If you’ve ever set foot into The Grounds of Alexandria you'd know, that besides serving great food and coffee, its popularity stems from the unique fit out – a green sanctuary in the middle of the city.
We sat down with head stylist and creative developer Therese Moussa to find out what it takes to create an inner-city oasis, which trends she wants to see come back in 2017, and what advice she has to give to anyone looking to restyle their home.
Therese first got involved with the Alexandria-based eatery after working with Interior designer Caroline Choker – one half of interior design duo ACME&Co and sister to The Grounds founder Ramzey Choker. Caroline approached Therese to spearhead the styling and layering of the The Grounds, and the freelance gig soon turned into a fulltime position.
“There are no fulltime stylists in the hospitality industry as such," says Therese. "I feel very privileged and grateful to be working in a job where I have the freedom to come up with whatever I want." “A day as a stylist here can consist of lots of photo-shoots, lots of research for new areas, a lot of sourcing for new antiques or new furnishings and looking into new plants to add colour to the space.”
Each area (there’s the Potting Shed, the Soda Barn, the Bakery, the Café, the Atrium, the Lock In, the Patio and the Garden) tells a very unique story through carefully curated pieces.
“I absolutely can’t stand when you walk into a space and there are unrelated pots or decorative elements that don’t fit the concept,” she says about her decorating pet peeves and her narrative-based approach to styling.
Therese, who is known for her keen eye to detail, draws a lot of inspiration from the international art scene. And when she’s exhausted art installations, drawings and paintings, she turns to colour theory and other creative heads such as set designer Wes Anderson, Tim Burton and even Disney comics and animes. It’s this creative mindset, dedication and broad approach that makes The Grounds what is is today – a collaborative space that is stylish, welcoming and comfortable in its own unique way.
So how can we non-stylists ensure that our home tells a story as beautiful as the one The Grounds’ team has created for their space? According to Therese, it’s all about colours, mood boards and visuals. The stylist suggests starting by figuring out which colours you’d like to see every day, which ones make you happy and which ones make you feel on edge. Then put together a mood board and research different areas of your house. Once you know what styles, colours and textures you like, find relating items and put them all in your mood board and you’ll be able to see what works together and what doesn’t. “Once you’ve perfected your mood boards you can go out and find all your elements and see your vision become reality,” she says.
Therese admits that she is obsessed with velvet and velvet accents. “It’s the feeling of it – soft and luxurious – it’s got a great texture," she says. "Even if it’s in different types of use such as a curtain or an ottoman or a decorative chair that you get upholstered in velvet, it can really make a difference to a room.”
Another trend she would like to see in Australian homes is floral wallpaper. “A lot of people are afraid of using it because they’re worried it might go out of fashion and they’ll have to take it off," she explains. "But using wallpaper in a correct setting as a feature, or as a small element of a room, can be quite quirky and fun.“
In February next year, The Grounds will finally open their long-awaited second outlet in The Galeries Victoria, in Sydney's CBD. At 300-square metres it’ll be smaller than the original eatery but as stylish and unique nonetheless. “We have something fun popping up in the window – a really cool display – but I can't tell you what it is," she says. "It’s a secret!"
There is a larger scale The Grounds coming to the Lower North Shore as well, but for now The Galeries project is consuming Therese’s time. Watch this space!