A Moment With | Shelley Mason
Shelley Mason delved into many professions before she found her true calling. Today, she owns and runs Project 82, a furniture company which has developed from a traditional furniture retailer to a brand in its own right, where local designers and manufacturers come together to mould the company's design aesthetic, producing two of the company's very own collections - Staple & Co and Design Kiosk. The focus at Project 82 is simplicity and outstanding craftsmanship, something that Shelley is extremely passionate about. Here, we catch up with Shelley to talk about her design journey, the power of simplicity and why she needs to be creative every single day.
Hi Shelley, tell us a about the journey to where you are today? Back in 2010, how the business started was very much an experiment at the time - I started out as a traditional retailer selling furniture, lighting and smaller accessories, but very quickly found opportunities to provide design advice and furniture packages to clients who needed help curating their homes and workplaces. Over the years, we’ve provided a range of design-related services, but eventually landed in the world of sofas. More recently, I’ve evolved the business into something much more ambitious - I've been commissioning local designers and manufacturers to produce sofas for about five years now, and around 18 months ago, I took the leap away from the traditional retail model and evolved Project 82 into a brand in its own right.
Have you always worked in the creative industry? In my very early career - I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do with myself! Throughout my twenties and most of my thirties I tried loads of different things - hospitality, sales, admin, PR, Marketing and home renovation. Prior to Project 82, I had business designing and producing children's bed linen – called Kideko. Before then, I lived in London renovating properties and working in PR. It wasn’t until I started my business back in 2010 that I really felt at home with what I was doing. I knew that I loved working with people and being surrounded by a lots of action and activity.
When designing your own pieces for Project 82, what’s the one design element which you always return to? I’m a big fan of keeping it simple. All or our designs offer clean and minimal lines, with no unnecessary detailing. This keeps things quite streamlined and timeless with a lot less risk of them dating – which for me is smart design.
What does good design mean to you? The best design focuses on the very tiny details that most people don’t even see. This is relevant to all forms of design and not just furniture. Take professional typesetting for instance, I have a reasonably good eye for what looks right on paper, but ask me to lay something out on the page and I have absolutely no idea where to start. It’s the tiny little details that show up like a dogs breakfast if missed, but a good typesetter makes it look so easy.
What do you love most about your job? I’m so grateful to come to work each day - there is so much to love about it! The flexibility that being the boss brings; getting to be creative every day, being surrounded by beautiful things, the opportunities to meet so many lovely people, and working alongside an amazingly committed, talented and dedicated team.
Are you a methodical worker or more impulsive? Impulsive, definitely. Like most business owners, I’m pretty comfortable with taking risks and giving new thing a go - which keeps me and the team on our toes. I tend to act quite quickly when a new idea strikes, which can be a little stressful for those around me - but this has really kept the business evolving over the years. In hindsight, I could have done things differently at many stages.
How do you challenge yourself? Right now, the biggest challenge in my life is juggling a businesses with motherhood and family. I have an 11 year old who started high-school this year and I now have an almost 2 year old added into the mix too. Add Sugar our Labrador into the equation, and we end up with a pretty hectic home life. This, combined with running the business leaves very little time for anything much else, however if I did have a little more time to myself I’d love to delve more into yoga, which is something I’ve been a big fan of for many years. If I had unlimited time I would do the teacher training – probably not in order to become a yoga teacher, just as a personal challenge for myself.
Do you feel more comfortable working alone or part of a team? I’ve always preferred a small team environment and I recognise that trying to do everything yourself is very restrictive to the growth of business. I’m more of an extrovert and can’t do too much time on my own - it drives me a little bonkers. Work for me should be fun and its pretty important that each day is a good mix of getting on with it & interaction – with staff, suppliers and our clients.
I’ve only been in the position to have this in place for the past 18 months or so since expanding the operation beyond Surry Hills and we’ve come such a long way since that point.
What are you looking forward to in 2018? This year is all about increasing our curated collection Design Kiosk. We’ve come such a long way in the past 2 years rounding out the collection of locally produced and customisable sofas, but the collection has been lacking in smaller items with a broader appeal for us to market and promote throughout the year. We’ve already launched a few really great new pieces in the past couple of months that give a hint about where we’re headed. There will be lots more to come along this line throughout the year and beyond. We’re also working on a new sofa with CM Studios which is to be launched in the later half of the year.
I usually wake up at: 6-6.30 am.
My perfect day would involve: Cooking a feast to share at home for good friends.
I am inspired by: Coming to work each day.
Best advice I’ve ever received: Less is always more.
I couldn’t live without: A great cup of coffee in the morning. I can’t function without it!
My favourite daily ritual: Cuddles with my kids when I get home after work each day.
I recently discovered: The holiday destination Palm Cove. It’s such a great spot - super-tropical but still within Australia.
On my wish-list: A pair of leather pointed toe flats from Bassike - made from the most beautifully soft leather.
I’m currently reading: In order to Live by Yeonmi Park.
And listening to: Ghost Poet Dark Days and Canapes.
My guilty pleasure: A glass of wine each evening.
My mantra is: Don’t sweat the small stuff.