or neutral. As long as that's you! And it has to be you, it has to be honest and it has to be genuine. 

So my advice is different from the advice that I was given. And that advice is to go out and buy that crystal ball that all the advice-givers seem to have. And if that doesn't work then make your own future, predict your own path and march to the beat of your own drum (oh, and remember, green doesn't sell).

Alexandra Riggs is the founder of Oobi and Alex has been in the children's fashion industry for 12 years, starting her company from a garage in Sydney's Bondi. Oobi is a children's fashion label with ethically made garments for girls newborn to 11 years, all designed exclusively by Alex in Australia. 

All fabrics are either reprinted vintage prints or exclusively drawn and designed by Alex for Oobi and hand screen-printed in Jaipur, India. Alex travels to India regularly and works exclusively with two family run businesses there, employing many women and artisans in the screen printing business. 

And what you really want to know... Oobi the name of the brand comes from her mum, Freida, who had a store in Melbourne in the '60s and called it "Oobi Things" because... it was the '60s. Alex and her family always called anything different, quirky or hard to describe as "Oobi" so when she started a children's fashion line, well, it had to be Oobi. And it's pronounced... oo-be!

Photo Credits: Oobi

5 Ways To Improve Your Living Room // Style File


By Ashlee Gerrard

When it comes to living rooms everyone has their own personal style, we all have an idea of what we like and what we’d prefer to have in our living room but sometimes it can feel like we just need that little extra something to fill the gap…. but what with?

I want to show you 5 key pieces to help freshen up your living room and help give you ideas if you are just needing something little to finish your living room off.  You don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars, think about what your want to do and what you think will look good with your living room, then look around to find the perfect pieces and the price your happy with! 

As you can see we have used a before and after photo for our living room shoot. With the before photo you can still see this as a great living room, lots of natural right and lots of space, to help add some warmth into this living room the 5 key pieces we are focusing on today are; Coffee table, Fresh flowers, Cushions, Lamps and Photos. Flowers are always great to have in your home, they create a beautiful fresh feeling, in our picture we are using Singapore Orchids they come in crisp white or bight yellow, there are about $12 a bunch and last up to 2 weeks, they are affordable and look great! Place these on your coffee table to help create that fresh look.

Cushions are a big one for me, I love having something to snuggle into when I’m on the couch, plus cushions can create a great pop of color if your not going to be using any artwork in your living room, cushions are a great substitute for this. Lamps can create a certain lighting in a room, which is great for the living room, if its night time and you’re wanting to watch a movie and still want some light a lamp is the perfect solution. We have two lamps showing in our picture the floor lamp as well as the table lamp in-between the two couches. Floor lamps will generally offer more light, but if your just after something subtle then a table lamp is what your after!

A nice final touch to finish off your living room is to add a few of your favorite pictures and place them in a nice frame. Best location would be TV unit, side table or library shelf. As you can see in our after photo, we have used a throw rug as well as some coffee table books, we have not added these into the top 5 key pieces, but they are definitely great extras to have.

Find out more tips from Ashlee over on her blog or on Instagram or Twitter.

Image by Two Guinea Pigs

Blog Biz // 4 Tips For Beautifully Styled Blog Posts


By Laura Murray

Morning! I’m Laura and I’m very excited to be here on Blog Society sharing some of the tid-bits I’ve learnt along my blogging journey! My path to blogging was slow and pretty meandering. It started out as something I did occasionally to share my design work and craft projects with friends and family. Over time, I realised I was really starting to enjoy this bloggin’ caper and that there was the potential to turn it into something a little more serious. For me, that meant jumping into the world of DIYs and tutorials.

The biggest hurdle I’ve faced while making this transition (and believe me, the transition is still in full swing!) has been trying to achieve a consistent level of quality and professionalism in my styling and photography. It can be so easy to compare your work to all the simply AMAZING professional, established bloggers out there, become completely overwhelmed and just throw in the towel. But this doesn’t have to be the case! Through a lot of trial and error, I’ve picked up a few simple tricks and sneaky short cuts for making beautiful styled posts without needing to fork out for a studio space, assistants or even a fancy camera!

1. Spend time and money (just a little!) on prep
I remember when I shot my first DIY I was so excited to jump into to the world of ‘proper’ craft blogging but when it came time to review the images I had taken, I was shocked. They were rubbish! Literally awful! So awful, in fact, I ended up shooting the entire DIY again. I was so eager to get the my ideas out there that I rushed into it and settled for whatever was good enough at the time. Boy, did I learn a lesson! It’s important to spend a bit time planning and prepping so that when it comes time to shoot, you know exactly what you want and can focus all your energy on achieving it! Now I make sure to scour Pinterest for styling inspiration, pick a colour-scheme, carefully consider the props I want to use and try to leave as little up to chance as possible!

It’s also a good idea to start gathering props and cute bits and bobs to use in styled posts. But this doesn’t mean you have to go out spend a fortune on new things! Instead, just focus on building a solid collection over time. Look for vintage objects with character in op-shops and the next time you do have to buy new supplies for a project, consider spending just a little extra to get the most beautiful option. Once you have a few gorgeous pieces, make sure you’re using them to put your best foot forward! Give metallic props a little shine before you use them (I’ve had whole shoots ruined by finger prints!), press creases out of fabrics and make sure everything is clean, crisp and lookin’ lovely! 

2. Embrace your skills.
We all have a little something that we do really well which sets us apart from the crowd. Chances are if you’re already blogging, you’ve probably figured out what that is and write about it regularly. Yay! Now take that skill and add it to your styled post. For me, this meant embracing my love of colour and experimenting with hand-drawn typography. Whatever your special skill may be, use it to give your posts that little extra ‘oomph’ and make them truly unique.

3. Focus on light, not camera equipment. 
Ok, time for some real talk. It’s true that fancy-pants cameras obviously have a bunch of advantages but they can’t do anything to fix poor lighting. So if your camera is less than perfect, don’t despair! Just make sure you’re getting the best light that you can! Natural light is definitely key and you’re going to want lots of it. Once you’re found your light, consider shadows. It’s best to aim for diffused light to avoid harsh shadows, so look to shoot in the morning or afternoon. And if you’re doing a flat-lay, don’t forget that you can cast a shadow as you lean over to snap the pic! I can guarantee that even if you’re shooting on your phone, a little bit of time spent on light will do wonders.

4. Options, options, options!
You’ve got your light and you know how you want your images to look. Now comes the fun part - the actual shoot! The words ‘photo shoot’ conjure up images of umbrella lights, giant fans and thousands of chic assistants. But chances are if you’re anything like me, you’ve set up a sweet flat-lay by the window on your bedroom floor and are leaning over it in your PJs! None the less, it’s time to do a little make-believe here because we’ve got to make like the professionals and shoot options! No photographer would give their client just the one look or pose and you’ve got to do the same. Rearrange things, try different combinations of props, do a neat ordered look and then try artfully messing it up a little. Because believe me, there’s nothing worse than realising you’ve taken 50+ shots of essentially the same image and none of them work!

Getting your styling mojo takes time and practice. When I look over my first handful of DIYs (and, let’s be honest, even the first few shots of every DIY I’ve done!) sometimes I don’t know what I was thinking! But with every shoot and every post, it gets a little easier. So my biggest piece of advice is just keep at it and before you know it, you’ll be churning out styled posts like a pro! 

Laura can be found blogging over here or snapping photos on Instagram here - say hello!