sisters are doing it for themselves
Duplex Specialists Ania & Kasia from Zephyr & Stone
Growing up in a household where discussing property prices, renovation projects and design aesthetics was a part of normal dinner time conversation, it is no wonder that our guests today Ania Forster and Kasia Clarke have followed in their parents’ footsteps. Ania and Kasia are sisters who run the interior design studio, Zephyr + Stone. They are known for their design and styling tips with thousands of followers tuning in across Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and their online blog.
One of the most incredible aspects of what Ania and Kasia have created is the amount of value they’re providing to their community. They offer free content in the form of floor plans, cabinetry dimensions, tips, and tricks in order to help you with your project. What would normally perhaps be considered “trade secrets” are laid bare, which is such a glorious breath of fresh air. We love that they’re willing to share not only their successes but their failures too.
Their designs are gorgeous, execution is spot on and we can’t wait to get stuck into this episode today.
If you have a topic or question you’d like us to cover, contact us here.
SOME TOPICS THAT WE COVER:
The freedom and flexibility of working for yourself.
Research the needs of the market you're developing in before you begin.
The importance of building up a rapport with local real estate agents.
Think about the functionality of the space that you're creating.
LINKS MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE:
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Read the Full Podcast Transcript Below:
Rebeka: Hi, I'm Rebeka.
Kribashini: I'm Kribashini.
Rebeka: Welcome to Building with BuildHer.
Kribashini: Our Podcast, we believe that building is fun, super fun, so much fun.
Rebeka: BuildHer Collective was created to help women with building and renovating. We believe that with the right tools, everyone can build. For us, it's all about encouraging women to take back control of the building process and really achieve their dreams.
Kribashini: We are women in the building industry, and as developers, builders and project managers, it's our passion to share everything we know with other women doing the same. That's why we've created this podcast for you.
Rebeka: If you love all things building.
Kribashini: You're into design.
Rebeka: Keen on the numbers.
Kribashini: About to renovate.
Rebeka: Thinking and dreaming of that forever home of what it would look like.
Kribashini: Or even developing for profit.
Rebeka: Then you've found your family.
Kribashini: Subscribe to our podcast and follow our journey over at buildhercollective.com.au.
Rebeka: Today we are here with Kasia and Ania from Zephyr and Stone. Now, these two women are absolutely amazing. They're developing on the Gold Coast. They're doing duplexes, and they're doing interior design, and they have the most giving Instagram page you've ever seen. Make sure you go on and check it out because they give you not only great tips on how to do different spaces like laundries, and kitchens and joinery, and all different things like that, but they also give you plans which is incredible.
Just quietly, I use it as well. La, la, la. [laughs] So, welcome!
Kasia: Thank you so much for having us.
Ania: Thanks, Rebeka.
Rebeka: And thank you for having us in your gorgeous home. Can you tell us a little bit about
Zephyr and Stone, what it is now and how it started?
Kasia: Zephyr and Stone started two years ago and it's evolved a lot since it started. Ania and I have both been developing, renovating, building, designing over the last 15 years, but both in different states, because we were from Melbourne originally and Ania moved up here 15 years ago. When I moved up to the Gold Coast a couple of years ago, we realized we were both doing the same thing.
We both wanted to have a presence on social media and we decided with the wine in hand to join forces and start something together, so Zephyr and Stone was born.
We really didn't know what it would become and it's just evolved over time.
Rebeka: I think what sets you guys apart from a lot of other people is the amount of information that you are giving people and the amount of really, I guess, it says, "secret squirrel stuff." It's like, where does that come from? How do I do that? You're making that readily available and that must just take forever.
Kasia: It does.
Ania: It depends. When we first started Zephyr and Stone, we thought we'd be doing styling and the design. I think we started with something in mind but it quickly evolved into what we are. That's how it's changed and evolved into what it is today.
Kasia: We really are an educational company, which we didn't set out to become that, but we love sharing information. I personally, in my earlier days, when I first discovered social media, I'd be scrolling through either Pinterest or I'd be scrolling through Instagram. I'd see an incredible design and I'd want to replicate it because we had just started renovating. I'd just think, "Well, how do I do that? How did you make that look so incredible? What products did you use? Where can I source them from?"
I think that there's a real lack of that information in the market, or that you don't need to go searching for, someone's handing it to you on a plate. We quickly discovered when we started to share our work that everyone responded so well and was saving our information because that's the information they really wanted to get their hands on. We thought, "Look, we understand. We would follow ourselves if we were after that information." We think, "Okay, well, let's just give everyone what they want," because we love it.
We love to talk about it, we love to share it. We love when other people share great ideas. We just think that everyone has some great information to share with everyone else. Basically, that's how we've evolved.
Rebeka: I love the fact that sometimes some of those things come from errors. [crosstalk] What were you doing?
Rebeka: It's costly when you do it the first time but you never make that mistake twice.
Ania: That's right.
Rebeka: But you didn't start out in property. You are a nurse?
Ania: We were both nurses.
Rebeka: Nurses, yes.
Ania: But I think we grew up in a household where we're always in a different house. My parents were always renovating and there was always talk about what property was selling for what? That's what we grew up with so we, at the age of 18, I remember went to a property seminar together. That was when the penny really dropped for me even though I was already, like at uni doing nursing. I knew that property was going to be something I was into.
At that stage, we were just educating ourselves, saving for an investment property, and all that sort of stuff. It's evolved from there like quite early on. We knew we wanted to get into property, and then it's been, obviously, a building block. You never know where you're going, but it's been a process of educating ourselves over the years, and learning from mistakes, and trying all different things. That's where we've evolved to where we are today, but yes, it was a nursing background initially.
Kasia: Yes, for both of us.
Ania: That was where our income came from, was we were first building up our business and buying our first property. Everyone starts somewhere when they're doing their first design or their first build. I remember reading Rich Dad Poor Dad and going, "Yes, this is what I want to do." That's one of the first books we all read and it was really for both of us. We were both really gravitated to that sort of lifestyle where we could work for ourselves and produce our own income.
We both loved nursing but we knew that that wasn't what we wanted to do long-term. We were both passionate about property.
Kasia: Yes, it's not for everyone. We were talking earlier about not so much the ups and the downs, but it's just a--
Ania: Roller coaster.
Rebeka: It's a roller coaster. It's a feast or famine type lifestyle which isn't for everyone, but at the moment, you guys are really loving it. You've now got this other business, Zephyr and Stone, which goes on top of the developing for profit. That's your main income, right?
Kasia: We earn most of our income from developing. Both of our husbands are builders so we do our own developments and Zephyr and Stone is on top of that. So, an educational company where we're sharing the information that we've learned over the years.
Rebeka: Yes, and you're doing a fantastic job developing. One of the things that we love to do is find women that are really, I guess, driving forward development for profit. And really involved and, I guess, standing out in their industry. We took a tour around this area, and maybe if you could tell us a little bit about what you were looking for in the area because you've got a lot of duplexes and the audience that are standing out above the others in this area.
Ania: We found the area based on the location because this northern part of the Gold Coast is just beautiful, so we loved it as an area. I suppose we didn't actually choose this area, like we got here and we loved it. Then, what we really try and encourage everyone to do, like, if you do want to get into the industry, you find an area and then you just learn everything about the area.
We spoke to all the agents, we got to know the demographics, who's buying here, what are they buying? My first question when I'm looking for a property is I want to know who the buyer is, what they want, their demographics, and the price of the area that I'm expecting to achieve.
Rebeka: I think what you're also saying is, you want to know they're in-price but you also want to know the beginning price and you're really buying the gap.
Ania: Right. Correct.
Ania: Exactly. It doesn't matter what area you choose, you just get to know that area. Whatever you choose, wherever you are, you can find a little pocket or you can find a niche in that area. For us, we got to know the market here and then we developed a product that we knew would suit the market here.
Rebeka: The market knows what to expect from your properties, too, so they're asking you for developments, right?
Kasia: Yes, correct. Most of our developments sell either off the plan or shortly after. We usually achieve record prices or very good prices because we've designed our properties for the target buyers. 90% of purchases here are retirees. We know that they want luxury finishes, they want less bedrooms, but they want the large walking room. They want the luxury ensuite. We have to think differently than someone who's building for a family suburb because our purchasers are not generally families.
We're also doing most of our developing in an area that we live in, that we know very well. The agents will come to us with those fabulous deals, sometimes that don't even hit the market. It is actually fabulous knowing your market inside-out.
Ania: And building that rapport with the agent. We built one of the first developments here and all the feedback was, "It's got too many bedrooms." We changed that straight away on the next one. I think it's not a mistake you make but it's like, you need to evolve. That's your starting point. When you're learning about an area, speak to the agent and find out who the buyers are, what they want? Because you can develop a product for them. It's just like with any business, you wouldn't create a product just because you like it. You literally cater to the clients.
Then, when you do that, you're going to be much more successful with your end-product and really create a product that we always talk about 80% of buyers, it will be the right solution for them.
Kasia: Something that ticks all the boxes. We choose the better streets, the better side of the street. We also do look at the purchase price, the numbers do need to stack up, but it's also very important that you line your decks up in a row and tick all those boxes for the potential buyer. They walk in and they go, "Look, it's a great street. The price is right."
Because we bought it right, we can process the in-sale at the correct price. We only use neutral finishers so everyone can sort of-- If they want to paint a feature wall a bright color, they can but we've really built for the majority of the population for them to walk in and say, "This ticks all my boxes."
Ania: There's nothing offensive. There's not too much personality in there so they can come and
Kasia: Inject their own.
Ania: We met finishers and their pieces and it will all work.
Rebeka: I agree. I think the neutral is great, but also the thought behind it. I think that's what sets you two apart from the others, is that when we see you working through those finishes and the way that things work, A, you've got the years of experience that go behind that, which tells you where the dishwasher needs to go, what layout should work here. But also you're really thinking about that person as if they are living in it and not just from that point of view of like, "Oh, here's a kitchen, I can just quickly draw it up." I know there's a process that you put.
Ania: I think when we first started, I don't think of it this way anymore, but when we first started, I'd always design a house for myself in terms of not that I was going to live there, so it meant I would have the right number of bedrooms, but a house that I'd be happy to live in. No matter whether it was a small unit or a large home like if you were designing it for yourself, that you have got the cabinetry, you have got the storage.
And I think I've seen so many homes when you walk in there's just not enough storage and that's so important when you're living in a home. Those little things that you include may make the difference if you are doing a development, someone buying yours. Or if you're selling a family home, someone comes in and says, "Well, everything's here." Thoughtful planing is just so important. Like thinking about how space is going to be used and making sure it flows. I think we've talked about this before.
If you don't have the right flow in a space, if it's not functional, it doesn't feel right and it's not going to appeal to people so it doesn't matter what finishes you use. That's really, really important to get those crucial elements right.
Rebeka: You're both sisters, which I don't know if I said earlier.
Kasia: Yes, we are sisters and we love working together. Although we do similar roles within the business, we also fill each other's gaps. We also do quite different things. Ania is the design brains behind the business which is fabulous, and Zephyr and Stone wouldn't be what it is without her. Anywhere that she lacks, I fill in the void, so we work very well together.
Ania: You're also a design brain as well. I don't think you don't give yourself enough credit.
Kasia: I make things look good.
Ania: We both do. I think its also a lot of the times we're doing the same thing, but we both add different elements so that it's better. It's like you might have a similar idea but when you've got two sides of it it just becomes better.
Rebeka: What is that saying...the sum of our parts?
Ania: Yes, we're greater than the sum of our parts.
Rebeka: There we go, thank you.
Ania: That's right.
Kasia: Zephyr and Stone would not be what it is if it wasn't for both of us. We both realized neither of us have what it takes to run our business.
Ania: Also, sometimes one of us just isn't around, life gets in the way, so the other one picks up the other's slack. So you do have lulls and things, so we boost each other, but two heads are better than one. We've got different ideas and sometimes Kasia will have a great idea and we can just build on that together.
Rebeka: Nice to be able to talk about things as well.
Rebeka: I think when you say something like renovation's a little bit like newborn babies. When you've got one in a stage, you just want to talk about it all the time and [laughs] if you're doing it alone, you don't have that kind of shared-
Ania: We also have a very unique relationship where we don't take things personally. If someone says something, the other might shut it down straight away but we don't take offense to it. We've got that relationship which I think it's really important. Sometimes I have to convince Kasia that it wasn't a good idea [laughs] but I don't think you can have a good long term working relationship if you can't be absolutely honest. If you are taking things personally, you just can't grow and evolve.
Rebeka: Thinking about your lifestyle and the way you've designed it, which is what I find it interesting as well, is you've both got kids. Your kids are of different ages. Can you tell us how that works in terms of your structure with developing allows you flexibility?
Ania: Yes, absolutely does. I think that's why we chose this career or this path because for years we've always pretty much worked for ourselves to a degree. Sometimes we've supplemented our income like in the early days with nursing, but it's a very flexible lifestyle. I love my job every day because I've created it. And I get to do what I want everyday sort of, like you still got commitments, you commit to jobs and things, but every day is different.
It's sort of this organized chaos where you might be called on to site in the last minute and then you're in the office in the afternoon and then a client needs you. That's what I love about what we've created, every single day is different.
Rebeka: You like the reaction too.
Ania: Yes. And I like solving problems. I think, really, if I was to sum up design, building and our business, every day we're solving problems and coming up with solutions and new ideas and that's what we love doing.
Kasia: We both wanted to create a business that was very flexible. It's really important. I've got young kids, I've got toddlers. One week they're sick, the next week they need me, and Ania travels a lot. We both wanted to create a business that was so flexible for our lifestyles, that we both work very hard. There's not a day that we're around that we aren't on the computer either early in the morning, late at night. We don't have to work Monday to Friday.
When we're actually in the middle of a build, yes, we'll do our site visits in the morning et cetera or when we need to. Generally speaking, it is very flexible and we've created that intentionally and we love the business we've created for that reason. We love everything. Obviously, the combination at the end when you walk through your finished project, but we love every design stage.
And every stage from drawing up our own floor plans and making sure it's functional and optimized, nerding out and solving problems and often the problems create the best solutions which turn out to be the highlights of the property for you. And then seeing it sold to purchasers who are so happy with it that they're literary singing your praises and some people becoming repeat customers. That is a fabulous-fabulous feeling, and you know you're doing the right thing.
Rebeka: I think we'll end on that, but thank you so much for having a chat with us about all things that you do from developing, to Zephyr and Stone, and the way you run your business. For those of you who don't know, we've launched the DevelopHer Inner Circle, which is all things renovating and developing and we'll actually be talking to Kasia and Ania about the numbers and how they select properties and taking a deeper dive into that.
If you want to find more about that, there will be a link under this podcast and you can click that and go through, but thank you so much for having us here.
Kasia: Thanks so much for having us.
Rebeka: Thanks for listening to Building with BuildHer, we'd love for you to spread the word.
Kribashini: For show notes, links and downloads and other awesome resources and freebies, head to BuildHerCollective.com.au. Don't forget, that's BuildHer with an H-E-R.
Rebeka: If you enjoyed this episode, it would mean so much to both of us if you could take a minute or two to leave a review.
Kribashini: Don't forget to subscribe, so you can listen next time as we talk all things building and women making their mark in the building industry.