Justine Schafer – Happy Little Tenant
I first saw Justine’s interior design work on Instagram and when I emailed her to find out where she was based I was delighted to hear she was in Jamisontown. I wanted to have a chat with her about working life with two children and check out her gorgeous home. She has done a perfect job of balancing a stylish yet welcoming home and two delightful children who I would have taken home with me. Justine is a great role model for anyone wishing they could work at home too.
I went to TAFE for four years, studying interior design and interior decoration at Nepean Arts & Design Centre. After completion I started working in Surry Hills for a company where I did commercial office fit-outs as well as fit-outs for cafes and residential apartments. When we decided to have kids, it was just a bit too much to go back to the travel and 12 hour days. So I resigned, reluctantly and decided to give it a go myself. I do a lot of freelance work for other people working on drafting, documenting and having input into colour schemes and designs.
When I was doing our kids rooms, it was something that I really enjoyed so I thought about trying to help other people create beautiful spaces for their kids and I launched my business Happy Little Tenant in January of this year. The juggling act is difficult at times. With two small kids I am constantly torn between wanting to spend time playing and creating with them and dedicating time to my work, which is probably the biggest hurdle I’ve faced since starting up my small business.
Mostly I find people sort of know what they want to do but don’t have confidence to do it, they just want somebody else’s opinion to say Yes! Do that or No!, do this instead. People say to me all the time, how do you do that? how can I do this? What I think is ordinary, other people don’t. I said a client, “You’re a radiographer, I can’t take an X-ray I can organise your house, I can make it look beautiful.” It’s my passion and strength.
Friends always say to me “How is your house always so perfect?” I say, “It’s not! If I turn the photo from this way to that way you would see all the things I moved”. I’m trying to promote a business and I show my best. I say to my friends, “Don’t compare my best with your worst because you’ll never measure up” I do that all the time. I see people on Instagram and say, “Why doesn’t my house look like that?” I really have to remind myself that people say that to me too.
I have just as much mess as everyone. I’m probably a bit strict as a mum, when we finish with one thing, then that gets packed away before something else comes out. I had that rule as a kid too and I hated it, but now I understand why that was a rule because it just gets too much. I don’t want to be a grumpy mum because I’m the housekeeper, I just want to be able to have fun with the family so if we all put things away I feel better, that’s just my personality.
A few months ago, our kitchen table was piled with artwork, it got to a point where the pile was getting bigger and bigger, I said to my husband “See this wall, this is going to be the artwork wall and at the end of every month I’m going to take it down”. Now every month it gets changed over, I put it in boxes so we can keep it. next month it’ll be November artwork and it’s an evolving artwork for the house.
We like the area we live in (Jamisontown). We love that we can go down to the river and have a picnic where it’s quiet. Our parents and families are here, we rely on them for help with the kids so it’s nice to stay local. We don’t have any plans to move away. We love Henri Marc. We love High St. Depot, The Union and Lewers Café we go there a lot. I go to art classes with Mali. It’s a nice area for the kids to run around.
The only thing is I find I do my shopping online, I would love to walk into a shop in Penrith but they are just not here and I don’t have a whole day to go into the city to have a look around.
I think people have this idea that we (in the west) can’t afford nice things and only want to buy the junk and stuff from the two-dollar shops. I know there’s money out here and people are happy to spend it on good quality products. I’m happy to pay extra money for something that’s made in Denmark as opposed to made in China. I would happily spend money on an item that will last a long time.
Interview: Katrina James
Photos: Katrina James