Hey Mama...with Karen Bell

Working full-time in the music industry, mum to beautiful Ivy, and half of power-duo The Stylephiles, Karen Bell (aka Kaz) is one hella busy, and very stylish lady. I tell you what, she’s a good person to have on your speed dial… though their instagram is a good Plan B 😉

So Kaz, juggler extraordinaire, tell us about what you do

First and foremost I’m mum to Ivy, my two-year-old tornado. I have a full time career as a Marketing Director in the music industry, and between work and home life I squeeze in a little side hustle with The Stylephiles – a digital hub for design, interiors & travel inspo, which I manage with my best friend Steph.

Take us back to the early days of the Stylephiles – how did it all begin and what was it like?

The Stylephiles started somewhat unintentionally – at the time Steph and I had recently met and become fast friends through discovering many shared passions; one of which was interiors and design, and we really fed each other’s obsession. We wanted to find a way to channel that passion (and an excuse to get even more hang time in!) so rather innocently started an Instagram account as a place to share all the amazing content and inspiration we were uncovering. The Stylephiles has been a natural evolution from those early days as a passive visual hub to where we are today as an active and engaged voice in design and travel.

How has your approach to work changed since having Ivy?

I’ve always been a very independent person and not really inclined to ask for help, both in my personal life or at work. Now being knee deep in motherhood whilst digging back into my career, my approach to work has changed out of necessity – I’ve had to be at ease with occasionally saying no, to be comfortable asking for help and to delegate without fear of judgement. It’s been a very confronting shift.

How do you stay creative when you’re being dragged down by business-ing/mummy-ing/wife-ing?

Creativity seeps into my daily life through many avenues – in work, through The Stylephiles and via my own hobbies, all of which channel artistry in one form or another. In my role as Marketing Director I am exposed to some incredible sources of inspiration across music, design and visual art. In my down time I am forever sourcing content for The Stylephiles and happily hunting down inspiration via our favourite design, interiors & travel publications. I am also starting to find my feet with photography and will often lose a few hours playing around with my camera and doing tutorials when I can find the time.

What does a typical day look like for you? How do you structure your home/work life?

This is going to sound rather drab! I’m a natural early riser, usually awake before 6 and I use that precious window of silence to do a little Insta dive – I’ll post some stories, engage with our audience and address any inbox messages. A quick shower for me, and Ivy is usually up around 7. From there the morning sprint begins – anyone with a toddler will know that EVERYTHING is negotiable – between putting on socks, buttering toast and brushing hair, the potential for meltdowns is high! Somehow getting out the door with coffee in hand and matching shoes on manages to happen by 745. We moved Ivy to a daycare near my office a couple of year ago and that has been a lifesaver – having a single destination in the mornings made a massive time saving for us. After a full day in the office I’m back to daycare for a 6pm pick up and we’re launched into race mode through dinner, bath, bed routine. 830 comes around and I’d love to say that I’m spending hours writing incredible content and honing new photography skills – but weekdays leave me absolutely zonked.

Are there any life shortcuts that you couldn’t live without? Any outsourcing secrets we need to know about?

I don’t remember life before Airtasker. Spare time has become so precious and thanks to this handy little app you can just about outsource any tedious task! Hanging pictures, plastering, painting – even building flatpack. In parent life you quickly assess what your time is worth, and for us we can’t justify losing a whole weekend doing fiddly DIY at the cost of missing time with Ivy.

Are there any personal rituals/routines that you are strict about sticking to?

Taking Mondays off to have a day with Ivy. For a while I was letting work creep into that time and it created this awful sense of tension that kept me attached to my laptop. But it was ME allowing that to happen, so I’ve switched my mindset and reclaimed that time to ensure I have the whole day to focus on Ivy as I know these days are precious few. I am so lucky to have that flexibility with work, so I treat every Monday as an adventure – whether it’s a trip to the pool, painting, hitting the beach or the zoo – we are out and about creating memories together.

What are some of your favourite things in your home that bring you joy (people not included)

Not so much a thing, but just being in the kitchen. Cooking is my first love, it’s my meditation and my daily wind down. I love the escapism it provides and I love the challenge of creating something new from scratch. Though I love reading recipes for inspiration, I’m really not one to follow them so instead just go with a concept and it always seems to work out (though I’m a terrible baker – which makes perfect sense as it’s too precise and scientific for my generous hand).

Which materials, textures and colours do you like to surround yourself with at home?

100% Linen in the bedroom (don’t go past In The Sac for the best in Australia) – high quality bed sheets should NEVER be overlooked!

You live in a gorgeous Art Deco apartment with minimal built in storage. What have you done to maximise your space?

PURGE! In all seriousness, I’ve become incredibly adept at decluttering. Make use of market stalls, Gumtree, council clean up days and local charities. Assess everything in every cupboard – if you haven’t used it, worn it, touched it in 12 months – it’s out the door! I wouldn’t say that I’ve completely mastered minimalism, but I’m embracing the idea of living with less, buying once and being less disposable with my approach to everything from clothing to furniture. It really feels so good to shake off the layers of consumption that build up around us.

What are your tips for apartment living with kids?

Hidden storage! The window seat in our lounge room doubles as toy storage, display baskets disguise a Lego collection and cycle your kids’ toys daily, not everything needs to be in use at all times. We kindly ask family and friends to not go crazy with gifts at birthdays and Xmas which is a little Grinchy, but they respect our wishes knowing that apartment living gives us limited space.

What makes for a perfect weekend, chez Bell?

A walk down to Bondi, a bit of sunshine, slow cooked something bubbling away on the stove and catching up with friends. In summer I’d absolutely need to include a swim in amongst that!

What are you looking forward to this year?

Expanding my photography skills, getting back into painting if I can find the time/space, and (throwing this one to the fate of the travel gods)…. seeing the Northern Lights.

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…? (podcast bedtime stories? Meal delivery? Laundry outsource? 3 step routine in the morning to be out the door in 5min?)

I store my makeup in the car console – red light application in the rearview mirror is my daily time saver!

Thanks Kaz!

Ed note: And if they’re not busy enough, Kaz and Steph have just launched an awesome e-book for setting and rolling out a solid social media strategy. They’ve shared all the insider tips and tricks they used to grow their brand presence, engagement and following on Instagram. And take it from me, it’s awesome. I sooooo wish I had this when we first started out.