Interior Stylist Jessica Bellef's Sydney Home Is Straight Out of the 1970s
Welcome to The Makers. Each week, we celebrate innovators, artisans and crafters of all types by taking you on a private tour of their creative spaces. For this instalment, we head to Sydney's Royal National Park to take a look at the warm and cosy home of stylist and writer Jessica Bellef.
You can see the bones of Jessica Bellef’s house—which date back to 1976—everywhere you look here. Bellef is a writer and interior stylist, and spent almost eight years as the style director of homewares juggernaut Temple & Webster.
Needless to say, she has an eye for interiors, and her and her husband fell in love with their home the minute they laid eyes on it—from its charming dark timber panelling to the egg yolk yellow kitchen benches and dainty floral tiles. A true mix of mid-century charm and contemporary comfort, stepping inside this expertly curated space is a warm, grounding experience.
When styling the space, Bellef was guided by the in-built features, looking for pieces that were equally as strong. What she’s ended up with is a vintage bedroom suite, travertine coffee table and a standout red velvet sofa, handed down from her grandparents. Art sourced from secondhand stores, Instagram, or “the studios of my artistic friends” adorn several walls, while most corners are filled with potted house plants, bending towards the sun.
Bellef’s home is a testament to her illustrious career. As the author of Individual, a book designed to help you create a home of your own, she is one of the most reputable voices in Australian style. She spends her days helping brands with their aesthetic and communication—and stepping into the space she calls home, you can see why.
Hi Jessica! This series is called The Makers. What is it that you make?
Hi team Bed Threads! I am a freelance stylist and writer for brands and publications, and I collaborate closely with photographers, art directors, designers and editors. I create within the world of interiors and home design. My book Individual: Inspiration for creating a home that is uniquely your own was released in 2019 and is now available all over the world. Eeeek!
How does the act of “making” relate to your personality and who you are?
I am fascinated by humans and the way we communicate culture, and I love learning about how other people live. Contrary to my Leo star sign, I actually prefer it when the spot light is on others. As long as I get to orchestrate behind the scenes!
Tell us about your career journey to date. Did you always know you wanted to pursue this line of work?
I have always been creative and hands-on but I diverted when it came time to enrol at uni. I completed a double major in marketing and psychology and worked in advertising for a red hot minute, but I knew it wasn’t right for me.
I jumped into a visual merchandising role in fashion, and worked for major retail brands for many years before I went freelance and picked up homewares clients. I started teaching VM and interior styling at the Whitehouse Institute of Design, which was where I met Chris Deal, Temple & Webster’s Creative Director. That was 9 years ago, when T&W was just launching. I teamed up with Chris and photographer Denise Braki and we kicked off the T&W studio. I became the Head of Styling which was a pretty darn amazing role where I got to concept and style shoots, write and contribute commentary on trends and home styling topics, create sales and marketing messages, present to audiences and do live tv, design events, build up the intern program… and so on! I left T&W at the end of 2019 to take on the freelance world again.
My editorial styling and writing is published in magazines like Inside Out, Home Beautiful and WellBeing, and I’ve styled for brands, builders and interior designers. I also do copywriting for websites, social channels and advertising. I’ve even written copy for beer cans!
Did you always want to pursue this line of work?
Yes. Do I regret not doing creative studies after high school? No. I still love learning about human behaviour and the ways we communicate. My book Individual taps into that and I couldn’t have written it without having that angle of curiosity.
Talk us through your creative process. Where do you start?
My creative process isn’t linear, that’s for sure. I start by breaking down the brief and defining who the target audience is. Once I’ve got that clear in my mind, I let things get messy. I do lots of research, think up (many) bad ideas, sketch, get frustrated and talk to myself (or my dog) way too much. Then I rest my brain and give the final idea time to crystallise. If I’ve done enough research and prep work, I trust the right response will come… eventually!
What’s been the single most crucial tool or strategy you’ve used to grow your creative business?
Submitting things before deadline but never over-promising.
What’s been the most challenging lesson learnt since you started your business?
Learning to beat down the dreaded imposter syndrome whenever it rears its ugly head. You’ve got to push on! But I’ve also decided it’s also ok to have days where your biggest achievement is eating toast and staring at your fingernails. It’s all about balance.
What’s been the best thing that’s happened to you since you started your business?
Landing a book deal. It took a lot of handwork and perseverance. There was a major set back (and heartbreak!) when my first publisher shut down completely, but things happen for a reason, and the final book exceeded all my expectations. I wanted to create an interiors book that made people feel good about themselves, as an inspirational and inclusive thing. I get messages from people sharing their love of the book and my heart soars every single time. The fact that Individual can be found on shelves and coffee tables all over the world is still surreal to me!
Do you have a single piece of advice you’d give to your younger self/ someone looking to start their own business?
Good things will come in the fullness of time. There’s so much pressure to do everything yesterday, to always be hustling. It’s not sustainable or beneficial to anyone. Zone in on what really matters, break it down and chip away at it.
Now, the home stuff. How long have you lived in your home?
Just over seven years.
Shop Jessica's look with Olive and Sage in our Build Your Own Bundle.
How did you initially know this was the space for you?
Well, the timber paneling, the happy yellow kitchen and the green outlook made a pretty good case for us buying the house! We were living in Sydney’s inner city for 10 years before moving into the Royal National Park, the worlds’ second oldest national park. It’s stunning and so special. We go swimming off the jetty at the end of our street and there are so many bush tracks at our back door. There’s nowhere else I would rather live.
Did you do any renovations or make any big changes after moving in?
We painted the walls, and replaced dusty psychedelic patterned carpet with oak floorboards. I designed built-in shelving with my husband’s dad and he installed it for us, filling the length of a wall and giving me a spot to arrange our collections. We also put new lighting fixtures in, which instantly updated the home without sacrificing any retro charm. That’s about it! The house was built in 1976 and we love living with its original features.
What was the thought process behind the way you’ve styled the interior?
The richness of the timber details in our house and the jazzy yellow kitchen calls for pieces that are bold and strong. I love secondhand shopping and I’d rather wait for that perfect piece to show up than spend money on something I don’t absolutely adore. I also keep in mind the fact that it’s not just me living here. It’s my husband’s house too, so it’s only fair to have a balance of our tastes and likes.
Shop Jessica's look with Olive and Sage in our Build Your Own Bundle.
What are your favourite pieces in the home?
The red velvet sofa was a hand-me-down from my Baba and Dedo, so it’s special for a few reasons. It sat in my grandparent’s 'good room’ for decades, covered in plastic, before it made its way to me. It was in immaculate condition. I also have lots of art by friends and family that I love dearly and I’ve managed to score pretty amazing vintage ceramic pieces in my travels.
Which is your favourite room in the house?
The living room and kitchen when the morning sun streams through, and the bedroom on a rainy afternoon when the curtains are open and I can see the rain soak the towering frangipani tree.
What are your top tips for a well-styled bedroom, and home generally?
Always add more books, more art and more lamps, but leave some breathing space. Negative space is powerful and can help create a calm room that gives you the space to let happiness and good thoughts in.
Do you have any projects coming up you want to talk about?
I’m super excited to be collaborating with a few amazing Australian brands on their digital content, including an interview series where I get to pick the brain of designers and incredible creatives. There’s also lots of editorial styling and feature writing, and copywriting, coming up. I’ve started work on a zine and am excited about the potential there, but honestly, there really isn’t enough time in the day to do all the things I want to do!
For more from Jessica, follow her at @jessicabellef