Spotlight | Outside the Square Projects
two friends turn a passion into a thriving business
tonita and lucy came together over a shared love of beautiful homes — and a shared fence!
These neighbours and business partners created Outside the Square Projects as a property styling service to help locals sell their homes. By popular demand, they’ve grown into a full interior styling service, working across residential and commercial.
We sat down with the pair to learn about how they started their business together, what a day in the life looks like, and where they shop for the most beautiful homewares in town.
Names: lucy osbourne & tonita coppard
Occupation: stylists at outside the square projects
Known For: creating beautiful, original home interiors
Born: Lucy - melbourne; tonita - kingaroy
Local since: lucy - 2000; tonita - 1994
First things first: why Toowoomba?
Lucy: My family and I moved to Toowoomba in 2000. My husband and I were both IVF scientists and we set up the first IVF service in Toowoomba. Before living in Toowoomba I lived in Albury for seven years but I was originally from Melbourne. I was born there and I went to school and university in Melbourne, and I still think of it as home. We had the choice of moving to Cairns , Townsville or Toowoomba. It was an easy choice for us; Toowoomba was close to a big city and had four seasons like Melbourne. It also has great schools and is very picturesque.
Tonita: Toowoomba has been home since 1994, but I’m originally from Kingaroy. After meeting my future husband, we agreed that Toowoomba was a great place to both engage employment and to raise a family.
tell us a bit about your business…
Lucy: Outside the Square Projects specialises in property staging for clients who are putting their homes on the market, and we are also interior stylists for clients who need help styling and designing their forever homes.
We don’t like cookie cutter home staging; when we stage properties for sale we try and make the homes look different, so that the home stands out. We don’t like using the same pieces for every home, which is why we don’t have our own furniture and art. Because there are two of us in the business we are flexible and provide a very flexible service.
In the interior design side of the business we make sure we listen to what our clients want. We guide our clients and expose them to products that they may not be able to source themselves. It is important that we listen and interpret our clients brief.
how did you come to start a business together?
Tonita: Lucy and I had known each other for many years through our individual businesses. I was brought up with a mother that was a creative and forward thinking when it came to styling, design and homewares. Over the years, Lucy and I became neighbours, I sold my business, and then we renovated an investment property together. We then joined to form a home staging for sale business.
Having both had our homes featured in Australian home magazines, we found a common bond, one of creating beautiful spaces, yet more importantly beautiful homes. We both joke about us being like yin and yang, but it is part of recognising our strengths and we both play to the strengths that we bring to the table.
What have you learned about running a business in Toowoomba? What are the unique opportunities, benefits and challenges?
Lucy: Some of the challenges of working in Toowoomba is to keep our work unique and fresh. Toowoomba is a small market and it has taken it a while to accept styling. On the positive side, because Toowoomba is a small place, word of mouth travels quickly and we have been blessed to be working with some great agents who feel comfortable talking to their clients about the advantages of styling their properties for sale.
Tonita: One of the biggest opportunities we are finding is our business is growing from staging a clients home for sale, to then being asked to help furnish their new forever homes! A sign of appreciation for the produced end result. Many people in Toowoomba are both working and time poor. They have built homes, are building or at a stage where they are ready to update and don’t have the time or are frozen with indecision. This is becoming one of our frequent requests. I find that many Toowoomba people like to deal locally and are very loyal. Past clients will call us to ask for advice and are happy to support someone they know. Some clients we have helped style homes for sale now have us helping with their commercial properties. It’s been a lovely progression.
What does an average day look like for you?
Lucy: A normal day for me is getting up at 5.30 or 6am. I read my emails while I have my porridge and berries. If we have an install we load up the car and meet the truck by 9am. If there is no install I take advantage of the early start and go to the gym. By 9am there has already been several calls between Tonita and I discussing the day ahead. Other than the morning routine every day is different. We have the creative design, the practical install and the number crunching for the quotes. We liaise with agents, clients, suppliers and trades everyday. Communication between Tonita and I and our suppliers and clients is the most important part of the business.
Tonita: Having a son in Year 12, my mornings start with getting him organised and ready for school, and doing the odd Instagram/Facebook post while laying in bed planning the day. Then checking emails, talking to each other about the day, organising our work calendar, loading up cars with accessories, plants, linen and art for the days job at hand. Unpacking, styling, hanging artwork, making beds, rearranging rooms, loading cars back up and then unpacking them at the other end. Quoting, measuring and ordering certain pieces for clients, invoicing, paying accounts, liaising with real estate agents, clients and keeping the books.
What does your ideal Toowoomba weekend look like?
Lucy: Having the kids home and enjoying my own home.
Tonita: Ahh…. time to recharge my own creative spirit with down time spent with family and friends, whether it’s cooking a new recipe or spending wonderful time by myself. All so important for my energy.
Only a Toowoomba local would know…
Lucy: how pretty it is driving down Mary Street in Spring when all the jacaranda trees are in full bloom.
Tonita: just how house proud Toowoomba people are. They all seem to make the most of their beautiful gardens and homes.
FAVOURITE WEEKEND SPOT TO:
PERK UP: with a coffee at Sage & Butler. The service is great, and so is the coffee.
RELAX: Queens Park.
EAT: Burrow Cafe
INDULGE: a short drive to Hampton for a beautiful meal at Emeraude.
BE INSPIRED: Alexandra Lawson Gallery
Learn more about Outside the Square Projects here.