Lucy Feagins’ Design Obsession

Pictured: Lucy Feagins. Photo by Sean Fennessy.

Lucy Feagins started a blog about design, art, beautiful spaces and stunning imagery in 2008. It was a hobby that turned into a design-obsessed business intent on curating and showcasing the most beautiful design discoveries. From homes, to art, retail, crafts and food, Lucy has it all covered on The Design Files.

And what a ride it has been. Within a year, The Design Files was quickly recognised as one of the world’s top 50 design blogs by The Times (UK) in 2009 and is Australia’s no. 1 design blog. It reflects the high quality content one might find in glossy monthly magazines, except it’s online and inspiration is daily. It’s no wonder the blog has amassed an impressive following receiving over 1 million impressions a month since the latest redesign. Creative and design folks, renovation enthusiasts and proud home-owners alike clamour to have their creations featured on the blog. Hence, she never runs out of great content!

The Design Files Open House Project 2012.
The Design Files Open House Project 2012. Photo by Brooke Holm

Lucy experimented taking The Design Files ‘offline’. In 2011 and 2012, she orchestrated The Design Files Open House Project in hometown Melbourne, emptying out two different residential homes and furnishing them with all the great Australian-designed products she had previously featured on the blog. This year, she plans on taking it to Sydney.

I had the absolute pleasure chatting to Lucy about her journey and what she’s learnt so far.

The idea of The Design Files came while you were working as a set dresser in film and TV, did you have a strategy or at least a plan on how you would launch the blog and get people to read it?

My main strategy was to ensure that I published a new post every weekday, this way my readers (a small handful at the time!) knew exactly when to expect a post. I think creating a level of consistency definitely encourages return visits. To be honest my main strategy then and now is always focused on content. The Design Files started as a hobby not a business, I only started thinking of business strategy more recently.

Did you have detractors in the early stages? If so, how did you cope with it?

No we have been so lucky, the response to what we do has always been 99% positive. We love our readers!

What was the turning point for The Design Files?

About two years in I started accepting advertising on the site, which was a very modest income at first. But it wasn’t until the end of 2010 when I quit my day job in the film industry and focused on TDF full-time that it truly took off.

Your blog is considered one of Australia’s most successful. It has also been recognised overseas as a top design blog. Why is The Design Files so successful?

There are so many reasons that factor into the success of any online publication. In our case I think it’s a combination of consistent image quality, original content, photography commissioned by us, and editorial integrity. We really value our readers, and we know they respond to the personal tone of our site, so we’re really sensitive about the editorial choices we make for that reason.

You must receive tons of requests from folks who want their homes featured, how do you pick them?

We do, which is great! Coming up with new content everyday and in particular a new Australian home every week is one of the biggest challenges we have. So we actually love submissions even though we receive more than we are usually able to respond to. We like to feature a variety of homes, which means making sure every city in Australia is represented where we can, making sure the homes we feature are accessible and interesting and not just big budget architecturally designed homes. It’s hard to say the exact criteria, to be honest most of the editorial decisions around here are quite intuitive!

What are your proudest achievements:

In business? Building The Design Files into a well recognised brand, and maintaining really top quality content day in and day out.

In life? Striking a balance between maintaining an independent business and commercial interests.

What’s the biggest mistake you’ve learnt?

Not delegating and thinking I can do everything myself. Last year I finally got an assistant, she is amazing, I should have done it a year earlier.

The Design Files looks like a massive job, how do you keep focused and motivated?

In all honesty there is no division in my brain between work and life. I never really switch off. I love what I do. Motivation has never been an issue for me. Time management, however, is!

When you’re not working on The Design Files, what do you get up to? How do you unwind?

I really love food, cooking and eating out.

What’s the one piece of advice you didn’t get that you would offer women who want to go out on their own?

Lean into it! I read this quote in a cheesy self help book a long time ago and it stuck in my brain. It means when the bigger picture seems too daunting, don’t be paralysed by how to get started. Just lean in the right direction, take it one step at a time, and things will happen.


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Robelen Bajar

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