Inside Tara Dennis’ Sydney store

Tara Dennis has been a painter and decorator for 20 years, and a TV presenter for 18, but as far as being a shopkeeper goes she is a bit of a newbie and only launched her store in March last year.

Situated in the leafy northern Sydney suburb of Wahroonga, the store space was formerly a fancy dress shop boasting yellow and purple colours until Dennis and her partner Martyn gave it a once over with their signature white, rustic and black and white chic style. 

“When we first saw the store it was yellow and purple, and we really had to see beyond all of that colour,” she says. “We had to redo everything from lining the walls to replacing the door which was just an old iron gate.

“The store’s fitout was the fun part for me. We wanted to save as much money as we could as we wanted to invest as much as we could in stock, so we had to be savvy with our fittings and finishes.

Dennis says the ceiling was a big area for them―the light grid system was already in place but as they didn’t want to change any of the lighting they decided to disguise it.

“So we painted the ceiling black and by doing so, it really does help to enclose the space which can be good, but in this case we made the floors white to bounce up the lights, so it just made the space feel light and airy, kind of like a reversal to what people normally do when decorating.”

Another feature of the building Dennis wasn’t too fond of was the electricity box. “As you first walked into the store, on the left there was this bright yellow box. There was nothing we could do―we couldn’t remove it―so we got one of those stick-on wall stickers.

“They are brilliant, the removable sticker becomes a piece of art in its own right and really disguises the box. We actually ended up selling them in our store so now we have people coming in to buy them to put on their walls or disguise any ugly cupboards they might have.”

Style-wise Dennis wanted to emulate her own house―a timber cottage on the Hawkesbury River―as much as she could in store. For example, the barn door which divides the office from her actual shop.

“We have a barn door at home… it is actually for sale, everything in the store is for sale. Our store is only 85 square metres and every inch is valuable so we decided each item we use is for sale, including the shelving, finishes, etc.”

Now that is a great way to use the space you have to get maximum results.