The importance of our surrounding, really cannot be overstated. It can make us feel peaceful or chaotic, restful or energised. The light, colour, form and function of a space can affect our productivity, our energy levels, and even our happiness. When the right design elements are blended together in the perfect formula however, our environment can become a wonderful space that’s a pleasure to inhabit. We spoke with three women who joyfully create beautiful spaces in which to live and work, to find what inspires them.
Perhaps one of the quickest – and most dramatic ways to alter the mood of a home, is with paint. The walls of our homes are like giant, blank canvases, that when painted the right shade, can complement the art, architectural features, and fabrics that punctuate the room. But simply because they make such a big statement, it can be quite daunting.
Laonie Robertson is a calm presence who routinely assists clients who are anxious about overwhelming numbers of paint samples. She taps into the client’s introspective taste within, to find what they’re really seeking in their living space. If the client is unsure about what they want, she asks them to choose one thing in their home they truly love, and then builds the entire room around that particular element. Other clients may start by thinking they want a particular colour, only to learn that it’s actually something completely different. It’s a journey on which she is happy to be the wise Sherpa, inspiring confidence in personal choices.
It’s not just about the colour however, it’s also about the wonderful, velvety finish, and highlighting the architectural elements. In her own home for example, she has beautiful, original cornice and ceiling roses which are very ornate. To enhance the detail she used one of Farrow & Ball’s Contemporary Neutrals, Strong White, to create soft shadows, emphasising the depth of the Georgian period design. In addition to painting, she also hangs designer wallpapers, custom cut murals, and even hand paints murals for her clients.
She deftly combines contemporary décor within a period setting. In her main reception room, she chose a modern chandelier with a twist on a classic design, which allows the ceiling rose detail to be featured, rather than being obscured by a large light shade.
Her long love affair with home décor began when she was still a child. Her father restored homes that had been ravaged by fire. Laonie would plead with him to go along when he would work, and he often relented. This love of design led to her study of art and technical graphics. But she preferred the hands-on approach of transforming spaces, rather than the world of computer design. And she’s built a strong business, 1272 Decorating and Design, based upon repeat business and word-of-mouth recommendations.
‘I never look at any project as a one-off job. It’s about establishing a relationship with your clients’, explains Laonie. She’s made use of Instagram for displaying her work, and she enjoys seeing that many women are now starting businesses in fields that wouldn’t have been considered a few years ago. ‘It’s very encouraging to see that’.
Lisa Trainer’s path in design was a bit different, taking a few meandering turns before successfully establishing Red Door Interiors. She completed an honours degree in interior design at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design. However, with four children, she was quite busy with being a mother. About six years ago, she decided to take on some clients who were largely friends and family. They loved what she created, and word of mouth quickly spread to include both commercial and residential clients all over Glasgow, and then, all over Scotland. Working from home was perfect with growing children. But as they began to leave for university and she took on more clients, a proper work space was needed.
Her studio sits in Partick, in an unpretentious building on the corner of Beith Street. Once you step inside however, the studio comes to life with colour! On the foyer ceiling, she has cleverly hung a panel of wallpaper that looks as though it was painted directly onto the surface by an artist, with hues of red, blue and gold. And the studio itself is an organic collection of interesting light fixtures, tiles, wall coverings and fabrics – most of which are created by Scottish designers and artisans. Although many people might equate Scottish fabrics with tweed and tartan, there is actually a plethora of colours and patterns being created by some of the most talented designers in all of Europe, who are Scottish.
Bute Fabrics produces textiles made on the island in almost every hue and weight imaginable. They’ve recently collaborated with designer David Irwin, who has created collections based on the stones and mineral patterns of the island itself, and another which features the DNA patterns of the individuals who create the actual fabrics in the textile mill!
Lisa’s daughter, Kelly Trainer, is currently pursuing her master degree in textiles, and will produce her own unique version of a process called ‘ice dying’ which creates a blended, watercolour effect on fabrics. Each pattern produced is a one-off blend of colour and shape.
Some other Scottish designers whose work Lisa likes to incorporate into her design schemes are wall covering designers Iona Crawford, Mairi Helena and MYB. She frequently uses lighting fixtures by One Foot Taller, a Glasgow-based, award winning company.
Another favourite is an exciting new Glasgow company called Mirrl, which manufactures and designs a solid surface material which can be used for work surfaces, food preparation and furniture. Made from Birch, it’s waterproof and comes in interesting, organic patterns in either bright or neutral tones.
Her advice for creatives starting out, ‘If there was one thing I would’ve done differently, it would’ve been to make a consolidated business plan and get more advice and support on setting up a new business’.
Two years ago, Lisa took a leap of faith by investing in her studio. But the rewards have been amazing! ‘I feel so lucky to have found something that I love to do. No two jobs are ever the same’. Work has not stopped since she made this decision, as she’s transformed individual homes and large scale projects. She recently completed a bed and breakfast located across the street from the Glasgow School of Art, which features Scottish designers, all with great affordability.
One local boutique Lisa collaborates with regularly for styling and furniture is Hoos Glasgow. Hoos is owned by Karen Harvey, a Glasgow native who has a background in non-profit.
She was the director of a charity for many years in Great Yarmouth, which helped children and families, and she was honoured with the MBE (Most Excellent British Empire) for her work.
When she returned to Glasgow’s West End, she decided to follow a lifelong interest in architecture and design by opening Hoos. More than just a retail shop, Hoos is a lifestyle store with an intriguing selection of items carefully curated from the global marketplace. Offerings from local Scottish designers sit on the shelves next to Fair Trade pieces from South American artisans. And a contemporary Scandinavian watering can looks perfectly at home next to handmade felted bowls from Nepal. This eclectic mix of treasures offers a range of selection that’s quite unique, and many of the brands she carries are exclusive to Hoos in Glasgow, such as the wonderful Normann Copenhagen line, Ferm Living and Muuto. Karen also bases her selections on their sustainability and production process for minimal impact on the planet.
Inside the store, there is a myriad of scents from candles, soaps and perfumes that combine for an aroma that’s light, lovely and not overwhelming. It’s a place where you can find wonderful chocolates, clothing, furniture and even toothpaste! Hoos is a reminder that shopping is not a task to complete, but an enjoyable experience that should be relished. Although many items are also offered online, a visit to the store is a sensory delight and a wonderful way to spend an afternoon.
After three years, she has been quite successful, and part of that success may be the personal service she offers her customers. She’s quite happy to give advice on growing the house plants she sells, and sometimes even makes deliveries to customer’s homes – not exactly a common practice among businesses of today. She’s also launching an interior design service, which will offer her customers access to the designer lines she carries.
Karen’s advice to women starting a business would be to get a good accountant soon after registering your company. Accountants can relieve a lot of the stress of running a business, and offer invaluable advice, allowing more time to focus on the actual business.
Design teaches us something about ourselves through the choices that we make. Our surroundings truly are a reflection of our lives and what’s important to us. It’s part of what makes a house, an actual home. These Glasgow women are helping people create ‘home’.