Chyka Keebaugh needs no introduction. The hospitality extraordinaire, TV personality, online editor, author and newly minted homewares designer has an eye for style and knows how to wow! SAMBAG caught up with Chyka (remotely) to discuss her latest ventures and where she finds inspiration.
Describe yourself in 5 words:
Positive / kind / happy / passionate /determined
You are co-founder of The Big Group, Australia’s largest privately owned catering and events company. Tell us, how did you get started?
Bruce and I met each other working for another catering company and decided it was something we thought we could do together. We literally started with $500 and Bruce's father gave us an office to use. We took over a kitchen in a food shop in Malvern and started at 'A' in the phone book. We quickly grew and suddenly needed staff to help us with the different catering events we had.
The biggest event we had and the one that probably really put us in the forefront was the opening of Southgate… It was for 6000 people and we called on all of our friends and family to come and help us as we needed 600 staff. We had aprons printed and business cards in each pocket and by the end of the night no one had a card left. It was the beginning of our business
We are looking forward to visiting your newest venue, The Commons at Ormond Collective. What inspired the multi-space café, wine bar and beer garden?
We started this new venture, The Commons, as an answer to COVID-19. Our hospitality business has been shut literally longer than it’s been open in the last 18 months and we really wanted to do something that brought life back into a space that we already had, and to create a working environment for our team and staff. It was truly a passion project and we are so grateful that we had this project to concentrate on and grow. We don’t really sit in the retail space but this has been a really big learning experience for us and we have truly loved. Over the last six months of autumn and winter we have spent more time refining different spaces and creating a really exciting environment. We are now doing cabaret shows, we have a sports bar, we have a beer garden, the conservatory and the rose garden. We also have hidden our own little chapel… Of course we still also have Ormond Hall which we do bigger events in. We love this area so much that we have actually moved our offices upstairs and it feels really lovely to be in an environment that’s just so beautiful and has so much life.
You are also a well-known TV personality, having graced our screens on programs such as Good Morning Australia and The Real Housewives Of Melbourne. What draws you TV and media?
Funnily enough I haven’t really ever been drawn to television and media but have loved every single thing that I have done and truly appreciate the platform it has given me to do the things I love… It has given me the opportunity to write two bestselling books and to have a beautiful homewares collection CHYKA Home, launching in October with Harris Scarfe.
I’m so incredibly excited about this as it’s a dream come true and something I have been working on for a long time.
You have an eye for design that spans events, interiors, gardens and more, that you share on your lifestyle website, chyka.com, of which you are editor in chief. What articles have you noticed readers gravitating toward during the pandemic?
That’s actually a hard question to answer because depending on what’s happening in the world at the time I really try to make my articles relate to that moment… Obviously being in another lockdown creating positive stories on how to support local business, keep yourself positive and active have been hugely popular but then people also love reading about how to set a table, decorate a little nook at home or use vegetables from home to create a display in your kitchen… It’s incredibly varied.
How would you define your personal style?
I would describe my style as incredibly eclectic, layered and filled with colour. I have lots of special treats from travelling on display. I love being reminded of special times.
I believe a home should tell the story of your life and I honestly believe in having more than less… I am known as the knickknack queen!
What are you most passionate about?
I’m incredibly passionate about a lot of things and of course my family are at the top of the list. They mean the world to me and I suppose after the last 18 months having had two kids living in America you realise just how important family is.
As a result of Covid I also wanted to make sure that in my downtime - which there has been plenty of - I started up a hobby that I really wanted to have a play with. For me that has been watercolour painting and tapestry. My dream would be to have an arts and crafts room filled with ribbons, paper, flowers and buttons, you name it! I love being creative and I love the headspace it puts you in. You really have to concentrate on what you’re doing so it means all outside noise disappears… I really also wanted to know that when this period of time is over, I had something to show for it.
Where do you find inspiration?
Actually my inspiration comes from everywhere, nature is a huge source as I love walking and seeing how flowers grow together, how light affects different spaces or the way trees grow… I also am a huge lover of Pinterest and follow many blogs and social media pages that are all related to design and beautiful things. To me you can actually get the best idea buying a cabbage at the greengrocer...
Do you have a favourite style from the SAMBAG collections?
I have always loved Sambag’s ballet shoe… They for me I’ve always been a staple and any time I bought a beautiful pair of heels, particularly for the races, I would head to Sambag to buy the matching colour flat for when a shoe change was needed.
I have chosen though today, the tan suede sneaker as I had a foot operation earlier this year and have found that the sneakers are the best way to roll…
And our signature question, if you were a shoe, what kind would you be?
That’s a great question and one I ’m not quite sure about… It would have to be a shoe of comfort so sandal with coloured tassels and pom-poms because a pair of shoes should always tell a story…