Bet­ter by de­sign

Berkshire Life - - Front Page - WORDS: Claire Pitcher

In­te­rior de­signer Nicola Scan­nell

Why and how did you first get into in­te­rior de­sign?

My hus­band and I were go­ing to buy a prop­erty to turn into a bou­tique ho­tel. The deal fell through but we re­alised that it was the ren­o­va­tion of the prop­erty, not the ho­tel, we were in­ter­ested in. It was the trans­for­ma­tion of an old prop­erty into some­thing con­tem­po­rary, which was ex­cit­ing.

What’s great about work­ing and liv­ing in our county?

I love do­ing my job in Berk­shire. The houses are var­ied and in­ter­est­ing. I did a lot of work in Lon­don be­fore, and con­di­tions there can be cramped with many sim­i­lar prop­er­ties. I love us­ing lo­cal busi­nesses. All my sup­pli­ers – from tiles to kitchen and car­pets are lo­cal. I love to cham­pion lo­cal artists and other lo­cal pro­fes­sion­als. In a rel­a­tively short space of time I’ve built up a huge net­work of small busi­ness own­ers and en­trepreneurs, which is ab­so­lutely great. There is so much go­ing in Berk­shire it’s fan­tas­tic.

What is your favourite space to de­sign?

I love de­sign­ing bath­rooms and kitchens. Bath­rooms be­cause they can of­ten be quite chal­leng­ing

The only limit to what you can achieve when re­design­ing your home is your imag­i­na­tion. Award-win­ning in­te­rior de­signer Nicola Scan­nell tells us what she loves most about work­ing on prop­er­ties in Berk­shire

spa­ces and they have to be prac­ti­cal and func­tional, but I also like them to be beau­ti­ful. Kitchens be­cause they are the heart of the home. I love cook­ing as well as de­sign­ing, so my kitchens are al­ways good for real cooks. My ab­so­lute favourite are walk-in larders. I have put one in nearly ev­ery house I have ever worked on. In an ideal world they will be re­frig­er­ated with proper larder doors so they are prac­ti­cal for stor­ing ev­ery­thing from wine to fresh pro­duce.

What has been your most mem­o­rable project?

Ev­ery project has its chal­lenges. I tend to un­der­take large whole house ren­o­va­tions and large ex­ten­sions. One house we worked on was be­ing ex­tended in ev­ery sin­gle di­rec­tion – at the back on two floors, up one floor at roof level and down into a base­ment. At one stage the ex­ist­ing house was be­ing propped up with only part of one ex­ter­nal wall still in place! It was slightly nerve-wrack­ing as the project man­ager on that. But I love the chal­lenge of un­der­tak­ing big build­ing projects. There is so much in­volved from the struc­ture to the fine fin­ish­ing de­tails.

Apart from de­sign what other ser­vices can you of­fer clients?

I of­fer a full de­sign to fin­ish ser­vice in­clud­ing project man­age­ment of ren­o­va­tions and builds. On a project I am the first to ar­rive and the last to leave, giv­ing my clients the com­fort of know­ing the same per­son has seen the project through from in­cep­tion to com­ple­tion. I of­fer full pro­cure­ment and pass on all my trade dis­counts so my clients know they are get­ting the best price for the best prod­ucts.

Clients can be as in­volved as they like. Some of my clients are abroad so they just leave me to it and get to en­joy the end prod­uct. How­ever, all of my clients get the same ser­vice, fre­quent site vis­its with ev­ery de­tail of the project be­ing over­seen by me.

I also help peo­ple try­ing to sell their homes. To­day’s prop­erty buyer is dis­cern­ing. It is re­ally im­por­tant for ven­dors to make their homes look the best they can. By mak­ing a few changes and styling the house prop­erly it can make a real dif­fer­ence. I also ad­vise peo­ple look­ing to pur­chase prop­er­ties that need work so they can get a re­ally good idea be­fore they buy of how the house can be trans­formed, of what the likely costs and timescales are. Tak­ing on a prop­erty that ‘has po­ten­tial’ is a great op­por­tu­nity to make it into a home that suits the buyer’s own needs, but it’s im­por­tant to do so with eyes wide open.

What’s the most fas­ci­nat­ing aspect of your busi­ness?

I love build­ings and I love the trans­for­ma­tion I can bring to prop­erty, turn­ing some­thing out­dated and of­ten dark and cramped into some­thing light, mod­ern and beau­ti­ful. I love cre­at­ing some­thing be­yond my clients’ imag­i­na­tions.

Do you find there is a com­mon rea­son be­hind clients choos­ing you?

A lot of my clients have ei­ther had plans drawn up that don’t seem to work for them or they can’t vi­su­alise how to make the house best work for them. Most come through per­sonal rec­om­men­da­tions. A lot of them are ‘time poor’, but it is my ex­pe­ri­ence that counts for a lot. For peo­ple un­der­tak­ing large

projects it can be very daunt­ing and there are so many things that can go wrong. Hav­ing done large scale ren­o­va­tion and build for many years I can of­fer my clients the com­fort of know­ing their project will be mi­cro-man­aged by ex­pe­ri­enced peo­ple who have seen it all be­fore and who can en­sure that the project comes in on time and on bud­get.

What would you say are your favourite ma­te­ri­als to work with?

I work with a huge va­ri­ety of ma­te­ri­als but porce­lain is very in­ter­est­ing. The pre­ci­sion of imag­ing means that porce­lain can be made to look like al­most any­thing now – wood, con­crete, mar­ble with tex­ture as well as pat­tern. I also love work­ing with glass – I’m all about light.

Has how peo­ple live has changed since you be­came a de­signer?

Many want less for­mal spa­ces and more fam­ily spa­ces. How­ever, they don’t nec­es­sar­ily want to all be on top of each other so the chal­lenge is to cre­ate large fam­ily rooms – nor­mally with the kitchen in it but with dis­tinct zones so fam­i­lies can co-ex­ist in the same room. Fea­ture fire­places or book­cases or semi walls can di­vide large spa­ces into zones with­out cut­ting cir­cu­la­tion or light.

What’s your own house like? When we bought it my own house was very out­dated with low ceil­ings and lots of lit­tle rooms; it was like a rab­bit war­ren. From the out­side it still re­tains its 1850s looks but in­side it’s light and airy with high ceil­ings. At the rear of the house we have a large kitchen din­ing area which is mostly glazed and the mas­ter bed­room and bath­room has huge win­dows look­ing out to the gar­den. The house in­ter­acts with the out­side, which is im­por­tant to me as we live in such a beau­ti­ful part of the coun­try. I per­son­ally like quite a clas­sic con­tem­po­rary look – I have used shut­ters on a lot of win­dows, which I love for the look, but also they are prac­ti­cal for keep­ing rooms cool in the sum­mer.

What do you think the next ‘trend’ will be when it comes to in­te­ri­ors au­tumn/win­ter? The trends are to­wards some very dark (black or ink blue) pieces of fur­ni­ture in­clud­ing kitchens. Strong colours like orange and dark blues and greens are on trend. Peo­ple are look­ing to re­turn to na­ture – so tex­ture is im­por­tant, re­cy­cled ma­te­ri­als and aes­thet­ics that cre­ate calm and a con­nec­tion with na­ture are go­ing to be­come more and more pop­u­lar.

What’s next for Nicola Scan­nell De­sign?

We have won two de­sign awards from Houzz and Build this year al­ready so it’s been a great year so far. We have a busy sched­ule of houses to ren­o­vate over the next 12 months. It’s an ex­cit­ing time. I feel very proud of what we have achieved.

See nico­las­can­nellde­sign

Nicola Scan­nell loves to use lo­cal sup­pli­ers

A small beau­ti­fully lit gar­den lead­ing onto a gar­den of­fice

LEFT: A glass ex­ten­sion adds a mod­ern light touch to a tra­di­tional house

The wood­burner in a mar­ble sur­round cre­ates a lovely fo­cal point for this el­e­gant sit­ting room

TOP: This clas­sic but con­tem­po­rary look trans­forms a Vic­to­rian front roomABOVE: This award-win­ning bath­room is sim­ple but the play on lev­els makes it in­ter­est­ing and prac­ti­cal with light stream­ing in from the roof light. ‘I like hid­ing toi­lets and the open sunken shower means no glass to clean and no wa­ter es­cap­ing’

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