Based out of the Sunshine Coast, Pip Newell is the brains behind Curated Spaces — a second-hand Instagram marketplace for vintage designer furniture and home decor.
She describes herself as a “treasure hunter”, and regularly posts big-ticket pieces reminiscent of the Mid-Century and Modernist eras at accessible prices, based on quality and modern-day desirability.
With her fast-growing platform, Newell is helping interior obsessives like herself furnish their homes with beautiful, timeless pieces in a move she says helps contribute to a more sustainable way of living.
“Vintage furniture represents three wonderful things to me — being second-hand, the pieces are both accessible and affordable. Curating vintage furniture also allows me the creative outlet to handpick pieces and transform my home into someplace special, and thirdly, shopping in this way is undoubtedly the most ethical way to create a home.”
Newell can trace her passion for interior styling and decor back to the early days of her childhood when she would found herself redecorating her bedroom constantly.
“I would adorn my room in beaded curtains, colourful feature walls, painted murals and mountains of draped fabrics. I would also constantly change the layout of my bedroom,” she tells us.
“Nowadays, while my styling might have somewhat evolved, I still have the same obsession with decorating and rearranging my space. My home is always in a state of change and I am never not bringing in new items and the rearranging how everything all fits in together.”
“Truthfully, I’ve never considered myself an artist or have I ever thought I would have a career in design. The fact that I now call this a job is surreal.”
Newell’s studies of photography — which saw her curating mood boards, art directing photoshoots and expanding her knowledge of design — allowed her to refine the style she’s become known for, and with the inspiration of interior designers and architects on social media, Newell found her passion for interiors and beautiful furniture flourish.
“This era of my life coincided with living in share houses and that’s where my interest in interior decor and vintage furniture merged together.
“My old housemates can attest to the fact that they would often come home to an entirely new set up in the living room or dining room after a day of rearranging.”
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Newell can recall the moment she created the Curated Spaces platform — now with a following of over 20,000 — as something of a happy accident. During university, she ran the account as a side hustle after her listing on another marketplace was met with overwhelming engagement.
“The very first item I sold was a set of dining chairs. Like so many of us have done before, I had bought a set of dining chairs off eBay and had brought them back to my place only to discover that they did not suit my space at all.
“The photos on the original listing had not done the set justice; they were blurry and dark as the chairs were packed away in storage.
“Following a suggestion from my housemate, I listed the set of a Facebook group called ‘My Stuff = Your Stuff’, but captured my own photos first with the pieces lit perfectly and styled in-situ around a table.
When she relisted the item, her post blew up with offers. “I was blown away with how many comments and requests I got from them, so I did it again with a coffee table, then again with a side table. I discovered I had a knack for re-selling vintage pieces, and from this momentum, I birthed Curated Spaces. Here we are now, five years later.”
Not only is her platform a place to appreciate beautiful designs of the past, but a second foundational pillar of Curated Spaces lies in reducing the impact fast furniture has on the environment by encouraging a more sustainable way of shopping.
“The inspiration behind Curated Spaces is simply sustainability and accessibility. I want to bring sustainably sourced vintage furniture and to make it accessible to a wide audience of people,” she says.
And while she began her platform a solo entrepreneur, Newell now has a team of 12 additional sellers, all of which share her passion for sourcing vintage pieces around Australia.
“Working solo can be isolating so it has helped me a lot to have this team of people.”
Day to day, Newell can be found pottering around her bright pink Sunshine Coast warehouse with adjoining photography studio. It’s a space she now proudly owns and operates her business out of.
“I often joke about being part furniture removalist, part stylist, part Instagram manager and a full-time courier wrangler. Organising the pick-up and delivery of every item we sell is an enormous job as couriers are notoriously elusive.”
Despite having a team of 13, Newell is not exempt from the heavy lifting. “I still collect most of the items I sell personally. At the beginning of every week, I set out to collect several pieces of furniture in my old Land Cruiser.
“I then bring them back to the warehouse, where I store all my pieces, and style and photograph. It can be utter chaos at times, but I have learnt some amazing techniques for moving heavy items on my own,” she laughs.
But the thing about Curated Spaces is that with such a dedicated following of interior obsessives, it can be difficult to nab a piece listed if you’re not in the top five followers to comment the word “sold” under an item you want. That is, if you’re there to buy and not just for interior inspiration.
It’s a credit to Newell and her ability to spot desirable furniture and price the pieces at an attainable and fair amount.
“I try to keep it as affordable as possible for people. I take previously sold items into consideration to keep it consistent, and I also take into account the market value, rarity and condition of each individual piece. Supply and demand also come into the equation.”
Whether or not you’re on the platform to purchase, the account is undoubtedly a wonderful source of inspiration for styling.
“We present our pieces in a way that is relatable to help buyers picture what it could look like in their own place. We also give them a bit of inspiration as to how to style it.”
Now, one year after she made Curated Spaces her full-time career, Newell has announced she’s working on her most exciting and personal project to date: A bespoke furniture range.
“This is something I have wanted to do for years, and I am beyond excited. This first collection is a part of Future Collective — a group that consists of myself along with interior designers Chelsea Wilson and James Bligh, who were the first two sellers to join me at Curated Spaces.
“We knew we wanted to produce furniture that was sustainable and high quality, so they had to be made in Australia and made by hand, which means each piece will appear unique and special when completed.
“Each piece requires a lot of work as our sculptor is using hand tools to carve out our designs. For our first collection, we are releasing two lamps, two side tables and a shelf. This will be launching in March, 2020.”
The future of Curated Spaces is undeniably bright, and at the rate the platform is growing, it’s hard to predict just what exactly could come next for Newell and her team. One thing’s for sure though: the entrepreneur will continue to encourage her followers to shop responsibly for their interior decor.
“Vintage furniture needs to remain a stylish and affordable option for people to decorate their spaces with. To date, Curated Spaces has sold over one thousand pieces of recycled furniture.
“I’d like to double that, then triple it. The more we can recycle the better.”