Colour By Design, not what you are thinking

One Shelley street building, Sydney

Matt: I’m in Sydney today meeting Colour By Design. She is not what you think. Definitely not what I thought.

Meeting Colour By Design

Matt: Donna and I met via Instagram, I was coming down Sydney.

Donna: We should catch up for a beer or coffee. At that stage, I knew who you were. But, you didn’t know who I was, I was anonymous.

Matt: I was sitting down in the smoko shed (lunchroom), and I get this photo from Donna. I just about fell off my chair as I was expecting some 40-year-old bald guy.

Why cranes and building on Instagram?

Donna: I am self-motivated, I do it because I love it. I’m not getting paid for my Instagram page, it’s just I love what I do, and it’s not for anybody else. But I have a lot of followers, so someone else is liking my work as well. Which is nice.

Matt: So what tweaked your interests initially?

Wharf cranes on Cockatoo Island, Sydney

Donna: A few years ago I took an amazing photo on Cockatoo Island. And since then it has always been a challenge to photograph cranes and buildings.

Matt: Really? Are you sure? There is a crane right here.

Donna: It is hard to get a good photo.

Matt: Yeah right, I get it.

How many followers does Colour By Design have on Instagram?

Matt: So how many followers do you have on Instagram?

Donna: Well I have over 3000 followers presently. Which is very exciting being a micro influencer, as one of my friends has pointed out.

Matt: You learn something new every day.

Donna: Yes.

What are your family’s thoughts?

Matt: What are your family’s thoughts on all this?

Donna: So when I first started, everyone thought that it was bizarre and weird. They thought it was probably like a fad.

1 Shelley streer, Sydney with cloudy sky

Matt: What do you look for when you’re taking photos?

Donna: So, I’m looking for reflections and contrast. Over there is an interesting building that has the colour blue, good contrasts and lines.

Matt: So Colour By Design is very much into keeping the colour blue as a part of the theme.

Donna: Yes I have a rule that I like to keep too, an overall look and style. I would like to transition into night time photos, but I need to consider the overall look of the page. Some people might think that’s weird and a bit obsessive, but I think it is OK.

Colour By Design’s Instagram homepage layout

Matt: What Donna is talking about, on someone’s Instagram homepage viewing in the grid format. Donna is talking about how she wants that to look interesting, not just the individual photos themselves.

Screenshot of Colour By Design Instagram page

Donna: Yes, the overall look is important to me. That’s why I started Colour By Design. A couple of years ago friends and I were sitting around talking about Instagram, and I was saying how much I enjoy looking at different pages that have an overall theme, design or where a page has a colour consistency. From that point, I set myself the challenge to do that with the colour blue on my page.
And if you look at my page you can see that a theme is showing through. I have brought in other things like reflections and cranes as well.

Matt: So how much grief do you cop from your family if you are walking around the streets? Do they get upset with the photo taking?

Donna: Well my children do. If I stop the car and walk in somewhere to take a photo of a crane or something, they get very cross. They don’t want me to.

Matt: So, you just randomly stop, pull out the camera and take a photo? Similar to fishing? Have you ever been fishing?

Donna: No.

Matt: Oh right, I was going to ask if taking photos is like fishing, where you don’t know what you’re going to capture.

Donna: Yes. Sometimes you can see amazing things that just don’t work out when you are taking photos. But then other times, you think things are not very interesting, and you end up with something that’s quite amazing.

Taking the photo

Matt: You want to just walk into that construction site over there?

Donna: Yeah I would like to walk in to take photos.

Matt: So Donna is very brazen. She’s quite happy to walk into a construction site. Have you been caught?

Donna: I haven’t been caught. I’ve had some weird looks as I think a lot of people believe I’m from a union.
Mostly because I walk up and take photos of cranes and things and then walk off. I am very calm, and I think they feel I am doing a health and safety check.
I should wear a hard hat.

Matt: And boots and a high visibility vest.

Matt: All right, thanks, Donna, look after yourself, and I will see you around.

Donna: Thanks TTB

Instagram: @colourbydesign

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Smart toilets and True Blue Building Solutions

Four smart toilets in a line

Matt: I am here on the Gold Coast in Queensland. Today I am meeting Kevin from True Blue Building Solutions. Kevin has an interesting story about how they went from selling commercial glass in high-rises to smart toilets out of all things.

Meeting Kevin from True Blue Building Solutions

Matt: While at the Brisbane Home Show, Kevin, you found that a lot of people have smart toilets. Being an Australian, the last thing I think is that a toilet is going to wash my backside.

Kevin: I’m the same. I grew up the good old fashion way, so to me, I don’t know anything different. I never thought for a million years that I would be marketing and be selling smart toilets. At the Home Show, we had a few smart toilets on display, simply testing the market.

What blew me away, two/three people out of every five people that I spoke too said, “I’ve got a bidet already, or I’ve got a full smart toilet. I’ll tell you that once you try one, you’re never going back to conventional toilets. I travel a lot, and I discovered them in Asia and other parts of Europe, and now I’ve got a smart toilet in my house and have had one for 12 years.”

Some features of the smart toilets

Smart toilet seat that bolts onto an existing toilet.
This model bolts onto an existing toilet.

Kevin: We have a model that bolts on top of existing toilets. This model comes with a night light and has an automated lid as well. You can press a button, or open and close the lid manually. And then the second button lifts the seat which the manufacturer refers to as the male function. This is, so the ladies don’t have to worry about touching anything. The toilets have a water spout with male and female settings as well as a comfort button.

Unsure if the comfort button was real, I got on the phone to China. It is a female comfort button, so the lady of the house can enjoy herself. The nozzle comes out, sprays water (you might not want to record this part) which has adjustable pressure. The nozzle can pulsate while spraying water as it slides in and out.

Matt: Ahh huh.

Kevin: Yes, the comfort button caught me out as well.

From the Home Show, I have had three large bathroom supply companies here in south-east Queensland approach me saying they need to have these in their showrooms. All of them asking how many can I supply? I am like wow. OK, let’s go.

Matt: So you have gone from glass to selling toilets.

Kevin: Yep. All the way.

Matt: That is one hell of a story.


Phone:  +61 (07) 5531 5474

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Clem Carpentry unique approach to challenges

Stairs, Clem Carpentry, design

When I spoke with Marc and Holly from Clem Carpentry, I figured that I would be writing about one of their projects. However, it was their business and how they have tackled some of the challenges that grabbed my attention.

Clem Carpentry’s niche market

Marc, Holly, Clem Carpentry
Marc and Holly from Clem Carpentry

Marc and Holly have found themselves in the niche market of high-end renovations, in their words “elegant restorations and renovations.” A boutique market that in my opinion puts a builders reputation on the line with every project.

I have a special spot in my heart for renovations, particularly with high-end and old buildings. The whole challenge, do you make your work plumb and level? Or do you match the existing building, so it all flows? The kind of work that tests all of us as tradesmen. From what Marc and Holly have shared with me, they are not only up for the challenge; they are excelling.


Stairs, Clem Carpentry, design
New stairs designed by Clem Carpentry

They are an impressive team; Marc is the carpenter and builder, and Holly is an interior designer. With their niche, they have the perfect team. They both enjoy working on older homes, which in Queensland Australia we call Queenslander’s.


Their well-suited teamwork is evident when a client asked them to replace the front stairs and restore the old homes character. They took what looks like an old 70’s style steel stairs and handrails and have created era perfect timber set.

Their attention to detail is second to none. With Holly providing well-detailed drawings and Marc’s attention to the seemly small details. For example, the priming of the step treads before being installed. And the housing out of the timber stump to allow the stairs to sit hard against the weatherboards at the top of the stairs.

Unique approach to challenges

Clem Carpentry attention to detail
Attention to detail

A challenge that the Clem Carpentry have been confronting is the expectations that reality television shows in Australia have put on the industry. Shows like “The Block” have been making renovating bathrooms, kitchens, etc., look achievable in a single week. And yes, we all know that it can be done, at a high cost and exceptionally long hours. Marc and Holly find that the younger generations have an unrealistic expectation of the cost and the time it takes to renovate.

I find it fascinating that sometimes our biggest hurdles in business are not always our direct competition. And the way in which people and business approach these obstacles is equally fascinating. How Marc and Holly from Clem Carpentry have approached the unrealistic expectations that reality tv has created is unique and well thought out.

To help their clients understand the time things take with a sensible budget, they turned to YouTube. Making short videos of the different projects, they have completed, not only demonstrating their work but also a realistic time frame to complete the work. By using time lapses, they have managed to combat the expectations reality tv has directly installed in different people.

Construction is a unique industry, and again I have been surprised how I thought one thing before meeting Marc and Holly from Clem Carpentry. My thoughts have been turned in a direction I didn’t expect, and I am so glad for the new direction.

Marc and Holly are easy going people following their passions and in the process making other people’s dreams a reality. I’m stoked that I got the opportunity to meet them.


Phone: 1300 400 431

Is Fix It Up shop fitting the future of construction?

Burrito Bar, Fix It Up, shop fitting, shop fitter


Burrito Bar, Fix It Up, shop fitting, shop fitter
Fix It Up shop fitting completed Burrito Bar.

When I first got in touch with Fix It Up shop fitting, I checked out their website, and my attention was immediately grabbed; they do ‘upholstery!’ That is not the only thing that’s listed, everything from joinery, to stainless fabrication and sign writing. I assumed they were talking about using subcontractors, the same as every other builder and shop fitter. But upholstery, on the other hand, is one thing I can see going hand in hand with joinery and shop fitting.

Upholstery, Fix It Up, shop fitting, shop fitter
Fix It Up shop fitting do upholstery, in-house?

So, I got in touch thinking I would have a chat over the phone and get to ask a few questions about the upholstery. I was thinking a shop fitter doing upholstery would make a great story. Instead of a phone call, Rou invited me for my very own private tour of their workshop. Now, how could I say no to an offer like that?

Before I meet with Rou, I was running early, so I grabbed a coffee at a little café around the corner and reviewed his website again. Their website definitely states they do the shop fitting, upholstery, joinery, stainless fabrication and sign writing in-house. I am still thinking they sub-contract out most of the work, just the same as all builders, right?

Do Fix It Up shop fitting really do everything in-house?

Once sitting with Rou, we started off chatting about some of their current projects. Then he mentioned that they do everything in-house, of course, I questioned what he meant by everything.

“Yes, we do everything in-house, we don’t use sub-contractors expect for plumbers and electricians’’. My immediate thought, “Holy shit, this could be the next generation of business, this could very well be the future of construction.” Here is a is a guy in his 20’s telling me they do everything “in-house.

Just think about that for a minute, they do joinery, they do upholstery, they do all metal fabrication, and they do sign writing; all in-house.

Think about the training that goes into all their staff; they are training their staff to be tradesmen. I mean, old school tradesmen. Real tradesmen, tradesmen that aren’t niched down specialists in a portion of a trade.

Now, I know to a lot of us that have been around the industry for a while are thinking “this is a recipe for disaster, there are too many moving parts, too many things to keep on top of.” From what I saw and experienced, Rou and Hossein (Rou’s father) and the Fix It Up team could very well be the ones to redefine what it currently means to operate a construction company. By this I mean, they now control just about all the variables. They are no longer held by third party subcontractors organisation skills.

Long lead items, like custom-made furniture and stainless steel cooking equipment, now become a thing of the past. Not only do they remove most of the long lead items, all the pre-determining that goes with the long lead items suddenly disappear.

Fix It Up is built on solid foundations

Fix It Up, Burrito Bar, shop fitting, shop fitter
Fix It Up’s recently completed Burrito Bar dining room.

How Fix It Up shop fitting got to this point is all on the back of Hossein’s diversity as a tradesman. Starting out as a one-man maintenance company, Hossein was working as the maintenance man for different food outlets. That is when Rou teamed up with Hossein, Rou took to cold calling hundreds of food outlets asking if Fix It Up could build for them. Rou took the time to get his hands dirty, putting in the hard work. Rou has taken the business from one-off projects to being the preferred contractor to some of Australia’s more recognisable food franchises.

As Rou’s background is in psychology, he has brought with him a fresh view of shop fitting. And it’s with this fresh view that’s been built on Hossein’s craftsmanship which is taking Fix It Up from strength to strength. As Fix It Up shop fitting grows they are now looking to expand into Melbourne and Sydney. It is exciting times for the Fix It Up team.  It will be great to come back in the future to see how business is progressing.

Fix It Up website:

Email: [email protected]

Phone: 0410 829 334