Hayley Neal, 23, launched children’s design and décor business This Little Love (TLL) online in 2014 with the aim of filling a gap in her local regional market. Believing people who love good design and beautiful spaces shouldn’t have to sacrifice their taste when creating spaces for their children, Hayley stocks TLL with a range of exclusive and carefully curated products, from the gorgeous Jimmy Cricket donut rugs to La De Dah Kids’ wire chairs and Kip & Co tassel throws.
TLL has grown in leaps and bounds since its launch, so much so that Hayley’s husband Shane recently left his full-time job in IT to help her keep up with the demands of the business and their growing family.
The open-plan lounge/dining/living area is the heart of the Neals’ home, and allows daughter Addison and son Oliver plenty of space to play and do what kids do. A large dining table was a must, Hayley says, and had to be durable and adaptable – a table where they would eat meals as a family and entertain visitors that could also convert to a makeshift station or place to do homework when the time comes.
The couple has two little loves of their own – three-year-old Addison and four-month-old Oliver, who was born with tracheo-oesophageal fistula and oesophageal atresia. This condition means little Oliver’s oesophagus, or food pipe, didn’t connect to his stomach but rather ended in a blind pouch like a sock, and his trachea (wind pipe) was joined to his oesophagus. Hours after his birth, he was whisked away to Sydney for life-saving surgery at just two days old.
“It was easily the hardest thing we have ever been through as a family,” Hayley says.
“Oliver stayed in hospital for two weeks after his surgery, and we were commuting the first week until we got accepted into Ronald McDonald house – an absolute lifesaver that allowed us to be close to Oliver.”
Although the surgery was successful and their little boy is now at home, the Neals have to travel to hospital in Sydney each fortnight for further surgery to prevent Oliver’s oesophagus from narrowing and closing over.
“Neutral, classic pieces tie the room together and, as your child grows, you’ll be able to mix up the look by changing soft furnishings and bedding.”
This, of course, adds extra pressure to the usual juggling act of balancing parenthood with work life, but Hayley says the experience has taught them to “slow down a little” and enjoy more time together as a family.
Asked for her tips on designing a nursery from scratch, Hayley says her best piece of advice is to “style up”.
“Start piecing the room together with a few key pieces that will grow with your child, such as a cot that converts to a junior bed. Neutral, classic pieces tie the room together and, as your child grows, you’ll be able to mix up the look by changing soft furnishings and bedding. Almost anything goes when it comes to your child’s space – as with almost everything else, they get away with things that adults just can’t!”
Addison’s room is a space that is constantly evolving with her personality, and she is always involved in making choices for her room as much as possible, Hayley explains.
“Keeping it fun and a little bit silly is our number one priority. There’s always a way to incorporate your kids’ favourite things into their rooms. The key is knowing how to position it in the space so that it works. Framed pictures of their favourite TV characters can be placed on a shelf or you can utilise a stylish basket to house soft toys. For superhero fans, a lightning bolt hanging above the bed is another easy trick, all of which can be changed as your little ones’ tastes change and develop.”
“Keeping it fun and a little bit silly is our number one priority.”
With the kids taken care of, Hayley and Shane turned their focus to the master bedroom (below) – a calming sanctuary from the chaos that comes with parenthood. “It’s our retreat at the end of a busy day. Not much beats climbing into clean sheets and sinking into the tufted headboard!” Hayley says.
“We are very lucky that we have our nanny, Lucy, help keep up our juggling act. Without her we would have definitely dropped a whole stack of balls by now!” Hayley laughs. “Our workday starts at 8am during the week. Now that we have Oliver, Shane heads off to the warehouse while I take care of the kids with Lucy.”
“If I need to head to the warehouse and take the kids with me, it actually works out pretty well – Oliver has very thoroughly tested every cot in our showroom and Addison loves helping pack orders and scribble notes on the wrapping paper for our customers to find! “TLL is the epitome of a family-operated small business, and we love that. We love that we get to take our kids to work with us and they will grow up seeing what hard work is like and how rewarding it is.”