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Chaos at Home: Pony Rider

The words ‘boutique homewares’ usually conjures up images of trendy Paddington parents browsing expensive stores on a lazy Sunday afternoon while sipping on some derivative of a soy chai latte. Pony Rider, however, with its humble teakins and unexpectedly lavish cotton cushion covers, wholeheartedly challenges this stereotype and could turn even the most outgoing social extrovert into the house-proud homebody. After seeing a gap in the market for homewares that appealed to a Gen Y target audience, Kelly Searl – along with now ex-business partner but still-friend Jacqui Lewis – started the refreshingly unpretentious homewares label Pony Rider. In the words of Kelly, “Pony Rider is about those raw moments in life that make you smile. It’s about finding the beauty in the everyday, with somewhat bowerbird tendencies.”

Even though the Pony Rider label only launched in October last year, to Kelly, Pony Rider has been present in her life for much longer. “It’s my baby that’s been brewing for such a long time… It’s taken four years of procrastination, one year of thinking about and one year of designing. Some might say it’s been a rather slow process, but life has a way of putting a stop to things that shouldn’t happen,” she reflects. “So why did it launch three months after my second child was born? Who knows? My friends say I like the chaos. I’m starting to think they’re right,” she says, and we can’t even begin to fathom the prospect of two infants and an equally young and demanding business venture.

Kelly describes her background in design as “slightly diverse”, and that it is. She started out in advertising, designing for Attik. “It’s here that my love of branding and brand strategy developed,” she says. Although primarily a designer, she also dabbled in TVC and broadcast design, eventually setting up her own design studio in textile design, yardage development, logo development and creative direction for a clientele that included Woodford & Co, Munster, General Pants, Tigerlily, Sony and Coca Cola. Following this, she also took on full-time roles within One Teaspoon, Sass & Bide and Volcom. Why the switch from the fast-paced world of advertising to the world of teakins and humble househould furnishings? “I decided to get into homewares because it suited my lifestyle. I’m a mum now, so not so socially active, one might say… It’s nice putting everything I’ve learnt and worked for into practise under one label.” She adds, “I also felt that there were limited offerings for younger people looking to dress their home.”

Kelly’s design process recalls the chaos that she spoke about earlier: “I like creating a set of rules because generally I’ll break them.” What she means is she begins by creating a plan before she develops a line, which she then builds on, adding colours and ascertaining the mood of the collection. “Once these formalities are developed, I generally diverge from them… It’s a slightly mad process but seems to work for me.”

It is apparent from the Pony Rider pieces that they take on a found art aesthetic, like the Flowerbomb print that recalls vintage fabrics and florals. “I love finding old objects and working out how I can re-create them in a different light,” Kelly says. “I love finding a little swatch of fabric and then a completely random object and working out how I can morph them together.” Kelly likens this juxtaposition to her city: “I think Pony Rider reflects Sydney style through the prints we offer. Every print is different from the other yet they somehow compliment each other. Much Like Sydney itself; an array of uber clinical and vintage chic morphed into one big stinkin’ city sandwich.”

Understanding the fact that very few of us actually own our homes and thus have very limited freedom in painting walls or even hanging pictures, Kelly is currently working on a new wallwares section for the range: large format posters, decals and flagging. Kelly says her overall goal for Pony Rider is “growth and product diversification”, and she has already started fulfilling this, currently developing more typography-infused cushion designs for all the fontaphiles like herself out there, as well as looking to launch bedding next. “I love working with new materials,” she says. “Wood is especially fascinating for me at the moment, so I wouldn’t be surprised if I end up launching furniture down the track.”

“At the moment my favourite room in my house is my bedroom,” Kelly tells us. “You may laugh, but it’s the only place I can totally relax. I have two kids under three years old, so sleep is precious and time-out only occurs at night after they’ve gone to bed. I’ve started reading books again, so I thoroughly enjoy my wind down time; in bed with my latest novel and a warm cup of tea.” Heaven.

You can check out the Pony Rider website and online store at The range is also stocked at The Collector Store in Surry Hills and Love and Lace & Linen in Palm Beach.

words: Ingrid Kesa


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