Meet Monica Werner, the designer behind the eponymous textile and homeware brand that is based out of idyllic Noosa, Australia

SINGAPORE (Dec 18): It is all well and good to have a spacious, beautifully designed home, but the difference, darlings, is always in the details. One way to keep your home decor scheme looking fresh and inviting is with pops of colour and texture. The easiest options? Arrange fresh-cut flowers or scatter bright, well-designed cushions all around the living room.

One great name to consider is Monica Werner, a textile and homeware designer who is based in Noosa, Australia. Although her portfolio includes screen-printed linen tea towels, napkins and aprons, we can’t get enough of Werner’s beautiful and durable cushions, all done up in high-quality European fabrics and natural fibres such as linen and cotton.

Options: What triggered this desire to design and create, considering your previous career as a product analyst?

Werner: I have always been creative and had wanted to study interior design at university. However, my father discouraged me as he was of the opinion that interior design, in his own words, was “an occupation for bored housewives”. So, I ended up doing a business degree instead.

In a way, it’s ironic that I’ve come full circle and ended up in the world of design and interiors after all. I think the turning point came when my daughter was born and I had to take time off work. The break away from my office job gave me time to create while having a child made me reassess my priorities. I’ve since met many women who’ve had career changes and started their own businesses after becoming mothers.

 Was it hard to make the change from product analyst to designer, though?

Even as an analyst, I tended to gravitate towards the textile industry. My first analyst job was with a large clothing company in the UK and then I worked for Sheridan Australia, which is famous for bedlinen and towels. And my skills came in useful when I started my business. The biggest transition from being employed to working for myself was, perhaps, having the courage to do so. It takes self-belief and discipline and it always seems impossible until you are actually doing it.

 It’s been six years since Monica Werner Designs was launched. How has the ride been?

Bumpy but fun! I have learnt a lot, both about myself and about running a business — its cycles, cash flow... the key thing is to enjoy what you do. My best memories have been meeting the most amazing people; many of my customers have become good friends. And since starting this business, I’ve been invited to some spectacular homes.

Australian quality, design and craftsmanship are three key pillars of your brand. What, in your opinion, are the key factors that set it apart?

All of the above-mentioned are very important but, at the end of the day, I have discovered that it all actually comes down to customer service. Attention to detail, integrity and personal service are what sets me apart and every customer is important to me. I treat people with respect and listen to them. My entire outdoor collection came about as a result of customer feedback.

We spend a lot of time outdoors in Australia and yet the availability of beautiful, good-quality outdoor cushions was very limited when I took my products to market. My customers kept asking if they could put the cushions outside, so I sourced special outdoor fabric and launched the outdoor range, which then took my business to an entirely new level. Meeting customer needs is classic textbook 1:1 marketing, yet many businesses fail to do it. So, listen to your customers, people!

What lies ahead for the brand?

I think Monica Werner is about to reinvent herself. I do think everyone and everything should be reinvented every five to six years. You have to move forward and keep things fresh while constantly surprising and challenging yourself.

What inspires your designs?

I have piles of interior magazines that I buy all the time or whenever I travel. I like to see how people around the world live and furnish their homes and I am good at interpreting trends. I do try and cater for different styles, but I never buy any fabric unless I really love it and would have it in my own home. Travel is also a great source of inspiration, as are hotels and the beach. I walk my dog on the beach most mornings and do some good thinking there. Beauty inspires me — beautiful homes, beautiful (I mean, kind) people, beauty in nature. Inspiration is everywhere, if we care to look.

What is your own home like?

It’s almost always a building site. To my great frustration, we are always renovating and when it’s finished, we move. The house we are working on at the moment is a beach house — in a gorgeous grey colour palette. Our outdoor furniture is in pale grey, to which I’ve added Tommy Bahama Leaf cushions and potted plants to tie the garden to this area. Everyone loves my kitchen, which has French grey cabinets, oak bench tops, a big white ceramic butler’s sink and white subway-tiled walls. In the living room, I’m particularly partial to a comfortable duck-down sofa upholstered in luxurious thick white linen. It makes any of my cushions look amazing!

You are based in Noosa now. Where were you before and what was life like then?

I was born in Poland, grew up in Sweden and went to university in London. After graduating, I lived and worked in Bali for 2½ years. While in my 20s, I backpacked through India, Southeast Asia, Australia, New Zealand and South America. My husband is Welsh and we lived in Wales for a couple of years before deciding to come to Australia in 2003, so I guess I’m a hybrid of many cultures. We initially settled in Sydney, where we lived for seven years until my husband gave up his career to become a carpenter, which brought us to beautiful Noosa.

You describe yourself as a serial renovator, keen world traveller and passionate cook.

I’m in the middle of a major bathroom renovation as I write. My husband and I have always been renovating apartments and houses, which not only provides us with extra income but is really satisfying in itself — taking something ugly, tired and broken, fixing it up and making it beautiful. My husband is in charge of construction and all the power tools while I do layout, interiors and sourcing. We must be the only couple who bond over flat-pack furniture!

Food is another passion, as both my grandmothers were excellent cooks, with the kitchen always the heart of the house. I run my home in a similar fashion. If you come, I will feed you. Enjoying good food with friends and family is something I really value. I cook every day and often have friends over. One day, I will live in a house with a huge kitchen and walk-in pantry. That’s the dream.


Diana Khoo is editor of the Options desk at The Edge Malaysia