Are you a graduate designer in need of business advice? Do you want some expert colour tips? Or are you looking for an interior designer who won’t use your house as a canvas for their own [questionable] sense of style? Well, you can stop looking because you’ve reached the right place. Interior designer and colour consultant Heather Jenkinson, who set up her own company in 2006 and hasn’t looked back since, reveals all:
Britain has a wealth of talented designers graduating year after year. What gave you the determination to set up your own business?
When I graduated from Central Saint Martins back in 2005 I could not have imagined that 18 months later I’d be starting my own business. Being a mature student, I worked two jobs during my degree and once I’d graduated I picked up an additional full-time admin job. Managing that workload turned out to be the perfect training for anyone planning to set up a business. You really do need to be able to keep 17 different plates spinning in the air to get a small business off the ground.
As it turned out, I got my big break from my part-time evening job as a private chef. One of the clients happened to be a leading architect in London and he commissioned me to introduced an entirely new colour scheme to his architectural practice ORMS, in Clerkenwell. Following that, I worked with him and his wife on the complete modernisation of their five story house in Islington. Later on I did the same for their other home (a beautiful Georgian farmhouse) in Suffolk. Thanks to this I learned an enormous amount during those two years and was able to set up a business off the back of what was essentially a huge endorsement.
What advice do you have for newly graduated designers?
Talk to people. You just don’t know where your career will take you and showing genuine interest in the people that you meet – what they do and what drives them – will help you to spot opportunities where others may not. It really is a case of ‘who you know’. In the early days don’t worry about how little you’re earning, just get the experience in and it will later pay for itself many times over. Ultimately, you must want to work hard and love what you do if you’re going to be any good at it.
What would you say has been the highlight of your interior design career so far?
Oh, there have been so many! Winning a place at CSM was a big one. I met many talented people there and the teaching was excellent – Garth Lewis’ teachings on colour were a major turning point for me. More recently, I’ve been working on a number of residential projects with Katherine Brown, who is an outstanding project manager, along with a talented architect. Working with the right team means that absolutely anything is possible.
If a client has hideous taste how do you put their personal stamp on their space?
Well, I’ve certainly seen some interesting spaces, but during a consultation I am far more focused on my client, paying careful attention so that I can work out who they are and, more importantly, what they want without them necessarily having the design vocabulary to tell me. Once I understand what drives them it’s a lot easier to introduce new ideas. It’s not difficult to incorporate key pieces that ‘only a mother can love’ as accents, when you remember that what constitutes a good design is how it makes us feel.
That said, I am not afraid of saying ‘no’ to a client. My professional opinion is what they pay me for. Ultimately, if a client has the foresight to recognise that they need professional design advice then we’re already winning.
What colours represent ‘Heather Jenkinson’?
On a personal level, I am drawn to colours that have grey tones. I think this is because urban environments can be very noisy places to live in and I find palettes that are quiet and grounded to be restorative places to spend time in and I tend to approach my work in much the same way. Using the right colours and lighting can turn the volume, from outside your home, down instantly and with very pleasing effects.
What are your style loves and hates?
I appreciate variety in surface areas such as introducing cool grey concrete alongside warm American Walnut. I love working with clean lines and textured details, and colours that have quiet tones with saturated accents. And I love the film A Single Man (by Tom Ford). If one could encapsulate what I adore most in interior design it would fit beautifully in that film: quiet 1940’s architectural glamour. My hates? Oh, anything cheaply made and overpriced. It should be an offence to waste our natural resources manufacturing bad design.
Tell us about your new website, due to be launched very soon…
As a designer, I feel it’s important to be in touch with who you are, what you believe in and, most importantly, what is going on around you. My first website was built four years ago and even though it was created on a tiny budget, I was very proud of it. Since then, my business has grown tremendously and although it was a good website, I felt it was no longer a true representation of what Heather Jenkinson Design is about.
Why should we keep our eyes on you?
There are some very exciting residential and retail projects on the horizon. I am currently in the development stage of setting up an e-commerce site selling beautiful high-end interior products, which have all been designed in-house and will be made by small independent manufacturers based here in the UK and in France. I’m very excited about this but I’m trying to stay pretty grounded too because there is a phenomenal amount of work ahead! But hey, who’s afraid of that?
All images are accredited to Heather Jenkinson
Ellie was mydeco.com's fabulous Editor for three years, and is now off exploring South America. Read more posts by Ellie.