Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, as they say.
She is a whirlwind of creativity who has honed her craft over decades, turning rooms and houses into beautiful spaces and homes. More than simply succeeding in business, Di Healy has succeeded in making business beautiful.
If good interior design is about distilling the inhabitants’ personality and lifestyle into physical spaces, then great design takes those elements to bring the inhabitants on a journey, reflecting not just who they are, but what they could be. This process takes skill, vision and a degree of creative confidence to bring to life, and it’s this confidence that defines the work of Cairns Interior Designer Di Healy through her dream lifestyle- purveying space and design studio, I.D Blinds. Although window dressing is at the central core of the business, the studio has built a diverse portfolio of fiercely individual homes and stunning corporate, office and business spaces, each stamped with a distinct tactile and striking touch. From Toowoomba to the tropics, Di Healy is a woman who has proven that there is indeed heart in business, and – in fact – home really is where the heart is.
“I grew up a country girl from a cattle property in South West Queensland. Farmers talk about farming not as a job but as a way of life, and if it’s a way of life then it’s something you need to be passionate about so you can inject the essence of yourself into it. Looking back, I guess I’ve brought that ethos into my business.
“Growing up, I loved bushwalking, collecting coloured stones, moss and pieces of wood. I always had that innate draw towards textures and colours. As you grow up, society can get
in the way of what you really want to do with your life. At school, I was encouraged to do business subjects so I could be a secretary. You couldn’t find a worse secretary than me! I’m a lot more creative than I am organised. I come from a long line of organised women, with the only creatives being my Dad and I. I was a bit of a square peg in around hole that way, always drifting off into pretty colours. Not a lot of practicality about me on the farm.
“I bought my first house when I was 18 and I started to experiment with design. It was a little old house in Toowoomba. In the sunroom, I had black and white checkerboard vinyl tiles, pale pink walls, hanging ferns, white cane furniture and palm trees on the fabrics. People told me I was crazy when I told them what I was going to do, then when they saw it, they said it was amazing! I told my parents I was going to study interior design, and they said to each other, ‘What’s she going to do with that? Certainly not be a secretary!’. In my era, it was the beginning of women wanting to have a career that was inspired and fulfilling. I thought, if we’re all going to have this one amazing life, wouldn’t it be wonderful to be able to design it to be exactly what we want? I guess I felt that was my right.
“At age 28, I found myself as a single parent to two young children. I made the decision to move to Cairns with my sister
pictured Di Healy
to start a brand new life. Often you don’t know how hard things are until they’re done. I ended up moving to Malanda, the kids went to school in Yungaburra, and once school began, I started a design consulting business out of the back of my car.
“There’s always a lot of angst over the financial responsibilities that go along with being a solo parent. It’s not like you can ever give yourself that reprieve of having an ‘ordinary week’ if it means that the children aren’t fed. Having limited support around me meant the safety net was loose at best, so embarking on this was a very risky exercise. I worried about whether I was doing the right thing and that my children would be okay. In saying that, I need not have been concerned. Within six months, I had a fully-fledged business that was keeping us all comfortable and safe.
“I had a van filled with hanging fabric swatches, paint charts and samples. I’d drive to clients’ homes and work out of my mobile showroom. My passion was helping people create beautiful homes. I would help them choose paint, colours, tiles, window dressings and customised furniture, almost everything we’re doing here instore today. So much of my job was about being on site and meeting with people, so operating from Malanda wasn’t an issue, except for the driving which I turned into a positive anyway.
“I worked mobile for about 18 years, and when the kids left home I moved to Cairns, ready for the next challenge. Big change often brings big inspiration and it was over wine one evening with my daughter when I felt I was ready to have a shopfront. One day, I was driving down Spence Street and I saw this space. It was run-down and needing some care, but my stomach did a flip-flop and I just knew this was it.
“Once I’d committed to the shop, that’s when the fear started. What if I fail? When you have a little home business and you fail, it’s no big drama. It’s not a public failing. But when you put yourself in a shop, it’s basically putting yourself on a plate – the taste and the colours. If I’m in the business of making people’s homes beautiful and helping them create beautiful lives, how can I just have any old styling? The process taught me a lot about myself, because I realised once I successfully opened the shop, there was nothing more to be afraid of. Feel the fear and do it anyway. You hear these phrases all the time, but when you have that exact experience, it makes you more courageous. It doesn’t make the fear go away, it just makes you more confident to shift those boundaries outside of the comfort zone. My comfort zone was working from home, but in order to grow – both in business and personally – I needed to take the next step.
“All those things we fear on a daily basis – conflict, confrontation, failure –they’re potentially there every day in business, and you have to face them. And the more you face things, the better you become at the things you were afraid of. You become more resilient, you back yourself and don’t let things rattle you as much. There’s a lot of power in intention and pride in doing the best you can possibly do. Business isn’t always beer and skittles, but it’s having the expectation that intentions are sky high and priorities to look after clients are at the forefront. Clients work hard, they save their money so they can spend it in your business. They’re trusting us with their money and their dreams, so there needs to be empathy and respect.
“The transition to having a showroom naturally comes with finding a team of wonderful people. Thankfully I didn’t have to go far as my first team members were my partner and my daughter. When a business starts to grow, it’s impossible to do everything yourself, so I learnt very quickly that the most valuable commodity a business has is the people recruited to
pictured Di Healy
the team. It’s easy to teach people what to say, but you can’t teach people empathy. I want my team to be genuinely excited and inspired by every design, decorating, styling or renovating story they hear. And in return, I’m lucky to work with people who inspire me every day.
“Whilst ID Living isn’t a central part of our business, it’s a vital part of our cohesiveness. And it really has made us stand out in this industry – it’s an area that is notoriously male- dominated, yet here we are creating beauty in homes. Having a beautiful home really changes the way you live. When you walk into your home, it’s not just about how it looks but how it makes you feel. Some people want to save their money to go on holiday once a year. I’d rather save my pennies and have something beautiful in my home that I can appreciate every day.
“Growing up in the bush has given me a strong connection to nature, and people are starting to tap into the idea that there is nothing more de-stressing and grounding than nature. If we can help people do that in their homes and lives, bringing a little of the outdoors in – which is very much the way we live in Cairns – then I have done exactly what I set out to do.”