What if home to you was not a house or an apartment or a cottage, but a super yacht? Or more like a series of yachts – the biggest, most expensive super yachts in the world, at that? That was the reality for the couple I’m featuring on the blog today.
You might remember a while ago I featured the very Pinterest-worthy cottage of Villa Kula owners Vanessa Fordham and Karl Cramond, the owners of luxury events styling and hire business Villa Kula. While they live in a sweet 1920s cottage in East Fremantle now, before that Vanessa and Karl spent ten years sailing around the world being contracted as a couple to work on the world’s biggest and most expensive super yachts serving some of the wealthiest people in the world.
ABOVE: One of Vanessa and Karl's former "homes" - the yacht Athena, the biggest yacht in the world when it was built. Photo by Louie Psihoyos.
Karl, a chef, cooked while Vanessa, an interiors and events stylist, organised and styled events like dinners and parties for the most elite clientele and some of the richest people in the world – including Saudi royalty, Russian dignitaries and self-made billionaires (ooh and Arnold Schwarzenegger! More about that later).
Vanessa and Karl met while working on a luxury private yacht and later married in Bali. “Karl was the highly esteemed head chef and I was in an obviously less revered role of PA to the owner and Yacht Administrator - basically the go-to person for organising any and all of the crazy whims of our highly charged and typically unconventional onboard guests,” says Vanessa.
Since the first time I met them, I always knew I would one day HAVE to share their backstory with you guys because they must be two of the coolest people I have met (and two of the nicest). And yes, in the interests of full disclosure, I will openly admit I have a bit of a girl crush on Vanessa. (I hear Pascal sighing as I type that). But c'mon, she and Karl live the most colourful and exotic lives yet they are still so down-to-earth. They’re besotted with their blue heeler Boots; love throwing a barbecue for friends in the front garden; yet the next moment they could be jetting off to Bali to style a wedding or to Italy to style a lunch for billionaires. And they are just so damn nice - and hard-working.
I have always loved hearing an inspiring business success story and loved how Vanessa and Karl began Villa Kula. After a decade working in the luxury yacht industry, they decided it was time to do something different and started their hugely successful boutique events styling and hire business. It all started with a tent – but not just any tent. It was the most beautiful Indian tent that looked like something out of a children’s picture book, and Vanessa and Karl knew there was a niche for luxury event styling that went above and beyond what most people were used to.
ABOVE: Members of the Villa Kula team with Karl, left on the back row, Vanessa second from the left in the front.
ABOVE: Photos by Third Eye Photography.
ABOVE: Villa Kula styling, photos Natasja Kremers.
Now, based in Perth but styling events about the world with a luxury, pop-up lounge bar concept, Vanessa and Karl have a client list that includes Sir Richard Branson, billionaire internet tycoon Jim Clark and Arabian royalty. It sounds glamorous, but it wasn’t always – or easy!
“When we started Villa Kula in Australia we sold up EVERYTHING including our beautiful tree house home in New Zealand and all its beautiful contents to buy an ugly tilt slab warehouse in the sticks,” says Vanessa. “We lived above our office in a small room for two and a half years before we were able to stop investing back into the business and finally afford a home for ourselves. We lived very simply during those years. Tuna and rice every night! We did not arrive at where we are quickly and we are not there yet by a long way. But we have really enjoyed the journey - almost every single day I say I love my life!”
And their business is just getting bigger and better. Today I chat to Vanessa about life working on a luxury yacht, how she and Karl started their own styling business and her advice for people wanting to take the plunge into small business ownership