When I first met Erin through a friend of a friend, her infectious smile and warm personality made me feel like I’d known her forever. She quickly became a staple at our monthly ‘girls dinner’, and as I got to know her better, I knew she was the perfect Toots muse!
Erin has a vintage hire business with her mother Jennie, hiring the most gorgeous pieces to make any event extra special. Their collection must be seen to be believed, specialising in genuine vintage tableware and high tea crockery, Betty May's collection caters for intimate celebrations at home through to large weddings and high teas for 200 guests and everything in between. Look out for some glimpses from this unique collection below!
We visited Erin at her home in Bendigo she shares with husband Ben, and daughters Arabella and Sidney. Heading into their garden oasis, Erin had set out a Betty May Vintage style picnic.
With autumn leaves falling around us, the girls twirled and spun in their gorgeous dresses, clearly adoring spending time in the garden with their mum! The ultimate multi-tasker, Erin moved seamlessly from smiling for the camera, to serving yoghurt pouches and changing nappies. But one of my favourite moments was watching Erin helping Sidney take some tentative steps around the backyard. Her hands were free because she had on our Toots backpack - reminding me that whats been created is perfect for a busy mum!
We better cover off the all important question – Who is Betty May?
Betty May is one of a kind – just like the pieces in our vintage collection for hire. She’s my grandma, my mum’s mum. Her tea drinking, avid antique collecting and home cooking ways have had a huge influence on myself and my mum, Jennie, who I share the business with. So naming our business after her is one way we can say thank you to her.
Do you have a favourite piece from your collection?
That’s a really tough question! I love any china with a good chintz pattern. They don’t get hired too often, but they really should. The detail, the colours, the pattern on pattern. Get on the chintz train people!
Image: Nerida Phelan Photography
What items are the most hired from your collection?
It’s a close race between our fine bone china teacups and vintage champagne coupes - but I think teacups have the coupes beaten. Just.
Tea is universal. It transcends gender, race and age, and connects and brings people together. Tea rocks.
Images: Nerida Phelan Photography
Do you have any “pinch me” Betty May moments?
That time our 1969 Kombi for hire graced the front cover of one of my fave magazines ever, Country Style, in January 2018. So surreal and so glorious.
Favourite Betty May shoot to date?
Hands down, my favourite is the first shoot we ever contributed to. Think colour, confetti, gold and glamour, its light years away from what you’d expect to see for a vintage style wedding. You can see it here
Image from Erin's Favourite Betty May Shoot Styled by Good Day Rentals - Photography Gold & Grit Photography
Mum hacks everyone has them – how do you make life work?
Quit cleaning up every mess. Cleaning has to happen, but not constantly. I try to save it for the end of the day so I can focus on the work I need to do during the day.
Declutter everything. Get storage boxes. Donate things you don’t use anymore. Put things away where they belong. No clutter = no distraction, no procrastination.
Work in terms of daily goals. You’re bound to get interrupted throughout the day, especially when working from home with kids. But if you get that important goal finished by the time the day is done, you’ll feel like you’re winning.
Have a set day for household jobs. It means you can relax knowing that everything will get done at that time. I tend to do the groceries on the same day each week, likewise the floors and bathrooms. But it’s not rigid either. If something comes up, we flex.
Make time for yourself. Be it a cup of tea, a 15 minute scroll through Instagram or a weekly coffee date with your pals.
How do you like to relax? I have heard tales of you and your husband Ben tucked up on the couch, blankets on laps watching The Handmaid’s Tale – what else?
Netflix. Scotch fingers. Camomile tea.
If I’m feeling particularly wild, the cinema or a gig with Ben. Those types of outings are a little less frequent I must admit though!
Ideal day out?
A long, lazy lunch with my closest gal pals in the city. There I said it, I chose my mates over my family and I don’t feel any shame at all (sorry Ben, Arabella and Sidney) (#sorrynotsorry).
Now I was instructed if I was swinging by the café on the way to your shoot it would be particularly nice of me if I also grabbed you a flat white, so I already know your coffee order lol! But what’s your other fav drink?
G&T. The end.
Fav drink to celebrate, and which Betty May glass would we serve that in!?
That’s easy. Prosecco in one of our mid century harlequin coupes!
Image: Gold & Grit Photography
Image Styled by Good Day Rentals - Long Way Home Photography - You MUST check out the whole shoot here - It is AMAZING! I hope to wake up in the middle of the shoot wearing that pink Gorman Jacket one day... its the shoot of dreams!
Fav design book?
Anna Spiro – Absolutely Beautiful Things. I can’t get enough of her work. Colour, pattern and vintage treasures galore.
Artist you are lusting for a piece by?
I just saw the most beautiful oil painting by Ken Done – “Kelly Reef, 2018”. He really is the most beautiful landscape painter.
Three vintage pieces you would buy if budget was no issue (cars and boats acceptable lol!)
EJ Holden (1962-1963) in turquoise and white.
Wall mounted shelving system by Poul Cadovius.
Eames lounge chair and ottoman in black
Country Style. I’m a sucker for those big old country homes and stories.
Top three sites for event inspo?
Hooray magazine for all kinds of celebrations.
White Magazine for beautiful, but down to earth wedding inspo.
Nouba for the untraditional Australian bride.
Who do you think each of your girls are most like, you or your husband?
Arabella is a clone of me – the hair, shy around those she doesn’t know, the queen at home. Sidney is all Ben – the eyes, playfulness and people magnet. I’m hoping this means they’ll be besties for life like Ben and I are.
You travelled overseas, lived and worked in Melb... hit us with briefly with your geographical journey.
I grew up on a farm in Sale, Gippsland, before moving to Melbourne to go to university to do my Bachelor in Business - Marketing. After working in events for 5 years and finishing university, I went to the UK and lived in Edinburgh and Glasgow for 2 years with Ben where I did more events and marketing work. We travelled as often as we could – Croatia, Egypt, Estonia, Portugal, Poland, Austria, Latvia, Czech Republic, Ireland, Italy, France, Germany, Greece and Lithuania – before returning to Melbourne for another 5 years. We’re now in Bendigo and I’m loving being back in the country.
You sure can throw an amazing garden party... tell us your secrets! Do you have some hacks that help it all come together?
There’s more to throwing a party than food and drink - and you want to enjoy it as much as your guests. If you’re relaxed and having a good time, then so will everyone else.
Pick a theme. It could be a colour, a word, the main meal or the cake. Then build all your decisions around that for a unified and cohesive experience.
Be prepared. Send out invites 4-6 weeks in advance. Don’t leave details to the last minute. Write a to do list 2 weeks before. Do your menu list a week before. Get a cleaner in the day before – you don’t have time! Write out your meal prep timings and get someone in the kitchen to help you.
Divide and conquer. Ask family and friends to bring a plate of food. If you’ve got a theme, pick something for them to cook. If you’re more relaxed, let them chose something they’re comfortable preparing (me, I love making a good salad, don’t ask me to make dessert!). There’s something really special about family and friends coming together, making food and sharing it together.
Let guests help themselves to food and drink. People can cater to their own tastes and eat in their own time. Plus they can mingle and move around.
Do the kids like to play 'Betty May' style?
We regularly lay our picnic blanket out and have lunch in the warmer months, so with Arabella’s birthday at the end of January we were always going to celebrate outside. I asked if she’d like a picnic for her birthday and it was a resounding yes. Then she asked if her cousins, best friends and teddies could come. So from there it turned into a teddy bear picnic style party in the garden. My mum sourced a cute children’s tea set that we set up with tiered cake stands on wooden crates and blankets. The kids – and grown ups – loved it!
Image Annie Chalmers Photography.
What’s your essential item in your baby bag?
Money for coffee, babycino and cake. This is far more important than a spare nappy or wipes (you can buy these if you need with the money you have).
What were the newborn months like for you?
A contradiction. There was so much love and joy but at the same time there was always this feeling of overwhelm and isolation. I had just moved from Melbourne to Bendigo and I’d launched Betty May when Arabella was born. Looking back, I didn’t need to be doing so many “big” things all at once, but I’m also the kind of person who can’t be told. I need to live and learn. So when Sidney arrived, I tried my best to stay in the newborn cocoon. I said “no” more. I accepted anyone’s offer of food. I asked for help. It was a much better first few months.
Novel you have recently read and loved?
The Other Hand by Chris Cleave. It tackles issues of immigration, globalisation, political violence and personal accountability. It’s a gripping read.
Should we mention you seem to be outdoing me as a ‘crazy pot plant lady’?
I do like myself a pot plant! They inject life into a room, add another layer of interest and I find them incredibly calming. Since you last visited, there’s been more added to the collection.
I’ve been hosted in your garden for one of your amazing garden parties (for the gorgeous pics HERE), and we had a little picnic on shoot day... the garden appears to be a labour of love for the proud gardener, your husband Ben.
The garden is a work in progress, which I’m sure every gardener says! But we love spending time in the garden together – be it a push in the swing hanging from the backyard tree, picnicking, following the chooks around (Frankie & Vanessa), growing vegetables or playing hide and seek. Next project is a vertical garden in our undercover area full of herbs and succulents.
You have a knack, and clearly a passion for interiors with unique pieces (like that table inside!) Where have you collected some of your most loved pieces from?
Haha, that table is a beauty! It was sitting in my father-in-law’s shed covered in dirty shed stuff. It’s allegedly the first board room table of Bendigo Bank (scroll back up for a look). We also got a beautiful pine meatsafe that is now our bar and a teak mid century telephone seat that sits in our hallway from his shed.
I find pieces at vintage bazaars like Bendigo Pottery, Castlemaine Bazaar, Mill Markets in Daylesford, Butlers in Olinda, Market Fair in Ferntree Gully, as well as Gumtree and eBay. I keep a list on my phone of pieces I’m on the lookout for. Sometimes I can source them pretty quickly, other times it can take years. But that’s all part of the thrill of the chase.
We hope you adored reading about Erin, you can check Betty May Vintage Hire here
Arabella and Sidney wore outfits from Kennedy the Label
Photography Justin + Jim Photographers unless credited above