August 1, 2016
The Child Inside
When mother-of-two Belinda Kurtz decided to back herself in a creative career change, she had no idea that her small idea was about to become bigger than Ben 10. Tayla Arthur sits down with the mastermind behind Petite Interior Co. to find out how it snowballed into an international success story.
“This is where the magic happens,” laughs Belinda Kurtz, signalling to the end of the hallway.
I find myself standing in one of her daughters’ rooms, in what is the current headquarters for the now internationally-successful business Petite Interior Co. – the Kurtz family home.
I recognise the room immediately, as would any one of her 141,000 Instagram followers or nearly 37,000 Facebook ‘likers’, since it makes a regular appearance on her social media accounts. But that doesn’t stop me from feeling impressed and quite frankly, a little jealous of five-year-old Holly, who gets to inhabit this incredibly beautiful and fun room.
“Interiors is really only something I picked up once I had my girls,” explains Belinda.
“I was in corporate human resources for the Brisbane City Council before going on maternity leave, but when I wanted to dip my toes back into the workforce we had moved to the Sunshine Coast and I didn’t see a lot of options available for part-time employment. So I decided to find an outlet where I could indulge my creative side.”
While in the past she’d satisfied her creativity through smaller projects like painting, sewing and refurbishing tired furniture, this time around Belinda opted to give her daughters’ rooms a makeover, discovering a gift for interior design in the process.
“I liked the idea of the fun and whimsical style I could use for children’s rooms. I do residential and commercial interiors now as well, but starting with kids’ designs allowed me to be as creative as I possibly could be,” she explains.
“I’d created a pretty nice room, where the mix of vintage and modern style I used, seemed to align. But I was really struggling to find the things that I wanted, and that’s when the idea for Petite Interior Co. (formerly Petite Vintage Interiors) came about.
“I had something to offer in this space and decided to see how it would go, but it’s just gone crazy from there,” Belinda laughs, as if she can’t quite believe it herself.
‘Crazy’ is certainly an apt description of her seemingly overnight success; despite only launching in April of 2013, Petite Vintage Interiors has already had one project featured as one of House & Garden’s Top 50 rooms for 2014 and another shared to 1.4 million followers on Instagram by global children’s clothing giant, Kardashian Kids.
“My highlight has definitely been having that House & Garden accolade,” say Belinda.
“It was the very first project I had ever done,” she shakes her head in disbelief and smiles at the memory.
“I was terrified. I’d worked online with clients but I hadn’t done a full beginning-to-end interior, other than my own children’s rooms before that, so to get appreciation at that level for that project just … I felt unstoppable after that.”
After cultivating a mass following on social media by starting small and initially charging low prices for her styling services, in exchange for online promotion, Belinda now heads the world’s largest children’s interior design studio, with clients seeking her services from as far afield as the United States, United Kingdom, South America and even the Middle East.
“I do most of my work with overseas clients through our e-design service, but I’ve been flown to Saudi Arabia to work on a huge, nine-by-nine metre kids’ playroom and have worked for the royal family in Abu Dhabi,” says Belinda.
“Everyone’s looking to Australia for kids’ interiors – it’s quite incredible. We’re creating some of the most on-trend, cool things for kids here.”
BELINDA’S TOP TIPS FOR DECORATING CHILDREN’S BEDROOMS
– Scandinavian styling is big right now, so stick with neutral and sophisticated pieces for the room’s base, but keep it playful and lighthearted with fun artwork, cushions, throws and other items that can be easily swapped out.
– Don’t take it too seriously – remember it’s a kids’ room that needs to be fun and functional.
– Steer clear of being too matchy-matchy, as this can make a room seem one dimensional.
– Let your child have some of their most treasured items on display, as it makes it more personalised. If you can’t tuck it away, make a feature out of it.
Belinda tells me of one happy client overseas, who is looking to expand Belinda’s brand even further with a store selling items based on her room designs.
“Why do you think I look so tired?!” she laughs.
With such a huge amount of growth, Belinda has understandably had to surround herself with a supportive team, and now has an assistant and four talented graphic and interior designers from around the country behind her.
Her husband, Dean, is also set to join her.
“Dean has always been my biggest fan, and the biggest sense of achievement I have is that this little side business has grown to become our family business now,” says Belinda.
“I never had provisions put in place for this growth. We’ve taken on every opportunity as it’s come in and just ran with it, and I’ve grown as a businesswoman along with it.
“I could never have dreamt that Petite Interior Co. would become what it is today. People say to me, ‘You don’t really sound that excited about it’. But I am – I just can’t quite get my head around it. It’s been a rollercoaster and I pinch myself often.”
The ride’s been far from easy though.
“When you’re trying to break into an industry, social media is a double-edged sword. I didn’t expect to face so much adversity in those early months. Competitors were telling suppliers not to talk to me. Then just managing the juggle between having a young family and a thriving business with a huge social media base and feeling like you’re doing both well was so hard. I don’t think anyone’s lives are really balanced when they have their own business,” Belinda says.
“I’m very lucky that my support network knows that this is where my focus needs to be. My husband, my friends and my family are all very respectful and they don’t give me a hard time if they don’t see me for a while; they just know I’ve been busy.”
With an expansion on the cards and so many aspects to her business – from physical interior design installations and 3D e-design services, to social media promotion for suppliers and of course her own business – Belinda is only going to get busier. But with such a fierce passion for everything she does, whether she’s hard at work or relaxing with Dean and daughters Holly and Asher, she’ll always be at home.