Forging a name for herself as one of Australia’s most sought after furniture designers, Rachel Donath is a pillar of the interiors scene. In today’s blog, we take you inside her beautiful Melbourne home, get the lowdown on upcoming interior trends, and chat about her incredible new business, Inventory by Rachel Donath.
1. Hi Rachel! Thank you for letting us in your beautiful home. Let’s start with your incredible business. It feels like you’re a pillar of the interiors scene in Australia, but have actually only recently started your sourced and made furniture and objects business, Inventory by Rachel Donath. Can you tell us what sparked the idea, and why do you think your success has been so immediate and spectacular?
My absolute pleasure and thank you!
Inventory by Rachel Donath was launched in October 2020, after lots of time to think while stuck at home during Melbourne's extended lockdowns. I knew that there was a market, both locally and overseas, for beautiful sculptural furniture, unique pieces that were a bit left of centre. I come from a line of academics & creatives, and have been influenced heavily by homes and collections of family members, all of which are wonderfully eclectic and bold.
I was quickly discovered (within a day!) by a leading Australian Interior designer and antiques dealer who would just about buy me out week after week. Other respected interior designers followed suit and my initial market were exclusively industry based. My client base has now extended to the design savvy but still a large proportion of my customers are some of the best interior designers, architects and stylists from across the globe. I started off by sourcing antique and vintage pieces that caught my eye and struck me as beautiful. The opportunity then came my way to create a small range of inspired pieces which has been hugely successful, with a large take up both in Australia and overseas. Building on this success, I have continued to work with local and global artisans to source and create limited editions of beautiful and sculptural furniture pieces that act as artworks in my eyes, pieces that draw you in, add interest and elicit emotion.
My business has grown very quickly and lots of people assume I have been around for a very long time when in fact I’m only just over a year old! I would say that the reason the business has grown so quickly is because I work very hard and say yes to every good opportunity that comes my way. I’m not afraid of taking measured risks and am quite resilient and headstrong - they say ‘if there’s a will, there’s a way’, and I’ve got one heck of a will!
A combination of offering products people love together with a work ethic built on resilience and a love for design are the foundations of my success today.
2. We are quite openly gushing over so many of your amazing pieces and have been lucky enough to get some for our own homes. How do you go about sourcing such a beautiful edit of pieces?
Back when travel was easy, I was fortunate enough to visit some of the best antique and flea markets in France, Italy and Morocco amongst others. I have kept these contacts and now have great working relationships with some of the best antique vendors the world over.
The Collection pieces are made by local and global artisans. I do my best to support the local creative industry and have all of my upholstery, stone and small decorative collection pieces made by local artisans who I adore and work very closely with. Other pieces of mine are sourced and hand made across continents, where I am lucky enough to be able to support global artisans too.
3. Do you find it hard to part with some of the one off items you source? What’s been your favourite piece you’ve found?
YES! I remember once composing an email to a customer to ask for something back, I was happy to pay double what she bought it from me for! In the end I never pressed ‘send’, but the sentiment was there. With limited and one off pieces, I know that I will very likely never see a piece twice, so these works are very, very special.
While there are so many pieces that I wish I kept, one piece that I succumbed to is a 300 year old 18th Century French Verdure tapestry from Aubusson. I had an offer on it from a keen purchaser but I just knew that I would regret it forever if I let this piece go. It now hangs at the entrance of our home and fills me with happiness every time I pass it.
4. In addition to your amazing business, you're a mum of four!!! What advice do you have for other parents who are wanting to start their own business but are unsure how to manage the juggle?
The advice I would give to other parents wanting to start a business is: just dive in and figure it out as you go. I don’t think there’s any logical way to manage being a mum and a business owner, it's a constant see-saw of priorities. I have lots of parents say to me ‘iI’l wait until my child is at school’ or ‘I’ll wait until I have XYZ under control’ to start a business. I don’t know that this is the right approach at all. There is never a perfect time to start a business, just like there is never a perfect time to have a child. Now is as good as ever.
In terms of managing the juggle, I outsource where I can and am ok with less than perfect. My house is not always tidy and my kids sometimes go to school in the wrong uniform or without their musical instrument, but this is just part of being a real human in a real world. I am so proud to be able to show my kids what it takes to start from the bottom and to achieve what I have. I love that my sons and my daughter see first hand the work ethic that leads to success, they see the highs and lows and most importantly, they see me get up each time and work harder to achieve success. This is a legacy that I am so proud to create for my children to watch and learn from.
I hope they’ll forgive the pasta and cheese for dinner one too many times a week and will forgive me for forgetting that school finishes at 2 instead of 3 on that Friday last year. I hope that they’ll see that I built a strong business single handedly and will learn the important values and lessons that come with watching your mother do what she loves and the success that comes from combining passion with hard work.
5. Let’s turn to your incredible home. The space has that perfect balance of being a beautiful edit of amazing pieces, but is also so homely. It’s a hard balance to strike! How would you describe your own style?
Thank you so much. My home is my sanctuary and the most precious place in the world to me. I don’t really prescribe to a set style but rather collect what I love. When I’m decorating my own living spaces, I’m very aware of both the intended use of the space and also very much interested in the type of feeling I want to create. For example, in the living areas of my home, I want to create a feeling of calm but to still feel energised and inspired by beautiful detail. I have achieved this by keeping to a muted palette, a focus on natural materials like stone, leather, timber and lots of beautiful layered lighting to create mood and intention. Upstairs is the kids zone where I spend a lot of time, and the tone there is much more exciting and fun, with bold artworks, fun sculptural pieces and lots of colour. I adore colour but feel heightened by it and so I prefer to not live and rest amongst colour but rather visit it or work in spaces that are exciting and energetic.
A house is a home when it is a representation of you. I crave art and interest, a journey for my eyes and heart. Every piece in my home has been slowly collected as I find pieces that make me happy.
6. What is your favourite space in the house?
This is a hard one but I would have to say my daughters room. I am slowly putting it together and every piece in that room sparks joy in me but this isn’t the reason that I love her room so much. After a very personal and difficult fertility journey, having my daughter was such a blessing. I sat in her room long before she was born dreaming and wishing her into existence. She is nearly 3 years old now and the gratitude I feel for her today is just as strong as the day I found out I was pregnant with her or the day she was born. There is so much symbolism in the process I went through to have her that lies int the bones of her bedroom and sitting in that room is a meditation for me in enormous gratitude, happiness and love.
7. What is your favourite piece in the house?
Oooh this is so hard! I don’t bring anything into my home that I don’t absolutely love so this is a very tricky one. I’d have to say that the pieces in my home that form part of my collection are the most special to me. The Wave Fire Screen, The Grace Dining Chairs and the The Safari Chairs are pieces that I will have forever.
8. What trends are you seeing in interiors at the moment that you’ve already incorporated into your own home or are excited to add?
The interiors that I follow and am interested in and inspired by, are bold interiors, not maximalist (although I do have an appreciation for maximalism!), but rather unique pieces that are surprising in some ways, for example an uncommon mix of materials. I am seeing stainless steel used in kitchens for cabinetry and in accent pieces in fabulous homes across the world and I’m into it! Rather than seeing it as ‘industrial’ or cold, I see stainless steel or the use of chrome and brushed metals as another layer of depth and interest and think it works fabulously along side other strong materials like stone and leather. My new collection includes a brushed steel coffee table and a writing desk made of brushed steel with a Viola marble insert. These are pieces that I’m very excited to bring home and incorporate in my personal decor.
9. What’s your favourite item from Kip&Co right now?
I am such a fan of bold, beautiful serving ware and for this reason, I am absolutely obsessed with the Kip&Co Enamelware range. These pieces are fun and look fabulous on a table, adding interest to the table scape. I also love that they are made of durable and versatile enamel. When entertaining, I never want to be too precious about pieces dropping or breaking and so it's lovely to have a beautiful set of dishes and serving ware that my family and dinner guests can relax around.
New Enamelware coming soon
10. What's next for you?
There is so much exciting activity in the pipeline as the business continues to grow. We’ve got new stockists overseas and in Australia who will be showcasing our pieces in their retail stores across the globe, creating better accessibility to the brand and an opportunity to sit in our chairs, to touch and feel the range - to really experience these pieces. Our collection is growing with new pieces being introduced through the year and now with travel opening up, the opportunities to source antiques has blown open. You can expect to see some spectacular pieces join our inventory as we remain committed to our purpose, to create accessibility to fabulous design.