Interior designer as director?
9 min read
Published 28 Nov 2021
With Christmas and New Year around the corner, it is the season for looking back at what we have achieved over the current year, and for plotting our hopes and dreams for the next one. Recently, I have been thinking a lot about my creative background and how I came to be an interior designer, and what I would like to do with those skills next year.
It is a cliche, but I was definitely one of those restless children who wanted to change my bedroom around every five minutes, and I was always moving the furniture, trying to come up with the best layout. This is what many interior designers say they did as children, and doing this made them realise that they wanted to be designers. But when I was a child, I didn’t realise where my skills and passions lay, and it took me longer to work out where I was going. Looking back, I was what you could call a creative child - I was hugely interested in buildings, fashion, (always designing and making outfits for my Sindy dolls) and loved art and dancing. I often won competitions for my drawing, dancing and fashion designing. I also loved to write stories, I ‘published’ my own books at home, and would dream up dramatic scenarios which I could act out in my little makeshift theatre behind the sofa. This led me to acting and performing, which I did throughout my childhood, and I often made my poor mum sew costumes for me and my family watch me in endless shows.
I went on to study theatre, film and television at university, and whilst I gave up acting pretty soon after starting my course, I specialised in costume design, as I loved interpreting a script and putting my own creative spin on it with my work. I also enjoyed the technical side of things, such as planning lighting and sound design for our productions, and found this to be just as creative as making costumes or sets. Again, I was using my skills to really add to the storytelling and the overall effect of the play.
|So, whilst I’ve been contemplating, I have been thinking lately that I miss working in theatre and television, as I loved the feeling of everyone pulling together to get to the desired end result. I loved that each person and team had their own role to play, and they were vital to the success of the production. I also really appreciated that the director was the creative head of the team - their vision was fascinating to me, and I was in awe of how they kept on top of all the many creative and technical ideas and details in the show. Their job was to allow their ideas to shape the whole production, and to help everyone involved do the best job they could.|
When I began studying interior design, and later became a designer, I felt that I had taken on another creative discipline, (much like costume design or sound design as I’d done before) and that I was playing my part in the bigger picture again. Whether I was creating costumes which emphasised nuances of the characters in a play, choosing the perfect piece of music for a scene, or selecting a sink for a bathroom, the creative process was familiar and comfortable. It felt very much like working in the theatre - I would take the brief from the client and help them shape it into a defined end result, with those results often driven by the clients themselves.
But as I’ve gained experience, I realise that my clients need me to lead them in a much more skilful way. They are looking for me to take the lead and make the decisions which will get them to their desired result. When renovating, it’s easy to get bogged down in the details and find it hard to see the bigger picture, and clients often lose sight of the end goal in the process. It’s my job to keep them and the project on track and keep a firm hold of what they wanted to achieve - to keep their reasons for doing the project top of mind and focus on how it will improve their lives when it's finished.
I realise now that In a way, I am taking on the role of the director. It’s my creative vision, based on and melded with the client's needs and desires, but I’m the one who makes it happen. I’ve spoken before about how I see my role as defining the client’s brief, but then I add my own voice to it and shape it into something that the clients could never have dreamed up themselves.
This is even more true when clients ask me to project manage for them. With this service, I bring in and steer all the people needed to make the vision a reality. When I manage a project and coordinate all the tradespeople needed to carry out the work, I am bringing in experts in their fields and I need to respect them and their years of experience. Of course, I will listen to their creative ideas, but I have to make sure that those ideas fit in with the overall vision for the project and don’t take it in another direction.
For example, just this week I met with a fireplace installer, and went through the details of what the clients and I needed him to do. Now he is great, and I trust his experience and advice, but he isn’t a designer and can’t see the whole picture of what we are trying to achieve. The house we are working on is a new build, which has been there for around 20 years, so has lowish ceilings and long rooms. The fireplace in the living room is currently too big for the space, and the client and I are trying to balance the proportions of the room by adding a fireplace which is more suitable in scale.
This is the design for the new fireplace, which the clients wanted to be simple and uncomplicated, but we are adding in some colour and texture with these geometric tiles on the hearth and in the surround.
And here is the lovely tile we're going to be using around the fire:
The fireplace installer was going through the options of what he could provide to us, and clearly favoured a Victorian style fireplace. He showed a few of these to me, and told me it would be easier not to tile the surround. Usually, these fireplaces have an additional back panel which is made from stone or slate, which are designed to be an off the shelf option. They are easier to install than a tiled surround and are made to fit the fireplace mantel exactly. It would have been simpler for everyone involved if the client and I had opted for this surround, and we did listen to what the installer was telling us. But after discussing it, we decided to stick with the original plan of using tiles. The client looked to me for guidance, and whilst I don’t want to make anyone’s job more difficult, I felt it was important to give her what she had asked for. She had loved the tiles from the moment I showed them to her, and I felt they added an important dimension to the overall design, and that without them the simple oak mantel could look quite flat or bland.
In another living room project I’m working on, we are currently in the process of getting the bespoke window dressings made and installed. When I put the whole design together, I added some details like wall lights which are made from straight rods of glass, and chose ribbed ball finials for the curtain poles to echo this shape. Here’s the wall light and the ribbed ball finials I chose:
When I was at the client’s home with my curtain fitter, he was measuring up and was concerned that the limited space between the window and the wall meant that the finials we wanted might not leave enough space for the curtains to be drawn back from the window. We discussed the issue with the client, and talked about the possibility of changing the finials to those with a smaller shape. The client was very easy going and open to suggestions, but I felt that we should stick with the original finals. I explained to the fitter and the client the reason I had chosen those particular finials, and felt that changing them would compromise the design. I wasn’t being a diva - all of these little details add up to a multi layered and fully rounded design - something the client had wanted when she decided to bring in a designer for the project. If you change or take too many of these details away, the room can end up looking and feeling unfinished, or just not as amazing as it could have been. What a shame it would be to go through the whole design process, and then the upheaval of a renovation, to look at your home and think it is merely okay. I don’t think any of my clients want that, and I certainly don’t want that for them. By the way, we did lots of measurements and worked out a way to make the ribbed ball finials work, so the design is intact!
|Part of the role of a project manager is to consider and overcome practical challenges, sometimes making necessary changes to my designs, whilst keeping an eye on the end result. I need to work with the trades involved, but also to advocate for my clients. The clients I work with often struggle with looking at all the elements of a room together, and find it easier to focus on one thing at a time, and the same can be true of the tradespeople working in their homes. They are quite rightly focused on the practicalities of what they need to do, whether that be the paintwork or the wiring, but my job is to always have that end goal and overall design in mind, keeping everyone working towards it until it’s completed.|
So, in a way, I am taking on the role of a theatre director, and I am relishing it. Whilst I’m happy for some of my clients to have a design from me and implement it themselves, the results are so much better when I am there to guide everyone. Clients are busy with their lives, and often don’t have the time or energy to focus on the project over many months until is it complete. It is my job to do this everyday, and I can guide everyone gently along the way, making sure it happens. Which brings me back to my focus for next year. I’d love to help more clients realise their designs, making sure that they are carried out safely and successfully, and staying as true to the original vision as possible. I may not be Wes Anderson, but I am just as focused as the filmmaker and designer (and am certainly inspired by his work).
Welcome to my design blog, where you'll see posts about anything from the projects we are working on, to the latest fabric and wallpaper collections, and 'how to' guides for all things interiors related. I love colour and pattern, architecture and old buildings, and I especially love the moment when you see something so beautiful it makes you take a sharp intake of breath.
Corduroy is cool again
28 Jun 2022
|A new fabric from Kirkby Design called Sculpt includes these deep pile cotton velvets which look just like large versions of corduroy. The look takes me right back to my childhood, and is very comforting. You can see the collection here.|
Colourful, wonderful boucle fabric
28 May 2022
|The trend for super soft Boucle fabric is still going strong, but up until now we've mostly seen it in creams and whites. One of my favourite fabric suppliers, Linwood, has produced a new colourful collection of 48 shades. It's a durable and soft fabric, and works particularly well on sofas and cushions.|
28 Apr 2022
|This month, we were pleased as punch to receive the Best Homes & Interiors award from the prestigious Cardiff Life Awards. Cardiff Life Magazine are well-known champions of our city, and the annual awards celebrate the best of Cardiff talent, so we are over the moon to be named 2022 winners!|
Morris & Co. X Ben Pentreath
28 Mar 2022
|The designs of William Morris have made a comeback over recent years, and now they have been given a striking makeover by interior designer Ben Pentreath. The Queen Square Collection has reimagined some of Morris's most famous fabrics and wallpapers in rich tones and vibrant colourways. You can see the collection here.|
28 Feb 2022
|One of my favourite design houses, Woodchip & Magnolia, have gone all out for the all over pattern trend and produced wallpapers and fabrics in the same prints, which I love. You can see the whole stunning collection here.|
New fabric collection from Prestigious Textiles
28 Jan 2022
|A new collection of sumptuous fabrics has just been released from Prestigious Textiles, called Monsoon. The collection includes tactile velvets, animal motifs, embroideries and beautiful sheers, so it's versatile enough to use anywhere in your home. If you'd like to know more about these fabrics, please get in touch.|
New reeded glass pendants from Mullan Lighitng
28 Nov 2021
|Lighting designers and manufacturers Mullan Lighting have a new range of reeded glass pendant lights available. These Mid Century inspired lights come in three shapes and four finishes, but the Nahla (the one pictured above) is my favourite. You can see the range here.|
Little Greene and Bert & May join forces
28 Oct 2021
Little Greene has announced a collaboration with tile brand Bert & May. The collection sees eight gorgeous Little Greene shades translated onto tiles, giving you even more opportunity to add colour, texture, and a mix of materials to every area of your home. I love this bathroom combination above, with the perfectly matched tiles and paint offset with touches of terracotta, mustard and oak. You can see the full collection here.
Dulux colour of the year - Bright Skies
29 Sep 2021
So, Dulux have announced their colour of the year for next year, and here it is! Bright Skies is described as the 'breath of fresh air' that we all need after being indoors for so long. What do you think? I'm reserving judgement at the moment. It looks a little cold in the picture, but I don't think the beige sofa and the styling are doing it any favours here. Maybe colour drenched (painted on walls, ceilings, trims and doors) and with some warmer burgundies and terracotta, it could be lovely. You can buy the colour here.
A new home collection from Paloma Faith
28 Aug 2021
|British singer songwriter Paloma Faith has recently launched her first collection for the home. It includes wallpapers, fabrics, cushions and bedding, and she describes the look as 'faded grandeur and retro maximalism'. The prints are everything I love - dramatic, colourful and fun, and you can see more of the collection here.|
It's all about soft yellows
28 Jul 2021
|I was watching an Instagram live post from The Little Greene Paint Company last week, and they were discussing a comeback for yellow. Now, as you know, I don't think you have to follow the trends but yellow hasn't been fashionable for a long time, so this sunny, uplifting shade is often overlooked. A warm yellow like Little Green's Carys (above) is perfect for cheering us all up, and you can buy it here.|
The cushion that gives back
28 Jun 2021
|Introducing the cushion that gives back, from homewares company Oka. They have produced this cushion in partnership with The Trussell Trust who support two thirds of the UK's food banks, and 100% of the proceeds from sales of this lovely green velvet cushion will be donated by Oka to The Trussell Trust. It comes in a range of other colours too, and you can buy the cushion here.|
A beautiful new tile collection inspired by the National Trust
28 May 2021
|Just launched, Ca Pietra a new tile collection in collaboration with the National Trust. Every tile has been inspired by one of the historic properties, gardens or coastlines looked after by the Trust, and a minimum of £10,000 from sales of the tiles will be given to the National Trust to help them continue their important work. You can see the collection here.|
Yummy new switch & socket colours
28 Apr 2021
|Did you ever think that your light switches were good enough to eat? I'm guessing the answer is no, until now. You can now buy switches and sockets in these gorgeous colours from the new Dowsing & Reynolds Cafe Culture collection. They come in luscious shades like Cinnamon, Caramel Latte and Whipped Cream, so you can tone, coordinate or contrast with your wall colours and make every part of your interior scheme look delicious. You can buy the gorgeousness from here.|
A sustainable fabric choice
29 Mar 2021
|A beautiful new sustainable fabric range from Clarke and Clarke has just been launched. It's made entirely from recycled materials so you can refresh your home with a clear conscience. You can have a look at the fabric here. Get in touch with me if you'd like to buy any of this fabric.|
Sought & Styled - Preloved items given new life
28 Feb 2021
|This month I want to highlight a business run by a very talented lady I met a few years ago (remember when we could meet people?) Not only is she a creative interior designer, she also runs an online shop where she reuses and repurposes anything from soft furnishings to larger furniture items. Everything sold is bespoke and unique, and is effortlessly waste conscious because it's being used again. You can visit her shop here.|
Do kitchen worktops bore you?
27 Jan 2021
|Thanks to a genius idea from kings of pattern Blackpop, you can now have one of their colourful designs on your kitchen worktop. They will put any of their funky fabric or wallpaper designs onto waterproof MDF to make you a unique worktop, or they can even make a design just for you. Chopping will never look the same again! You can buy the worktops from their website here.|
A Fresh Take - Cardiff Life feature
18 Dec 2020
|This month's issue of Cardiff Life Magazine is out today, and features an interiors special, because one thing this past year has made us do is take a new look at our homes and how we'd like to live in them. To see what I and other local interiors experts have to say on the subject, including a round up of the trends for 2021, have a flick through the digital mag here.|
An enchanting inaugural wallpaper collection from Tom Baker
26 Nov 2020
|This opulent and atmospheric wallpaper from Tom Baker immerses you in a world of tropical flora, fauna and exotic animals. With soft cool tones and hints of pink floral detailing, this is the perfect wallpaper to add a relaxing and exciting edge to your home. Find this enchanting collection here.|
A new shady collaboration between Matthew Williamson and Pooky
20 Oct 2020
|The humble lampshade is often overlooked, but with the new collaboration between Pooky and Matthew Williamson they won't be for much longer! Matthew Williamson has applied his talent to design a new range of Pooky lampshades. Whatever your taste, colour scheme or budget you will find the perfect lampshade for your home in this new collection which is now available. This spectacular new collection can be found here.|
Felt covered curtain poles
17 Sep 2020
Now you can add some texture to your window dressing with these Walcot House felt covered poles. The pure wool coverings come with a option for bronze or steel fittings and wide spans up to six metres. The curtain track is cleverly hidden within the wooden curtain pole and there's a choice of nearly 50 colours and textures. You can find out more here.
Please vote for my blog
11 Aug 2020
|I'm really thrilled to have been nominated for an Amara Interiors Blog Award this year! If you enjoy reading my blog and would like to vote for me, I'm nominated in the Best Interior Designer Blog category, and you can vote for me here.|
Upcoming interiors trends from Love Rugs
10 Jul 2020
|Love Rugs, the people who know about all things rugs have just published a feature on the upcoming interiors trends for 2020. They asked six of the UK's top interior designers (including me!) to tell them what the upcoming trends are, and in particular the changes we will be making to their homes. The article can be read here, and if you'd like to have a look at the huge range of rugs they offer, click here.|
A new fabric collection from Linwood Fabrics
15 Jun 2020
|I love Linwood fabrics - they have a fab way of mixing colour and pattern into something really special, producing fabrics and wallpapers that make me want to coo. This new collection, available at the end of June, is just as gorgeous. It's called Kami, with the pattern inspired by a 19th Century document. The collection is a range of printed velvets, so perfect for upholstery and accessories like cushions.|
An easy way to update your kitchen
16 Apr 2020
|If you are looking to update your existing Ikea kitchen rather than replace it, Stockholm based company Superfront are here to help. They sell a range of fronts, handles, legs and tops to fit not just the Faktum kitchen range but also the Besta, Metod and Pax ranges - so you can customise anything from your sideboard to your wardrobe. These super cute round handles are part of their new birch collection, and the whole range can be found here|
Move over boring taps - colour is the new black
13 Mar 2020
|Colour has been taking over our kitchens and bathrooms for a while now (yay!), and has slowly been creeping into sanitaryware and fittings. These perfectly coloured mint green and pastel pink taps from the new Miami Colour Pop Collection from amazing homeware brand Dowsing & Reynolds are spot on and would look gorgeous in any kitchen or bathroom to add a shot of colour without overwhelming with sugary sweetness. You can learn more about this new collection here.|
Who knew a door stop could look this good?
19 Feb 2020
|Door stops are one of those little annoying things that we all need, but are not the prettiest to look at. Now London based Buster & Punch have turned their attention to the problem and transformed the humble door stop into something cool and covetable. They might cost more than your average one from a DIY store, but as you're going to see it every day, why not look at something beautiful? here.|
Wallpaper made of cork?
29 Oct 2019
|Sustainability and concern for our environment are key in the interiors world right now (as they should be). So when I saw that Monkey Puzzle Tree (a brand I admire for their sense of style and creativity) had produced this wallpaper made of cork, I was blown away. Cork is great for so many reasons - it can be harvested every nine years without harming the tree, is grown without the need for pesticides or fertilisers, has excellent sound and heat insulation properties, and is naturally antimicrobial and antifungal. This wallpaper has an A+ rating for emissions so it creates a healthy environment wherever it is hung. Add to this that the design was produced in collaboration with the talented Drew Millward who lives in my home county of West Yorkshire, and that it's called 'Hit The North', I was bound to fall in love with it. You can buy the wallpaper here.|
I'm in Cardiff Life magazine - again!
17 Sep 2019
Now that the summer is officially over and our thoughts turn to cosying up our homes for winter, I'm here to help. If you're in need of some inspiration, you can read all about the interiors trends for Autumn and how to work them into your home in this month's Cardiff Life magazine. Hear what I and other interiors experts have to say on pages 18-22. You can read the digital version of the magazine here.
I've been nominated for an Amara Interiors blog award!
6 Sep 2019
|Exciting news! My little blog (Design Insider) has been nominated for an Amara Interiors Blog award! I'm so chuffed to be included at all, and not expecting to win, but if you enjoy reading my blog posts then please vote for me. I'm nominated for the Best Interior Designer blog category. Voting is open until the 11th of September and you can vote for me here.|
My kitchen project featured on the Artifact Lighting blog!
1 Aug 2019
When I designed the contemporary copper kitchen, I wanted to use some copper elements to add warmth and also to tone in with the pink walls and pale grey units. I found these pendant lights from a company called Artifact Lighting, and they are perfect because they add to the 'warm glow' I wanted to acheive. They also have a vintage look which contrasts nicely with the sleek look of the kitchen units. When the kitchen was finished I sent some pictures to Artifact Lighting, and they liked the kitchen so much they featured it on the blog page of their website.
You can read the blog page here
House of Hackney's first outdoor fabric
26 Jun 2019
One of my favourite interiors brands, House of Hackney, who are known for their daring and quirky prints, have just released a new fabric which is suitable for our door use. They took one of their designs, Palmeral, and reimagined it in a fresh colour palette of off white and green. This colour fast and water resistant fabric can be used for anything from outdoor cushions to furnishing yachts (if you are lucky enough to have one!)
My thoughts on the colour Living Coral in Cardiff Life Magazine
31 May 2019
|Hear what I and my fellow designers have got to say about Pantone's colour of the year, Living Coral, and how to use it, in this month's Cardiff Life magazine. The article is on pages 84-86, and you can read it here. Do you think you could use it in your home?|
Sustainability in furniture design
7 May 2019
|Sustainability is something that is becoming more and more important in interior design - not just where we buy items from and how far they've travelled to get to us, but also the materials that they are made from. Kartell, one of Italy's best known design brands, have just released the world's first piece of furniture made from a bioplastic called Bio-On. It's a fully sustainable version of one of their best selling items - the Componibili modular unit, and it comes in four delicious pastel shades. They may be 100% sustainable, but they are also super cute and bang on trend with this seasons colours. You can buy them here|
The latest trend in shutters
24 Feb 2019
Forget painted shutters - the new style direction for window shutters is bare wood. These full height shutters made from sustainably sourced ash are the newest product from California Shutters, and are set to be big this year.
My new favourite tile!
7 Feb 2019
I was searching for some tiles for a client's splashback recently and came across these beauties from Topps Tiles. There's long been a trend for patterned tiles, with lots of geometric shapes and bold colours going on, but I've begun to see more and more tiles with a pattern in the surface of the tile itself. These ones are a lovely example, and the deep blue colour is just stunning. To get a closer look at them, follow the link below.
Pantone announce their colour of the year 2019
11 Dec 2018
Leading colour experts Pantone have annouced the shade which they think will be the colour of the year for next year - Coral pink. It might look very bright and scary, but it's actually quite easy to use. I wouldn't suggest painting a whole room in it, as that might be a bit overwhelming, but I would use it in small doses, such as on cushions or in artwork, to liven up a shceme. Pantone say that the colour is meant to 'embrace us with warmth and nourishment and provide comfort and bouyancy in our continually shifting envirnoment', which basically means it's a happy, uplifting colour, and might just cheer us all up!
My work featured on Homify
8 Oct 2018
My work has been featured in an article on Homify - one of the leading online ideas platforms for all things interiors. My project is in an article on how to avoid common mistakes when designing a bedroom. The article mentions how important it is to block out light for a good nights sleep - something I addressed by adding blackout lining to the curtains and adding an extra layer of window dressing with the wooden Venetian blinds. To see the article, please use the link below.