Better by design
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.
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’