Zoe Dent Takes Us Inside Her "Hidden Treehouse" In Sydney's Northern Beaches
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 the beautiful living space of Zoe Dent, one half of homewares business Wandering Sol.
About six years ago, Zoe Dent and her husband went up to the Northern Beaches of Sydney, scoping out potential places to relocate from their inner-city life. Dent’s career had already undergone a similar shuffle, moving from advertising and PR to nutrition, wedding planning and, eventually, to Wandering Sol, her lifestyle brand retailing essential everyday wares.
It was the beach she craved, a house that was close to the ocean, surrounded by plenty of greenery, and she found it in a little “hidden treehouse”, visited by the couple on an open inspection. “We both loved how the house… appealed to our love of the outdoors and craving for a simpler, quieter alternative to city living,” Dent explains.
That was six years ago, and now the place really does feel like home. The white-washed floors and walls provide the perfect backdrop for Dent’s decoration, which layers neutral colours and natural textiles to create a lived-in and warm feeling. Leather chairs and wooden side tables carry on the earthy vibes, while big windows facing huge trees and oversized greenery make the house feel like the perfect junction of the inside and the outside world.
And if you were in any doubt that this was a beach house – as if the wicker lampshades and comfy linen sofa didn’t give it away – then just check out Kara Rosenlund’s ‘Salt Haze’ hanging in pride of place on the walls. An ode to the Australian coastline, Dent loves the photograph because “being at the beach and in the surf is my happy place… [it] captures this experience so beautifully and brings me joy every time I look at it.”
The laidback vibes of Dent’s house are reflected in Wandering Sol, the homewares business she co-founded with a view to producing sustainable, essential products for everyday life. The range is curated, offering simple things like the perfect basket bag, a cart for carrying groceries and a range of gardening tools. Nothing extraneous, everything of the highest quality. “We are a slow brand in the truest of senses,” she says, “as every item we make is carefully considered and built to last… We are creating products that are unique, or reimagining existing products, this point of difference has enabled us to stand out of the crowd.”
Create Zoe's look with our Rust Throw.
Hi Zoe! This series is called The Makers. What is it that you make?
Alongside my co-founder Narelle, I make sustainable lifestyle products for our ethical brand Wandering Sol.
How does the act of “making” relate to your personality and who you are?
I love the creative process and following an idea through to a tangible product. Making things is good for the soul, and working with natural, raw materials to bring an idea to life is so fulfilling.
Tell us about your career journey to date. Did you always know you wanted to pursue this line of work?
I started off in advertising and PR, which was fun, yet lacked fulfillment as I was not creating anything tangible. As I became more passionate about the health of ourselves and the environment, I slowly began to align my values with my work – firstly by moving from a Head of Communications role at Dior Parfums to L’Occitane, a more holistic skincare brand, and then re-studying to become a Nutritionist and Herbalist.
I have also always been passionate about small business and supporting local artisans, so whilst studying I co-founded The Wedding Nest when I realised after getting married there was no wedding registry supporting smaller, local artisan brands. Wandering Sol is thus the ultimate expression of this career path – a small business that creates beautiful, ethical products that support natural and sustainable living.
Create Zoe's look with our Sage Hand & Face Towel.
Talk us through your creative process. Where do you start?
We usually start with a need that Narelle and I have both identified in our lives that we have not been able to find a sustainable product to meet our demands. Wandering Sol’s launch product is a sustainable, foldable shopping trolley that we had both needed, but could not find existed.
Following the idea and market research process, we then sketch designs, create colour pallets and research and source the most sustainable, functional raw materials. Finally we work alongside skilled designers, engineers and suppliers to actualise the final product.
What’s been the most challenging lesson learnt since you started your business?
Patience! Every new product takes a lot longer than expected. We also launched alongside COVID which of course has had its challenges, but as a small business we are nimble, and so we have just had to practice resilience, and work within the continually moving boundaries.
What’s been the best thing that’s happened to you since you started your business?
Seeing our creative visions come to life. When we saw our first customers using our wares, and started to receive overwhelming positive feedback and love for our products, it was such a joy.
Do you have a single piece of advice you’d give to your younger self or someone looking to start their own business?
A sustainable growth mindset is key. Running a small business alongside nurturing a young family means we are constantly challenged, yet these challenges are an opportunity for growth and learning. We both value the health of our families over the needs of the business, so finding balance is key, and keeping a long term view crucial to make sure we don’t burn out in the interim.
Now, the home stuff. Did you do any renovations or make any big changes after moving in?
Before moving in we undertook a very basic renovation completed in under a month, yet the results were dramatic. We managed to transform a dark, dingy space into a bright, airy beach house on a very small budget. The large living space was actually divided into four rooms, so by knocking out all the walls we opened up the space to let the natural light flood in. We then limewashed the orange wood floors, and brightened the existing blue walls with a coat of white paint.
What was the thought process behind the way you’ve styled the interior?
I find a neutral palette instantly calming, so perfect to create a tranquil refuge away from the noise and busyness of modern life. I then like to layer with earthy tones and textures alongside collected personal treasures to bring in warmth and personality to the space.
What are your favourite pieces in the home?
I love the rawness of Angela McNay’s sculptural wall hangings, and the vintage Harold Lane oil painting my late grandfather gifted my husband remains close to our hearts.
Do you have any special décor pieces you’re looking to add?
I’m definitely coveting Mr & Mrs White’s amazing Barrel Armchair, to go with a Private 0204 Hemp rug from our local retailer Beachwood. And then I would like Ruby Robinsons entire ceramics collection for the new kitchen I’m also designing!
Which is your favourite room in the house?
It’s actually probably our balcony, as we get the most beautiful sunsets, so to sit outside amongst the trees with a view of the valley and sounds of the birds calling is just the most perfect way to end the day.
What are your top tips for a well-styled bedroom, and home generally?
Layering texture and tones such as the stunning textural Bed Threads linens creates warmth and character.
This textural element extends to wall art. We have so many talented artisans in Australia, many whose works are very affordable and sculptural handmade artworks creates a point of difference.
Bringing nature inside also compliments this natural sculptural element as an oversized branch or potted plant can enhance the connection with the outdoors, which we all need to balance the screen heavy modern life.
Do you have any projects coming up you want to talk about?
We are currently working on The Nimble Wanderer; a smaller, lighter shopping cart for individuals or couples that don’t need the carrying capacity of our larger model. Alongside this we are launching an innovative, eco cooler bag and picnic range for summer which we are so excited about. Watch this space!
For more from Zoe, follow her at @wanderingsol.co
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