Editor Justine Cullen Takes Us Inside Her Family Home in Sydney's Palm Beach
Welcome to The Makers. Each week, we’re celebrating innovators, artisans and crafters of all types, taking you on a private tour of their creative spaces. For this instalment, we tour editor Justine Cullen's light-filled abode on Sydney's Northern Beaches.
It's only fair to describe award-winning editor and author Justine Cullen as effortlessly chic and a force to be reckoned with. Beginning her career in the magazine industry at the tender age of 17, Justine has spent 25 years navigating the ups and downs of the publishing world. "I wanted to be an editor almost from when I could read," Justine tells Bed Threads Journal.
Justine is perhaps best known for launching ELLE Australia and spending five years there as the editor-in-chief, firmly establishing herself as a fashion tastemaker. Now, she's the editor-in-chief of Jones magazine, an ambassador for Cure Cancer, and has just published her first book. Justine's debut novel, Semi-Gloss, is a hilariously candid selection of autobiographical essays that explore her life so far; both the shining achievements and the messier moments she's had along the way.
Amidst the chaos of a demanding career and juggling four children, it's no wonder Justine's home is soothing and tranquil – a place of respite to come back to at the end of a long day. The light-filled space in Sydney's beautiful Palm Beach radiates a similarly pared back and refined aesthetic as her fashion choices.
Swathed in predominantly white, her waterside abode – which she shares with her husband and four sons – is fresh and timeless. And while the interior colour palette may be led by neutrals, the home is filled with plenty of character with its stained glass windows, exposed rafters, and coastal-style finishes.
There are plenty of special moments in this home, but her own charming bed nook is Justine's favourite. Drenched in sunlight, this charming alcove (and former sunroom) is accessed via a pair of French doors. It's the perfect space to unwind and drink in the picturesque water views.
Below, Justine shares her impressive career journey to date, the thought process behind her home's styling, and the expert advice she'd give to someone who wanted to pursue a similar line of work.
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Hi Justine! This series is called The Makers. What is it that you make?
I make magazines, campaign content for brands, books (well, a single book, Semi-Gloss, available at all good bookstores) and mostly, people - in the form of my four children.
How does the act of “making” relate to your personality and who you are?
I work on such a wide breadth of things at once and inspiration can come from anywhere at anytime. To a degree this means that I never really switch off. I’m always searching, wondering how I can connect one thing to another or trying to turn a seed of an idea into something useable. I’m always on high alert!
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Tell us about your career journey to date. Did you always know you wanted to pursue this line of work?
I wanted to be an editor almost from when I could read. I would read anything - books, catalogues, instruction manuals for electrical appliances - and my mother would bring me home piles of used copies of Dolly from the market just to try to satisfy my relentless urge. I was obsessed.
It gave me a head start in the industry because I spent my high school years doing work experience at magazines and got my first job in the industry at 17. I spent most of my early career as a beauty editor before going on to become an editor-in-chief, first of Shop magazine, then ELLE, and now Jones mag, as well as other content for brands.
Talk us through your creative process. Where do you start?
I usually have an idea in the shower or in bed at 4am and then wrestle with it as I go about my morning until it becomes something fully formed. Or I forget about it and spend the rest of the day cursing my sieve brain and desperately trying to catch it again. Once I do, I love to collaborate with my team. I think ideas always become better once they’ve been passed around a bit.
What’s been the single most crucial tool or strategy you’ve used to further your career?
Trusting my instincts and not being afraid to give something a shot. I also get bored easily and really hate doing things the way they’ve always been done, and I think that’s served me well in terms of standout moments in my career.
What’s been the most challenging lesson learnt so far in your career?
Moving out of traditional publishing into custom (where I create content for brands) was possibly more traumatic than I expected! After doing what I’d done for 25 years I was suddenly having to learn new skills and processes - not to mention learning to live without the prestige of a fancy job title after my name.
I had a bit of an identity crisis and it took a coach and a very supportive husband to help me work out who I was as a person, untethered to the job I’d been focused on for 25 years of my life.
What’s been the best thing that’s happened to you since you started your career?
I’ve had so many incredible experiences via my job, it would be impossible to pick one, but definitely being given the honour of building a magazine from scratch would be up there.
Do you have a single piece of advice you’d give to your younger self or someone looking to pursue a similar line of work?
I don’t think I’d want to change the trajectory of my career all that much so I’d leave my younger self alone, but to anyone starting out today, particularly women, I would just say that in my experience working hard in my 20s paid off in terms of the position I was in and the experience and contacts I had once I wanted to start to a family.
Not that you shouldn’t have fun in your 20s - you should have ALL the fun and then some - but if there’s a time to grind, burn the candle at both ends and say yes to every opportunity without worrying so much about work/life balance (believe me, you’ll wrestle with that concept enough down the track), this is it.
Now, the home stuff. How long have you lived in your home?
About two and a half years.
How did you initially know this was the space for you?
We’d been searching for ages - all those lost Saturdays - but had never seen anything we felt really passionate about, even though we’d put in a couple of offers. We weren’t even going to look at this house because it was a little more remote than we’d wanted and has about a million steps to get to the front door, but we passed by the open house on our way to lunch and thought we may as well. And we both instantly fell in love. It just had so much beauty and character that none of the downsides even mattered.
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Did you do any renovations or make any big changes after moving in?
The house had been a holiday house for a long time and there were small things it needed to be a full-time family home, like heating and storage. But from a style perspective, it had been previously owned by a well-known interior designer, so thankfully there wasn’t a lot to improve upon.
What was the thought process behind the way you’ve styled the interior?
We have four boys so I’ve just tried to keep it a pretty pared back, calm, soothing space to counteract the crazy. And we’ve stuck with lots of white because it’s the easiest to wash!
What are your favourite pieces in the home?
I love our Maker and Son sofa and armchair. Sitting in them is like getting a warm hug from someone you love.
Do you have any special décor pieces you’re looking to add?
I feel like I’ve been searching for the perfect outdoor dining table for a very long time…
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Which is your favourite room in the house?
Our bedroom nook, which is actually just a sunroom off the main bedroom, but we’ve put the bed in there and kept the bedroom as a wardrobe/storage/occasional exercise space. But the bed nook is drenched with light, has a beautiful view over Pittwater in the day and a sky full of stars at night. It feels like you’re sleeping in a treehouse.
What are your top tips for a well-styled bedroom, and home generally?
Don’t have kids?! But also, the reason I love pure linen so much is because it looks good even when the bed is unmade.
Do you have any projects coming up you want to talk about?
After publishing my first book earlier this year and, like many of us, having juggled a demanding job and homeschooling chaos all year, my only current project is to not have a project, and to learn to enjoy any downtime that comes my way.
For more from Justine, follow her on Instagram @justine_cullen