A view to a thrill …
Julie Tengdahl’s home lets her relax and create
When Julie Tengdahl was just 15, the man who would become her husband promised he would one day buy her a house with city views.
“That was his wish for me,” says the Brisbane fashion designer, of husband Brett.
“I wasn’t attached to that promise at all but he was determined to fulfil that vow, gorgeous man that he is.”
Thanks to that promise, the Tengdahls now call Highgate Hill home, where their hilltop house obliges with stunning views of the CBD.
The designer played a major role in renovating the timber worker’s cottage, purchased in its original state in 2002, into a three-storey dream home with amazing city views.
“At the time, I felt I had a lot of chaos in my life,” says Julie.
“The (three) kids were very young, I was struggling with the expansion of the business and I just needed a clean slate, a space I could create from.
“And as I started having that clean space, I think I started blossoming as a designer as well. I think the house did help a lot with that for me.”
After making her name in the fashion world for styling exquisitely printed fabrics into flowing, cleverly cut garments, Julie Tengdahl made the decision to remain small with her Brisbane Arcade store and West End workroom, rather than try to take on the world.
“For me success is who I’m meeting, who I’m talking to,” she says.
“It’s not about how many stores you have, how many people you sell to. For me that’s vacuous.
“I’m there for women, whether they’re the women in my store, the women in the workroom or in the business.”
Her clear vision of success is reflected in her home, which she describes as a “total extension of my personality”.
“I did have a wonderful woman, Susan Driver, with whom I collaborated (on the renovation),” she says.
“We all need support and it’s about trusting someone with your vision and there was a very strong vision about how I felt I could use the space.”
But Julie admits that as she has evolved so has the house with the original “ultra modern” style of the extension making way for a blending of old and new.
“Originally it was all black and white but we’ve since changed the floors from black Japan to natural timbers,” she says. “There’s a core value of earthiness, and there’s that gypsy, that traveller.”
Certainly, mementos from Julie’s frequent trips to India, Africa and Europe are artfully displayed throughout the house — from colourful saris draped over chairs to soothing meditative watercolours on the wall.
Orange cubes and orangehued artwork are also prominent in a nod to the vibrant colour’s energy. “You resonate at a higher level with orange, and I incorporate a lot of that in my collections,” she says.
A variety of interconnecting areas for people to congregate and “have conversations” is the main feature of the second storey, which also houses the enormous open plan kitchen, and three bedrooms.
“Our room is upstairs because I think it’s really important for par-
Julie Tengdahl, main picture, and some of the treasured items at her Highgate Hill home in Brisbane GLENN HUNT
ents to give children some space, to be there but not be in their face the whole time,” Julie says.
“I was really conscious with my daughters especially: I wasn’t bringing them into my industry, and they were developing their own personalities not attached to mine ”
“As they’ve got older, they moved downstairs to a basement area, which has its own access.”
Today daughter Bridgette, 25, works in the advertising industry in New Zealand and Jemma, 23, in IT in Brisbane.
Son Anders, 18, is hoping to study business at university, hav- ing just finished school. “The girls do help me a lot with the business, particularly with the online and social media ideas, like what’s trending,” says Julie.
“I suppose as they get older, our relationship has changed from mother-daughter to great friends. I’m very blessed in that sense.”
Along with the main sitting room with its fireplace and striking “Warrior Princess” artwork, Julie’s favourite place in the house is her meditation room.
“Every morning I put my meditation music on, and it gives me whatever I need to know for the day,” she says.
“It takes about an hour but I try not to get pressured about time, and if I’ve only got 10 minutes I’ll just sit here and think and breathe.”
A more recent addition to the house is an African drum or djembe, which Julie is now learning to play.
“As a lot of women move into their 50s they start shrinking their world, and really it should be expanding,” she says.
“The kids are older, the work part of your life is sorted, it’s the most incredible freedom and we should be doing those things we always wanted to do.”