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Inside the Pink-Hued Cottage of Josh and Jenna Densten

Welcome to The Makers. Each week, we’re celebrating innovators, artisans and crafters of all types, taking you on a private tour of their creative spaces. For this instalment, we head to the Melbourne cottage of Jenna and Josh Densten.

Design is at the heart of Jenna and Josh Densten’s relationship. Jenna, an interior designer, and Josh, a plumber and project manager, make the perfect team. The pair, who have been together since they were teenagers, have been building, renovating and designing together since they were 18. That’s when they bought their first “fixer-upper”, as Jenna puts it, a house in East Albury. “That’s where my love of interiors began,” says Jenna. “Although we made some very questionable choices,” she admits, calling back a very loud lime green feature wall.

You won’t find any such wacky design elements in the Densten’s current home, a house they purchased sight unseen in a leafy suburb of Melbourne. Jenna, who was making a shortcut through a wide, tree-lined street, spotted a cottage for sale and rang Josh immediately. “I told him I’d found our forever home, I didn’t even need to look inside.”

The pair made big changes to the house before they moved in six years ago. A dark and cramped extension was nixed in favour of opening up the original cottage into a self-contained studio, letting warmth and light into the space. Drawing on pink-tinged brick flooring, Jenna went with a pink palette throughout, keeping things tonal with muted tiles and plenty of cosy soft furnishings styled on their curved corner sofa. The idea was to create a space with lots of balance and depth with a very small square footage, the kind of home that looked lived-in and loved. “You want someone to walk into your home and be able to visually unfold these layers,” says Jenna.

The design journey is never over for the Denstens. Recently, the couple added a home at the back of their cottage, which they will be sharing soon, and the search for new pieces of home decor always continues. (Jenna has her eye on a bespoke ceramic centrepiece from cult favourite Los Angeles-based brand Memor Studio.) Here, one-half of the Denstens shares her top tips for those starting their design journey, and what’s next for her business, the Design School.

Hi Jenna! This series is called The Makers. What is it that you make?

I’m an interior designer and educator. I create content for our Design School courses that are both online and in person.

How does the act of “making” relate to your personality and who you are?

Interior design is often misconceived as something that is surface deep, but I’m sure now we can all agree on the importance of ‘making’ a home that not only looks good but gives you all the feels. Creating spaces that my family love to live in and sharing those ‘ah-ha’ moments with my students is why I do what I do.

And what gave you the impetus to start your own studio?

In 2011 my husband and I were contestants on The Block. I was a hairdresser at the time and quickly realised I wanted to grab this opportunity with both hands and dive deep into what I loved. I studied interior design and then started our interior design business; Bicker. Bicker was named after we famously ‘bickered’ on the show. A few years later I started Design School which is a collaboration with my family who own and run a recruitment and training organisation. We felt there was a need for hands-on and practical design training. We now teach in-person and online courses both accredited and non accredited.

Talk us through your creative process. Where do you start?

I start with inspiration. This can be anything from a painting, a flower, fabric or even a material. This quickly forms a concept which I develop through mood board-ing and SketchUp (a 3D modelling program).

What’s been the single most crucial tool or strategy you’ve used to grow your creative business?

Social media for sure! Having a visual platform to share your work as a designer has helped to reach an audience who may have never been able to come across your work. It’s a great networking tool for potential clients, students, suppliers, manufacturers and collaborators.

What’s been the most challenging lesson learnt since you started your business?

Keeping track of the hours spent on a project as I find myself ‘working’ day and night. For me it’s figuring out the balance of work and play and how to manage that blurred line when you love what you do. I’m still trying to work it out!

What’s been the best thing that’s happened to you since you started your business?

Seeing our students graduate and go on to do amazing work. It’s like watching your babies grow up and take over the world. I’m incredibly proud and know that we made a small impact on their lives.

Do you have a single piece of advice you’d give to your younger self/ someone looking to start their own business?

Brand yourself and know what you’re all about first. Don’t wait until you’re successful to create and develop your branding or it may not happen. I quickly realised the importance of good branding and marketing and wished I had considered it when I was just starting out, especially in a highly visual industry.

Now, the home stuff. How long have you lived in your home?

We’ve owned our home for 6 years now.

Did you do any renovations or make any big changes after moving in?

Big changes. The home had been added on in the way of a dark and dingy extension. We kept the original two rooms of the cottage and turned it into a self-contained studio. The entire cottage is 4m x 8m! We recently built a home at the back of the cottage which we’re excited to share soon.

What was the thought process behind the way you’ve styled the interior?

It all started with the brick flooring which had a slight pink tinge. This then led to the pink tile which is wrapped around the pod in the middle of the cottage. As space was tight we knew we wanted a tonal colour palette to allow the eye to flow harmoniously throughout the space and each of our decisions were made to enhance the feeling of light and space. Tactility and curves were used to create interest.

How do you incorporate your sharp eye for fashion into your interior decorating?

We generally have colour preferences which are obvious if you look at your wardrobe. My entire wardrobe is full of heavy textures and soft neutrals, exactly how I like to design my interiors.

Shop Jenna's look with the Turmeric Bedding Set and Terracotta Sheet Set.

What are your favourite pieces in the home?

Those special objects we’ve collected on a holiday or have received as a gift from loved ones. We like to scour op shops and vintage stores on weekends away so most of our objects, vessels and art have a story behind them. So selecting one piece would be like choosing my favourite child!

Do you have any special décor pieces you’re looking to add?

Memor studio is an LA-based ceramicist who incorporates pieces you’ve collected such as shells, old ceramics from nanna’s collection and more to create a stunning vase. We’re slowly collecting pieces from our beach walks at our shack so we can send to her to create a centrepiece for our dining table.

Which is your favourite room in the house?

I love the living/kitchen/dining in the cottage. It’s at the front of the block and looks out towards the tree-lined street (the reason we purchased the home). We leave the door open and our neighbours wave and say hello throughout the day, it really is nice to be so connected to our neighbourhood by having the living at the front.

Shop Jenna's look with the Turmeric Bedding Set and Terracotta Sheet Set.

What are your top tips for a well-styled bedroom, and home generally?

Add layers and ensure you have a balance. Balance high and low-cost items, the scale of objects, smooth and tactile surfaces and curved and linear pieces.

Do you have any projects coming up you want to talk about?

We have recently launched our Online Design School Masterclass and are taking enrolments from mid-June 2020. Six modules include Planning, Creating a Concept, Colour, Lighting, Styling and a bonus module which includes an in-depth look inside the cottage and our new home.

For more from Josh and Jenna, follow them @joshandjenna and @designschool_

Loved this home tour? Inside the Unique 1960s-Inspired Home of Ceramic Artist Jan Voegelpoel

Discover more of Australia's most beautiful homes in our series, The Makers.

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