Mon's stunning work fuses the space between indoor & outdoor seamlessly.
Perfect Pastel Palettes;
Mon Palmer x Bauwerk Colour
Digital renderings from Mon's portfolio of work.
NAME: Mon Palmer
COMPANY: Slightly Garden Obsessed
TITLE(S): Creative Director / Designer
How would you describe yourself in 5 words? Resourceful, loyal, curious, dreamer, overoptimistic
What is the long version of how you got to where you are today? I have been on my creative and entrepreneurial journey since my early 20’s. Before that, I was always one to choose maths and science over art in school so I am still amazed that my path has led me to a love of design.
It all started when I was making handmade earrings for family and friends while working as a retail manager for a fashion store. I needed an idea to fund my round the world backpacking trip and 2 year working visa stay in London. Working in retail wasn’t going to keep me afloat! I sent a few samples of my earrings off to Sportsgirl and - to my surprise – landed a contract that had my earrings stocked nationwide in Sportsgirl stores across Australia.
From then on, creativity and entrepreneurship was in my blood!
While travelling, I became fascinated with how people lived in their spaces. I soon realized that people back home in Perth were underutilizing the amazing potential of the outdoor spaces they had in their homes.
When I returned from travelling I studied Horticulture in Landscaping and Landscape Design. The landscaping course was both theory and practical. For a year I was building limestone walls, putting together reticulation, paving, decking and laying lawn. I was one of two girls in the class. It was tough and I experienced sexist bullying, with many days ending in tears and wanting to give up. But I didn’t and I built up the courage to confront the main person instigating the taunts. I threatened to advise the TAFE what was happening and that he would be sent home to the UK if they found out how he was behaving (He was doing the course to get a certificate qualification to get residency in Australia). I’m not sure if that would have happened but I’m happy I said it and so glad I pushed through and stuck up for myself because what I learned and went through has made me a more rounded designer, in terms of technical skill, and it taught me how to handle myself in a highly male dominated industry. And for that I am so grateful.
I began my first garden design business while studying and that was the start of this amazing journey, filled with crazy highs and lows. The year after I completed my studies I won my first award, ‘Best Landscape Designers’ Show Garden’, in a collaborative display at Perth Garden Week 2009. It was a Moroccan inspired courtyard, with inky purple walls and white decorative screens. I still love that space to this day! The following year we showcased again and took out two awards, this time for ‘Best Landscapers Display’ and best in show ‘The Grand Champion Award’.
This collaborative project led to a business partnership, which unfortunately did not last. It was a year and a half of giving everything I had - EVERYTHING - but I decided to leave once I realized we had very different business goals and values. It was my baby and was one of the hardest decisions I have had to make in my life. We were kicking goals and were a profitable business from the get go, but I knew in my heart this hard decision short term would be the best decision long term.
After leaving, I did not have the energy or love to start up my own business straight away. I knew that when I did launch again, it was going to be done with passion and heart, which I was struggling to find, so I approached the best Landscape Architect firm in Perth and asked for a job… And I got it!
For 3 years I was a senior designer at the firm. I loved the people and working in an ‘office’. They let me run my own projects and I really did embrace all things entrepreneur. They even allowed me to work part-time remote while we lived in Colorado, USA. It was fab!
However, once I was living abroad, I knew I had to go out on my own again. Well, my partner Phil knew this before I did. He was the one that gave me the little extra push of confidence to take the leap again. I immersed myself in online business courses, podcasts and webinars. I honed in on who my Ideal Customer Avitar (ICA) was - thank you Marie Forleo – and put in place what I needed to do to start my business. On returning from the States, I officially launched Slightly Garden Obsessed on 1st November 2014.
Since then it has been absolutely CRAZY, and I pinch myself daily, not believing the opportunities and projects that have come my way.
I think it is really important people can explain their main message in a concise paragraph – if the above is the full version - What is you elevator pitch on what you do? I take people’s jumbled up thoughts, feelings, concerns, wants and needs about their home and garden out of their head, package it up and give it back to them in a design concept that they can execute.
Are you doing what you thought you would be doing 10 years ago? (If not, what did you think you would be doing?) 10 years ago I dreamed to be a landscape designer. The projects, collaborations and opportunities I have had the opportunity to work on, have by far exceeded what I could have ever dreamed of 10 years ago. The world has changed so much in that time, and also how I see the industry. I used to view it from one dimension. Since starting Slightly Garden Obsessed, I see the industry as multi-faceted and am so excited to be a part of it.
What does ‘success’ mean to you, and do you consider yourself ‘successful’? To be honest, I haven’t worked out what success means to me. I am never happy with the status quo, so I’m not sure if I will ever consider myself successful. Maybe I see success as another word for completed. If that’s the case, I’m definitely not there yet!
What do you still want to achieve (personally & / or professionally) Two and a half years ago we made the decision to start a family.. It didn't happen overnight but Phil (my fiance) and I are true believers in everything happens for a reason and when the time is right it will happen. So we were really, REALLY excited to learn a few weeks ago that we are expecting our first child in August! This means we need more room in our 2x1 home - which we call the Little White Abode - so we've just designed our second level extension that we're hoping to complete before the little one comes along. Yes - dream big and hope for the best ha! I feel like we have a bit of a plan mapped out to make our dream list happen over the next year or so and are super excited for what’s to come…
Professionally, I feel like I have only just started my journey. My dream and goal list is endless! Which can be a little annoying while trying to stay focused on the job. I am obsessed with California, and have a paint range launching soon with Bauwerk Colour called Cali Dreaming. I would love to do some landscape projects there, which I think may happen! I have been speaking with a couple of clients in LA & SoCal so we’ll see.. Watch this space!!
Did you study anything specific for the career you are in? I studied for two years full time at TAFE - Horticulture in Landscaping and Landscape Design.
What have been the most rewarding things in your career to date? Opening up the studio. It was life changing. It opened my eyes to see how difficult people could be and at the same time showed me how supportive and wonderful people could be. I learnt a lot of lessons and, to me, that is super rewarding… And having a space dedicated to my work and creativity is really special to me. It is also a place for my staff and allows me to be able to grow a team. It’s exciting!
Tell us about your workspace (Office / café / couch / aesthetic) what inspires you about your workspace? For the first year and a half I worked from the kitchen bench, couch or coffee table and floor. I loved the freedom of working whenever and I loved being at home in our space and with our dog, Tonka. It felt liberating! But after a while, and especially when I took on my first employee, the shine wore off and I knew it couldn’t be forever. So I had a quick little look on a commercial real estate site and found the perfect location for a studio within about 5 minutes. I organized a time to have a look, put in an offer and had it pre-approved within a couple of weeks. It wasn’t planned, but it felt right. I have recently completed the fit out and it has surprised me how much harder it has been than I anticipated. Not the actual fit out, but just the whole moving into a space with other tenants around, and it not being our space to do whatever we want, whenever we want. Let’s just say it has been a steep learning curve. You know, one of those ones you learn when you’re green and have NO IDEA what you’re getting yourself in for. Ha!
But to answer the question… The space is a blend of tribal Moroccan luxe. Bespoke brass, and glass doors and windows, black and white encaustic tiles throughout, my solid brass H Bar occasional loungers, a Beni Ourain rug, navy colour pops, a gallery wall of images of our designs, and lots and lots of cacti and overscaled greenery. I want it to be a beautiful, inspiring place for our clients and for us to work in, to hold events, dream, design, create and, of course, have Friday afternoon drinks at.
What are some frustrations you have experienced on your career journey? Most are of my own frustrations. In the past I have made bad judgment calls on who I partner with or trust – because I can be too trusting and want to see the good in people - which has led to business breakdowns, lost money and broken dreams. But to be honest, when I really look at it, frustrations are a way of the universe telling me something needs to change (usually mindset) or I need to do something differently.
When was the last time you where overwhelmed & cried from something provoked by work / work load? If a day has gone by without overwhelm I am thankful, but also question myself – have I done enough today? Overwhelm has unfortunately followed me around for a while now. So many opportunities without enough hours in the day! I am a YES person. I take on too much, I get excited too easily and I am overoptimistic about how long things will take, even when I double it! It is all my own doing and I am trying every day to be more mindful of this. It is definitely on the top of my list of ‘Things I’m Working On’.
Would you say you put pressure on yourself? Has this gotten more or less as you progress in your career? I would rather put pressure on myself than put pressure on someone else. I am always striving to be a better…. designer, friend, lover, entrepreneur… person in general. So yes, the pressure has increased as my career has. I’m not adverse to pressure though. Like a diamond ;)
There are days when it does really get to me though. That’s usually the day I say, “I need to get back to yoga”.. and then forget to go!
If you are a business owner – and you often can’t just check out / have a week off when you are dealing with personal things – how do you keep on keeping on with your business when things get tough? I have had a whole lot of full on events happen in my life, that not much can throw me these days. I have a little outburst for not too long, and then just get on with business the best I can. And practicing gratitude is a huge one for me. Gratitude, gratitude, gratitude. I am so grateful for what I get to do and how my life has turned out, considering where I have come from.
Has your career affected your personal life / relationships? If so how? It has. In the best possible way I could imagine. I have met the most amazing, inspirational people in my career journey.. many of whom I now call friends. I do not want to say a career defines a person, but before I found my passion I always felt like an outsider. I never felt like I belonged anywhere. Following my dreams has centered me. I really know who I am as a person and that has brought so much richness and joy to my personal life.
The biggest downside is that I am usually running around doing something so I do not have a lot of time to catch up with friends on the weekly. And sleep. I would like to get more sleep!
Has your journey at times felt lonely? How? In the very beginning it did. I was out on my own working for myself. I was new to the industry and the world of business. I went to networking events and reached out to peers. I think at the time, a lot of creatives felt that way in Perth and there was a big movement of creative meet ups. It is amazing the friendships I have made from them and there is never a day I feel lonely on my journey now with the support, love and friendship I receive from these people.
What causes you anxiety / sleepless nights? Holy moly. What doesn’t cause me anxiety at the moment?! I feel it everyday but am very aware of it. Sometimes it grabs me and puts me in a state, but most times I know it’s there, acknowledge it and reassure myself that it’s nothing worth getting worked up about. Well, actually, Phil (my fiancé) will tell me that… while I’m in some sort of crazy panic. Haha! It’s just the nature of a growing business.
Every month when I have a new overhead I start saying, “Oh no I can’t afford that!” But I know it’s vital for my business to take the next step, so instead I say, “This is the best investment EVER and it will take a huge weight off my shoulders if I put this in place”.
The other main cause of my anxiety is feeling like I’m letting people down. I always feel like I am not doing enough, not getting back to people quick enough, not being accommodating enough. It’s a huge problem! Again, something I am working on in my own mind to tell myself I am enough. I believe this comes down to communication also. Keeping clients in the loop with what is happening with their project. We’re putting systems in place now to keep this on track.
If you had your time over again, from when you started your career to right now, would you do anything differently? I would have set up Xero sooner. But that is about all.
Every win and loss, heartbreak and triumph has got me to where I am today… Living beyond my dreams.
What advice would you give your 21 year old self? Stand up for what is right, and what is yours.
Who are some women in business you admire & why? Oh man. Or should I say, oh woman! There are many. I will name a few, but the reasons why are all similar. I admire these women for their positive, honest, big thinking, individual and (what seems) fearless attitude; Marie Forleo, Lisa Messenger, Samantha Wills, Melissa Ambrosini, Zoe Paul, Gabby Bernstein, Natalie Rolt, Sophie Bell, Amanda Shadforth, Hong Henwood.
What traits do you admire in people you surround yourself with? Honest, kind, courageous, humble, optimistic, spontaneous, grounded, loyal, ambitious
Work life balance… Does it exist (I don’t think it does!) and how to maintain it, or a sense of it? I love how Lisa Messenger calls it work/life blend. My work and my life overlap. I do not have set hours.. If I am feeling particularly inspired to design, I do so. If not, I do something else until the ideas come. The only time this doesn’t work is when I have a deadline, which is quite often! Then it all goes a bit frantic.
Have you ever thought about giving up / quitting? If so, does that feeling hit from the same triggers? Why haven’t you quit? When I feel the tight grip of overwhelm I question myself, “What is this all for?” And feel like throwing myself on the floor and chucking a tantrum. Sometimes I start a little mini one, feel kind of stupid and pull myself together. I take stock, fill myself with GRATITUDE, remember how hard I have worked to get to where I am going and get on with it. At those times, I need to get out of my own way and just get through whatever task I am doing or person I am dealing with. If I procrastinate on it, it just gets worse!
What is the biggest misconception about what you do? Either I am a gardener or I just draw pretty pictures all day and fluff about. The only person who sees ALL the work behind the scenes and late at night is Phil. Designing is only a very small part of what I do to keep the business running and growing.
What advice would you give someone who is starting out in your industry? Be very clear on who your client is. Find your style, your niche. Get inspiration from outside of the industry.
Set up your accounting system from DAY 1. Know who you are and communicate that very clearly to your audience. Be true to YOU.
If you knew what you know now, about how much work was involved to get you to where you are now, would you do it again or do something different, if so, what? I wouldn’t change anything for the world right now. However, I always wanted to be a Zoologist. I love animals. I love connection to nature. Maybe one day I will go back to study. Who knows?
I like the quote ‘Don’t just have a job, have a purpose’ - What do you want your legacy to be? I want to be remembered for creating opportunities and building dreams, not for myself, but for others. By being brave and following my dreams, I hope to give others the courage to do so, too.
The SAMANTHA WILLS FOUNDATION is about bringing women in business together – why do you think this is important / (why did you want to be involved in this interview)? Community is everything. A sense of belonging and being understood… That is all us humans want at the end of the day. It is beautiful to share our knowledge, downfalls, wins, heartbreak and just basically connect.
What are some of your favorite quotes? Audentes fortuna iuvat – Latin for fortune favours the brave. I have this tattooed on my wrist. I love it for it is in Latin (as are all the botanical names of plants) and for what it means.
Until I met Phil, I had been in this world on my own. I’ve never really felt I had a family I could depend on for love and support. It was my reminder to be brave in life, and in my choices and in doing so it will all be OK.