If you’ve ever sipped champagne under sparkling chandeliers at The Winery, taken a selfie with a Shady Pines’ moose head or been lucky enough to find sanctuary on Hamilton Island, you have experienced the interior stylings of Belinda Cendron, owner of Sourceress.
Financier turned fabulous creative, Bel channelled her self-proclaimed obsession with giant clamshells and all things eclectic into a successful interior styling business. Welcome to the world of Sourceress…
Tell us about the evolution of your eclectic style
For as long as I can remember I’ve loved texture, colour and form. I fell head-over-heels in love with the overtly eclectic interiors and architecture I discovered first hand in the streets of Buenos Aires.
After spending a decade in funds management, with a couple of other stops along the way, I finally turned my hand to interiors in 2007, diving head-first into the madness of a small business in importing and retail, trading in antique chandeliers, slabs of old oak from the Loire Valley, Belle Epoch antiques and 12-foot carved timber doors from Argentina – I was in heaven!
Fast forward to Sydney 2015, where straight white walls (no 120 year old arched architraves here!) serve as a blank canvas for my eclectic pieces to shine. I add elements like plants (the crazier the better – think unruly Sansivera Trifasciata) and items that have meaning to me, such as my 100+ year old converted pianola, artworks, fabrics and lighting. Ever inspired by the rugged coast and natural elements, my look has evolved into an eclectic coastal luxe vibe. This is my personal style and as a result what Sourceress The Store (my online retail shop) is all about.
My proud eclectic style has gone a long way to helping the right clients find me. My first bar styling and sourcing job called for exactly this. Manly Wine, in its first iteration (2009) was built upon all the things I loved most. Antique tiles, taxidermy peacocks, found items, vintage chandeliers, iron outdoor furniture (used indoors) with every remaining available crevice filled with objects, plants and statues.
How does a trend stand the test of time?
I’ve enjoyed watching eclecticism continue to rise and evolve. Whilst commercial clients still ask me to recreate a ‘Winery’ (Surry Hills bar) look, I will never replicate that. That look was perfect for that space at that time, but we need to move on.
The new version of eclecticism that I am embracing now is much more individual. The return of hand crafted versus mass production is fuelling this, as is the ready availability of selling and social media platforms that support individuals in getting their product in front of a large audience quickly. So it’s not only about vintage or ‘found’ objects, it’s about pieces ‘made with purpose’ and a binding philosophy.
What drives your work and fuels your passion?
I’m driven by the process of transformation, be it of a space or within a person. I love watching the vision that lives in my mind’s eye coming to life in a space and taking the client on that journey. Done well, its theatre.
Admittedly, most people don’t have the luxury of spending even a fraction of the time I do considering colours, lines and materials, let alone their transition over time and across cultures. There is an ‘education’ stage, an introductory period, where you need to get on the same page with the client. At first, this frustrated me no end. I wondered incredulously why people didn’t ‘just get it’. I am still very impatient as it always felt [like] second nature to me. I grew up on the smell of turpentine and paint fumes – occupational hazard of being the daughter of a painter – so I instinctively feel colour and materials. Over time this part of the process is getting easier for me.
Tell us about your journey from financier to professional sourceress…
I started Sourceress in the thick of a global financial crisis. I’d lost my job and figured I’d just go back into corporate. Two job interviews in, my soul was crushing at rapid speed and I knew there had to be another way.
I had been secretly, and blindly it seemed, writing personal styling business plans since 1996. I just didn’t know it was a job! As such I never suffered from the wide-eyed optimism many entrepreneurs feel when entering the world of soloing. It was just something I had to do. There was no other option for me. I knew it was going to be hard work – but not as hard as endless days staring at grey walls inside a marble clad high-rise, slowly baking my eyeballs under the fluorescent tube lighting and tending to my frost-bitten extremities from the gale-force air conditioning. These tough times in corporate (okay, they weren’t that tough – but slightly soul destroying) and my corresponding career in finance/strategy/management left me in good stead. It also meant I was pretty handy with an Excel spreadsheet, not to mention a whizz at PowerPoint.
After working in the corporate world, I got my masters in small business working in a couple of small businesses that ultimately taught me “what not to do.” I started my interior design and sourcing business on the smell of an oily rag and a vibrant display of confidence. I had a good appetite for risk and I backed myself. So after six years of what I call incredible success, having landed some of the best clients in the business, my biggest obstacles happened later.
It’s been said that running out of money is a common part of this kind of journey. I thought I was one of the lucky ones that skipped that step. Then I experienced a very sudden and prolonged halt in cash flow. I realised that I had taken my eye off the cash-flow ball. It took me about three months to believe it wasn’t turning itself around and another six months before it did. I pulled my finger out and I invested this new found free time on my hands in setting up my online store.
There were other hurdles too early on. Feeling ‘legit’ as a creative was probably the hardest part. I knew I had the talent but my work history in finance didn’t give me the confidence to really own it, even after I started doing high profile work I still felt like a bit of an ‘imposter’. Finally I just had to change the way I looked at things, honour the work that I had done and simply give up the self doubt.
What’s your advice for creating a great eclectic look?
First get inspired. Pinterest is a great tool for this. Unlike Instagram, you get to see large images and search for more specific categories. Then Instagram is great for finding the detailed elements and unique items and suppliers. Flip through magazines and tear out looks that you like. Find the common thread. Are they all light in colour, is there a type of timber or a style of rug? Is it Moroccan influence, natural or coastal? Try to define the style, then keep refining in this way.
Within the space itself, start with a blank canvas. Remove as much furniture from the space as you can. All the knick knacks, books and small furniture. If the main furniture placement doesn’t feel right, try moving it around. Sit in the space and feel it. Trust yourself. If you don’t feel confident, invite a few friends over and ask them. But always trust your gut in the end.
Then picture your inspiration pieces in the space. Choose at least one key item that will anchor the space. Usually it’s the item you feel the strongest pull towards. This might be an artwork, a console table or even a rug. Start with that, but imagine the rest of the finishes that will ultimately bring that piece to life. Even if it ends up being a work in progress, you can continue to buy pieces you love that fit into a grander plan, even better if they are dual purpose, they will move with you. I once bought a beautiful white timber buffet that I had seen in a magazine, I had to have it. I had no room for a buffet in my one bedroom apartment, which already housed an upright piano and marble dining table, so it has served as very functional TV unit ever since. One day it may be filled with entertaining platters and wine. For now it houses my electronics and books and it makes me so happy every time I look at it!!
Seek pieces that you feel a connection with, rather than buying pieces specifically for a space. I think that’s integral to making it work.
Any other tips for wannabe creatives and entrepreneurs?
1. Fake it til you make it – but be confident and diligent in the process. Do your homework. Usually the only one who thinks you’re an imposter is you.
2. Starting a business does not make you an entrepreneur. Creating a scalable, sellable, asset-rich business does.
3. You are not the business. You are an input. Separate the business from the instrument that is you.
4. Know the power of verbalisation. Articulate your goals in specific, measurable terms. The old S.M.A.R.T. principle.
5. Teach your customers (and friends and colleagues) how to ‘sell’ your services. Make it easy for people to understand what you do. Learn the three-part elevator pitch. “Hi I’m Belinda. I’m an interior stylist. I specialise in hospitality interiors and have a passion for giant clamshells.” STOP. The questions then follow…. “WHAT kind of clamshells?” “Giant WHAT?” “WHERE do you get them?”
6. Don’t strive for perfection, just ACTION. Every day.
7. Never assume the so-called experts in your field know more than you. If you’re doing it right, they all think you’re the expert.
8. Turn problems into solutions for your clients. See those problems as an opportunity to be of service. After five years of working together on multiple projects, one client said to me in all seriousness, “We need some help. I’m looking for someone like you, but younger. Do you know anyone?” After a few days of salty-eyed confusion, I deducted that what they actually needed was more help than I was currently giving them. They like what I do (“someone like me”), but they thought they couldn’t afford me (“younger = cheaper”). I proposed three solutions that resulted in a large consulting project working across 15 hospitality venues including three new builds.
9. Surround yourself with a community of like-minded individuals – in business and in life.
10. Trust your gut and never give up.
11. Break the rules.