Lucy Fenton perhaps needs no introduction. The powerhouse behind one of Australia’s leading interiors stores, Fenton and Fenton, Lucy’s colourful vision is brought to life in the most divine and inspiring row houses in Melbourne’s Prahran. Eclectic, colourful and bold she brings together incredible contemporary art, sculpture, design products and her own range of soft furnishings and furniture as only she can.
Mum to two gorgeous kids, Lucy works with her husband Josh (aka Mr Fenton) and leads a team of incredible designers and retail staff.
No matter how hectic and nuts things are around her, she seems to always have time for a chat and loud laugh. We asked Lucy to give us the run down on being a working mum and she sweetly said yes! Thanks Lucy!
Our #fangirl crush is real.
You wear many hats – product designer, interior decorator, boss lady, mama…what do you do?
I literally do a bit of everything.
What I have realised is that when you own a business you really must be prepared to do anything and everything. At the moment I oversee the day-to-day operations of the business and look after the buying.
I get pulled from one area to the other depending where the most pressing need is at the time, but I’m always juggling multiple priorities, which can be challenging & overwhelming at times. Unfortunately, my Mum hat is often pushed to the side, but my kids & I are lucky to have Mr Fenton holding that side of our life together when other things get in the way!
Rewinding the clock…I read that Fenton & Fenton came about over a beer while you were in India. Take us back to those early days of F&F – what was it like? Do you still drink beer?
Yes!!! I absolutely still drink beer – some things never change!!! Back in the early days things in many ways were a lot simpler. I travelled more and would hunt about markets and factories overseas & locally. We sold more one-off pieces, so it was a full-time job hunting for treasures and bringing them home to sell. I also spent a lot more time in the store on the shop floor which I absolutely loved (and really miss). The team was smaller, so it was easier to be across everything. However, it also meant you had to do absolutely everything yourself. I have a distinct memory of unpacking an entire 20ft container on my own into a storage unit once. Now I look at my team of guys in the warehouse doing it and I am very grateful.
Would you do anything differently if you were to start again today?
Lots of things! Hindsight is a beautiful thing… but even the mistakes we have made are part of the journey, so no regrets!
The main thing would have been to invest in a great POS (point of sale) system/inventory management system in the earlier days. Excel spreadsheets, although great at the time, can only get you so far in managing that side of the business and implementing systems 5-10 years later can be really challenging.
I also would have been quicker to delegate certain aspects of business management to people who specialise in those fields, such as human resource management, planning and budgeting – that way I could have been more consistently focussed on what I love doing and what I am best at.
Do you have any fantasies of alternate jobs?
No, I honestly have no idea what I would do if I wasn’t running Fenton & Fenton. When things are tough, and I’m stressed out I try and remember that. But sometimes I think I wouldn’t mind going back to a Monday to Friday 9 to 5 job one day, haha!
How do you stay creative when you’re being dragged down by business-ing/mummy-ing/wife-ing?
This is very challenging. I tend to get very bogged down in the nitty gritty, which makes the buying/creative side hard. When I am travelling I get more of the white space I need, and I’m always re-inspired and bursting with ideas after a trip. I am trying to travel more and have designated days where I focus on that side of the business. It’s very hard to go from back-to-back meetings into a creative mode so I’m trying to separate these elements.
I’m always asked what it’s like to work with my husband. How do you keep the cogs turning at work, and in marriage? Are there any tips that you use to keep things running well?
Division of labour! We have pretty clear and defined responsibilities and they tend not to overlap too much. I think at the start it was harder as you are still working out exactly who does what but once you have that nailed down it’s a lot easier. We do live and breathe our business so sharing that same passion helps to keep the cogs turning. Although there are many times at 1am when he will say ‘I don’t really want to talk about work now’.
What does a typical day look like for you? How do you structure your home/work life?
No two days are the same. I could be in meetings all day, setting up for an exhibition, on location shooting, working on new products with Josh, getting involved in the digital side of the business, traveling overseas and visiting suppliers or just knee deep in emails and admin (more often than not unfortunately).
During the week I work long hours and don’t see the kids as much as I’d like to, luckily Josh wears that hat and always picks up the pieces at home if I am held up at work.
We always spend the weekends as a family!
There’s nothing like having your own business and having babies. ‘Maternity Leave’ as such doesn’t really exist… I have fond memories of chatting on the phone with customers while Astrid slept under my desk in her basket! I was probably pumping you for tips and tricks at the time, but I have no memory of that now. #babybrainisreal. How did you work that whole work/life/family ‘schtick’ out when the shop was cranking?
Oh god, I have the same memories! There was definitely no time for ‘Maternity Leave’. When Pepa was born we still lived above the store so in many ways it was great as I was always still there, so it was easy to stay in touch. I could run downstairs in my trackies between feeds, consequently she spent a lot of time on her play mat on the shop floor. At that time, we were renting a house at the beach that we escaped to almost every weekend, so it was a perfect balance of work & family time!
By the time Woody came along we had moved into a house so it was a bit tricker. There was a lot of expressing in the office, I don’t miss that! Having both Josh and I involved in the business made things easier as most of the time one of us could be with them, Josh more so than me to be honest!
Has your role in the business changed over the years? How?
It’s always changing and evolving. At the beginning I basically spent 7 days a week on the shop floor. Now, I spend more time in meetings focusing on the team, strategy, buying, budgets etc.
Are there any personal rituals/routines that you are strict about sticking to?
I am very strict about Josh getting us both a coffee at 6.30am as soon as our favourite coffee place is open. The kids are up early and full of energy – so caffeine is a necessity!
We always put all the toys away once the kids are in bed! I need at least a few hours a day toy free in my house or I will go mad.
What are some of your favourite things in your home that bring you joy (people not included)
I love art! I have collected many pieces from a variety of artists over the years and it always makes me happy when I walk in the door. It reminds you of the journey, the places you’ve been, the people you’ve met and even how you felt at the time.
Which materials, textures and colours do you like to surround yourself with at home?
Velvet, wool, timber, leather, linen, silk – basically everything!! And no colour is forbidden!!
What makes for a perfect dinner party, chez Fenton?
Lots of G&T’s & a delicious selection of cheese & biccies!!! I can go without dinner if I have these essentials!
What are you looking forward to this year?
2018 marks a decade since we opened so it is a big year for us. We are in the process of making some important structural changes to our team and the business as a whole. We are recruiting a few new senior positions. I am looking forward to getting this up and running so I can spend more time at home with the kids (without my laptop). I will let you know how it pans out.
We are also off to NZ, Bali & India – I still love to travel!
SO, we all have our ways to cheat when the week is flying and there aren’t enough hours in the day…What is your #MumHack, aka your frequent mum-life shortcut…?
When I get home and we’ve got people coming over and it’s all a bit hectic, it’s all about three things for me: Flowers, a cracking G&T and a beautiful cheese platter. Low effort, high reward. WIN.
I’m no stranger to tricking up a bunch of corner shop flowers.
- Buy what is in season
- Stick to one or two varieties – keep it simple
- Cut the stems an inch or so when you get them home, they will last longer
2. El quickie Gin & Tonic – so simple, yet so delicious and always a crowd pleaser!
- Four Pillars gin (I’m a bit of a gin snob)
- Capi tonic
- Slice of orange
- Sprig of rosemary
3. Cheaters cheese platter
- I always buy a blue, brie & a hard cheese.
- Never forget a quince paste or similar to add the sweetness
- Style on a nice marble or vintage timber board and add some fruit to make it look good – strawberries, quince, grapes, blueberries – good for the kiddies too!
- If you’re pressed for time, seriously order the Farmgate cheese box, it has everything you need and more and it’s the most delicious combination of flavours. You will look like a pro with no effort!!!
Thank you Lucy! You can follow all of the beautiful goings on at Fenton and Fenton on instagram.