Natalie Walton is a mother of reinvention. By all appearances, she traded a fast-lane city career in magazines for a slow-lane life on acreage, connecting with nature and her family.
But appearances can be deceiving – when we caught up with this multi-tasking mumma of four, she was still happily juggling more than a few balls, and doing it with style. Just try to keep up...
As a writer, stylist, shop owner @imprint_house, author and mother of four @theindigocrew, your list of accomplishments are head-spinning... Are there any other roles that you one day dream of adding to your bio?
There are lots! I like change, and variety and challenging myself. Right now I am the midst of renovating an artist’s studio on our property and turning it into guest accommodation, and we've also bought a 1977 Millard caravan which we are giving some love to ahead of hopefully many family adventures.
You have successfully woven writing and styling together as a career for many years. You were formerly deputy editor at one of Australia's top-selling interior magazines Real Living, and prior to this worked as a journalist for more than 10 years. Many women aspire to achieve such an accomplished resume; what was the catalyst for your most recent career change?
Part of the reason was that I had been in my role at Real Living for five years, and was ready for a new challenge. But also I had started a family and wanted more flexibility. It’s been quite a journey since then. Essentially, I am still doing many of those roles - and continue to freelance for many of my former colleagues - but now I do it from the comfort of my own home.
As a mother, and someone who has successfully made a career change, if you were to assume the role of mentor to other mums in a similar position, what advice would you give them to support their moment of reinvention?
If you really want something, you can make it happen. But generally it has to be for the right reasons – not because you think that’s what will make you happy, or you want to be like someone else or please someone else. Instead, it has to be because it’s something that’s true to you, and what makes you genuinely happy. If that’s the case, and you put time and energy into it and keep on trying despite the various setbacks that will come your way, one way or another, you will make it happen.
As a self-confessed lover of timeless and thoughtful design, which items do you feel are worth splurging on?
If I had an infinite budget, I would buy more art... and more timeless thoughtful design pieces! I would love to own an Arne Norell Safari Chair and a Serge Mouille wall light.
Tell us about the personalities of your four children.
They are all so incredibly different. As a parent, that has been one of the joys of watching them grow and develop. I used to always wonder about the nature/nurture debate – which had a stronger influence. And while I think we can have a huge impact on our children, in terms of how we raise them and relate to them, they are also their own individual selves. And I can look back on all of my children, and see that their personalities were within them even as a tiny baby. My eldest son used to sit for hours playing with trains when he was a toddler, and he continues to have that same focus today. My eldest daughter is a dreamer and lives in her own magical world of imagination. She has always been quite a sensitive and sensory person. Her younger sister is a do-er. If we can’t find something in the house, we ask her because she can find everything, and organises all of us! Our youngest son is such a delight. He has been a happy and easygoing baby from the start. He loves music, more than any of the others, and his siblings are his world.
As a mother of four, and as a successful entrepreneur, what strategies do you adopt to achieve a work-life balance?
I have an incredibly supportive husband. We've been in partnership in all areas of our lives for the past three years since he sold his own business. At the moment he cooks more than me, but other times our roles swap. We both share household roles and co-parent. Family is incredibly important to both of us.
You moved from the city to the Yarramalong Valley, where you reside on 26 acres in a cedar cabin. Through your family Instagram account @theindigocrew, we get to peek at your magical, earthy, organic life. What have been the top five benefits of making the move?
The freedom that our children have. They know they are not allowed to go past the front gate, or up the hill past the house (where most of the acreage is, but so are the snakes and unknowns), but other than that, they have the freedom to roam, explore, play, and find ways to entertain themselves.
Living life on our terms. Which is another way of saying that as adults, we get to enjoy a sense of freedom too. We now realise that when we were living in the city, we would sometimes fall into patterns of doing certain activities or living a certain way because we felt it was expected of us. In many ways, these were self-imposed patterns of behaviour, but it feels the weight of expectation has been lifted.
Connecting to nature. There is something incredibly restorative about being surrounded by nature. Even when we were living in Bondi, we would walk or run alongside the ocean every day. Our bodies and minds need space to breathe. Living in a natural environment is such a tonic to all of the stresses and pressures of modern-day living.
Eating better. We have always tried to eat good food. But in the city, we had such easy access to great restaurants and cafes that we ate out more. And as good as that food tasted, it probably wasn’t as good-quality as what we eat now. We are more conscious of what we eat, because it is the same food we give to our children, and we notice a difference in their behaviour when they eat more sugar or even certain processed meats. We eat incredibly good-quality nourishing food and feel so much better for it.
We live a self-contained life on the property. We don’t need to get in a car to go and do something, amuse or entertain ourselves. It’s an adventure just walking down the driveway. We never know what we will find, or what the day will bring. There’s always so much to do, and we have many projects on the go, but it’s incredibly rewarding too.
How do you unplug?
I try not to plug in too much in the first place. While I have three main Instagram accounts, I don’t spend all day looking at the feeds. I share, have a quick look at a few other accounts, and sign out. When I’m with the children, I don’t spend time on my phone, other than to take the occasional photo - and even then I’m conscious about not being attached to my phone. I don’t work on my computer in front of the children. When I’m with them, I’m with them mind, body and soul. I work when they are at school or with my husband, Daniel. Or in the evenings. That said, there are times when I need to keep my technology and work habits in check. As with most things to do with life, it’s a work in progress.
What cause do you most want to advance?
There are so many. When I was at university I wanted to change the world. I was a huge idealist. And in many ways, I still am. But I have become more realistic and pragmatic too. So, for now, I am focussed on the small ways we can make a difference. This year I have been writing a book on how we can do this in our home. It will be published in April 2018. On a more personal level, one of the reasons I have stuck with Instagram, and sharing some of our family’s journey, is that I believe that children should have a childhood. That innocence and unfettered imagination of those early years is a beautiful thing. It is something to embrace and encourage. And in some idealistic way, maybe if more children had this type of experience, the world would be a happier more well-adjusted place.
For you happiness is…
Spending time with my family. Some of my favourite moments are when we are sitting around the table on the weekend, with nowhere to go, and we can take our time to enjoy the meal, and each other’s company. But working on projects together is a lot of fun, and I can’t wait for us see some of Australia together as a family now that we have a caravan!