At the end of last week, we received the news that we have been shortlisted for Best Interior Designer Blog by the Amara Interior Blog Awards for the second year in a row. We're thrilled to be in such company as Fabrice Bana of A-Gent of Style, Claire Garner, Lucy Gough, and Sarah Akwisombe and we're incredibly grateful to Amara and everyone who voted for us over the course of the competition. The results will be revealed on the 28th of October and we're already looking forward to catching up with fellow shortlisted nominees and finding out who the winner is!
In light of this honour, I wanted to share a little bit more about why I blog and how it impacts the work we do here at Smartstyle. To do this, I asked a colleague to put together a list of questions and I answered.
You've been an interior designer for almost 15 years, but you only started blogging in 2013. What prompted you to start your blog and what were you hoping to communicate through it?
I started blogging in 2013 out of necessity. I had just relocated my family and business to Tunbridge Wells from London and needed a way to get myself heard as an interior designer worth hiring in my new Kentish town. It was difficult at first but it didn’t take me long to find my voice and once I had done that, it became a real pleasure to write and share my thoughts and ideas on design. I love blogging as it gives me the ability to show the possibilities that great design can bring to the world around us and allows me to genuinely share passion for the industry with colleagues and potential clients, which is invaluable exposure as a designer.
The decisions we make when decorating our homes are very intimate, and your pre-design background is in performance. Can you tell us a bit about how you balance your love for performing and publicly sharing on the blog with your love for creating intimate homes for your clients to enjoy?
This is difficult as a designer because I want to share everything we do but also recognise the need to keep certain information private. For instance, we need to tread the fine line between shouting about everything we're doing and inspired by whilst also keeping a well of inspiration to ourselves so we always have a unique perspective to draw from and use in our work. As Interior designers, our creativity is our livelihood and I think it's really important to keep some of that to ourselves. When it comes to clients, I love marrying a homeowner’s taste and unique needs with the features and personality that comes with a building and then topping it all off with our signature Smartstyle flare. However, a client's privacy is always of the utmost importance and I will only talk about the work we do for them rather than them. With all this in mind, we're lucky to have such a wealth of ideas and inspiration all around us and it's always a real joy to share our work with our digital communities.
You put a lot of research into your blog posts. Tell us a little about your love of history and how understanding the past better helps us understand current and future design trends.
I find that when you love something, you naturally absorb information about it. I really love design, as such I have collected all these bizarre nuggets of information from all over the place which I've locked away in my head and when I think of a particular design trend or period they just come spilling out. When it comes time to put together our monthly post for the blog, I pull from my mind palace (as Sherlock would say) and fact-check and supplement what I already know with further research to really give my readers more context about the topic. Through design, history has become a particular passion of mine and I’m always fascinated by how things evolve over the years when you look up their histories.
Many of the designers and brands that you mention on the blog are local to South East England and London. How do you find these designers and brands and how important is local design to you?
As a local business myself, I'm very aware that my ability to flourish comes from the people who support me and I know how important it is to do the same and give back to other small businesses. I also like to feature local independents because I think they bring something new to the table which brings a really unique flavour to my designs. It gives our designs more of a story and I really love that, so I always keep my eye out for something unique and local when I'm going about my day-to-day.
Even the best designers can find themselves in an inspirational rut. How do you stay inspired and feed your creative soul?
When I get stuck with a design, I find that the best thing I can do it to take a step back. Sometimes stumbling upon inspiration is as simple as spending some time on Pinterest or brewing a pot of delicious tea (and I do drink a lot of tea!) but sometimes it requires something a little more outside the box. I often find that going for a run often helps me organically get the creative juices flowing as I doesn't draw from existing interiors but rather the natural world around me. I also have loads of mood boards full of beautiful photos and fashion shots that I reference when I get a little stuck. I love mood boards because it's all about referencing my existing point of view and creative aesthetic rather than being influenced by what other people are sharing on the internet.
Blogging is a big time commitment. How do you find the time to run your business, be there for your clients and keep up to date with the blog?
Interior design is my passion and I'm having a great time growing Smartstyle and working on our amazing projects. Like with most creative professions, to design well you need to focus and spend time getting it right but you can't rush it or the creativity will be extinguished. My clients give me the opportunity to practise my craft every day and I'm always grateful for them for asking me to design homes and spaces they love. After my family, my design work is my top priority and it's for this reason that I always say I’m an interior designer who blogs rather than an interiors blogger. I keep blogging manageable with my workload by having one big thoughtful piece each month and one smaller post that highlights three of my favourite things, which I call Phoebe's Fab 3. Though I'm always scribbling down ideas for future blog posts and my head is always buzzing with thoughts on design, it's still difficult to squeeze in the time to write and I usually end up getting my thoughts down during a quiet moment in the evening or weekend. I'll review what I've written later in the week and then get it posted. It's sometimes a bit of a struggled but that's the life of a business owner!
I'm incredibly grateful to be able to do what I love every single day and I'm thrilled to have a community to share my work and inspiration with. If any of you wonderful readers has a question about our work or the blog, please don't hesitate to ask in the comments or shoot us a line on Twitter or Facebook. I believe that sharing is caring, and I'm really happy to be here.