Becoming an Interior Designer
Renovating my Edwardian home sparked a new career
Since we photographed Caroline Wood-Robertson’s home for 25 Beautiful Homes magazine at the end of 2016, her business Storylines Interior Design has really taken off.
The inspirational mum of three tells us about her journey from the corporate world to the creative world of interior design and gives us a tour of the Edwardian terraced home in Ilkley, West Yorkshire she shares with husband James and children Henry, William and Isabel.
What you were doing before you started your business?
In a former life, I enjoyed the transactional buzz of a career in corporate finance, but when my twins came along nine years ago, I decided to take a break and focus on my family. It was during this time we bought our home; a beautiful Edwardian property but one which was in need of a lot of work. I loved the whole process of the renovation and when Henry, now six, was born, I decided to retrain as an Interior Designer. In a now-or-never moment, I decided to try and make a career out of it, and here I am!
Why did you re-brand the business recently?
When I started out, my business was called Caroline Ann Interior Design. I had already started working for clients and I needed a business name and professional front. It kept it personal and ultimately, as my business is me, it made sense to take my name.
Over the past couple of years, my business has grown and I’m starting to build a small and informal team around me. It feels like it’s time to up my game. I also wanted to create a space for development and, to be honest, just don’t like my name enough especially as I often got called Caroline Ann which I never really liked! I’m constantly telling clients that their homes should tell their story, and as I‘m working on developing my blog, the concept of storytelling seemed fitting. And just like that (and a few tears over finding the exact name), Storylines was born.
What’s a typical working day like for you?
My working days are so, so varied. I often work for an hour or so before the children get up, catching up on emails and social media. Maintaining a balance with family life is really important to me, so most mornings I take the children to school. If I’m doing design work, I try and spend a block of time in the office working through designs; whether that’s pulling together the initial concept board or considering specifications. At other times I may be meeting with a client to present or finesse a scheme. If I have active projects that I’m managing, then I’ll usually be needed on site; meeting with trades, checking on progress and/or taking deliveries. I also try and build some time into my week to meet with new or existing suppliers, and at some point I’ll be out and about hunting for new samples or products. Days are always busy, but never the same.
What’s your favourite part of the job?
I love seeing a space come together; that moment when the design comes to life for the client. I get to know clients really well; as a designer you have to. If you don’t understand your client and their lifestyle, it’s pretty difficult to produce a design which really works for them both aesthetically and practically. So seeing them fall back in love with their home, or start to use a room they previously really disliked, is really special.
What strengths & skills do you bring to the business?
As a corporate turned creative I have a real mix of skills. Aside from the interior design skills and a love of colour, my corporate background means that I have a lot of project management experience as well as an eye for detail. Those professional skills are also useful when it comes to running the business too (the accounts, the corporate structure etc), although I enjoy the creative side much more!
What’s been the most challenging part?
Probably the realisation that as a small business you literally do everything yourself to start with. The design work, the marketing, the social media, the accounts. And because I love my work and my clients, I’m not very good at switching off so I’m regularly found late at night working away. I’m learning to keep more of a balance now. Coming from a corporate environment where I’d just work until it was done, whatever time of night (or early morning), I’ve found it hard to change my working patterns. But that corporate mentality doesn’t translate to a creative life. I have my best ideas when I give myself creative headspace, which doesn’t happen if you’re working until 2am every morning.
Who or what inspires you?
In a world where we’re constantly bombarded with images on Pinterest and Instagram, I’m finding increasing inspiration in the simple colours and textures of nature. Without wanting to sound pretentious, it really is when I give myself creative space to take time to look around me, that I come back refreshed with new ideas.
I’m a massive fan of Sophie Robinson; her use of colour is stunning. I did one of her colour workshops and she was just as lovely in real life. I have a real admiration for successful designers or stylists who manage to keep it real!
What words of encouragement would you give to anyone thinking of starting a career in interior design?
Go for it! I haven’t looked back; but that doesn’t mean it’s always easy. The key is to build up a strong portfolio. Do work for friends, family and on your own home so that you have a bank of images you can use across your website and social media. Good photography makes all the difference. I’m trying to improve my own photography skills for more day-to-day shots, but my website photography I get done professionally. For me, it’s worth the investment.
What was it like having your home photographed for 25 Beautiful Homes?
It was such fun. Karen and Katie were a delight to have in my home, and they made it so easy. They know what they’re doing! As a designer, it was great to watch professionals at work.
What would you say to others considering a home photoshoot?
Don’t worry about everything being perfect. Katie and Karen know how to set up and style the shots and so they’ll move things around as necessary. They may bring some additional styling items to enhance the look, or style up other areas of a shot, so be prepared for some extra stuff coming in. But other than that, get the kettle on and enjoy!
Afterwards you’ll see images of your home looking at its most beautiful. I had a lovely email from a client after sending her some images of her home following a portfolio shoot I did. She thanked me for the photos, saying they were a lovely reminder of how her home would look if she didn’t have three children and a husband to mess it up!!
What are the benefits of using an interior designer?
Clients use designers for so many different reasons. Some can’t visualise finished spaces, some need inspiration, some just don’t have the time to do it themselves. The main benefits I see are that you have someone to guide you through the whole design and implementation process. It gives you an opportunity to find your style and challenge yourself. With the right designer, you should end up with something you love, but which you wouldn’t have thought of yourself.
It can also avoid costly mistakes; making sure that the layout is right to start with, or that the electrical plan reflects how you’re going to use your space. My aim is to ensure that the design and implementation process remains enjoyable for clients. After all, you’re designing your home, it should be fun.
Do you have a signature style?
I love working with colour, even if it’s adding just a touch to lift a scheme. Even when I use dark colours in designs, all the spaces retain an elegance. Ultimately though, it’s about working with the client to create a look that they love and which works for them practically.
To find out more visit storylinesinteriordesign.co.uk
If you’d love to see your home featured in a magazine and want to find out more, go to our what we do page.