I have worked in Interiors for nearly 15 years +, but since running my own business (Interior Style Studio) this has enabled me to create a world balancing both work and being available to do the school run! The balance works some days and not others, but am pretty proud of finding my niche.
WHAT WERE YOU DOING BEFOREHAND?
Before setting up Interior Style Studio I worked for several well known Interior Architectural Practices – Conran and Partners and Shepard Robson in London and Robarts Interiors in Beijing and Shanghai. The projects were predominantly commercial, hospitality and hi-end residential working with inspirational and talented teams. My time in China was incredible and I managed to work on a significant number of exciting design projects. The pace was fast so I managed to get fabulous exposure and experience. 3 years in China was certainly equivalent to at least 6 years in UK based on the speed and momentum of the work.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO START
Leaving Conran & Partners was far from intentional as I loved the work and the company, but unfortunately it was at the time of the financial crisis and many of us were made redundant when our projects completed – there was simply no more work at the time. So it was a ‘fate’ inspired rather than ‘vision boarded’ inspired start to the journey! I know I would have started my own business at some point, but it was definitely sooner than I had intended, at the time. Every cloud has a silver lining, as they say. Having the independence to work for your self is incredibly inspiring and motivates me to this day.
HOW DID YOU GET STARTED?
A friend’s boss, was building a bespoke home in Sunningdale and was looking for a designer. The clients loved my portfolio and approach and it was an incredible first project to have had the opportunity to work on. There after projects have mostly been via word of mouth through architects, kitchen designers, clients. I started off as a Sole Trader and I officially launched Interior Style Studio in 2016 when it was clear that I was taking on bigger projects and of course and gaining confidence in designing for Private Clients as well as running the business side of things.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE GREATEST CHALLENGE SO FAR?
The greatest challenge is ‘the juggle’. The juggle of all things – personal and work. I’m passionate about designing but working as a designer the design element is really only about 20% of the work, the rest is admin, budgeting, project planning, researching, sourcing, meetings, managing clients, communicating with the project teams. And that’s just the ‘design side’. Trying to keep on top of business accounts, marketing, website, networking is all important but it easily slips down the priority list. Design and Clients come first! Then of course all of the above mostly has to happen within school hours and school holidays (give or take with extra activities and camps!)
AND THE GREATEST SUCCESS?
Greatest success is having a happy daughter and having return clients! I am grateful to be able to be a full time mum and a full time designer! Life is ‘full’ time and ‘part’ doesn’t come into it. It’s been a joy to work closely with my clients as building a dream home is an incredible journey. I love supporting them through the process from initial planning drawings right through to choosing their new bed linen, and all the interior architectural and decorative elements in between. Managing work that I love and being able to work from my studio in the Garden and be available for the school run is something I’m incredibly proud of. It’s sometimes hard maintaining the energy, but the juggle does also motivate me!
WHAT’S A ‘NORMAL’ DAY FOR YOU?
The first goal of the day is of course to get up and ready for everyones day. After the school run I aim to get some exercise in – either Circuits, yoga or walking the dog. (Sometimes the dog comes to circuits for a 2 birds, 1 stone approach). I am then either heading off to a Client or Project/Supplier meeting for 10.30 or in my garden studio by 10. Lunch doesn’t get much of a look in as I’m pretty focused till the 3/3.30 mark when the ‘mum role’ focus kicks in again together with the ‘head chef’ role etc! I used to always work once my daughter was in bed, but I now limit this to once or twice a week. This is often just doing personal admin. As much as I’d love to say that I prep food and things for the day ahead I tend to just watch a little TV or read magazines and catch up on the day with my husband. Apparently we should all be in bed by 10 for a productive next day, but realistically this usually nearer 11.
HOW DO YOU STAY PRODUCTIVE, MOTIVATED AND AT THE TOP OF YOUR GAME?
Let’s be honest. Some days you’re rocking it – productive and motivated and feeling you’re owning it. Other days, not so much. I wish it could be a consistent! I think variation is key. I always like to balance days in the studio with time out and about. It’s often when I’m on a sourcing trip I will resolve ideas that I was struggling with and you always see something that inspires you or you learn about – either for a particular project, or banked for ‘future use’. I’m trying a new rule of not looking at emails till after 2 (very difficult to achieve) so that I can be more productive. Switching off from ‘social media’ and emails is key for real thinking and productive time.
I’ve recently become an Accredited member of the British Institute of Interior Design which requires designers to attend a number of Continued Professional Development talks/events during any one year which is a great way to connect with industry colleagues and constantly evolve your knowledge. Connecting with industry more has kept me more motivated of late.
DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR OTHERS?
Well, that depends on whether the tips are for interiors (always available for advice there!) or tips about life? In general I say – ‘you can mostly have it all…. just not all at the same time’! Focus on what motivates you now in the day to day. Have goals and dreams, but most of all focus on enjoying the day ahead and the rest will follow. We all put ourselves under so much pressure these days.
AND JUST FOR FUN….
Which part of the Chilterns do you live in?
We live in Beaconsfield Old town.
What do you love most about where you live?
The fact that you have the best of both worlds, countryside and a short distance to London. I love that I walk (or run!) to circuits at the rugby club, take the dog for a walk via a coffee at Brasserie Blanc, walk to the GP, Dentist, Hairdresser, one stop shop, and can pop to the Tuesday market (if i remember) . And of course not having to worry about parking or taxis when we go for dinner and wine at no5 is great.
Favourite thing to do at the weekend?
A walk round the grounds at Cliveden or Penn Street followed by a lovely lunch,at home or at a nice pub. These days it’s more about routine but we’d love to explore more places. I’d love to take my husband to the Mash Inn soon.
Favourite way to relax?
Massage at Nuad Thai in Beaconsfield is certainly the first and most easily available option. A trip to Daylesford in the Cotswolds is high up there on the perfect girls day out – they need one in the Chilterns!
One thing on your bucket list?
The list is long! To be fair I’ve travelled quite a lot and grew up in Kenya so I have been extremely lucky with bucket list things to date, from Hiking in Machu Picchu to regular sunday walks on the Great Wall of China! We have a bucket list trip booked for the end of the year when my whole family – 3 generations – are heading back to Kenya for a revist and introduce the younger generation to a Kenyan safari. It will be so very special to be with the whole family.