“I didn’t know it was a job either!” exclaims Belinda Cendron, referring to her own occupation as a hospitality interior stylist and sourcer (or Sourceress, to use her alias). If you’ve ever spent time in the basement of Shady Pines, whiled away hours at Gazebo or sidled into Manly Wine, you will have sat among her finds.
It’s a peculiar job. “I was recently asked to find a stuffed beaver,” she laughs. “I knew who to call. There were two: one in Africa and one in regional New South Wales. One had been stuffed and the other hadn’t – and did I want it in a certain pose or not?”
To find choice items, she’s raided collections, pestered op-shop management and cut deals in parking lots, but it’s not just about hunting for the bizarre. “I'll either be asked to find something specifically, or I’ll go to a venue and they'll ask, 'Can you look at this space and tell us what we need to do?'” she explains. “I'll just come up with some ideas, whether it's colour or fabrics or space. And then sometimes, it's just completely carte blanche.” Cedron works on an ongoing number of Keystone Group bars, but her most substantial projects have been Sweetheart’s Rooftop BBQ and the recent refurbishment of the Newtown Hotel.
She’s clear on the difference between creating an interior and sourcing for established spots. “With the small bars, a lot of the owners are [sourcing] themselves because that's a lot of fun for them,” she muses. “Even with some of the Keystone projects, they're essentially doing it themselves; I just add layers along the way.”
With a background in finance and marketing, hospitality interior styling was not the most obvious vocation for Cendron. While working in finance at Ralph Lauren, she gained insights into commercial creative processes. Later, while managing an antiques dealership, she started gaining contacts. Afterwards came a trip to Argentina, a haul at the markets of San Telmo and then: “I kind of got really inspired. I've always loved antique, original pieces… I just built a website and suddenly I had a business.”
Cendron makes it sound very matter-of-fact, but her proposals and mood boards show that for any single space there are always several ideas running in parallel, imagined to the last square inch of tile or fabric.
The recent renaissance of the DIY aesthetic is a boon for Cendron’s personal bevy of styles and tastes. He bar decors are all about the seemingly spontaneous and 'un-styled', but are still obviously considered. “People engage me, I think, because my style is quite eclectic and not 'too designed' I suppose.”
Cendron is acutely aware of how strange it is to engineer these interiors, but points to a wider cultural curiosity and yearning that warrants it. “Unlike places like Europe, where spaces are genuinely old, with a bit of history, they don't need to create [interesting spaces]. Whereas, here we do,” she says. “There's a certain charm about something's that been lived in and had so many different lives…so I don't think it's strange that people try to re-create that. I think the fun is in trying to make it as authentic as possible.”
Call it irony or the Instagram aesthetic, but a hint of nostalgia is now shorthand for enchanting. Incidentally, Cendron claims Instagram is central to her process of cataloguing curios and curating concepts, and hers is littered with visual delights. Her tastes are indeed wildly eclectic. Her studio is baroque, kitsch, modern and nostalgic all at once. It is flooded with photography books and colour swatches; flowers and birds and belljars. To do her job well, style ruts are not an option.
She has, however, managed to fixate on one obsession: giant clamshells. They line every surface of her studio and are piled with apples, keys or trinkets. It began during an ongoing search for a ship’s wheel. Then, one day, she pulled into her driveway and spied a ship’s wheel in a neighbour’s garage. She walked out of his garage with the wheel and a wheelbarrow full of clamshells. They’ve been her signature item ever since. “I like things that are just natural, authentic and organic,” she says.
But to find a specific item, it’s about having the knowledge, nous and contacts. “There are a few people that run those sort of places that I can just contact and say, 'I know it's not in your store but have you got one of these?' They'll say, 'I know a guy, who knows a guy who's got one in his garage – I'll suss it out for you’.”
So after the beavers and ship’s wheel, what is the strangest thing she’s ever had to source? Cendron hesitates. “Most things aren’t as strange for me as they are for everyone else.
“Driving around a car full of taxidermy is very strange,” she offers. “At one time I had in my car two deer heads, a grizzly bear, coyotes, a cougar. I felt…very uncomfortable. It was a little too much even for me.”