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An Open Heart and an Open Mind

"The Retreat changed my life"

Our interview with Julianne Bull of The Den Interiors.

As the winner of our 2021 Byron Retreat Competition, Julianne put forward a really compelling entry that confirmed to us she was the perfect recipient of the 6-day experience sponsored by Est Lighting.

An active member of the TDC community, Julianne has been operating her interior design business, The Den Interiors, for 6 years.

In her entry, Julianne explained to us: "I feel I'm standing still. I can keep doing the same thing and attend the odd seminar or course, but this Retreat is the opportunity and game-changer to grow my business to its full potential and give me the confidence I need to thrive. I don't deserve this more than anyone else, but I know I would fully embrace this gift. What I can give back to the group is my experience, openness and honesty."

We can definitely say that Julianne gave generously and contributed to the overall success of the Retreat experience, as did all of the amazing designers who attended.

We sat down with Julianne to see how the Retreat met with her expectations and to find out if it gave her the push she needed to drive her business to the next level.

Secure one of the last available tickets to our 2022 Byron Retreat HERE. Smart Bird tickets are available for a limited time.

Julianne Bull of The Den Interiors: winner of the 2021 Byron Retreat Competition.

TDC: Thanks for joining us today, Julianne. Can we say how much of a valuable addition you were to the whole Retreat experience! You really participated well and added such a vibrant, warm energy to the group. It was an incredible week, packed full of so many different elements. What did you most want to get out of your own Retreat experience?

JB: Previous attendees had talked about their experience at the Retreat as a game-changer. I really wanted that. I wanted to know what it would take for my business to get to the next level, the steps I needed to take and the things I needed to do.

It was probably a lot to ask for, but I got what I wanted. The retreat changed my life—not only by what I learned from the workshops and speakers but the other attendees. I think I learned just as much from the group as I did from the program! They were incredible.

TDC: Did you have any fears or concerns heading into the Retreat? How did these play out over the week?

JB: The Retreat was put on hold for 12 months because of COVID, so there was a long build-up. I tried not to get my hopes up too much because we didn't know whether it would go ahead at all. But probably a week or two before leaving, I started packing in my head; you know, mentally packing.

But apart from the COVID angle, I wasn't worried about the Retreat itself. I went with an open heart and open mind. I'm naturally a positive person, so I made sure I'd packed the right attitude. And I think that that's important in anything that I do. Whether I'm attending a workshop or a supplier event, I always want to make sure I've got the right attitude going in. I think that's the only way you can really get something positive out of an experience.

What an amazing bunch! Our 2021 Byron Retreat delegates at The Retreat Hub.

TDC: We were lucky to have designers come to Byron Bay from all around the country and from all sorts of levels of experience. How did you find the group of people that you shared the week with?

JB: I only knew a few people going in. So, I was really hoping everyone was going to be friendly and open. You know what it's like sometimes—if the attendees all know each other, you hope there's no pre-formed group.

From the first welcome cocktail party to the final tearful farewell, everybody put in a massive effort to sit next to somebody new and get to know each other. We all took ourselves out of our comfort zone and allowed ourselves to be vulnerable.

I think a big reason we felt comfortable to do so was because of Andrew—his emphasis on kindness, empathy, and respect set the tone for the week.

At the initial icebreaker, when Andrew asked us to tell something about ourselves that nobody knows, my first thought was, "I'm the least interesting person. I haven't met anyone famous, have no secret talents—I'm not a magician..."

But people put themselves out there and were vulnerable, and it was quite powerful. The variety of activities also allowed everyone to open up on a different level. And it was lovely, really lovely.

I know it sounds really cheesy when people say, "Oh, I've made lifelong friends!" But I feel that's what I've done. It's only been a few months since we were in Byron, but I really connected with the other attendees. I've been in touch with a lot of them already, and I'm sure that connection will continue.

Julianne in her Melbourne office for The Den Interiors.

TDC: We get the Retreat members to take part in all sorts of workshops and wellness activities, that can sometimes be confronting or challenging. Was there anything that challenged you during the program and, if so, what did you learn about yourself?

JB: We did an exercise with Andrew to say what we liked about ourselves and then hear from the group what they liked about us. Few people enjoy talking about themselves in a positive way. Almost no one says, "Oh, I'm good at this." That was challenging for me.

Another question Andrew asked was, "What would people say about you at your funeral?" I hadn't thought about that before, and it made me think about what kind of legacy I wanted to leave behind. I haven't written my eulogy yet or got to the bottom of what I want to leave behind, but the exercise was something I've reflected on and will keep in mind when setting goals, both business and personal.

2021 Retreat delegates Viktoryia Tsymbal and Julianne Bull.

TDC: Property tours form an important part of the inspirational activities we provide for our Retreat members. What was your favourite property, and why?

JB: They were all amazing for different reasons. It's tough to pick a favourite. But if I have to, the first property tour at The Range was so memorable. We'd just had a cocktail party, met each other and had jumped on the bus. So, we were sort of all giddy with excitement.

Emma and Tom are really warm, down to earth, approachable people and they opened up their home to us, fed and chatted to us, and shared their journey building their property. They care deeply about preservation, sustainability and family, and it rings true in everything they say and everything they've done. It was impossible not to feel moved and compelled to adopt their way of thinking about a life that's a lot more considered.

It was probably even more poignant because we'd all just got off a plane and left the rat race behind. You know what it's like when you're about to take a week off, and you work twice as hard to get everything done before you go? Then, all of a sudden, the pace changed. Just being around them felt really therapeutic.

Hosts Emma and Tom Lane from The Range, a magnificent property in the Byron hinterland.

TDC: Each day of the program is designed differently, with different speakers, different workshops and different venues to visit. What was your favourite day, and what made it so special for you?

JB: This is a hard pick as well. So much work went into every day, and everything was so well-balanced, whether it was a wellness activity or yoga or meditation, then some learning and a workshop, or a walk on the beach, then a property tour.

But I think I got a lot out of the day we spent with special guests Grazia Materia and Mim Fanning. I admire both greatly—their work and their contribution to the industry. And, again, they're just really down to earth, awesome chicks. So funny, easy going, sharing and open.

Grazia and Mim spent the whole day with us discussing what inspires them, how they operate and the real nitty-gritty stuff we wanted to know, such as what it's like when you're at the top of our industry. We had a magnificent lunch then went to the penthouse at Raes for a cocktail party. The day just got better and better. And, in the end, they decided to get back on the bus with us and return to the Retreat Hub for the rest of the evening. Just enjoying everyone's company in such a relaxed setting was really special.

2021 Byron Retreat delegates Jacque Yates and Julianne Bull at The Range.

TDC: You've already signed up for the 2022 Byron Retreat (which makes us so happy!). What are you most looking forward to next year?

JB: Well, it's no surprise I've signed up again! I'm still riding the high! And I want to keep growing. When the email arrived in my inbox for the 2022 retreat, I didn't have to think twice about it. But what was lovely was my new friends rang that afternoon and said, "We're going to go. We've got to sign up."

I can't wait to learn, be inspired, share and connect with all these people again. All those who contribute to the week, all the people Andrew pulls together, are special in their own way. And if I didn't go next year, I'd have FOMO so badly!

TDC: Your trip to the 2021 Byron Retreat was made possible by our lovely friends at Est Lighting. We were lucky to have James Lambrou from their Melbourne office join us and share an "illuminating" talk about the importance of lighting for wellness. Do you have anything you would like to say to the team at Est Lighting?

JB: I was so lucky to be the recipient of this opportunity to attend the retreat. I'm incredibly grateful to James and the Est Lighting team because it was the chance of a lifetime. And I don't say that lightly.

Est Lighting continues to support the industry, and I was fortunate to spend some time with James at the Retreat. He's a genuine advocate for local design and just a kind and gentle person. Without James and the team, I wouldn't have met such incredible designers or had the opportunity to learn and clarify what I needed to move forward in my business.

A powder room detail from one of Julianne's projects for The Den Interiors.

TDC: You shared with us in your competition entry that you felt that you were standing still with your business. How did the experience of attending the 2021 Byron Retreat help move you forward, and what can we expect to see from The Den Interiors in 2021?

JB: I took an extra day off after the retreat to reflect. I felt it would be so easy just to come back to the chaos, sit back at my desk and pick up where I left off, but I wanted to process everything I'd learned. I typed up pages of notes and just got everything down on paper. I created an "if I do nothing else, I must do this" list.

And I did implement those things in the two weeks after I got back. This year is about focusing on growth, including a lot of personal growth. I've been in business for six years and, looking back, I'm so grateful for the opportunities and clients I've worked with, the trades and suppliers I've met and formed relationships with and every mistake I've made along the way. I know there'll be more to come. But it feels like this is Part 2 now.

Part 2 is about sticking to all my new processes and systems to deliver amazing client service. It's also about pushing myself to be a better designer, to design with purpose, intent and passion. And I'm focusing on not getting stuck in the day-to-day stuff.

My work has shifted as a result. I'm checking in with my goals and needs more often. I stop and think: "What do I want? What do I enjoy doing? What do I want to stop doing? What do I want to change?" I'm also practising being more accountable and stopping myself from slipping back into old habits.

The Design Coach founder Andrew Mitchell with 2021 Byron Retreat delegates Alix Helps and Julianne Bull.

I haven't spoken about Andrew enough. He loves what he does, and it really shows. There's no doubt that's why the Retreat was so successful.

And I want him to know that all the detail that went into the Retreat didn't go unnoticed. I mean, I joked with him during the week about the cocktail stirrers with The Design Coach logo on them—but every step along the way was so carefully thought through and planned. Even when we returned home, it wasn't over. Andrew sent a pack out that contained the recipe for every cocktail and barbecue. There were notes for every workshop. The retreat was just so well managed, and if Andrew felt stressed at any time, we didn't see it. I hope he got as much out of it as we did.

That's why I want to go next year because you can't book those kinds of life experiences. I feel very, very privileged to know Andrew and be part of this industry. You put in a lot of hard work when you have a small business. It's exhausting, but you're just kind of swimming. So, this Retreat, for me, is like the reward for all that hard work.

We loved welcoming Julianne to the 2021 Byron Retreat as the worthy winner of our competition, and look forward to her joining us again next February! Huge thanks to our important industry partner Est Lighting for making this competition possible.

Take advantage of our limited Smart Bird offer (save $250), and join us for the Retreat in 2022, simply click HERE.

2022 Byron Retreat "Growth"


18 - 24 February 2022


Soma, Bryon Bay, NSW

Please note that due to COVID-19, event details may change.

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