Creativity runs in Jane Valentine’s blood. With a land surveyor and building designer as a father, and contemporary artist and teacher as a mother, the influences dominating Jane’s career have married perfectly to inspire one of Tasmania’s leading interior designers.

Growing up on the outskirts of Hobart in a quirky hexagonal home designed by her father, Jane warmly recalls the effect the family property had on her life. “That house had a really big influence on me without me even realizing it until much later in life. The hexagon is one of the most efficient shapes in nature and really minimizes wasted space. Although we didn’t have huge bedrooms, what we did have was very cleverly utilised.”

As a young girl, Jane’s flair for design was quick to surface. “My bedroom was quite small but it was the perfect use of space,” she smiles. “The bed, the built in desk and the wardrobe left me little room to rearrange things, but being determined to play with space I turned to what I could move. I was always rearranging my belongings and the items on my shelves to create new layouts…I loved the process.”

Plan image above – Chris Andrews

Design plays heavily in Jane’s childhood memories. “I have vivid memories of drawing on the back of dad’s plans,” she says.  “There was always pink surveyors tape lying around, rolls of fencing wire and piles of timber. I guess I grew up surrounded by those very practical elements of the industry.”

Her mother’s striking artworks also featured strongly in Jane’s upbringing. “Mum’s art was – and still is – everywhere,” she grins. “The interior of the house is exposed brick and her large paintings are perfectly offset against that backdrop. Mum had a studio at home and taught art while the three of us were at school. There were always interesting things to look at and plenty of inspiration in the form of the bush block that surrounded us. It was a great place to grow up…12 acres to explore and plenty of animals to explore it with.”

“As well as their bent for design, I think I also inherited a solid work ethic from my parents,” continues Jane. “They both worked really hard at things that they loved. Mum worked a lot from home, but I also noticed that dad was able to strike the balance right in terms of working hard but being home by five every evening to spend time with us. They were both present and engaged with us every night after school and that’s something I now try to emulate with my own three children.”

A career as a designer sat on Jane’s radar for a long as she can recall. “Architecture was too technical for my liking,” she explains. “I was definitely drawn to the conceptual side of things and so graphic design became the obvious choice for me.”

Jane graduated from the University of Tasmania with first class honours in graphic design before embarking on a twenty year journey of design in Hobart. “I worked for Clemenger for eight years and that was a fantastic time for me, both creatively and also in terms of being exposed to some great business structures and processes,” describes Jane. “I eventually left there and started my own graphic design business.”

Having her own three children spurred Jane to reassess where her precious time was being spent. “I always had the drive for interiors, so I decided to complete a diploma in interior design. I then worked as an interior designer for a local firm. In the past couple of years I’ve really woven all those skills together to create Valentine interiors + design as it stands today.”

The business serves both residential and commercial clients and offers contemporary solutions on many levels. “I always wanted to have a business that offered two things. The first was the opportunity to really love what I did each day, and the second was to make a difference in people’s lives. The combination of interior and my background in graphic design allows for a broader perspective and added value for the client,” says Jane.

“We’ve become known for a very contemporary style, but I also love paying homage to the original features of many Tasmanian homes. For about a year when I was quite young, while our home was being completed, we lived in the Rosny Cottage c1850 and that place had a big influence on me. I loved the stone walls, the original beams and the characterful bricks. I’m always excited when I uncover those same elements in projects today.”

Jane speaks passionately about the skills required to create functional, practical and aesthetically pleasing spaces. “Interior design is so much more than what people imagine,” she says. “The stereotype is that it’s just about colours and placing a few cushions in the right spot, but the reality is so much more complex. It’s really about understanding human behavior in order to create functional spaces. Spatial planning – knowing how people will move throughout a space – is critical to success in this industry. Every job we do begins with function and behaviour, long before we consider aesthetics.”

Jane describes a balance of art and science in her everyday work. “I concentrate a lot on the five senses. Elements such as the acoustics and smells are just as important as the visuals,” she explains. “When presenting a concept to a client I really have to take them on a journey, a bit like a storyteller, and explain why and how we intend to do things and the process that will occur. I use detailed concept boards, 3D renders, elevations, floorpans, samples and mock ups …design thinking is key and it’s how we arrive at the final solution.”

A common theme in Jane’s business philosophy is empathy – something she brings up regularly in conversation. “It’s a must have in this sector,” she nods. “It’s a real privilege to be invited into someone’s home and delve into how they want to use their space. Every job involves developing a relationship of trust and I often form special bonds with my clients.” She pauses before adding, “There’s nothing more rewarding at the completion of a job than having a client tell you with tears in their eyes that we’ve transformed not only their space, but their lives. People love to feel good in their homes and in order to achieve that a great deal of listening and understanding is involved. It’s all about communication and observing people in their own spaces.”

Image above – Interior design / Valentine Interiors
Architect / Maria Gigney
Photography / Anjie Blair

“I just love design,” says Jane simply. “I love that process of bringing out the best in people and in their spaces. I think that having children has certainly enhanced my understanding of human behavior, as has the strong relationship I had with my own grandparents. To be able to immerse yourself in the needs of different generations is essential. The briefing process is critical and I really take the time to listen and understand how my clients want to live in the space…how it should be zoned, how they want to feel in it, what they do and don’t like. I never leave a job until I fully understand the brief.”

“People are everything in this job. It’s probably not something you would pick for this profession, but it’s very true. It really is a job in interior anthropology.”

“One thing I’ve certainly noticed is that no matter how much money a client has, they all have the same basic needs,” says Jane. “If you remove all the preconceived ideas, at the end of day we all want the best use of space and to have that space suit our lifestyle. It comes down to form and flow.”

On the topic of budgets, Jane notes that whilst Tasmanian projects generally tend to be on smaller scales than their mainland counterparts, she sees it as an opportunity to work harder and smarter. “We have so much local talent here and I love incorporating local Tasmanian design elements into our work. Some of the work I’m most proud of has been achieved on a lower budget and showcased some great emerging artists and designers…furniture, lighting, art…we have some of the best in the world here.”

Images above – Interior design / Valentine Interiors
Photography / Anjie Blair

Like so much of what Tasmania has become globally renowned for, Valentine interiors + design has built a reputation for surprise. “We like to offer an unexpected twist somewhere in every job,” says Jane. “That ability to inspire and delight has become a hallmark. We are constantly looking for innovative, left field solutions and don’t like to follow trends. It can be as simple as adding some unexpected red hooks to an otherwise monochrome palette, through to more elaborate custom designed furniture solutions. Tasmanians are great, and once you have their trust they will pretty much embrace anything.”

‘A Tasmanian feel’ is something Jane is often asked to impart to a job. “Essentially, I think that describes that rugged, organic beauty that the state is known for. It has a certain rawness to it. Tasmanians by nature are not pretentious and we like to reflect that in our work by incorporating a lot of natural materials. Growing up in the bush, and now living in a bushland setting with my own young family, I see the influence that has on the style I bring to my design work. The warmth of natural materials is often an important feature.”

Commercial work is also an important string to Jane’s bow. “I definitely look to extend the brief for my commercial clients and deliver innovative and contemporary solutions,” says Jane. “We have just completed a series of hearing clinics and are working on boutique and large scale office fit-outs. This follows on from our design projects with retail, gym and an aged care function centre.” Speaking of the latter, Jane describes working with a dementia consultant to overcome a range of challenges. “I really wanted the residents to feel good in their space and to deliver a great outcome using modern art and fabrics. It was a great opportunity to push the boundaries in a sector that is often overlooked design-wise and it was just as fulfilling to see that project recognised as a finalist in the 2019 Polytec Design Awards.”

As the business has grown, Jane has welcomed Sarah Mirowski and Claire Bramich to the team. “Sarah is fabulous and brings a wealth of skills and experience. Interior design, HR management, digital marketing and social media – she has a particular eye for art, texture and colour and can inject a certain uniqueness to every project,” explains Jane. “Whilst Claire is an interior designer specialising in commercial projects. She’s a guru with architectural drawing software and has a particular passion for art and drawing. We all work together as a team and it’s a really dynamic mix.”

The trio also see their consultants as truly part of the Valentine team. “We have some wonderful alignments with great suppliers, designers and craftspeople who are supporting our progression towards a sustainable practice. Low toxicity products, sustainable products, minimal or zero waste – they are all things we prioritise wherever possible,” explains Jane.

A foray into teaching has felt like a natural progression to Jane. “I’ve always entertained the concept of teaching,” she admits. “About two years ago I started teaching interior design at Foundry in Hobart. I’m finding it rewarding on so many levels – to share what I’ve learned to date with others, but also to be surrounded by some amazing industry professionals and emerging designers while actively being involved in the industry itself.”

“Foundry is a busy and inspiring place and I love being a part of that,” continues Jane. “I’m finding the cusp of education and industry really energizing and am continually impressed with the standard of local student work. I love seeing them develop and watching that transition from not having many skills at all to being extremely proficient in what they can do.”

Success was formalised for Jane when she was named the 2019 Business Woman of the Year by NAWIC, the National Association of Women in Construction. “I honestly wasn’t expecting to win, but I really love the idea that we are encouraging and supporting women in this industry. Although being a woman in this line of work has never been an issue for me, I know it has been challenging for others. There are so many opportunities in the building industry at present and I’d love to see more women pursue them.”

Her own home? Laughing, Jane says, “It’s the classic situation really. I spend so much time creating distinctive spaces for other people that my own tend to suffer…but I have recently started work on an extension and kitchen design. The business has had so much growth in the past couple of years that I’ve focused on managing that in a sustainable way. I’m certainly looking forward to what the future holds.”

Get in touch with Jane via the Valentine interiors + design website, or via Instagram or Facebook.