Friday, April 17, 2009

Interview - Vanessa Colyer Tay

All photos from Inside Out styled by Vanessa Colyer Tay, and photographed by Sam McAdam

Vanessa Colyer Tay has your dream job. Truly. She's Style Editor at Inside Out magazine. It's Vanessa's job to develop concepts for Inside Out's gorgeous interiors shoots, source and gather the most beautiful furnishings and interior accessories, and pull everything together to achieve that all-important perfect shot - time after time after time!

Agghh. See? Dream job.

But even dream job's have their moments, and in this case that can mean long hours, tight deadlines, and a lot of lugging furniture around! Vanessa takes it all in her stride... she's supremely talented and utterly passionate about her craft, and handles the demands of her job with finesse every time! She's also super friendly and approachable (if our email conversations are anything to go by!), and in this interview she's been so generous in sharing some of her tips for interiors fossicking in Sydney! Not every stylist shares their sources so openly, so I feel very lucky to be able to pass a few of Vanessa's shopping secrets on to you guys!

If you're interested in a career in styling (who isn't?), read on for an insight into Vanessa's background, creative inspirations and fabulous job!

ps) Did you know Inside Out now have their own blog? Immediate bookmark material! (Lots of behind-the-scenes action and contributions from all different Inside Out staff including Vanessa... )

Tell me a little about your background - what did you originally study, and what path led you to what you’re doing now?

I completed the diploma of interior decoration at Enmore Design Centre in Sydney. Whilst studying I assisted some magazine style greats who showed me the way. I worked as a freelance assistant/merchandiser/stylist for a while, and then landed the role of Senior Stylist at Australian Home Beautiful Magazine, I then moved across to my all time favourite interiors publication Inside Out, as their Style Editor.

What does a typical day at work involve for you?

Every day is different however there’s a few that reoccur.

Sourcing: I spend these days hunting and gathering the coolest interior gear, finding inspiration and interesting people along the way.

Shooting: I rock up to the studio or location, build sets and compose the shot with all the product I’ve just sourced. Setting up shots is of course the fun part, there’s also an abundance of packing, moving furniture and taking good care of fragile props.

Other days: include countless hours of writing captions, developing concepts and shoot ideas, attending product launches, and the usual administration duties.

How would you describe your interior decorating/styling aesthetic in your own home? How does this compare with the aesthetic you bring to your commercial styling work?

Minimal eclecticism, at home I collect and gather things I love, pieces of sketched cardboard from street artists, cute coffee cups, pretty feathers, photos of meaningful things and auction finds. I have lots of ‘stuff’ but display my finds in a unified manner so that it’s not too crazy. There are snippets of my personal style in my commercial work; however each job takes on a personality of its own. My personal touch is just the icing on top of fulfilling the brief as thorough as possible. I like to ‘tick the boxes’ of a brief, but take it further with my personal style.

Which designers, artists or creative people are you inspired by?

Right now I’m loving Zaha Hadid’s concept drawings, Sarah Maingot's photos, Established and Sons furniture, The Hotel Everland: a moving capsule, art installation come hotel that was placed on top of prominent buildings throughout Europe, Christine Rudolph’s styling and of course Australian styling greats Glen Proebstel, Megan Morton, and my Inside Out editor Karen McCartney.

Where else do you find inspiration – ie books, magazines, your environment, travel, your family and friends?

International magazines, foreign films, pretty countries, colourful underground tunnels, smart hotels, urban artists, grey skies, fallen leaves, welcome swallows, city skylines, people who are ‘made to create’, pets, friends and partners plus more. Seriously, there is inspiration everywhere, I like trying to find it.

What are you most proud of professionally?

Sustaining good work.

What's the best thing about your job?

The constant reward it offers.

And the worst?

Moving furniture around.

What would be your dream creative project?

Right now I have a thing for conceptual translation, I’m inspired by an artists execution of a particular concept, and how their execution can be completely different to another persons. I’d love to host an exhibition in which there are a number of artists, all whom use a different medium ie. Installation, painting, sound, video. The first artist is given a concept; they create and then pass their work onto the next artist who uses the previous artists work as their concept.... So it’s like Chinese whispers of the art world.... Art whispers, or lost in translation, that’s what I’ll call it! Now, I just have to find a sponsor.

Sydney Questions –

Your favourite fossicking spots in Sydney for unique furniture and home accessories?

For a quick fossick it’s to Balmain’s Lola Et Moi (quirky and lovely pieces sourced from out of the way places incl France and NY) and then next door to Quintessentials (well sourced vintage and antique pieces, incl the white storage carousel you see here in one of my shots) For something more timely and thrill seeking for the urban fossicker, It’s to Mitchell Road Auction House to dig through the trash and hopefully treasure downstairs, then upstairs to browse the many stores housing 20th century design pieces. Ken Neale in Darlinghurst is also brilliant for 20th century design bits.

Where would we find you on a typical Saturday morning?

Strolling along my local river on the way to indulge in coffee, handmade chocolates, and the morning paper.

Sydney’s best kept secret?

My friend and co worker Grace Lee’s post it note illustrations. Via Alley’s new store on George st is also pretty cool.

Thanks so much for your time Vanessa! x


  1. There needs to be more hours in the day for reading all these amazing blogs (plus all the places they link too)!
    Great interview Lucy! After loving all your posts on Inside Out I finally went and got myself a subscription and it really is full of so much great stuff.

  2. Little clever Vanessa you are such a little super star! loved reading your interview you clever thing!
    See you soon petal!
    And Lucy - thank you for another amazing Friday interview!
    Have a lovely weekend sweet girls.
    Love love
    Hello Sandwich

  3. Thank you! this post couldn't have come at a better time! I am desperate for good shopping advise around Sydney. I loved your Surry Hills guide, and now this!

    Thank you for the great interview!!

  4. It's so interesting reading this interview - I love Vanessa's styling and Inside Out is always visually stunning. Too much gorgeousness!

  5. I love this story, and not just because I work in the same office as Vanessa, but because she's one of the most creative, enthusiastic and modest people I've met. It's inspiring to see all her colourful ideas and thoughts so nicely presented into the one interview.
    We liked it so much we had to feature it on our blog, too!
    Thanks for the lovely write-up, Lucy!
    Lee Tran

  6. Great interview and insights, thanks to both of you for sharing :)

  7. I'm jealous too.. would love a job like that styling beautiful objects for a great magazine...

  8. I’m designer in a wonderful project called Boca do Lobo, this need to be shared