Interiors: Heart-centred design

#whatkatydidUK, Amy Kirkwood, beach house designLeigh-on-Sea’s Amy Kirkwood is one half of Beech House Property Renovation (www.beechhousedesign.co.uk.) She reveals why it’s important to get to know your home, how to speedily update your living space and reveals what inspires her…

Q How did you get into interior design and property renovation?
A I am first and foremost an artist and designer, with a passion for colour and pattern. But, I have always carried a flame for beautiful interiors, and more so after travelling extensively and owning my own properties that I have renovated as well. It seemed only natural, when the time was right, to revisit my love for interior design and fuse it, now, with my studio practice and our family property renovation business. I also make bespoke lampshades and create abstract paintings for interiors.

Q What’s the biggest project you’ve ever taken on?
A I have project managed a new build home, with Dave building it, where I worked with the client to design and style the interior. We are currently planning, designing and project managing the total overhaul of a Thirties’ bungalow on the coast of Essex into a two-storey beach house.

Q And what has been your favourite project? Why?
A The re-modelling of a beach house wet room and executive bathroom, using some stunning Victorian-style tiles and incorporating a black ceiling in the mix. It is under-way and I cannot wait to see the industrial exterior pendant hanging over the over-sized oval bath. We have contrasted a highly patterned floor with a simple achromatic palette of greys, whites and blacks to bounce light around the room and offer a serene and pared back feel against the heritage patterned floor tiles

Q And the hardest?
A Gaining planning permission for structural changes is a huge challenge and can limit your ideas to some degree. I would love to design a space free from these constraints, but the reality is that it is vital that professionals work to design you a space that both works for the needs of the client and the regulations.
Budget management is both the hardest and most rewarding aspect of any job. We specialise in creating high-end schemes on a budget, and often using high street products mixed with bespoke pieces of furniture that Dave often designs and hand makes.

Q What’s your style?
A I love colour and patterns derived from nature but mostly in accessories. This enables the client’s style to evolve over time, and with experience. I love to use an achromatic and neutral palette against vibrant, and sometimes decadent, feature colours, but love to create an over-all sense of laid-back and joyful living within my schemes.

Q Where do you get your inspiration from?
A I find inspiration in the colours, textures and patterns found within nature. In my art work, I find inspiration in nature and aim to create a sense of laid-back and joyful living within my paintings.
It is also vital to remember that I take all of my initial inspiration for each new project from my clients. I visit the space, client or family in their home, to undertake a fun consultation, with tea and cake, where I learn about their interests and needs for the space. This must take priority as inspiration.

Q What’s the most important skill you possess as an interior designer?
A Be a heart-centred designer, with a passion for working with people.
Creatively, you should have a great eye for colour, pattern and curation of an energising space. People around you will pick up on your interests for interiors, so listen to the feedback of your friends and family as this can really boost your confidence during your studies or in the early stages of starting out with developing a creative business.

Q What are you working on right now?
A Some small-scale renovations for young and busy families, a garden gym for a new wellness business and the transformation of a derelict Thirties’ bungalow into a family beach house.

Q Who would be your dream client?
A Someone who wanted to experiment with eco-friendly ways of building would be rewarding and is so relevant to how we should look ahead to creating a world for our future generations. I would love to transform a rural pile into a luxury and themed bed and breakfast.

Q What is the biggest mistake people make when redesigning their home?
A It is easy to rush decisions, over-invest with superficial decor and not spend time getting to know the personality, quirks and feel of your home before making changes.
Knowing where the natural light falls at all times of the day is also vital to effective design solutions, and becoming aware of your needs within your home takes time.

Q What are the top trends in the interior design world at the moment?
A I like my clients to seek out their own individual style and so try to steer them away from just replicating ‘trends’ as such. However, there is no mistaking the lure of copper, industrial pendant lights, marble tiles, a bold wall paper revival and incorporating natural textures into your living spaces.
I would recommend bringing the outside in with statement palm print wall papers, bold printed fabrics and introducing house plants into your bathroom and are features I have developed into some of my recent schemes!
My favourite textile designers at the moment are Fanny Shorter, Bluebell Gray and Anna Hayman Designs. For beautiful bespoke lampshades, which I love to include into schemes, visit our sister-company www.scarletandfern.co.uk. For upholstery, beautiful wall murals and products for the home, visit the Essex-based studio, www.thejoyfulhomecompany.com

Q What is your personal favourite look, when it comes to interior design?
A I do love a simple Scandi scheme, and in my home I adore mixing white walls, with textured featured walls. Designing a scheme around a piece of art work is also a passion of mine and so this is a great starting point for those wishing to develop their own unique style. The Affordable Art Fair in London is great for finding beautiful statement pieces for your home, as is the Leigh Art Trail and the Essex-based Turner Barnes Gallery.
I prefer to create schemes that are sustainable and not over-emphasised by ‘trends’ that will date quickly, so accessories are a great way of updating your scheme in an affordable way. I love to support artisans as well, and so like to source beautiful products for the home from local makers where I can, and mix these with budget finds. A great website for this is www.thefuturekept.co.uk

Q What can people do that will instantly update their home?
A Add some palms and succulents to your bathroom and office, and place bold printed cushions on the beds.

Q What do you enjoy most about your new business?
A The diversity of each and every project. I love balancing my time between the studio and site, being paid to research beautiful products and curate schemes that bring joy to my clients! Who wouldn’t love that?!

This feature was first published in the December 2017 issue of Essex Living magazine 
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