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Interior designers don’t usually directly specify the technology installation in the home, mainly because it’s moving too fast to learn and advise on the right product. Designers tend to outsource this role to an Audio-Video specialist.

The most dominant piece of furniture in the main room of most homes used to be the television. The room was often designed around this now almost redundant item. The furniture circled facing this big black box demonstrating the dominance television held over our recreation time. Well in case you haven’t noticed, it’s changing faster now than you can blink.

TV screens can be beautifully disguised as an old master, a mirror or even made into a fully blown floor to ceiling media wall. The fact is that most young people stream programmes to watch and channels to subscribe too whilst family viewing is quickly making Netflix – a download app or streaming channel by subscription the preferred viewing method. You can continue watching through your iPad on a plane or on the tube etc. These personalised changes have impacted on the focal point of the family home’s main reception area.

Just think about bookshelves and how they have become less dominant due to computers, kindles and a host of other mobile electronic devices, all of which remove the need for paper storage and bookshelf space. In fact the Radio, TV, bookshelf and formal dining room, central heating radiators and fireplaces have all but disappeared in recent years in exchange of a technical unobtrusive out of view and personalised choice. This creates more free space in the home.

Possibly one of the other biggest changes of home design considerations is the cost of energy. Saving on energy consumption through clever design alters the way our homes are built and look. Self generating energy-efficient homes in the next decade will increasingly be built so that energy is generated from the environment (sun and wind etc.) locally stored and shared in large banks of street terraces. Whilst the home is unoccupied it will automatically lower or shut down unnecessary levels of power such as a fridge that won’t be opened as well as basics such as heating, lighting and stand-by mode on remote electrical items. Designers are not only concentrating on colour, space design, aesthetics and overall emotive impression when creating a home interiors scheme, they are also incorporating the tech available in the future at a pace faster than we have ever seen before. The purpose is always ‘saving’ time, money, space, energy etc. The antithesis of the impression that most home owners have of a qualified accredited interior designer.

Written by Dr Vanessa Brady OBE. 

Award-winning Interior Designer, CEO & Founder of the Society of British and International Design

(Image by Icon Connect: www.iconconnect.com)

SBID continue to explore the personal journeys of interior design professionals throughout the industry. This time, we interviewed the Head Designer at Evan’s TextilesBethany Grace Lewin, as she talks about her desire for creativity from a young age, the day-to-day life of a textile designer, and what it’s like working directly with interior designers!

Can you describe your current job?

I’m Head Designer at Evans Textiles which is one of the UK’s leading suppliers of soft furnishings to interior designers, specifiers and industry professionals. The majority of what I do is based in interior textile design and creating unique printed fabric designs that meet our clients’ interior design briefs – which can be for both domestic and contract markets. We’ve recently seen an increase in the popularity for our bespoke contract fabric designs and I’m very excited to say we’ve launched a new division which focuses solely on designing contract fabrics for healthcare and hospitality environments. Needless to say, my role and responsibilities are changing to meet this growing demand for our contemporary bespoke fabric designs.

Evans Textiles feature with Bethany Lewin for SBID interior design blog 'Behind the Scenes' seriesWhat is your background and how did you get into textile design?

Since a young age I’ve been fascinated by art and design – the way it can influence a behaviour, tell a story or change a mood. I studied Maths, Biology and Economics during A-levels, but I always found myself gravitating towards art and design as I’ve always had a creative flair and felt strongly about using my artistic talent within my career. I went on to do a foundation degree in Textile Technologies, Photography and Fine Art & studied a BA (Hons) Fine Arts Degree at the Manchester School of Art. I have furthered my practice with a Post Graduate Certificate in Art & Design Education and a Master’s degree, in which I specialised in painting, print, drawing and illustration. I now use my qualifications and skills to produce high quality artwork for our interior design clients.

Describe an average day in your job role..

I’m usually up quite early around 6.30am and I’m in the office by 8.30am. As soon as I’m in the design studio, I check my emails for anything urgent over a coffee, then it’s straight to work. There’s never a dull moment and no two days are ever the same – that’s why I love my job. You have to be versatile and quite resilient within the team as the briefs can come in thick and fast and as we’re producing custom artwork daily on a variety of different base cloths, there can be a lot to manage as our clients have expectations and can often be working to tight timescales. I generally work up until 5.30pm but it’s not uncommon for me to take work home as we’re all about meeting our clients expectations.

Which elements of your profession do you enjoy the most and/or find the most rewarding?

I love to see the finished article come together in situ. It’s so rewarding to see the design I’ve been working on make a difference within an interior design scheme – and because our designs are hand-crafted and cannot be found elsewhere, they often take centre stage as the focal point in a room and give that ‘wow’ factor for our clients and their customers.

From concept to completion, I enjoy the work but it’s also brilliant when an interior designer repeatedly comes back to us with new and exciting ideas knowing the possibilities are endless with our bespoke design service and that we can and will deliver their project within budget and on time.

Evans Textiles feature with Bethany Lewin for SBID interior design blog 'Behind the Scenes' series

What’s the latest plans for Evans Textiles, is there anything new you are working on?

We’ve just launched our new division, Bespoke by Evans that specialises solely on performance fabrics for dementia care homes and healthcare facilities. We’ve created a core collection of FR contract fabrics that offer a contemporary take on the more traditional designs that you’re likely to see in standard pattern books. Plus, we have the option of our truly bespoke contract design and print services too within this division so there’s ample choice. All our designs incorporate patterns, scale, texture and familiarity so they can be used across a number of applications from bedding, seating, upholstery to drapery and more.  With Evans having over 100 years’ experience in soft furnishings, the division is also able to tap into our core products like curtain lining, window blinds and curtain tracks meaning many of the essential elements for a redesign can be found in one place – saving our clients time, resource and money! I’m very excited to see what the future holds for our new initiative I think it’ll be very exciting for our clients too.

What do you find the most challenging aspects of your job?

Although it’s cliché to say, often it can simply be there’s not enough time in the day. Meeting our client’s brief is our top priority so we work around the clock to create concepts, colourways and designs. There’s no fixed rule for what signifies a good design as it’s so subjective, so if we receive an unclear brief or our clients’ customer isn’t sure, it can be quite difficult to understand and manage their expectations within a certain time frame.

What do you wish you knew before working with interior designers?

The granular detail. From the outside looking in, it’s almost too easy to think interior design is all about aesthetics but there’s so much more to it. The coordination of materials, safety, design elements and space are fundamental and as we work collaboratively with all our clients, we gain a deeper understanding into the demands and strain on their particular projects.

Evans Textiles feature with Bethany Lewin for SBID interior design blog 'Behind the Scenes' seriesWhat would you tell your younger self if you had the chance?

Trust your instincts!

What has been your favourite project to work on?

That’s a tricky question as every brief we receive is very different and the requirements of the client and their customer can vary greatly. There’s a botanical design that we worked on very recently for a care home it’s been a huge success with residents and staff alike. In fact, it’s been such a success it has been recognised for an International Design award by the Society of British and International Design. That’s a design I’m quite proud of.

What do you think is the biggest problem the interior design industry faces?

Due to the popularity of the internet and the rise of social media, I think the traditional way of choosing a fabric design has changed and many interior designers risk missing a trick by not adapting. The days of carrying around numerous heavy traditional pattern books with limited design collections is fast coming to an end. Nowadays, both savvy interior designers and indeed their customers take to websites, Instagram and Pinterest to find inspiration. This is something we’ve actively tackled with Bespoke by Evans. Our clients can showcase our range, request free swatches, an initial design concept or request a brochure for their customers all on our website. We’re also active on social media channels too so there’s always something new to discover.

If you were inspired by Beth’s story and want to find out more about interior design and the role of an interior designer, click here.

SBID are delighted to launch a new blog series designed to dig beneath the surface of the interior design industry, exploring the personal journeys of professional, practising interior designers across this diverse, far-flung field. With the aim of peeling back the glamorous guise of interior design which extends much deeper than perception permits, we get the honest and exclusive insight on what it’s really like working in the Interior Design industry as an interior designer.

For our first interview, we talk to Interior Designer and Director of HomeSmithsJacqui Smith, as she discusses her work-life balance, how she uncovered her lingering passion for interior design and her unusual route into the industry.

Can you describe your current job?

I run an interior design practice in Sussex with my husband David, working in healthcare and private residential.

What is your background and how did you get into interior design?

Since a young age I would decorate dolls’ houses and spend hours rearranging my bedroom. Graduating from St Andrews with a degree in economics and maths I ended up in marketing but never felt that I fitted. My free time would be spent on all things interiors be it my own home or those of friends. I met my husband, David who at the time was a cabinet maker. Friends would say, ‘wow you two could work together’. With impostor syndrome looming I did not see how at the time but then we decided to set up HomeSmiths as a bespoke furniture business. Clients would ask David for advice on colour and that’s how it all started for me. People responded well to my ideas so I decided to take some courses, build up a portfolio and very quickly our client base grew. In 2007 we closed the workshop and focused purely on interior design. David still designs furniture but is no longer behind the bench.

Jacqui Smith at HomeSmiths project image for Behind the Scenes of interior design feature

Describe an average day in your job role…

I am very much a morning person. Assuming I am not due on site early I will start my day with at least 15 minutes of exercise before breakfast. This wakes me up, clears my brain and definitely helps me focus during the day. Usually at my desk for 8am, I like to have clear chunks of time for my design work rather than dipping in and out so I tend to clear my bitty jobs first. Running a number of projects at any one time those small jobs can take my brain into lots of different places so by clearing those first I can then focus on designing with a clear mental desk! Lunch sometimes involves a walk, it depends on the day but I never miss lunch and make a point of stopping rather than eating at my desk. I aim to finish at 6/6.30pm. Six years ago I lost the sight in my left eye. Before this happened I would often work late but these days I am too tired to do this consistently. There will be the odd time when I am working on a deadline which keeps me in the office until 9pm, but any later than that I find is complete false economy as I tend to sleep poorly and feel less on it the next day. After work I cook dinner, I might go for a walk or just relax with David and my two teenage sons. Family time is really important to me.

Which elements of your profession do you enjoy the most and/or find the most rewarding?

Jacqui Smith at HomeSmiths project image for Behind the Scenes of interior design feature

I LOVE working in healthcare design. The built environment can have a massive impact on a person’s health and well-being and support them from a sensory and cognitive perspective.  Well designed living spaces keep people independent for longer and everyone benefits from that. When I see the community’s residents use the built-in spaces that I have designed, that’s a wonderful moment. Not from an ego perspective since I genuinely feel that there is no place for ego in healthcare design, but as pure job satisfaction.

What do you find the most challenging aspects of your job?

Being let down by suppliers, dealing with constantly moving fit out dates and trying to keep everyone happy. I am not a fan of confrontation. When I shared this once with a rep she told me that I was in the wrong job! I have got tougher over the years but I don’t feel the need to throw my weight around and I feel that our clients and suppliers respect me for that. I care about our clients, our team and am a very fair person and at all times professional, so when met with unreasonable behaviour, I can struggle.

Jacqui Smith at HomeSmiths project image for Behind the Scenes of interior design feature
“Interior design is not about the latest kitchen or the most expensive wall covering, it’s about creating environments that people want to spend time in…”

What do you wish you knew before working in the field?

I do think I went into it with my eyes wide open. I do love a spreadsheet and the paperwork side has never phased me. Some designers I know who have closed their businesses will say that they found the admin/planning side too onerous. The reality is that interior design is hard work, stressful at times and rarely glamorous, but I knew that from the start so my expectations were fully managed!

What would you tell your younger self if you had the chance?

Believe in yourself. A talented New York designer who was an ex-banker once told me that to be a successful interior designer you need to be “great with colour, organised and smart”, and I would add to that – good with people. Had someone told me that when I started out I would have felt more confident in the early days.

Jacqui Smith at HomeSmiths project image for Behind the Scenes of interior design featureWhat has been your favourite project to work on?

On residential, a country house in East Sussex and on healthcare – that’s a hard one, but I would probably say a dementia home in Ipswich.

What do you think is the biggest problem the interior design industry faces?

Brexit! I know that’s potentially a predictable response but I feel that people in the private residential market are more cautious at the moment and in healthcare we have had projects delayed, pared back or clients have felt that they can save on the engagement of a professional and do it themselves.

Which people do you admire the most in the industry and why?

I admire any designer who is down to earth, authentic and hard working. Interior design is not about the latest kitchen or the most expensive wall covering, it’s about creating environments that people want to spend time in but crucially, ones that work, ones that make day to day living easier. A room can look stunning but if the needs of the people spending time in it have not been considered then that’s not interior design, and the needs of people in the space is so incredibly important in healthcare design.

If you were inspired by Jacqui’s story and want to find out more about interior design and the role of an interior designer, click here.

As an interior designer I am always on the lookout for products designed with environmental consideration in mind.  What better place to find such products than to visit the “ecobuild” exhibition held annually at the Excel, London.

This year again the event was buzzing with manufacturers showcasing their sustainable designs of new and innovative products and technologies, for the construction industry, lighting design, interior design and garden design.

Two products caught my attention this year as I wandered around the exhibition.

Beautiful hand made decorative lighting designed by Sarah Turner.

Sarah hand makes these decorative lights from every day waste plastic drinking bottles collected locally.  You would not be able to tell where they originate from once the lighting had been created.  They looked magnificent.  After cleaning the bottles she sand blasts them to give the opaque look.  They are then hand cut and sculpted in to decorative forms.  Sarah uses her talent to help recycle just a few plastic bottles and thus contribute towards resolving problems of landfill site.

Timco wood is a wood plastic composite product made from 100% recycled wood chip and high-density plastics.  This eco-friendly product is used for decking, cladding, fencing and balustrade system.  It has the warm feel of wood with durability and water resistance of polyethylene plastic.  As such the product is easy to install and it doesn’t splinter, rot or warp.  It is also low maintenance and will look good for years to come.

The availability of the range of colours, materials and textures allows you to create many stunning contemporary as well as conventional looks.

The product is readily used in commercial environment but I would specify this product for busy, budget and time discerning families who prefer to spend their time enjoying the garden and family rather than worry about the maintenance and the condition of the decking, time and cost.

Written by interior designer Sangeeta Goyal

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