Browsing Category

Interview

Interview

The Nursery Blind Company

I’m really excited to share today’s post with you because I genuinely think it’ll be incredibly helpful. Like many new mums, I didn’t realise quite how important the window dressings in my baby’s nursery would be. Not only did they need to look lovely (of course!), they also needed to be safe and block out as much light as possible in order to maximise the holy grail of all parents: sleep. Unfortunately, I wasn’t aware of The Nursery Blind Company when I was doing up Daph’s nursery and so we settled for paper-thin polka dot curtains from Ikea, topped off with blackout fabric suctioned to the window panes. Classy.

So yes, I’m really pleased to introduce Debbie Chan to you today. Debbie’s a mum, and her business does exactly what it says on the tin – I’ll let her tell you more…

How long ago did you start The Nursery Blind Company, and what inspired you to do so?

I started in 2010. I was lucky enough to be working for an interior design company and had access to all the beautiful fabrics and trims which were available. My own children were very young so I designed and made the Roman blinds for their bedrooms. Everybody who saw them loved them and I realised that lots of mums didn’t know where to start looking for something more creative, and also struggled to visualise how they would look.

We think that there is so much choice out there but in fact a lot of it is very similar and of poor quality.

So I thought it would be a good idea to design a small range of hand-sewn blinds that not only looked beautiful but would be available online and are easy for customers to buy at any time. A lot of my enquiries and orders come in during the night and I think it’s mums up nursing their little ones and browsing the internet in the peace and quiet. 

Can you tell us a little bit about what you did before? 

I had done lots of things before, and without realising it at the time, they all came together to help me. When I was much younger I was a children’s nanny for a European family and was surrounded by beautiful and stylish homes and children! Later on I professionally trained to make hand-sewn curtains and blinds and from there was asked to manage the soft furnishing department of an interior design company.  Being a mum helps hugely as you understand the conflicting needs of parents and children. However it also can hinder as you become time poor!

Where do you start when designing a new piece? 

I think as most designers will tell you – they are always looking out for new and exciting things. I always carry a notebook out with me and am scribbling away at ideas. I visit lots of trade fairs for inspiration and look at magazines and also Pinterest. Mostly though I am very mindful that the blinds have to be both beautiful and practical and I have to love them too. I think about trends but also about traditional styles and try to blend them both together. I gather lots of swatches together and make samples up to see what they look like when finished.

Lots of my customers return to me to make curtains and blinds for other rooms in their home and this has led to me offering a range of wool tweed blinds also with pom pom trims, which has proved enormously popular.

Which is your favourite design in the collection? And the most popular?

My favourite design is my newest one – with bunnies appliquéd onto the top edge – I love their little pom pom tails!

The most popular is the grey stars cotton print, with white pom pom trim, as it looks beautiful in both boys’ and girls’ bedrooms and blends with all the lovely soft greys that are so popular at the moment.

Which types of fabrics work best in nurseries and children’s rooms?

Smaller prints or stripes work especially well as windows in children’s bedrooms tend to be smaller. Cotton prints or weaves are also nice as they are natural fabrics and look good whether the blind is up or down.

Please share your five top tips for parents choosing blinds for nurseries and children’s rooms.

Firstly – is it safe? – when the new child safety recommendations came in a couple of years ago I spent a lot of time fully understanding the requirements and ensuring that everything I supply is compliant. There is a lot of confusion in the industry but all blinds now need to be supplied with breakaway devices so that a loop cannot form. It is really important to me that I only supply compliant blinds so naturally everything meets these requirements.

Secondly – Make it fun! As they grow up children’s rooms mean the world to them as they’re spaces just for them, where they feel safe, play with friends and have make-believe adventures. If you get the interior right it can inspire their imagination and creativity.

Thirdly – Make it practical. I use blackout lining on all my blinds and although it will never keep the room completely dark it will make the room dimmer for longer – especially important during long summer days. It’s also a signal to babies that it’s now time to sleep, which all helps with routine.

Fourthly – Try to make it flow with the rest of your house. It is so much easier if you decide on the fabric first and then choose the paint colour to match. I happily send out swatches as I realise how important it is to get this right. I personally don’t like cartoon characters etc. as they tend to be vary garish – and children quickly get tired of them. It can become expensive to keep replacing.

And lastly, Roman blinds are neater and less bulky than curtains – leaving more room to play!

What piece of kids’ design do you most admire?

I love built-in cabin beds that look like dens, or castles or even shabby sheds! They look great and I know from experience how many hours of fun they create. 

When you’re not running the business, how do you like to spend your time?

Ha – well – there’s a question! When I am not ferrying my own children around to various events I do like to play tennis and I also learnt to sail earlier this year as it was something I had always wanted to do.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I love to hear when customers are delighted and some even send me pictures of their blinds up. Some customers have questions beforehand and may want guidance and reassurance especially if it is a first baby – getting the nursery right is a very exciting time! I like to answer questions very quickly and in a personal way as every customer is cherished, exactly as if they had come into a bricks and mortar shop.

QUICK FIRE QUESTIONS!

What’s your favourite…

…holiday destination:

Italy – I love the food!

…children’s interiors brand:

The Little White Company – excellent quality and value for money.

…way to relax:

Sunday morning with the papers (which are usually from the week before!). Sitting in the garden with friends having a drink or just reading a book in peace.

…thing about being a mum:

Enjoying the privilege of being a mum – there was a long time when I didn’t think I was going to be one, so now I enjoy and appreciate everything and just hang on and enjoy the rollercoaster!

Visit The Nursery Blind Company website, NOTHS page and Etsy page.

Interview

Lucy Gough, interiors stylist

Hello! Hope everyone is having a wonderful sunny Sunday! I’ve got a fab interview for you today, with the incredibly talented and lovely Lucy Gough. I’ve known Lucy for a while now – we were both working for the same magazine publisher and even though we were working on different titles, we met by the printer and got chatting! We hit it off and it’s been great to see Lucy’s styling career go from strength to strength when she went freelance.

When I found out Lucy was having a baby, I just knew the little one would end up with one of the most stylish nurseries around, and so I’m very excited to be able to share some photographs of it with you today, along with a little bit more about the mama behind it…

First of all, can you tell us a little bit about you, and your career!

Thank you so much for interviewing me for your fab new blog, Charlotte! I am an Australian-born, London-based Interior Stylist. I have been in London for eight years and I have been in the Styling industry for seven. I am lucky that I have been able to turn my hobby into my full-time career. I create imagery for companies to use for their advertising and promotion and I style and art direct photoshoots for magazines and various publications. I also style and design interiors of people’s homes and businesses.

What’s the best thing about being an interior stylist?

I love that most of my projects are only a few weeks long so I get the opportunity to meet many, many clients throughout the year and work on different projects of varying aesthetics one after the other. I also love keeping up to date on new trends and new designs all year round and sharing my favourites with readers of magazines and through my blog.

Talk us through your ideas for creating Arthur’s nursery.

It was very simple really – I wanted a gender-neutral nursery as we didn’t know if we were having a boy or a girl. I have never loved the ‘blue for boys and pink for girls’ thing anyway so I went for a teal colour. My wife and I love to travel so naturally we hope that Arthur will be an an explorer too so we went with a mountain and hot air balloon theme. I found lots of leftover paint in my shed from previous photoshoots so I used what I had to paint the mountain mural on the wall. It took us two days to create his nursery and we got so excited about Arthur’s arrival while we were doing it!

What’s your favourite element of his nursery?

It has to be the mountains as they are so calm and uplifting. However, I also love the woven rug that I bought from West Elm which has a thick silver thread through it and the ceramic owl knobs on the Ikea drawers. Before we started on the paint and furniture we decided we needed to maximise space in the room (as it’s pretty tiny) so we put built-in wardrobes into the alcoves with shaker-style doors on the front. It’s amazing how much bigger they make the room look even though we essentially lost floor space. I suppose the floor-to-ceiling doors draw your eyes up to the ceiling so it feels taller.

Colourful cot sheet, Kip and Ko from Antipodream

Anything you wish you’d done differently?

I think we should have laid carpet down as a draft comes up through the old, original floorboards. We have tried to cover the floor with the large rug but I still think we may lay carpet before the next winter. I genuinely love everything else about the room though and I think Arthur is happy with it too!

What’s your top parenting survival tip?

Graze on food all day to keep your energy levels up! Parenting is hard when you are tired and hungry (the tired thing is inevitable but there’s no excuse for not eating.) And have a packet of wet wipes in every room. You never know when you are going to need them! Thirdly, make some mum friends. I was always one who dreaded the whole mum-group thing but in the end they are your most valuable asset to get you through your first year. I met my group through mum and baby yoga and we have a Whatsapp group and we talk all day about everything! They are such wonderful women. Motherhood can be very isolating and you need people in your life who are at exactly the same stage as you.

Who or what inspires you?

My mum. She is an amazing woman who taught me everything I needed to know about being a strong, independent and successful woman and mother.

QUICK FIRE QUESTIONS!

What’s your favourite…

…kids interiors brand(s):

There are so many! But my top two are:
Mokee – they have great furniture designs for small nurseries at Ikea prices.
Hedgehog is a wonderful emporium of kids toys, games and accessories.

…holiday destination:
Australia. Oz is so versatile, you get sun, surf, city, rainforest, outback and ski slopes all in one continent! But, then obviously I would say that as that’s my home. I also particularly love Barcelona as it’s easy to get to from London, it has a beautiful beach and there are cultural activities everywhere.

…way to relax:
Read a good book in bed with my phone on silent.

…thing about being a mum:
Watching an incredible little human grow, thrive and develop by the day. I absolutely love being a mum – it’s the best thing I have ever done!

Nursery photography: Georgia Gold

Interview

Wall stickers from Chameleon Wall Art

I’m a huge fan of wall stickers – they are just brilliant for children’s rooms, meaning you can easily update the room’s design without having to get a paintbrush out. In recent years, the technology behind stickers – also known as ‘decals’ – has improved, and there are now products out there – such as the brilliant designs from Chameleon Wall Art, that don’t damage your walls, and can be easily repositioned or removed.

I chatted to Jane Street (left), the mum behind the brand, and asked her to share her expertise…

Hi Jane! First of all, can you tell us a little bit about the background behind Chameleon Wall Art?

I started Chameleon Wall Art in 2016. When I moved house, I was excited to transform my children’s bedrooms and playroom but struggled to find wall stickers which didn’t look like clip art. I ended up painting a lighthouse mural on our playroom wall and realised there was an opportunity to create wall stickers which look unusual and fabulous – and which wouldn’t damage walls. 

Where do you start when designing a new piece? 

The artwork for a new wall sticker starts as a handmade paper collage. This creates a really unusual artisan design unlike other wall stickers you’ll find. I use papers with interesting textures, colourful cellophanes and pieces cut out from magazines to create the collage design. I then scan the artwork and print the design onto a special matte fabric wall sticker material.

Some people are nervous about using wall stickers in their home – can you share your top tips for using them?

Some people worry about causing damage to the wall or putting a wall sticker up in the wrong place and then not being able to make a change. However, I use an amazing state of the art fabric decal material which is different to a vinyl or PVC wall sticker. It has a magic adhesive which means that you can easily remove the wall sticker and reposition it loads of times without leaving any sticky marks or causing any damage. They are really easy to apply – you just peel off from the backing sheet and press on to the wall. There are no bubbles and you don’t need a squeegee, unlike a vinyl decal. If you change your mind about where you want to put it or just fancy moving things around, you can just peel it off and reposition it.

Which is your favourite design in the collection?

I love the mummy and baby penguin wall stickers. They were one of my first designs and are still one of the most popular.

Rocky Rocket by Circu

 

What piece of kids’ design do you most admire/wish you’d worked on?

I love the bold, unusual beds and chairs by CIRCU. This rocket chair would make an awesome feature in a space-themed room.

When you’re not running the business, how do you like to spend your time?

I love going on adventures with my husband and two children. We love camping and cycling and exploring new places.

Find out more about Chameleon Wall Art>

Interview

Dragons of Walton Street

You’re probably already familiar with Dragons of Walton Street‘s rush-seated chairs (pictured above) – I certainly was. Seen in many a nursery, they are true design classics. But you might not know that the company behind them was founded more than 30 years ago by perhaps one of the earliest entrepreneurial mothers. Specialising in hand-painted furniture created to last a lifetime, the brand is not only popular with royalty and celebrities in the UK, but across the world, from Moscow to the Middle East.

I took a trip to the new Dragons showroom on Elystan Street, London, to talk to managing director Lucinda Croft about the story behind, and the future of, this quintessentially British brand…

Can you tell us about the history of Dragons of Walton Street?

My grandfather and father were entrepreneurs – my grandfather, Sir Anthony Fisher, was actually knighted, for setting up The Institute of Economic Affairs. My mother had four children, but she was in that environment and had that entrepreneurial drive herself. Even though it wasn’t fashionable for women to work at that time, she persuaded my dad to let her open a shop in the local village and it did really well. It was an antiques shop, and eventually, she decided she wanted a shop in London and she chose Walton Street.

Alongside the antiques, she sold children’s chairs in the window. The chairs sold faster than the antiques, and so she decided to do a table, a chest of drawers…. She met this fantastic carpenter, who’s still our carpenter, and, even though she had no formal training, she would fax him sketches of her designs and he’d make them up for her. The children’s furniture did so well – we joked with her that one day there’d be no antiques left, and it would all be children’s things… And that’s part of our ethos – we’re always listening to our customers, and what they want.

I’d always loved the shop, and my mother had included me on many buying trips as I was growing up, so I picked up a lot from her even before I worked for the company. When she sadly passed away after a short illness, I joined Dragons as Artistic Director. 

How did the name come about? 

My mum used to be called The Dragon by her little sister! When she was thinking of a name for the first shop, my aunt said ‘Well, it has to be Dragons.’ So that’s how it came about. Even though our showroom has now moved from Walton Street, we’ve kept the ‘of Walton Street’ because that’s our name, our brand, and how people know us.

Whose idea was it to add the artwork to the pieces? 

It was my mother’s idea. We’ve had Paddington Bear, Beatrix Potter and the Flower Fairies for so long. We find the most talented artists, and I love working with them. Only 1% of the furniture we sell isn’t hand-painted in some way, but we have our own artwork designs too, such as the Playful Elephants, which are hugely popular, and slightly more affordable, as you don’t have to pay the copyright on top for them.

How do you combine work with parenthood? What’s the most challenging aspect for you and how do you overcome it?

I always say I have to concentrate. Planning is really important. It’s much easier now than when the children were little. For example, school holidays when the children were little were such a huge deal, and that was really challenging. But we’re lucky as my husband, who joined the business five years ago, and I swap. So if one of us is working in London, the other is working from our head office in Sussex, where we live, and doing the school run. That means that if one of the children is ill, there’s always one of us nearby to scoop them up.

What’s your most popular piece?

The rush-seated chairs. They are handed down through generations – they are true heirloom pieces, and it’s just amazing, the love people have for them, because it’s all tied up with their children’s childhood, or their own childhood and so it’s very evocative – people have a really strong connection with them.

And what’s your personal favourite?

The dolls house wardrobe at the moment (above), because it’s so new. It’s got so much potential for doing something fun with it. I had to restrict myself with the artwork for the one in our showroom – I would have had the whole thing hand-painted but then no one would have been able to afford it! There’s something about a dolls house that clicks into someone’s imagination. But also, it’s a hugely practical piece, and people have a lot of stuff!

On that note, can you tell us a little bit about the background of the dolls houses?

When I joined Dragons, we didn’t have a dolls house in the collection. Our manager Sally, who had worked for my mum for fifteen years, said ‘You know, we really should have a dolls house’. Strangely as a child, I didn’t have a dolls house, but my little sister had a giant one on the landing, which my mum made for her. But I’ve more than made up for it now – I don’t know how many dolls houses I’ve done now!

The most fun one I did was for the daughter of a princess who loved animals, so she had a conservatory filled with animals – even a rabbit hutch with real hay in it. It really was so cute. When I’m designing a dolls house, I always like them to say something about the family it’s for – for example if they have a dog, I’ll try to find a mini dog that looks like theirs.

What’s coming up for Dragons?

We’re talking to people in China about the taking the brand out there, which is very exciting. I think they would love our pieces. We also have a fabric design in the pipeline, an addition to our Playful Elephants collection.

Which other kids’ brands do you admire?

I love US brand Restoration Hardware – I think they’re very clever with their photoshoots. The way they style their children’s rooms – it’s a very American style, but they do it so well. If we had the budget, I’d love to do something similar with our shoots.

When you’re not running the business, how do you like to spend your time?

I love being in the country with the family. I find it so relaxing to hang out at home with the children, away from London. And in the summer we love to go to the south of France, it’s just lovely.

Any recent customer anecdotes you can share?

We’ve just been commissioned to paint a customer’s dog on a chest of drawers – the chest is for her daughter, and she couldn’t believe it when I said if she sent me a picture of the dog, we would do a sketch for her, which we could then paint onto the piece. We also just completed an amazing interior design project in Abu Dhabi – four children’s rooms in the same home, each with a completely different theme, from a racing car, to a safari to a ship! It was huge project, and the team said it was so much fun, as they were there when the children arrived to see the rooms and they were so excited and appreciative.

Find out more about Dragons of Walton Street >

Interview

Jumbo & Friends

Another mama-led Instagram find for you today folks! On that note, if you’re not already following me on Instagram, please do – I’m posting some amazing kids’ interiors finds that you really don’t want to miss 🙂

When Esther’s amazing cot bed appeared on my Insta feed, I was instantly impressed (not least because Daphne’s favourite animal is the elephant!). It was another ‘wish I’d known about this brand when I was looking for a cot’ moment. I had to find out more. So I pinned her down to find out how the untrained designer behind Jumbo & Friends comes up with her unique pieces, and juggles creating them with a successful freelance TV career, and motherhood…

Hi Esther! Tell us how Jumbo & Friends began…

Jumbo was conceived around the time when I found out I was pregnant, about four years ago. I was getting used to that exhilarating (and terrifying at the same time!) idea of bringing a child into this world and I started looking for what to put in the room where our special little thing would sleep for hours on end (little did I know…). And I just couldn’t find anything that really fitted with what I was feeling, it just didn’t feel exciting to me.

I am not a designer by trade but furniture design had been a hobby for many years and so I couldn’t help myself and started imagining – slowly the cot that would eventually become Jumbo started taking shape. The idea of the business didn’t really arise until much later on. The design was finalised and I started showing it to friends and family and their reaction encouraged me to start the business. In a very naïve way, I just saw it as an adventure and had no idea of what it would involve! But I felt I had to give it my best go, I wouldn’t be able to forgive myself if I hadn’t at least tried. And I have to say I haven’t regretted it at all.

We know your background is in television – a very different career from designing – do you find this helps or hinders you?

I am a freelance film and TV editor; I mainly edit documentary films for the BBC and other major broadcasters and also edit independent films. It may seem quite unrelated to furniture but I don’t think it is! I’ve always thought creativity comes in many shapes and forms and one has to find a way to channel them, for me it’s all about the process. I make films and furniture and I also love making music and other things – it completes me and makes me happy.

Being a freelance editor has without a doubt enormously helped with Jumbo & Friends as it not only funds it but it also allows me to take time off often enough to carry on with development of new pieces and promoting the brand.

Where do you start when designing a new piece?

It’s still as it was when it started; it’s all centred on Tomas’ needs. So you could say that Jumbo & Friends grows with him and it all develops from there very naturally. For instance, he is quickly outgrowing his cot bed and so I’m developing a toddler bed. And our next piece, which is due to be released during our pop-up shop in May is a bookshelf, because my old beautiful shelf isn’t very child friendly and our toy cots (we have two at home, one Jumbito and one Zorro) can’t hold all of his books! I’m really enjoying this process because it feels more relevant and honest to me as a user rather than as a business proposition.

So when a new need arises I usually think of an animal that roughly fits into the usual shape in question (for instance, a shelf would need something that can be drawn in a fairly elongated shape) and start sketching rough ideas in paper. Before I get too far into the process I like to research what’s already on offer to make sure whatever I’m doing feels fresh and original. Then I slowly start getting into more detailed work, measurements, proportions, assembly etc. in AutoCAD. Usually, just as the idea is starting to set, I start thinking of a narrative, names and where they fit within the Jumbo story. It may sound silly but it’s an important stage for me.

I’m still tied up stylistically to our signature pieces; I am really happy with the look and the feel, the contrast of natural and white plywood using animal/nature inspired shapes and so I’m going to carry it through to other pieces. Though I don’t imagine I will always do the same and I’m sure I will have to find another angle to keep me creatively satisfied.

How do you cope juggling so many balls?

I really wish I could say I’m the queen of multitasking and I can juggle it all but sadly I am not! So I struggle a lot trying to keep some sort of balance. My little one goes to nursery during the week and I try and make it a rule that as long as he’s in the room, work doesn’t exist. I mostly manage this, but it usually means that as soon as he falls asleep I’m back at the computer doing work, and so my relationship with my partner suffers… you can’t always win! But I try and keep it to normal working hours for the most part.

What’s your favourite piece in the collection?

For me it’s got to be Jumbo, not only because I think it’s a stunning piece (if I may say so myself!) but also because it comes with such a huge sense of achievement that I sometimes have to pinch myself. It really does make me feel proud that I managed to create something like it, going through the whole process on my own, such a steep learning experience, overcoming huge technical challenges, etc. I am convinced the only reason I stuck with it was because I knew it was for this little baby cooking inside me, call it hormones or whatever you like, but it’s an infallible encouragement to get something done!

How did the name come about?

When I decided to create the company, I only had the elephant cot design and I knew it was going to be central to the company’s identity but I couldn’t quite find a name that had enough ‘weight’.

I went for lunch with my good friend Barry Bliss, an incredibly charming, interesting, intelligent man (he’ll probably blush if he read this) with a huge knowledge of London’s history. And when I showed him the elephant cot he just said: ‘Jumbo, it’s got to be Jumbo’. I answered: ‘you mean Dumbo? I wouldn’t be able to do that, I imagine Disney!’ and he went on to tell me the story of Jumbo, the first African elephant to arrive at the London Zoo in the 1860s and the stories of joy, excitement and celebration he brought about town. I just loved it so much. It also got me thinking about Jumbo’s character and gave me the idea of creating a little narrative around him (and consequently that of his friends).

You’ve done so well already, but where do you want to go next?

On the creative side of things, I would like to create a few more pieces following Jumbo’s visual identity. But I’d also like to explore other materials and perhaps not be so tied up to the animal theme in the future. I’m also really into lighting and so would really like to have a foray into that new world.

On the business side of things, at the moment we sell exclusively on our own website and during our pop-up shops. I’d love it if a reputable design shop would be willing to stock our products, The Conran Shop, SCP or my local Aria to name a few would be a dream.

I would like to be able to bring other people into the company to help me run it so I can concentrate on the creative side, which is what I enjoy the most. And maybe that way I can also have a better family/work balance!

Peter’s Chair, available from The Conran Shop

 

What piece of kids’ design do you most admire/wish you’d worked on?

Hans J Wegner Peter’s Chair. The simplicity, beauty, quality and its exquisite execution: it’s just perfection. For such a simple proposition he managed to create something so special! It’s an inspiration to me and I like to have that ethos right at the centre of what I do.

When you’re not running the business, how do you like to spend your time?

I love spending time with friends and family. It seems impossible looking after all those important relationships when one is so busy all the time but it’s the most vital thing, so I try my best, even if it involves travelling to wherever they may be (other than mainland UK, it’s mostly Spain and Sweden).

I also like watching films and making music. I really enjoy reading but I’ve had the same books on my bedside table for over a year and I just can’t make it to bed early enough to not fall asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow! It upsets me but I still haven’t found a way to tackle that one yet.

QUICK FIRE QUESTIONS

What’s your favourite…

Holiday destination:
Cabo de Gata, Almeria in Spain’s South East coast. Think spectacular desert landscapes (Laurence of Arabia and most Spaghetti westerns were filmed here) and beautiful virgin beaches. It’s quiet. It’s vast. It’s perfect.

Way to relax:
G&T with friends in the garden/patio/bar/terrace/anywhere…

Thing about being a mum: 
It is the hardest and the best thing I’ve ever done! It drives me nuts and fills me with joy in (mostly) equal measure 😉

Find Jumbo & Friends at the Babyccino Kids London Spring Shop Up, Old Truman Brewery, 15 Hanbury Street, London E1 6QR on Saturday 6 May, 2- 7.30pm and Sunday 7 May, 10am- 6pm. More info on the Babyccino website.