I used to live with Pip Newell in a sharehouse in Northcote, where I saw Curated Spaces, her secondhand-furniture re-selling business, hatch and grow almost by accident. When I first moved in with Pip in early 2017 she was studying photography, and had just started selling furniture on a popular Facebook group (in the days before Facebook Marketplace) to make a little bit of money on the side of her nannying job.
‘I didn’t have any special furniture at the time – I was still at university and didn’t have the budget to match the interiors that I dreamt of, so I started sifting through the online haystack, and soon realised that there was this entire world of treasures to be found’, Pip says of the early days of Curated Spaces.
It was a bit of a joke amongst our housemates that you’d never know what the place was going to look like when you got home at the end of the day. Our living room was a rotating door of velvety modular couches, marble and travertine coffee tables and larger-than-life plants – all of which Pip had sourced on secondhand marketplaces. She was constantly on the lookout – driving all around Victoria to pick up the pieces she’d scored, often stopping in at op-shops along the way, where she’d inevitably stumble upon more treasures to bring home.
From the very beginning, it was clear that Pip had cracked a market that was, at the time, not being serviced. People who cared about the aesthetics of their home and who didn’t have the budget for designer furniture, but also didn’t want to furnish their entire house with mass-produced pieces. A market who wanted the thrill of a special, unique find, but didn’t have the time or ability to go on the hunt themselves. Looking at the success of Curated Spaces, and the secondhand furniture re-selling market today in general, it’s hard to believe this was only three years ago.
Every week, new second-hand seller Instagram accounts pop up, and I don’t think it’s hyperbolic to say that this rise has completely influenced many of the trends in furniture and interiors we’re seeing in newly produced pieces today – the squat, chubby shapes of the 70s, materials like travertine and rattan, and iconic pieces like the bent Caprani lamp and Featherston sofas have received attention and appreciation from a whole new generation.
Pip lives on the Sunshine Coast now, and her sisters Annelise and Bella have recently come on board to help her run the business (she counts the approval of her sisters investing as business partners as one of her proudest moments). She now manages a network of more than 20 sellers from around Australia, from whom she makes a small commission, as well as taking on the logistics of transporting pieces from one home to the next. Recently, Curated Spaces has expanded beyond Instagram, launching as a website-based selling platform. Nowadays, they mostly use the ‘gram to advertise their much-anticipated weekly website drop, where items are often pounced on seconds after they are posted!
Pip thinks the boom of this new niche market comes down to a couple of different things – a greater appreciation for recycled pieces, and the way that Instagram is set up as a platform. ‘It’s a way to take a stand against the wasteful ‘fast furniture’ industry that encourages consumers to think of furniture as disposable, only to last until the next trend appears to take its place. Having a more sustainable alternative is increasingly important to people’, she says. ‘I also think that growth is enabled by the way Instagram is set up and consumed. It has allowed people to set up a business from their own homes. It’s also a place for inspiration. The combination of these two elements has made it a one-stop-shop where, in the same scroll, you can be inspired by a picture of an aspirational interior, and then see something similar that you can actually buy. It’s like a mini-world of all your favourite things!’
As for the future of Curated Spaces, Pip continues to carve out her own path. There are talks of expanding to an international market, and possibly even creating her own platform, as well as designing a small furniture collection inspired by the vintage styles her customers love. ‘There’s not really any other company or business structure we are basing ourselves off of or working towards – we’re letting our audience guide us – it’s nerve-racking but exhilarating!’