Tuesday, September 28, 2010

At Home with... Real Living’s Natalie Walton

Back in the 1930s, the American author on etiquette Emily Post wrote in her book Personality of a House that ‘if the house expresses the architect or the decorator and not the owner, then its personality is a song out of tune.’ For Natalie Walton, deputy editor of Real Living magazine (and author of the Daily Imprint blog and the new Frontliners website) the best thing about her job is discovering such different and in-tune ‘personalities’.

‘Because of the magazine I work on, I tend to see certain types of homes. They are generally ones that have been created with thought, care and love. They are not all about spending a bucket-load of money on high-end furniture. They tend to be more about expressing personality and being resourceful.’

For Natalie, a person’s home is the best place to learn about them. ‘Homes tell stories. You get a glimpse into someone’s personality, their likes and dislikes, their passions and interests. There’s perhaps no other place that does that. It’s a real insight into people and society in general. They are incredibly personal spaces and I love seeing how people chose to live.’

As a little girl Natalie would rearrange her room and ask to paint her walls certain colours. ‘With a little hindsight I can see that the world of interiors has always been a part of my life... But my family was sensible and so I never thought I could turn this interest into a career. Instead I focussed on my love of words and studied an English literature degree then completed a Masters in Journalism. Meanwhile, I worked as a finance reporter on a news wire service and later on a medical newspaper. While I enjoyed interviewing people and writing news stories and features, I wasn’t passionate about the subject matter.’

It took the opportunity to join Real Living magazine to remind her of this childhood interest. ‘I jumped at the chance and haven’t looked back. I love the craft of creating a magazine, and more recently have taken the plunge to style interiors. I’m still learning, still writing, and choosing paint colours – so I guess you could say while a lot has changed in my life, much hasn’t too.’

Has working for an interiors magazine changed the way Natalie thinks about her own home? ‘In some ways I’ve learnt so much about design, scale, form, function and all the other principles of interior design, yet my home is inherently the same. I still love pre-loved items with character. I still cherish trinkets and treasures bought on my travels. And my home is still basically a repository for my books!’

‘When I first started working for Real Living I used to think it was boring when people (usually artists/stylists/designers) would say that they loved all-white homes because it cleansed their mind after being surrounded by colour all day. Now that I’ve started styling too, I can completely understand this. I seek calming interiors more than I ever have. Where I once embraced bolder colours, I now crave the serenity of chalky whites and warm greys.’

Recently, Natalie has taken the idea of home and family to another level, launching the website ‘Frontliners’ with photographer Kata Varga. This site, ‘showing a variety of families, how they live their lives and exploring how the parents find the balance to pursue what their passionate about’ began while Natalie was writing a book about motherhood.

‘I interviewed Kata Varga for Real Living when we featured her apartment in the magazine. She lives close to my home and we have sons that are similar ages, and so we quickly became friends. We got talking about working on a project together. I love collaborating with people, and learning from them.’

‘I was working on a book about motherhood and thought that it would be interesting to bring some of the ideas behind that to life in a more visual way. I feel strongly about the reality of being a mother versus the way it is represented in the media, as well as the way people discuss it in general. It’s a huge life-changing event. And it’s not all kisses and cuddles, or post-natal depression either. It’s a contradictory, intense and yet an amazing experience. At the same time, since becoming a mother, I’m often blown away when I meet women who I admire and learn that they have children. The journalist as well as the mother in me wants to know how they deal with the pull of opposing forces that can be motherhood and creativity/passion.’

How has this process been different to working on a magazine? ‘It’s a lot of fun on the shoot day and rewarding to create something that’s purely our vision. Shooting for the web means that we don’t have some of the most basic editorial constraints that I usually deal with. We don’t have to shoot in a portrait format for a start. We don’t have to illustrate how the rooms connect or shoot every single space. And we can indulge ourselves with details just because they’re beautiful.’

But overall what Natalie and Kata have enjoyed most is meeting their subjects. ‘We’ve been blown away by how generous people have been not only with opening the doors to their homes, but also discussing some of the ideas behind the project.’

Aside from working some very late nights – ‘everything we do we do is in our “spare” time as we both have young sons, and families, and work full-time.’ – perhaps for Natalie the only other downside to being surrounded by so many different homes is trying to keep up with an ever-evolving dream house fantasy.

‘I often have between five and 10 dream homes. They include a loft in NYC, a farm in Italy where my son can run barefoot, a beach cottage on Sydney’s Pittwater, a large apartment or house in Bondi, a fisherman’s shack on the Hawkesbury, a hideaway in Bellingen or Byron Bay, a converted warehouse in Surry Hills and/or Melbourne’s Fitzroy... And that’s just what I’m thinking about today.’

Typewriter & desk photo by Kata Varga
Close-up photo of bookshelves by Natalie Walton
All other photos originally appeared in Real Living magazine. Photography: Amanda Prior Styling: Megan Morton


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