Founder of The Vista, Julia Ashwood wears many, many hats. Employing her incisive eye and voice across various platforms, her day job includes contributing to her wildly successful and beautifully curated Follow the Vista travel website and travel guides, brand consulting, and collaborating on her range of limited-edition sustainable travel tee’s. Not only that, she’s a renovating aficionado; and for those who’ve watched her renovation Instagram stories can attest, she’s a natural born storyteller. Now a publican at her (and her husband and their business partner’s) latest venture The Eltham Hotel in the northern NSW, this mum of two exudes a magnetic exuberance that’s got us wondering, how the heck does she fit it all in?
Q.Julz, you are doing so many amazing things. When people ask what you do, what do you tell them? How do you fill in the ‘occupation’ section on your immigration card?
A. Ahhhh yes, it’s a never ending question, I often ask myself! I studied marketing and communications at University so I usually start there. I also worked in advertising for 10 years with even a bit of TV presenting on the side. In essence we create content; but mostly, and ultimately the reason I first created ‘The Vista’ was to help people in planning and loving their holidays by creating travel guides, discovering and sharing unique stays and sharing notes and tips. We now work with a family of brands such as Mukti Organics, AMEX and Vovlo, we work also with artists to create travel t-shirts from repurposed/recycled cotton stock, and more recently have started our own hotel - more on that later….
Q. You’ve got a few balls in the air; but in the spirit of Mother’s Day let’s start with the ‘mum’ ball. How do you keep it fun for the kids in between everything else you’ve got going on / do you have any creative ideas you can share with us??
A. Oh gosh, I am actually a self confessed non-crafty mum. But lately I’ve really had to step it up (and just secretly I am loving it); baking biscuits, tea parties, still life painting in the morning sun, planting and collecting food from the garden then cooking with it. Backyard camping under the stars, making fairy houses - next week we are even going to attempt an outdoor cinema. I have a 3.5 years old and an 18mths old, so like most kids (and adults) we love being outdoors.
Q. What’s the best piece of advice your mum has offered you and how does it translate to your life today?
A. “Presentation is 90% taste!” That’s Patsy’s favourite saying. I’m not quite sure how it really translates outside of the kitchen - but I love throwing it into conversation every now and then. Ha!
Q.What kind of role have other women had in your career?
A. My closest friends are my greatest heroes and influence. Jamie Blakey of OneTeaspoon - one of the most fiercely hard working women I know. Magdalena Wosinska a polish photographer who now lives and loves in LA and shoots for the likes of Vanity Fair - on film! Kari Jansen of ‘Poppy and Someday’ for her pure essence and generosity. Mukti, owner of beauty company ‘Mukti Organics’. Tory Bauer, who is my business adviser and one of the most intelligent, zany and legendary women I know. And my mum of course!
Q. You’ve successfully navigated maternity, new motherhood and beyond without sacrificing your style. What’s the secret and who’s your style inspiration?
A. I always stick to a handful of my favourite brands, that way I can't go wrong. Then I mix them with some vintage finds...All That Remains by Leah Lockley, Matteau, Baaba Knits, Jesse Kamm, Ace and Jig.
In terms of style inspo, I love the confidence through dressing which Caroline de Maigret oozes. Close friend Erin Wasson always nailed relaxed with a great dose of rock n roll too.
Q. Hard to have an interview without mentioning the ‘C’ word. We’re all living through this strange COVID-19 moment in time; what does isolation look like for you and your family and what’s keeping you all sane?
A. We are SO lucky to have access to the beaches here. The ocean is both my place to meditate, exercise and relax. I have trouble being away from water - an aquarius traint. The car parks are shut yet we can still walk to most. We are also so incredibly grateful to have space around us - we live on a rural property surrounded by sheep and cattle and alpaca, so are almost always in nature. I am feeling for my friends in NYC and Spain or any busy city at the moment and thinking of them daily.
Q. Pre-coronavirus you bought a pub! Congratulations. Tell us about the lessons you’ve learned since taking on this new business venture?
A. The value of time. We don’t have a lot of it at the moment, especially as a family. I miss that. BUT, we know once things are back to normal the outcome will be rewarding. The hotel is a lovely piece of Australian history. It’s 113years old with a great old bar, five hotel rooms, a sweet dining space and loads of outdoor space for live music, weddings and parties and fun! Plus it's only 30mins from Byron Bay and Ballina airport - but you feel as though your miles away in the rolling green hills of the Northern Rivers.
Q. You’re a natural born storyteller, and you’ve created a narrative for each room that you’re renovating. What’s the concept and how did you come up with it?
A. Yes! The five rooms are dedicated to five historical women of Eltham and surrounds - including my mum, Patsy (Room 4). I couldn't have created the rooms without each of the stories in mind, now I live and breathe them. I loved working on this unique project, sourcing all the elements through marketplace and vintage retailers and now I can't wait to share it with the world.
Q. Anyone that’s followed your renovating stories on Instagram knows that you’ve become an inadvertent advocate for Marketplace and secondhand finds! What other places are your go-to stores for sourcing interior/vintage ‘gold’ like what you’ve found for The Eltham?
A. Honestly, 90% of the finds are from Marketplace, and everybody who helps me find them is via @the_vista IG community. Even the winning Palm Tree!! The rest have come through donations or my partners on the hotel project including; ‘in Bed Store’, Porters Paints, Lounge Lovers and our amazing new beds from Sherman Australia; I have been overwhelmed with the response and loved every moment of the journey.
Q. Let’s talk jewellery for a minute. What are your favourite Kirstin Ash pieces?
A. The classic chain: https://us.kirstinash.com/products/herringbone-chain-18k-gold-vermeil
And the simplistic beauty of a single pearl: https://us.kirstinash.com/products/pearl-choker-18k-gold-plated
Q. To layer or not to layer? Where do you sit within the layering scope?
A. 100%!!!! It’s a must. It’s great to use varied weights and lengths. *If your choker chain is plain, then perhaps mix it up with a longer chain with a feature. Anything goes, just have fun with it till it feels right. I change my necklaces around every week or so.
Q. What local travel plans are on the horizon? Where can we expect The Vista to pop up next?
A. Rural Australia is a focus; to lend our support to those affected by bushfires and drought, as well as New Zealand and Tasmania. We tend to gravitate towards nature and then see where that leads us. Mexico and Majorca will have to wait for another year… x