It’s Great Interior Design Challenge again! Judge Sophie Robinson has been in love with interiors since she was a child when she picked her first bold multi-coloured rainbow theme. Now she is a successful Interior Designer who has worked with a host of high end designers and brands; more recently being one half of the judging team on the Great Interior Design Challenge, on BBC2 tonight at 7pm in the UK . We asked Sophie some questions about her involvement with the show and her journey to becoming the successful interior designer she is today.
TC: Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions for The Chromologist. We love the show and so do many of our readers! We would love to find out a little more about you. So we have read that your hometown is Brighton – Has this been a recurring source of inspiration for you?
SR: I studied 3D design at Brighton University in the late 1990’s. After looking hard at all the designer/maker degree courses on offer I chose Brighton, as it seemed like such an inspiring and artistic city. And as a mid-lander I’d never lived beside the sea so there was that appeal too- it seemed like a city that had everything to offer. After graduating I moved to London to pursue my career, which in terms of interior design was a good move. The publishing and interior styling business is very much based in the capital. After going freelance, I returned to Brighton 11 years later as most of my close friends were still there and seemed to be having such a better quality of life than I was in London! It works for me as it is still close to London, which is still where I need to go for work. But I love the buzz in Brighton, there is always such a lot going on. The highlight of the year for me is the May festival and the Artists Open Houses. You get a real sense of keeping it local in Brighton and it’s a real hive for creatives.
You have always been involved in interior design from a young age. In your earlier career you were much more “behind the scenes”. Did you enjoy this work as much as your TV appearances?
I’ve had a long and fruitful career as an Interior Stylist, working for magazines, exhibitions and TV. I’ve popped on and off the screens over the years but being on The Great Interior Design Challenge is my first big gig. I’ve been to plenty of screen tests, many shows never making it to the commission stage. But my focus has always been my business with the view that if a TV job came along, well that would just be a bonus. What a particularly love about GIDC is that I don’t have to do any designing! The designers on the show work so incredibly hard, not just during the makeover, but also during the week running up to it as well. It’s a dream job for me to have to just rock up and tell the camera what I think. Makes a change!
We have also been told that you are saving up for your Grand Design. Have you had any ideas yet of how you envisage this looking and do you have any tips for our readers?
My husband is a builder and I’m a designer, so we’re pretty passionate about building and design. And now we’ve started a family we are so excited about creating our own dream family home. Ideally we’d like to find an old building, on a plot of land that needs complete renovation, so we can marry something old with something new to our own design. We’re also keen to build something that’s environmentally right-on, which is not only the right thing to do but will pay us back if we live in it long term. We’re maximizing our assets at the moment by renting out the properties we do own as holiday lets, which do very well in Brighton. Meanwhile we are renting and continuing to reinvest in new property ventures until we have saved up enough to be able to do it.
Series 2 of the Great Interior Design Challenge is back. What are your highlights in the series so far?
We have just completed the 9 heats and so have our finalists. Its an exiting point in the competition as all the designers now know the constraints and what the challenge demands of them. Daniel and I have both been in the industry for a combined total of 50 years, so we are always excited to see something new. I loved the way Christine Boyle died her own natural fabrics on site in the Welwyn Garden City heat, using kitchen ingredients like tumeric, tea bags and onion skins. I also absolutely loved the Badgers of Bohemia fabric that Kelly used to upholster her wardrobe doors in the Port Sunlight heat- I’d never heard of the designer and now can’t wait to incorporate their fabrics in one of my own designs. However I’m always blown away by how much they achieve in just 48hrs, spread over three days. The designers who do well in The Great Interior Design Challenge tend to be the ones that work hard, make decisions quickly and can turn their hand to lots of different things. But also know how to play to their strengths. Some are good at crafting and some are savvy shoppers. The tight budget means the designers have to be particularly resourceful and creative.
There is a little something inside so many people making them want to be their own interior designer. Do you have any tips for budding designers?
One tip I have for anyone wanting to be a professional interior designer is to realise that’s it’s a very very tough business. It’s very niche business- how many people do you know who can afford the services of an interior designer? There’s no denying that it helps if you are well connected or based in a region where interior design services are required. However if you are serious about it then you must get training. For advice, The BIID (British Institute of Interior Design) is a great place to start. It’s not the career path I followed so I advise people to have an open mind. The world of interior design can offer many other opportunities. Magazine styling, prop and set design, retail or product and textile design to name a few.
Color can be an absolute nightmare, but when you get it right it can turn a house into a home. Do you have any tips on color schemes to make sure we don’t have a contestant mishap?
I always love it when the designers on GIDC use bold and courageous color schemes in their designs- quite often my biggest criticism is that they don’t go far enough! I think the key to success is two fold. Rule number one of professional interior design is to listen to your client and fulfill their brief and not your own. When a client says they don’t want a black room…don’t go painting it charcoal grey as Becky did in Brixham episode. No matter how fabulous it looks- it’s poor design if it doesn’t fulfill the clients brief. Secondly understand how colour works and the effects it has on the space and the mood. Once you’ve got to grips with that then Colour is a fantastic tool in your kit. Consider how rich colours can add warmth, how cool colours make a room feel bigger, how a feature wall can create a focal point or how a pop of bright accent colour can lift an otherwise underwhelming scheme.
Do you have any advice you can share with us on what shades to look out for when picking a Christmas scheme?
Christmas is such a fun time of year as we get the opportunity to reinvent how our homes look for a few weeks. It’s a nostalgic time so I tend to look to the past rather than new trends to decorate my own home. For me I love to celebrate the time of year by being inspired by the winter season. It was a tradition in my family to collect evergreen foliage and pinecones from the surrounding country side and use them to decorate the banister and mantle pieces. Along with a real tree you’re home just fills up with a lovely piney freshness. I think smells really help to evoke happy memories so it’s essential that we have a real tree every year, and I always have scented candle son the go as well, I get mine from Neals Yard. I always remembered my Grandmothers eclectic collections of glass tree decorations so I have gathered my own collection by buying vintage decs from Ebay. I also love buying a few more additions each year. For me Christmas is a time to celebrate family traditions and my Mum used to get my brother and I very busy making lots of our own crafty Christmas Decorations. I’m looking forward to doing that with my own son who is now three, no matter how they turn out they will take pride of place. For me Christmas is more about substance over style.
We love that you are running a design course with co-judge Daniel Hopwood. Do you have any more information on this that we can share with our readers?
Daniel and I decided to join forces and put on some one-day design classes. We’re the perfect match as we come from opposite sides of the spectrum and feel our talents compliment each other really well. There’s no denying that Daniel is a top end Interior Designer, playing at the top of his game, but his services are unobtainable to many people who would love to improve their homes but can’t afford the skills of a professional. My background in magazines and media has been all about empowering people to design themselves, with the main elements being colour schemes, high street shopping and styling. Dan’s specialty is spatial planning, lighting and bespoke joinery and we cover all these topics in our Masterclasses. The classes are held in central London in Dan’s design studio so also a great opportunity to see how a top London Interior Design practice operates. The course suits anyone who is looking to pursue a career in Interior Design, as well as people wanting to improve their own home. Our first class is in January, so a great Christmas present for the budding interior who’s impossible to buy for! We are also holding more involved Design Clinics, for people who have one room they’d like to completely design. This is an in depth service which involves us finding out about your own individual style, the problems that need to be resolved around your space, working to your budget to then supplying you with a complete design package that you are then able to go forth and execute. I’m really passionate about empowering people to design their own homes but fully realize that it’s not easy, and can be expensive and daunting. These courses are designed to empower people to do it themselves. More details on the course and how to book can be found on our website www.sophieanddaniel.com.