Director and Owner of made to order bed linen brand MILOU MILOU and our very own General Manager here at Totem Road, Jo Steel is passionate, driven and intentional. Both brands hold a similar ethos in that they are sustainable, ethical and mindful of the impact they have on the environment and they reject the traditional retail model of ‘seasons’. Having recently moved into a new home in Bondi Beach, we sat down with Jo to found out how these notions influence her interior style and personal purchase decisions.
You recently moved into a new home, what did you love about this space and what was your vision for it?
We weren’t actually looking to move and were about to start a huge renovation. However, a house came up for sale a street over from us and already had a few of the things we were looking to add - a pool (big tick for our son), a lot of natural light, polished concrete floors and still a lot of potential to add value (we love projects). The most important aspect we look for in a new home is the orientation and the backyard in our new space faces north/east so we have all day sun.
The house has great bones but because it all happened quite unexpectedly we didn’t have a clear vision when we bought it. We will slowly redo it over the next few years so it fits more with our style - things like the kitchen, which is modern, but we’d like to incorporate more natural products such as oak and marble bench tops.
What design elements did you consider to make the house feel more like home?
We decluttered when we moved in. There were these four big industrial lampshades that invaded the space so we removed these and replaced them with downlights which instantly opened it up.
We also added floor to ceiling linen curtains in the living and dining spaces which soften the space and add a sense of height. It’s surprising what a paint job can do too!
What is your favourite room in your home and why?
It would be our dining area - we recently added the Luxa Dining Table and the Thonet Hoffman Chairs (available from Totem Road Australia). We love entertaining and holding dinner parties with our friends and I love that we don’t have to be too precious with it. We have kids coming and going and the table gets used for activities, kids meals and parties. I do understand why people might look for cheaper options but I love knowing that we will have this table for years to come and the memories it will hold. I can’t tell you how many comments we get on our table and how ‘solid’ it is.
My Dad always used to say “a dining table must be strong enough to be danced on” - I love this - and the concept is always in the back of my mind when selecting furniture for our home.
You also have the Totem Road Lagos and Zara Beds. What do you love about these designs?
We have the Zara Bed (available in AU) in our guest room and because the room is off the hallway, it’s the first piece of furniture you see when you walk into our house. The bed is timeless and minimal and allows me to change up the space depending on who is staying. I always mix up the linen depending on the personality of the guest and will also change up the artwork. The constant is the Zara Bed and I love that our friends always comment on the room.
We have the Lagos Bed and Lagos Bedsides in our son’s room. When we moved into our house, he was allowed to come into Totem Road and select the bed he wanted. It’s a fun bed for him - low profile, solid enough to have 3 or 4 six year old kids jumping on it shooting basketball hoops (I know!!!!)
What I also love is that if we have an overflow of people staying, we can change up the linen to be more mature, add flowers and a different lamp to the Lagos Bedside and immediately that side of his room looks like a sanctuary! It’s easy to change up from being fun and childlike to sophisticated and calming.
What do you think sets the tone for a room?
The most important thing is getting the basics right and that means selecting the right furniture for that particular space - something that will not date, will last the length of time and will go with a multiple of accessories. We always start with the feature furniture piece then mix up the accessories such as linen, artwork, lamps and ceramics so that the space always feels new and fresh.
As you are well aware, Totem Road creates timeless designs that can be passed down through generations. What do you look for in forever furniture?
Quality and longevity. The solid oak used at Totem Road means everything is designed to last beyond a single lifetime and it is so important to consider the length of time you will have something when making your decisions. It’s like fashion and the ‘cost per wear’ concept. Sure something might be more attainable because it’s cheaper, but the amount of times you will have to replace it means it’s actually not cheaper at all. Not to mention the impact the waste has on our planet.
Our home is always filled with friends and family - young and old - and we want furniture that will not sustain a lot of use but look good while it’s doing the work! I love using my furniture and it being a reminder of happy memories.
We believe homes are to be lived in and loved so choosing quality furniture that we know will last is very important to us.