"I've known I want to be an interior designer since I was 11 years old."
I was sitting across from Caris Letchford in a cosy little corner at Mataya Eatery.
Caris had her eye on the cafe's serving bench, which she said she was about to help redesign alongside owner, and her friend, Nat Adams.
"My mum let me pick out some bathroom tiles once and I loved it," Caris went on to say.
"She told me that I could do that as a job and that was that."
Now, the talented 27-year-old runs her own interior styling business, Vibe Design Studio.
She has a keen eye for the best trends and looks, as well as a passion for creating both timeless and innovative home spaces.
While Caris admits it had been helpful to know which career path she wanted to pursue from an early age, it hasn't made her journey any less challenging.
She worked hard to become her own boss and hustles every day as a creative entrepreneur.
But she wouldn't have it any other way.
Caris is the latest profile in the Mandurah Millennials on a Mission series, as we meet the young people from around the region helping to shape a new narrative.
The series aims to provide an insight into some of the fresh talent who have grown up in our great city, and are just getting started making a name for themselves.
A town that grows on you
Caris grew up in Mandurah and, like many teenagers in town, said she didn't know just how good it was until she left.
After finishing high school at Frederick Irwin, she couldn't wait to embark on a bigger adventure.
"Growing up here, while you're a teenager, you think it's not that amazing," Caris laughed.
"But since then, I've left a number of times and I keep coming back.
"When you become an adult, you realise how good it is. I really started to fall in love with Mandurah when I was a bit older."
When you become an adult, you realise how good it is. I really started to fall in love with Mandurah when I was a bit older.
Armed with a passion for travel, Caris was inspired to see more of the world so, in 2016, she headed off to Canada for a working holiday.
Working at a ski resort in Vancouver, Caris spoke highly of the experience and said she had "such a fun time".
But she came back to Mandurah.
Then, in 2017, she moved to Sydney.
Just six months later, she had returned home again.
"[Sydney] just wasn't for me," she said.
"It's fast paced and the people aren't as welcoming.
"It doesn't have that nice, laid back environment or that community feeling like Mandurah does."
Creating Vibe Design Studio
After high school, Caris spent a year studying interior architecture at university.
When she realised it wasn't quite what she was after, she completed her advanced diploma in interior design at TAFE.
During that course, she did work experience with a cabinet maker in town who she met... unexpectedly.
Safe to say, I was intrigued by the story.
"That worked out well," Caris laughed.
"I burned part of my parent's kitchen so they got it all renovated and they used this cabinet maker who I ended up doing my work experience with.
"After that, I ended up working with them in kitchen design before I moved to Canada.
"When I got home, they asked me to come back so I did and then I went to Sydney but I still work with them now."
At 24 years old, Caris moved to Sydney to take on a new career challenge in commercial furniture, but quickly realised it wasn't for her.
After quitting her job, she had six weeks to wait until she could make the long road trip home.
But she didn't let that time go to waste - setting up her now very successful business, Vibe Design Studio.
"That was the real push that I needed," Caris said.
"It was like I knew what I wanted now so I started setting it up."
'Your home is special'
After our interview, Caris was off to find some materials to reupholster couches and was working on new drapery for a client.
But she's also currently redesigning a five bedroom, five bathroom and two kitchen house in Lake Clifton.
Caris said she loves being able to work on all sorts of projects, in every room of the house.
"I do heaps of different things with my clients, from giving people a hand with the little things like picking out curtains or flooring or a couch, to full house renovations," she said.
"I also do a lot of selections for new builds so I work with builders a lot.
"Projects can be anything from a one hour consult to a six-month renovation."
Born from her passion for interiors, Caris said she had identified a "gap in the market" in Mandurah for a design consultancy.
I love seeing the final product and helping people achieve a space that they love.
Now, she services much of the South West, from Margaret River to Bunbury, up to Mandurah and into Fremantle, project managing house renovations and restyling ventures of all sizes.
Caris said she loved to channel her creativity and help her clients achieve the perfect, unique rooms they dreamed of.
"Your home is special and you want it to feel that way," she said.
"I love seeing the final product and helping people achieve a space that they love."
The challenges of being your own boss, and the future
"It's nice to be my own boss, I like it," Caris laughed.
"I don't get that pressure from anyone else but myself.
"I'm always looking for other things to venture out into and I can take the business down whatever avenue I want because it's mine."
While her previous experience in the building industry has led to her specialising in kitchen, bathroom and laundry cabinetry design, Caris said she loves that her business allows her to tackle any project she likes.
"I mold to whatever the client wants," Caris said.
"I'd hate to pigeonhole myself to only do one particular thing.
"As for designs, while I do a lot of coastal vibes, I've done everything from Hamptons to mid-century, beachy and monochrome.
"That's the best part though because every project I do is a bit different."
Taking on so much isn't without its challenges though, with Caris admitting being your own boss had come with long hours and tight deadlines.
"I find it hard to say no," she said.
"I take on everything - even stuff I don't have the time for - and that can be a challenge.
"I always get things done on time but time management is hard when you have to do everything yourself."
This is what I will do forever, I don't know what else I would do.
As for the future, Caris said she is still so passionate about her work and can't wait to see where it can go.
"This is what I will do forever, I don't know what else I would do," she said.
"I think I want to do a bit more with the business. I'd like to be able to employ staff one day and that way I can solely focus on the bits that I want to and delegate the rest.
"I'd also like to work more closely with videographers and taking some drone shots from inside the houses after I've designed them."
The future sure is bright for Vibe Design Studio.
The next Mandurah Millennials on a Mission profile will delve deeper into the life of one of the Peel region's most dedicated volunteers, brightest minds and the latest winner of the Youth Volunteer of the Year award.
Got a Mandurah Millennial on a Mission you think would be great to profile in this series? Email email@example.com.