Follow Her Lead
From trend-setting interior designer to influential leadership speaker, beloved Melbourne ‘block star’ Bianca Chatfield has worn many hats, hard and otherwise, throughout her phenomenal career trajectory so far. Here, she reveals her biggest style inspirations, and shares some tips for staying motivated to achieve your goals.
Words by Georgia Jordan.
Reflecting on your time on The Block 2018, how would you describe the experience in a nutshell?
BC: I absolutely loved my time on The Block, and in the same breath I can say it was the hardest thing I’ve done. It’s a reality show that is real. Real timeframes, real drama and ultimately a real auction. The intensity and pressure both physically and mentally is really hard to explain, but being a former athlete certainly helped.
I did it with one of my best friends and former teammates, Carla Dziwoki. We’ve never laughed so much together, because quite frankly you are that tired you either laugh or cry, and mostly we laughed, trying to find the fun in the most horrendous situations.
We walked away exhausted, yet unbelievably proud of what we built. We wish we could still live there now. The key for us was the people we surrounded ourselves with. Our trades, suppliers, the crew, and other contestants all made the experience for us and we remain close to everyone! We knew if we worked hard for everyone they’d do the same for us.
What originally sparked your interest in interior design?
My dad is a builder, so I’ve been surrounded by new builds and renovations my whole life. I’ve always enjoyed the challenge of making a space feel modern, liveable and somewhat like a display home all in one. My style is forever changing – I cringe at some of my choices in the past, but I’ve gone from using lots of colour to choosing more neutrals, and since The Block I now love the use of natural materials to add texture and life to a room, such as timber, concrete, metal and stone. They add so much character to a space.
What is your design process?
My process always starts with the surfaces you have to work with; the walls and flooring. Often it’s the things that you can’t change easily that [I use as a] base and build from there. It’s also about making sure every space has an element of comfort as well.
I like to draw the space, or mark out on the floor where all the main furniture will fit, and make decisions [from there]. I also love having a unique piece in spaces, whether that’s lighting, artwork or custom furniture. This is not always a cheap option though!
For readers about to renovate their home, which style trends would you recommend incorporating?
Choose custom furniture where possible; we used a company called Ingrain Designs throughout our apartment on The Block which we loved as it added so much life. Also, I never realised how important having a specific lighting plan is to create the right vibe and feel in a room; we used Lights Lights Lights on the show, who helped us make the right choices and challenged our thinking about the room. And for a bit of fun I love using wallpaper where possible.
As an athlete I was always competitive and wanting to be the best, and now, not as determined, I just want to feel good, have a meaningful purpose, and surround myself with people that energise me. Life’s too short to hang around with drainers. It’s not easy to be an optimist but it’s refreshing being around someone [who is optimistic], so people energise me. And I’m lucky that in the leadership and media space, it’s all about people. Learning, listening and supporting!
What inspires your passion for leadership consultancy?
I believe we all have so much to offer, but sometimes we just don’t know how to believe in ourselves or find a way to our passion. I’m fortunate that in netball I found my passion, and was able to play for Australia for 11 years, learning from the best and having the most lifechanging experiences both good and bad. I just love sharing those experiences however I can to empower people, men and women, to realise their potential.
How do you maintain balance in your life?
If I’m being honest, I think a balanced life is almost an impossible [notion], especially when running your own business. It’s almost a waste of energy trying, really. I’m far from perfect, so I just aim to try and be in the moment whatever it is I’m doing, such as staying off my phone when spending time with friends and family. It’s important to me to always prioritise exercise and healthy eating because it ultimately makes me feel so much better about myself, and [I try to take] time out on my own occasionally to tune out from the crazy world.
What couldn’t you live without?
A bit superficially, probably my phone, which is a little sad!
What is your advice for staying fit and healthy?
Just move everyday, even if it’s simply a walk, and try to eat healthy 80 percent of the time.
Achieving career goals?
Tell people what you’re trying to achieve. Most people will find a way to help if they can. Surround yourself with great people who can support you, help you and keep you on track. Do the work – nothing happens overnight.
Spend time before bed organising for the next day. Even just five minutes makes a difference.
Embarking on a new interior project?
Do your research, stalk the internet for images of things you like and add your own flair! If you love it, that’s all that matters!
What’s next for Bianca Chatfield?
Hopefully I will continue to develop my leadership work and challenge myself with my media work, but mainly I just want to spend as much time as I can doing things that make me feel good!
Photography by Christian Benci of Thoughtbox Digital