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Episode 7

How to design, furnish & style a ski chalet in Europe, high end commercial projects in Australia and CGI’s everywhere.

Georgina Holmes | Coco Republic | Senior Interior Designer, NSW

Georgina Holmes has been in the Design Industry for 12 years and has degrees in both Psychology and Interior Design. Before coming to Australia, Georgina was working for a French Interior Design House in Geneva that took her around Switzerland, France and Germany. Georgina has completed exclusive commercial and residential projects that include everything from luxury ski chalets to high end residential projects. Georgina has a wealth of experience and utilising her collective passion for lighting and colour and has completed projects for some of the top tier hospitality & residential developers in Australia where for the last 3 1/2 years she has worked for Coco Republic – one of country’s leading furniture and interior design firms employing over 300 people . Embracing her international experience, Georgina brings a hint of European influence to each of her projects, which results in truly unique and breathtaking results. In this wide ranging interview Georgina gives her expert insights on designing and styling everything from ski chalets in Europe to CGI’s in Australia. Enjoy.

Transcript

Anthony Denman: Georgina, welcome to the Property Marketing Podcast.

Georgina Holmes: Hi.

Anthony Denman: Really glad you could find the time to do this. I know how busy you are with all the projects you’ve got on.

Georgina Holmes: Yeah, it’s quite busy at the moment. The market is picking up again, which is good.

Anthony Denman: Can I ask, because I’m interested in the fact that you do have degrees in both psychology and interior design, so which one of those two came first?

Georgina Holmes: Psychology.

Anthony Denman: Psychology?

Georgina Holmes: Yeah. My mum’s an interior designer back in the UK, or was, she’s retired now. So, I was always a little bit hesitant to follow in those footsteps and decided to carve my own path. I started psychology as my first degree back in England, and I’ve got to honestly say that that probably helps me 80% of my time with dealing with clients. The design work obviously needs to be there, but just the interaction with what people want, and being able to be confident enough to ask the right questions, deal with anyone from builders onsite, and contractors, through to the sales and marketing director of national, big corporations here in Australia. So, it’s a different hat that you put in, when you go from the meetings through to the actual sites that we’re designing, but that really does play a big part in my day-to-day.

Anthony Denman: That’s really interesting. So understanding, I guess, the psychology of client interactions but also understanding the psychology of the purchaser and of the final product.

Georgina Holmes: Yeah. I mean, obviously at Coco, in the commercial division that I look after, we do a range of different projects, and mainly the ones that we’ve worked on with yourself is the multi-residential. And from that we’ve got to understand the developer, and we’ve got to be looking at the numbers, the QS reports, what’s cost effective to build in the market, where it’s being built.

Georgina Holmes: We also have direct access to the end purchaser. So, through Coco Republic that is our client everyday that walks through the door. So, they’re disconcerning now, they’ve got different needs. They’re a little bit more savvy to what the market is offering. And so, I think from our perspective, and from my perspective having that is I’m able to speak with the developer but then have the conversation with the end purchaser about what they want, and do they want storage on entry? What sized island? Do they want storage in the island of the kitchens that they’re having? So, you’ve got to understand that need of the buyer as well as the builder.

Anthony Denman: Because that’s actually something that you guys do which is quite unique in that you just don’t assist in getting the product sold. I mean, we’re talking primarily off-the-plan here. But I know you do finished product as well and different commercial, industrial and… Well, I don’t know if you do industrial.

Georgina Holmes: We don’t really do industrial.

Anthony Denman: Commercial then, residential.

Georgina Holmes: Yeah.

Anthony Denman: So, yeah. So after, say, in an off-the-plan scenario, you assist in the styling of the CGIs in a particular way that makes them attractive to the end purchaser. After that, all the apartments have been sold off-the-plan, and the actual building has been constructed, you have a role then, don’t you?

Georgina Holmes: Yeah. Well, we actually start before that. So something that has happened over the last, I would say, maybe three years, maybe a little bit before that. Diana, who is our head of interior design, joined Coco Republic from another well-known interior design firm in Sydney, and we started to do more in the multi-res sector of the market.

Georgina Holmes: So we normally focus on, or predominantly focus on, boutique developments, so maximum 30, 35 apartments. We’ve recently completed a range of town houses. We’ve done recently projects with yourself up to the Central Coast as well, and we actually do the full interior design on that. So, we’ll start with working with the architect at spacial planning stage. So, once the floor plans have been issued we will have a look at them.

Georgina Holmes: Yeah, so we’ll look at the plans, and we work really closely with architects, obviously their opinion is huge to us, to make sure that what we’re putting forward is actually going to work. But what we will do is look at the spacial planning, see where we can find some areas that would work for the end purchaser. And that might be, as I’ve discussed, the storage elements, a lot of the downsizer market and the product that’s on the market at the moment. That is a requirement that is helping sell a lot more and move a lot more product. So, we’ll do all of that. We’ll do all of the kitchen design-

Anthony Denman: So, it’s a full interior design-

Georgina Holmes: A full interior design.

Anthony Denman: … service. Not just picking furniture and-

Georgina Holmes: Yeah, and not just the CGI styling.

Anthony Denman: … props in styling.

Georgina Holmes: Yeah.

Anthony Denman: Yes.

Georgina Holmes: So for the multi-res, a full interior design: kitchens, bathrooms, everything, all the selections of materiality. And then we come onto working with yourself and doing the CGI stylings, which is working extremely well and I feel is a huge part of what the market is requiring right now.

Georgina Holmes: And then, once the property’s been built, usually it goes through to display suites stage, if they haven’t sold fully off-plan. If there’s a few residual stock left then we might do a sales suite or a display suite for them and then match that up with the CGI, which makes sense. And then we go through to holding the hand of the purchaser.

Georgina Holmes: So, once they’ve purchased and they’re looking off-plan, you’ve got maybe a 12 to 18 month build time there. We’re there to assist in that touchpoint with the client to be able to bring them in, look at the furniture that they’ve got existing. Is it going to work in the new property? Do we send in our property styling team because they’ve got a house to sell?

Anthony Denman: Right, okay.

Georgina Holmes: There’s so many more elements to that.

Anthony Denman: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Georgina Holmes: Through to them transitioning into their new home, which the developer, by then, is obviously looking at new sites and new developments that we’re working on with as well. So, we’re there to then assist through the organization, different arms of it. Sometimes it’s me, sometimes clients request me. Other times it will be, we have a head of residential interior design, and she looks after all the high-end residential clients. We also have the retail offering of which most of the staff employed by Coco Republic that are client-facing are interior designers or have a qualification in interior design.

Anthony Denman: Do a lot of those purchasers, or a fair percentage of them, do they look to buy new furniture for their new apartment?

Georgina Holmes: Yeah. I mean, at the moment we’ve seen a few waves. We attract a lot the downsizer market. We sit in that bracket where if someone is coming from a five-bedroom home, and they’re moving into a three-bedroom apartment, their furniture isn’t going to fit. That is a classic market for us. We’re there to help them ensure, and we potentially go and look at the furniture they have and say, “This will work. This won’t work. Your artwork will work,” and just make sure-

Anthony Denman: I can imagine you’d be walking in a lot of interesting styling situations with that.

Georgina Holmes: There is, and especially with a new build, and then some mahogany furniture.

Anthony Denman: Yeah, totally.

Georgina Holmes: There’s a bit of a difference there. But, yeah, we definitely do that. And then there’s been the investor market as well, where you’ve got-

Anthony Denman: How do you handle that, like when you walk into a situation like that, and you’ve got this-

Georgina Holmes: Oh, I’m very diplomatic.

Anthony Denman: You’d have to be, wouldn’t you?

Georgina Holmes: I think our property styling team do a lot better there. Again, that’s like the psychology of it, is you’ve got to be very open and honest because some things aren’t going to work. It’s going to cost the client too much money to move pieces that won’t fit, or they’re just not going to work in a new environment. They’re going to look too clunky.

Anthony Denman: How do you talk them out of hanging onto those really sentimental objects that they just-

Georgina Holmes: Well, if it’s sentimental we would recommend taking it.

Anthony Denman: Right.

Georgina Holmes: Definitely artworks, pictures. Little trinkets or little side tables and things like that, they are usually the things that we would point out and say, “Oh no, you can definitely keep that.” It’s more the sofas that they might have had for 15-20 years. It’s the big dining room table that sits-

Anthony Denman: Even if they’ve been covered in plastic. I mean, you can still use them in mint condition.

Georgina Holmes: Then there’s plenty of places on the market that you can sell them. I think I want to go and buy a lovely new table. But, yeah. No, that’s where the psychology does come in, because you’re dealing with the end purchaser.

Anthony Denman: No. It’s really, really interesting.

Georgina Holmes: I know.

Anthony Denman: So, at what point did you go, “I’m not going to become a psychologist”?

Georgina Holmes: I don’t know if I can say it on a podcast.

Anthony Denman: And what led you into… I know your mother’s an interior designer.

Georgina Holmes: Yeah.

Anthony Denman: Yeah, at what point?

Georgina Holmes: Look, I-

Anthony Denman: Was there a moment in your life where you kind of said, “Okay. No, Mum was right”?

Georgina Holmes: Do you know what? It was more I’ve always been interested in the property industry. I bought my first home, it was one of the first things I did coming out of university.

Anthony Denman: Where abouts?

Georgina Holmes: In Bath.

Anthony Denman: Okay, yeah.

Georgina Holmes: So, it was really down to, I was working for, it was an international real estate company back in the UK, and this was pre the global financial crisis. So, we’re looking at maybe 2006, something like that, doing international property, doing all floor plan work for off-plan developers internationally. So, that’s kind of where it came from, which is why I love the commercial side of it. There is the design aspect, but the commercial side of it is, I’m used to, from leaving university, working with developers and looking at spacial planning, looking at floor plans, looking at what will sell, what won’t sell, what kind of square meterage you need to be selling to get to a market.

Georgina Holmes: So, I’ve always done that. But the psychology, I suppose it came from a perspective where there wasn’t really a lot of jobs and you were kind of capped in a bracket within that. It wasn’t something that I wanted to continue doing. I love it. I still, in my spare time, read all cognitive psychology books, but I think I apply that to my work every day, just in a different format. And then after the global financial crisis here I moved to Switzerland in 2008. And then I was there for eight years and worked for a French interior design company-

Anthony Denman: That was the-

Georgina Holmes: … which I cut my teeth there.

Anthony Denman: Well, that would have been really interesting.

Georgina Holmes: Yeah.

Anthony Denman: Yeah.

Georgina Holmes: They’re amazing, and Virginia is still in business and doing a lot of work across Europe. And, yeah, a lot of high-end residential. I was on the commercial team.

Anthony Denman: Ski chalets and spa retreats.

Georgina Holmes: Yeah. And then from the Geneva based setting I moved to Zurich, and so from Zurich I was looking after all of her projects in the German speaking part.

Anthony Denman: It might be a good time to mention that you do, you speak fluent French, German, English.

Georgina Holmes: Oh, I wouldn’t say I’m fluent.

Anthony Denman: Well-

Georgina Holmes: I do speak-

Anthony Denman: Proficient.

Georgina Holmes: Proficient.

Anthony Denman: And Australian now, which is fantastic. Beauty, mate.

Georgina Holmes: I’ve got the Aussie accent down now. It’s brilliant.

Anthony Denman: Can you remember the very first memorable or major, it’s not about scope or scale so much, but just something that you sort of thought, “Well, this is pretty amazing, this project”? Can you remember?

Georgina Holmes: Projects that I’ve worked on?

Anthony Denman: Yeah.

Georgina Holmes: Yeah. Okay.

Anthony Denman: Yeah, overseas. Yeah.

Georgina Holmes: Yeah. I mean, there’s been a couple. I think, like I said, the French company that I was working with, for a small team they were doing some really big projects across Europe. And one of the first ones was a health club called Holmes Place.

Anthony Denman: Okay, yeah.

Georgina Holmes: And they have, God, I would say, at least 20 to 50 clubs across Europe. And they have some that are black, which are their top five star spas, and they did one in Berlin. And it was a complete new build. So, a lot of the time we were doing refurbishments of spas, but this was a complete new build of a spa for them, gym and five star spa. And it was beautiful, like the furniture that you access to.

Anthony Denman: This is no budget restrictions?

Georgina Holmes: There was budget, but it wasn’t limited. So, we had great budgets to work with. The team were extremely talented to do the design work that was done. There’s some beautiful imagery of it finished. But not only that, I think from a perspective of furniture as well, you were in the center of Europe, being in Switzerland, so everything is accessible. You don’t have your 18 week lead times that we have here. And so, it was furnished and turned around pretty quickly for a spa. And I think that was one of the first projects that I’d worked on where it was on a big scale and it was like, “This is impressive.” And to see the end result, which was beautiful.

Anthony Denman: So, if anybody wants to look at that they can just Google?

Georgina Holmes: Yeah. That was an incredible project through Creatives, who are the company that I worked for back in there. And then I went on to do my own, because I moved to the German speaking part of Switzerland. So, then I moved on and started working for… And I did Holmes Place, but mainly all of their renovations on the German speaking side of Switzerland.

Anthony Denman: Right, okay.

Georgina Holmes: So, I did a roof terrace in the middle of Zurich that was like essentially doing a roof terrace gym on the top of Westfield Center.

Anthony Denman: Wow.

Georgina Holmes: It was ridiculous. We had to shut down four streets-

Anthony Denman: Oh, no way.

Georgina Holmes: … to get the cranes in, to get all the soil, and all of the matting and everything, up to the roof. So, I’m a lot older now, but I was late 20’s, early 30’s, and I was doing this project and managing it on a large scale in the middle of a city where it wasn’t my first language with cranes and police and everything like that. And it all became-

Anthony Denman: Mm-hmm (affirmative). What an achievement.

Georgina Holmes: It was less of the decorative.

Anthony Denman: Reduced to its… Yeah.

Georgina Holmes: It was more about, “How are we going to make this work?”

Anthony Denman: Yeah, how can we make it work?

Georgina Holmes: And that was the first project that I’d done on my own as a interior designer that required a lot of technical work, a lot of logistic work. But my love for commercial then kind of solidified then. It was like-

Anthony Denman: Managing.

Georgina Holmes: … “If you can do this you can do anything.”

Anthony Denman: Yeah, totally.

Georgina Holmes: So, yeah, those were the first two that were big, and then obviously moving to Australia I’ve then-

Anthony Denman: What facilitated the move to Australia?

Georgina Holmes: I’d done eight years in Switzerland then, yeah, seven and a half, eight years, and it got to a stage where it was either stay there, buy a house there, and I don’t want to offend anyone, with Switzerland you have to give your UK passport in to become a Swiss citizen.

Anthony Denman: Okay.

Georgina Holmes: So, it’s not dual like it is here. And it kind of got to a stage-

Anthony Denman: That’s a big commitment.

Georgina Holmes: It’s a big commitment, and it was nothing to do with the industry, really. Property there is crazy. The market is so solid. You’re still in the Swiss franc, so you’re not affected by the Euro. It’s such a stable market, a great place to have a business, amazing. It just became a little bit of a lifestyle choice. English speaking, the banter of being British. And I’d been to Australia to visit, but I’d never stayed here for very long. So, yeah, I’d missed that kind of camaraderie and working with a team that everyone spoke English and just that kind of banter. So, yeah, that’s why I ended up moving to Australia.

Anthony Denman: Since you’ve been in Australia, what would be one of the more memorable projects that you’ve worked on?

Georgina Holmes: Oh, working with you, of course.

Anthony Denman: Oh, no, come on. Don’t be like that. No, really. I mean, is there one that-

Georgina Holmes: Oh, there’s so many.

Anthony Denman: Is there one? Because this is going to lead me to a place, because it’s like, “Okay, I worked in this, I’m shutting down four streets, and you’re kind of reinventing the way people live. How do you handle working with a tighter budget but having all that amazing experience and leaving behind all of those contacts and the ability to kind of get stuff quickly because you’re now on this wonderful island at the bottom of the Earth?

Georgina Holmes: It’s the best island.

Anthony Denman: It is the best island.

Georgina Holmes: Yeah, definitely.

Anthony Denman: But how do you reconcile that? I mean, how do you feel when you’re in that situation, how do you deal with that?

Georgina Holmes: Well, I suppose-

Anthony Denman: It’s a big shift.

Georgina Holmes: It is a big shift, and I think we’re currently working on a project where it is on that big scale. And it’s also for a very well-known company, a big name in the Australian market, which then that sort of design came back, and it’s been an absolute pleasure to work on that, because it’s just been on a larger scale. It’s been the nitty-gritty sort of logistic interior design, commercial interior design that I enjoy. And it’s something that you would not associate Coco Republic with at all.

Anthony Denman: Okay, wow.

Georgina Holmes: So, it’s really nice to see that we’re diversifying and we have the ability to do these larger commercial projects. My eyes have been open with the multi-res, because I think from that perspective it’s been interesting and rewarding to go from plans where they haven’t been finished or you can see that you could make them work better. Working with Diana and the team to readjust those plans, and do some more spacial planning on them, pick all the fixtures and finishes, go through the CGI process, and see a project develop, and then go out to market, and then receive the brochure through the post at your house. It’s amazing.

Georgina Holmes: And I think that that’s been another complete area of my job that I’ve been exposed to since I’ve been in Australia. And so, that’s been extremely interesting and really rewarding to see it go from no one knowing about it, land being bought, through to it winning awards, as you have, and as we have as well this year. So, I think that’s been amazing through to the actual furnishing and doing the interior design projects and working with budgets, and deadlines, and lead times. I’ve found custom-made here is something that we do a lot, just to hit different deadlines.

Anthony Denman: Sorry, custom-made?

Georgina Holmes: Custom-made furniture.

Anthony Denman: Yeah.

Georgina Holmes: Also, obviously a lot of the Coco Republic stock that we hold is in stock or incoming, so we haven’t had to have those kind of: we’re back to the lead times that you’d get in Europe, so you’re just working obviously with maybe a four week maximum lead time. Any of the designer product you’re looking at 16 to 18 weeks, but it’s just about managing expectations with the client. A lot of the time we’ll get a client that will come in and the deadline was yesterday. They want it done. Right now we’re hitting Christmas.

Anthony Denman: You mean a lot of the time or all the time?

Georgina Holmes: I mean all the time.

Anthony Denman: Yeah.

Georgina Holmes: Just trying to be nice. Most of the time.

Anthony Denman: Most of the time.

Georgina Holmes: It’s just the last thing you think about because you’re building a house, or you’re building a development and, “Oh, we haven’t done the display suite. Oh, I didn’t think about that. Oh, yeah.” It’s just the way it is. Lives are busy, and projects are busy, and your mind’s on so many other things.

Georgina Holmes: So, we do have to be creative with what we’re pulling together in limited timeframes. And at the moment, obviously, you’ve got 16 to 18 week lead times with, “We want it in before Christmas.” So, that’s a little bit of a struggling point. But that all comes down to client management, and that’s where it comes back to the psychology. It’s, “You can have anything tomorrow or you can have the best and wait.”

Anthony Denman: And that’s the crux of it, isn’t it?

Georgina Holmes: Yeah.

Anthony Denman: I think that’s also market-driven, right? So, in my experience if the market’s red hot it’s really difficult to get clients to pause.

Georgina Holmes: Yes.

Anthony Denman: And rightly so, okay, because you never know how long a market’s going to be red hot for. Everybody wants to try and capitalize on that. So from a marketing brand, a marketing perspective, we’ve always been a bit like, “We would really, really love a bit more time on this one.”

Georgina Holmes: Yeah.

Anthony Denman: “And money.” But I get, “No, we don’t. Just got to get onto the market.” And I guess you’ve got to facilitate that.

Georgina Holmes: Yeah.

Anthony Denman: What we also find is that if the market isn’t so hot that’s when there is an opportunity to value-add, and that in any manufacturing timeline you can only ever move as fast as the slowest moving part, right?

Georgina Holmes: Yeah.

Anthony Denman: And we get a lot of developers that try and hurry us along by choosing wire frames that might not have all the detail in it, thinking that they can speed up the process. So, I guess my question to you is, how do you get, if-

Georgina Holmes: Can you speak to my clients for me?

Anthony Denman: … the market’s not red hot, how do you get them to take a deep breath, really reconsider things and, if warranted, spend a bit more money?

Georgina Holmes: Spend the money, yeah. No, I think I completely agree with you. We’ve seen the last two years, I would say, it changed so much in terms of if we’re looking at it from a multi-res development situation where the market was hot and everybody wanted it, everybody wanted everything done yesterday. Whereas I think now, and I think what’s happened of late, is that people are seeing quality.

Georgina Holmes: I think that’s where your brand works. I think it’s where ours come in, is people are looking to align themselves and associate themselves, developers especially, with companies that have the quality, the excellence behind them, the awards that have been won, that type of thing. And I think that that then stands us in good stead to be able to push out, push a little bit harder back on the deadlines that are given and also the quality. I mean, how many CGIs are you going to put into a development? I mean, we can talk about that and what our views are, and we will always advise our clients correctly.

Georgina Holmes: But you do need to spend a bit more money to get the end result. We’re all in the same boat. We all want the same result. We all want it to look perfect and want to put our names on something that is beautiful in the end. But I think that right now what’s happening is, as the market has slowed a little bit, obviously it’s picking up again now, but we’ve had recent developments whereby clients would have potentially not looked at CGIs because they could just sell from plan, or they would have not done a display suite because everything would have sold off-plan.

Georgina Holmes: Whereas now there’s a little bit more consideration, and it might just be, “Okay. Well, the CGIs weren’t good enough. Let’s maybe look at reissuing them,” which we’ve done recently. And let’s look at refurnishing them properly, looking at different angles, looking at different design work that’s in there, picking something that’s interesting, rather than it just being the same type of furniture that’s put into every CGI, that type of thing.

Georgina Holmes: And then also how many CGI developers are working with upping that? Just to make a point of difference in the market. Like I said before, when I started this off was, clients are becoming so savvy with what’s on the market. I had a client recently that bought on a development that we had worked on, and it’s finished, and they’re about to move in, and she said that it was between five different developments when she was buying. And she’s been back and seen every single one of those developments, even though she’s bought on hers and she’s happy with it, she went back to see-

Anthony Denman: Wow.

Georgina Holmes: … who was offering what. And she went through and did the tick list of whether there was the right materiality, the door frames were as shown in the CGIs, that type of thing.

Anthony Denman: Really? Wow.

Georgina Holmes: So, I think that that is an indication for us to educate developers as partners that work with them, to be able to say, “Look, this is happening. I’m speaking to those clients. I know what they’re doing. I know what they expect from a development. And so, let’s get it right at the beginning.”

Anthony Denman: So, she literally went back to the five projects after they’d-

Georgina Holmes: Built.

Anthony Denman: … been built?

Georgina Holmes: Yep.

Anthony Denman: And compared the marketing-

Georgina Holmes: Yeah.

Anthony Denman: Wow. How did they stack up?

Georgina Holmes: Some did, some didn’t.

Anthony Denman: Right.

Georgina Holmes: So, it was an interesting exercise to hear back from her-

Anthony Denman: Totally.

Georgina Holmes: … of what had been done.

Anthony Denman: Yeah, because that’s really unique. As marketers, we don’t get that opportunity. It’s pretty rare. Well, we don’t really get to talk to a focus group or something. We don’t really get to talk to the purchasers at that level, and also to really understand how they’re feeling, yeah, as you would after the thing’s been built and they move in, right?

Georgina Holmes: Yeah, and I think that’s what it comes down to, what we’ve been working on together where you have these discussions at the beginning where everyone’s involved, and you do have the real estate agent involved, the project marketer involved. You have the developer around the table. You have your team around the table, and you have other CGI stylists around the table, because we have the experience now from going through a full project and having the feedback of that purchaser and their expectations, to be able to put that in right at the beginning, and be able to say, “If you’re going to offer that, if you’re going to put it in the CGI, then let’s deliver on that or let’s inform them.”

Georgina Holmes: It’s for the project marketer to be able to inform the client what they can have as an upgrade or not. We’re still offering it, it’s still there as part of the package, it’s part of the design that we’ve put in, but let’s make sure that everybody’s involved and informed so that the message to the client is the right at the end. So, I think that’s been really interesting over the last year to 18 months that we’ve seen as a pattern.

Anthony Denman: Totally. Do you talk or do you either internally or externally through those conversations, or just with your own peers? I mean, have you been able to establish that there’s a genuine amount of equity in the Coco Republic brand through the marketing process? Like buyers, do they get more confidence because the Coco Republic brand’s involved?

Georgina Holmes: Yeah. I do, I think that it can work on either end really, whether we’re involved right at the beginning with the full interior design. I think that a client will know that we work with the boutique developers on that, and that there is a name that they know, that they recognize, that they trust, that they can come back into and see. But it is not known that we do a lot of that work.

Anthony Denman: No, no.

Georgina Holmes: So, it’s something that we’re starting to do a lot more of, and we’re investing a lot more sort of marketing into. But it usually is a referral base. We have repeat developers that will come back and use us for another project, and that’s how we like to work. But from a client perspective and what we offer developers is that hand-holding process, is that the clients have a lot of questions, and if we’re onboard at the beginning, and we’ve been in part of the meetings with the architect, and we’ve been involved with the CGIs, then we can answer a lot of those questions for the clients at the beginning-

Anthony Denman: Wow, that’s such a-

Georgina Holmes: … which is such an added value.

Anthony Denman: Totally, right.

Georgina Holmes: Because it might be things that obviously the real estate agent or the project marketer is armed with that information. But it might be, I don’t know, the top five clients at that project, or only five clients of that project, want to buy through Coco Republic in terms of refurnishing their home. But if we can assist in answering some of their questions, putting their mind at ease, being able to ensure that the materiality that’s been put into that development is top-end, even help with upgrades.

Georgina Holmes: Sometimes, if we’ve worked on the development with the developer, we will sit with the client and say, “Well, what is their needs?” It’s all very well about having real stone surfaces, but have they got four grandkids that are going to come over and eat spaghetti bolognese on them? Is it better to do a constitute stone? We’ll go through those questions and experiences with the client so that the developer doesn’t have to do that. And then we can furnish them, and then the project marketer can do what they need to do.

Anthony Denman: Well, what’s the difference between styling a finished home and styling a CGI? Spatially, right?

Georgina Holmes: Yeah, it’s completely different. So, what we tend to do with the CGI is, if we’re doing a sales suite, or a display suite, or something like that, and we’ve had it before where a client’s actually wanted to buy everything that was in the CGI, which was fantastic, so again, just like the CGIs, we’ve got to be mindful about what we’re putting in and what’s available, so that we’re not misleading clients there.

Georgina Holmes: It’s completely different because you have to think about your spacial awareness. Obviously, if you’re going to walk through a space then you don’t want it to be too full. You don’t want it to be too cluttered. There might be certain things that you will have on the walls that potentially you would do more interesting pieces if you were doing a CGI. You wouldn’t have a mirror, for example, because you might have a reflection in it that you don’t want to see. Whereas, in a CGI, sorry, you can manipulate that.

Georgina Holmes: So, yeah, completely different. I think with the CGI as well you can pick your angles, so it’s really nice to work on the wire frames to see what the best angle shot is. And it’s actually a consideration when you’re walking through a property, and you’re styling it for a display, it is all about making the space bigger. Is it fit for purpose? If you’re doing a three-bedroom apartment display, and you’ve only got a two seater sofa and an occasional chair, there’s not enough seats for if you’ve got a houseful. So, there’s things like that you have to consider with a display, that when you’re doing the CGI you’re not showcasing it as a three-bed apartment. You’re showcasing it as a living room. So, it’s a completely different styling.

Anthony Denman: So, you don’t have to follow a logical floor plan per se, right?

Georgina Holmes: I mean, we try to, but it’s all about the angle, which is why the wire frames are so important, to have that upfront, so that we can see what the client’s going to see, and then furnish that appropriately. You’ve also got to be considerate to the other partners that you’re working with. An architect wants to see their mark on it, wants to see where the window treatments are, the curves of the building, the architrave, that type of thing. You’ve got the developer that might want to see something else. We’ve got the views. We’ve got the branding. There’s so many different parties in it that want a piece of that CGI, that you can’t just then make the furniture the front focus.

Anthony Denman: So, how do you deal with that, all of those conflicting things?

Georgina Holmes: Well, look, I think having everyone onboard at the start, I think that’s key. If you engage a branding, a marketing agency, and CGI rendering company, and ourselves, at the same time then there isn’t any egos. Like I said, we work really well with architects, and we’re not an architectural firm. So, they’re a strong string to our bow when we work with them. So, we will always make sure that they have a voice in the CGIs in terms of what they want to see, and what their angles are. And, obviously, then having the project marketers involved as well and making sure that they can sell it off of what we’re…

Georgina Holmes: So, I think engaging early is key. It allows us enough time as creatives to get the best results. But I also think that having everyone onboard at the beginning, then everybody’s on the same page, and everybody sort of understands what the other person wants from it, and what added value they can give. A lot of the time people don’t know what CGI styling is and why it’s even required. But if you can take something that has been done without a CGI stylist and then with. And a lot of the times it’s not down to the artists to do the styling. They’re there to do the modeling, to get the angles right, to get the lighting right. There’s so many elements that your artists have to do, the picking what bowl goes on the table-

Anthony Denman: Yeah, that’s right.

Georgina Holmes: … and whether it’s apples or pears that go in it. Obviously, there’s a lot more to that. But whether the chair sits on an angle on the dining room table. Do we capture the top of the dining room table or the leg? What bit do we want to see? They shouldn’t have to think about that. That’s something that we can bring in and get the best result in the end.

Anthony Denman: Yeah. I mean, it’s a tough business. You’re actually right that they’re engineers by trade. So they’re not stylists, and that’s what I think a lot of people don’t understand, is why you have to spend a bit more money to get really good CGIs is because you just don’t need the very best, not just the best engineer, but it’s like somebody who can look at it as though they’re a photographer.

Georgina Holmes: Yeah.

Anthony Denman: That’s a photographer’s eye, right? But then you also need that styling.

Georgina Holmes: You need the layering.

Anthony Denman: And interior designing. Totally. So, yeah, you get a few people involved, and just make it look-

Georgina Holmes: But I also think that it’s been like the teams that we’ve worked with. We’ve been lucky enough to work with great CGI artists. And I think that is huge as well because the communication between what I think something looks like and what you think something looks like, or what my explanation of lighting is and what yours is, it can be a case of getting it right in the first or second time. It could be 20 revisions later. So, the relationship and these existing relationships that mean that when we’ve worked on projects together and then we can relate back and say, “Oh, remember when we did it on this project?” it just makes the process-

Anthony Denman: References.

Georgina Holmes: … for the developer so much easier. Because otherwise their CGI timeframe is blowing out because no one’s on the same page.

Anthony Denman: Yeah.

Georgina Holmes: So early engagement, getting the best team together, allowing as much time as possible. We understand that that obviously-

Anthony Denman: Good references.

Georgina Holmes: Good references. Good reference images. Yeah, and that makes a massive difference.

Anthony Denman: I mean, we talked about projects that you’ve been really proud of and have been very successful. Have you ever worked on anything that kind of pops into your mind that, when I talk about a failure, I mean…

Georgina Holmes: I thought you were going to say that.

Anthony Denman: … didn’t go the way you wanted it to? I mean, but more so from the point of view of like, what did you learn from it, and how could it have been handled differently?

Georgina Holmes: I think we get that. I think everyone’s got those projects.

Anthony Denman: I’ve had a million of them, let me tell you.

Georgina Holmes: I don’t even know where to start. Yeah. I mean, I think one thing that we come up across a lot-

Anthony Denman: Yeah, I was going to say, even if it’s like a common trait.

Georgina Holmes: Yeah. I think-

Anthony Denman: A thing you can spot a mile away that’s going to lead you down to a path of failure.

Georgina Holmes: I think our timeframes, we’ve kind of set a bit of a precedent that we’re really good at doing what we do on a short timeframe, which, obviously, it’s great, but it’s not ideal. So when we’re doing, for example, display suites on building sites and everyone’s in hard hats, and white cards, and sharing a lift with all the trades, and things like that.

Georgina Holmes: We can still do it, we did one last week, we probably do two or three a month still on building sites, but it’s something that we, as a team, have now been really diligent in making sure that all of the team have white cards. Because it’s things like, you turn up at site, and then you find out that the delivery team, or the installation team, don’t have cards to get onsite because it’s still a building site. And then the truck needs to turn around, and then it delays a day. There’s just so many logistic things with that that we’ve had over time. But becoming a lot more organized with that has been something that we’ve learnt. And that mainly has become, like I said, over the last year, because we have been potentially doing a lot more display suites because the market was down. So, we were furnishing a lot more residue stock that, before, would have been sold off-plan.

Anthony Denman: Right.

Georgina Holmes: And so, we had a situation where obviously the build was happening. We were wanting to do fit-out displays, so that real estate agents could then walk through, but you’re turning it around on a three week notice period, back onto a building site. There’s a lot in that.

Anthony Denman: Totally, yes.

Georgina Holmes: All the stylists are in hard hats and hi-vis. But it has been done, and we’ve done them really well. Yeah. I mean timeframe, I think, in our industry as creatives, is key. So, the longer we get, whether that’s for installation, whether that’s for styling, whether that’s for design development, that would be ideal.

Anthony Denman: How do make, I mean like an ordinary space, not something that’s just not… I mean, I’m not even sure if you work on ordinary spaces.

Georgina Holmes: Spaces, yeah.

Anthony Denman: But if you do, I mean, it’s really small compact basic layouts. How do you make those spaces feel luxe? How do you make those spaces feel luxe? Are there any tricks of the trade? Or anything you can sort of recommend that you can do to…

Georgina Holmes: I think that, and again, it does come down to what you’re styling for, are you doing a residential for someone’s home? I think it’s really understanding the client, is key for whatever stylist.

Anthony Denman: Let’s just say it’s-

Georgina Holmes: But even if you’ve got a white canvas, it’s what might look good to you, might not look good to me. So, what are we styling for? And so, I think if you can understand what the client requires, and that might be, for example, a multi-res. And we’re looking at doing a display suite where it is white walls, a nice American Oak floor, but there’s not much interest in the architecture and things like that. In which case then we’ll look at the demographic that we’re trying to appeal to, and then we’ll style for that.

Anthony Denman: What if it’s really varied?

Georgina Holmes: If you’ve got a mix of investors through to downsizers-

Anthony Denman: To first time buyers, to upgraders.

Georgina Holmes: Yeah. I mean, a lot of the time with developers they will usually split that into two. So, you’ll have like a bigger apartment that might be for a downziser market, and then you’ll have your investor and first home buyer, in which case it’s a completely different look. What we tend to do is, and I’m going to be a bit biased here, but I do think we hit on the mark here. We do a lot of layering across the board. So, that kind of answers your question if you’re looking to everyone, is layer it.

Georgina Holmes: So, it needs to feel like home wherever you are. And that is the use of artwork, the use of… Men hate scatters, but scatter cushions, and throws, and the ability to layer coffee tables, and styling, and adding that extra layer that I think a lot of people miss out on. It’s easy to furnish it. It’s easy to say a three seater sofa will fit in this space, but a three seater sofa alone without the styling that goes with it is a completely different look. And that will appeal to all markets.

Georgina Holmes: I think also keeping your colors neutral, if that’s relevant. If you’re doing something industrial it’s completely different as a design as it is if you’re going to do something in Mosman on the water. But keeping it neutral and then applying a range of different metallics to the project just gives it that extra layer of luxe. And you can do that whether you’re looking at a first time buyer sort of design or whether you’re looking at a three-bed penthouse downsizer. Both of those rules apply.

Georgina Holmes: And just the mix of materiality, especially through Coco, that we can offer, is you’ve got the likes of Timothy Oulton, which is one of our international brands that has all the leather luxe look, very British. But you can mix that then with a very Hamptons Coco Republic look with a natural cream sofa, and it works, but it’s not the same as what everyone else is doing. So, I think that is-

Anthony Denman: And that’s the key, right? Because you just need that point of difference.

Georgina Holmes: You need to have the point of difference, and I do think that goes back to the kind of staff that are employed, the people that we’re working with, the types of clients. We talk about extra layer in terms of styling. What about extra layers in terms of customer service? That’s the type of thing. It’s when we speak with developers, and we’re working with the likes of you, and we get referred in a CGI stylist. That is an extra layer that the developer may or may not need, but it adds value.

Georgina Holmes: So when we go in and we do a display suite, and we quote something and they might think that’s a bit expensive, we’re obviously not the cheapest on the market, but we’re certainly not the most expensive. But what we will add is those extra layers of the styling. So, if we can think of it like that, as: what added things can we give to a client? whether that be on furnishing it or from a service perspective, I think that’s key. And especially in this market when there is a lot of competition.

Anthony Denman: Totally key, and also in terms of just liaising with them, right?

Georgina Holmes: Yeah.

Anthony Denman: Especially if you’re a developer who’s going to do more than just one project.

Georgina Holmes: Yeah.

Anthony Denman: And wants to build some equity in their own brand. Having that’s almost like having your own interior design division within-

Georgina Holmes: Well, it’s your name, and it’s your business card to the market. I feel strongly about that in how I represent what we do as a team on the commercial division at Coco Republic, is it’s my name that’s on that job. It’s my phone number and my email that you have and that if we’re not doing this right, and we’re not putting in the right service for that client, they’re not coming back to us for the next project.

Georgina Holmes: And I think a referral or a repeat business is testament to what you’ve done previously. And there’ll be certain things that you’ll have to do, which I know you do and have done, where it’s a case of going above and beyond what has been laid out. But the fact that then the referral business has come through on the backend of that, that’s just testament to both of us working on projects as repeat business all the time. So, there’s certain tricks of the trade that you can do, but I think if your customer service skills, and you can honor that client, and do the best job that you can do, everything else will come out the way you want it.

Anthony Denman: Well said. Just on that note, I’ll say thank you so much for your time today. I really appreciate it.

Georgina Holmes: Thank you.

Anthony Denman: Look, if people want to get in touch, talking about getting in touch and giving phone numbers, and email addresses, and stuff, what’s the best way for them to get in touch with you?

Georgina Holmes: Probably the best way to get in touch with me is via email, which is georginaholmes@cocorepublic.com.au. Alternatively, through the Coco Republic telephone number. It’s on the website.

Anthony Denman: Which is? What’s the website? What’s the URL?

Georgina Holmes: Cocorepublic.com.au.

Anthony Denman: .com.au, excellent.

Georgina Holmes: And there’ll be a number on there. Then we have, yeah, a full service interior design team that will be able to help.

Anthony Denman: Fantastic.

Georgina Holmes: Thank you so much for having me.

Anthony Denman: No worries.

Georgina Holmes: I look forward to seeing you on the next project.

Anthony Denman: Thanks, mate.

Georgina Holmes: Thanks.