Beachside abodes to cosy chalets off the beaten path, Australia’s holiday home business is booming. And when done right, holiday homes can attract a lot of attention, not just with holiday-goers, but also among influencers and creatives who are always on the lookout for gorgeous backdrops to their glamorous photo shoots.
Simone Mathews, interior designer and the creator of SOUL of Gerringong and SOUL Home (an online destination for holiday property owners to learn and connect), made waves when she launched SOUL of Gerringong on the South Coast of NSW. Using the power of Instagram, the story and style of the farmhouse, cottage and cabana unfolded before our eyes. Instagram was hooked. So much so, that after four weeks of opening their doors, SOUL of Gerringong sold out 12-months in advance.
Keen to know her tricks of the trade? We caught up with Simone to get her insider tips on how to make a holiday home an Instagram sensation.
What is it about SOUL of Gerringong that attracted so many Instagram followers?
It’s 100 per cent the feeling of SOUL of Gerringong – it’s what I call the holiday feeling, ‘when you take a deep breath out, your shoulders relax, and you feel lighter’. People connect with this. And the styling is how we achieved it – fresh, uplifting, and a relaxed vibe. So, the farmhouse has a classic/coastal style, the barn is rustic/boho, and the cabana is plantation-meets-contemporary-Australian.
How much of SOUL’s success can be credited to Instagram?
Huge, unmeasurable! I used Instagram to tell a story, and that’s been done through the styling. My followers aren’t just looking at SOUL of Gerringong as a holiday property. They’re looking at the story of how we transformed the original farmhouse into a place where you come to escape the hustle of everyday life. And not just physically coming and staying, but coming to our Instagram page to escape.
Through the styling, people are connecting with this. I want my followers to be able to take a piece of SOUL with them. That’s why you’ll always find me sharing items, and where to get them from – from cushions to coffee tables to the ceramic cups.
Do you ever style with social media in mind?
I wouldn’t say that I specifically style with social media in mind. However, I do always create nooks or features that I know will grab people’s attention. For example, in our farmhouse laundry, I used a feel-good print of a girl fist-pumping and teamed it with some greenery to give it a quirky update.
I also think about how it can be captured in photography. When you’re styling a bedroom for example, take a photo and see how it looks through the lens.
Do you use the same styling tips for your home?
The basics are the same no matter what the property is, i.e. you need to work within the proportions of your space, it needs to work for the people who are going to be residing there, and the styling needs to have personality. However, there are some differences.
When it comes to my own home, I style to what speaks to my family. For example, my go-to is palm trees. From real palms in a feature pot to my favourite plaque from Ahoy Trader, there are always a few in every room. Storage is also a huge consideration. I have four boys, so I incorporate practicalities such as toy boxes – my go-to is Dharma Door jute baskets that provide storage but also look stylish.
For holiday properties, I say break the rules and have some fun! It could be mixing colours that should never be seen together (blue and green), or having a contemporary piece with an antique or street-side find. And mix your styles. When you think things shouldn’t work, they will!
Tip: From a practical side, only style with pieces that you can afford to replace. Breakages are part of owning a holiday property, hence if you can’t bear to part with it don’t use it. Save it for your own home.
When it comes to styling, what should every home have?
Personality. The key to styling is to create your own unique feel. You can use my 70/20/10 rule to achieve this; 70 per cent of one style, 20 per cent of another, and a final 10 per cent layer. And if you don’t know what your style is, make it up! If your styling looks generic, or it’s been done before, it’s not going to grab people’s attention, nor yours.
When it comes to actual products, to me every home should have linen. It’s such a gorgeous material and adds so much texture to a space. I love linen bedding from Cultiver, you’ll always find it in my properties.
Tip: you can use a linen flat sheet as a throw on the end of a bed. It looks great, adds the layer to your bed and it’s practical as it can be laundered.
What type of styling makes you cringe?
When it’s too much and not practical. To me, the purpose of styling is creating the lifestyle of the property and making people want to be in a space. When the styling is too cluttered or should I say, too staged, you don’t want to be there.
Another styling faux-pas is when it might look amazing, but it’s just not practical. Think about it; you don’t want to spend 20 minutes a day arranging cushions or sit down to a table centrepiece that’s so big you can’t see anyone you’re sitting with.
Tip: style your space and then take something away.
Your favourite room to style?
The entrance! This space is often is overlooked, and it needs to have full attention. As the saying goes, first impressions count. You want your guests to feel that holiday feeling from the moment they arrive.
Think about the door knocker on the exterior; my fave is the anchor from Society Inc (it has become iconic with my properties). If space permits, add a bench seat with a couple of exterior cushions and a pot that contrasts to the exterior colour.
When you walk in, a leaner mirror or a round mirror works great to grab attention. Add some wall hooks and style with what is appropriate for your property, i.e. if you have a beach house add a sun hat and a beach towel with a shell hanging, or if your property is in a colder climate add a scarf, umbrella and a jute bag.
5 WAYS TO ACHIEVE INSTA-SUCCESS
1. Be unique
Be inspired by others but don’t replicate it. Use the 70/20/10 rule to create your individual style, and you will attract followers in droves.
2. Tell a story
Use your styling to tell a story to your Instagram audience. Don’t just use styling to make a space look good; use it to make your followers feel the space.
3. Create focal points
Every property should have hero pieces that will become focal points. These will become iconic with your property, and you will find your pics popping up all over Instagram and the net (remember to credit and tag the photographer).
4. Be authentic
Style to make your property look and feel Insta-success, but don’t put out anything that isn’t real or authentic. You might want to style up a storm for that perfect shot, but remember, you have now set your followers expectations. Anything you put out on Instagram needs to be what guests will find when they come to stay.
5. Have some fun
We go on holiday to relax and have fun, and that’s what you need to do with your styling. Break the rules, mix it up and style to leave your followers and guests feeling good! They will come back for more and more.