Homestyle New Zealand
As a child growing up in Mangawhai, Lou Ashford used to plead with her parents for clothing that she’d usually cut up and sew into something else. No one was surprised, then, when she moved to Wellington to complete a Bachelor of Design at Massey University, majoring in fashion. A stint in the US ensued and now she lives in Auckland, where she runs her own upholstery business, Snick, and is also available for hire via Tradespeople’s national directory of women and genderdiverse tradies.
So Lou, what led you to this work?
University helped me develop some pattern-making and sewing skills, and one day I woke up knowing that upholstery was what I wanted to do. The skills seemed transferable, and I knew I preferred working with thicker fabrics and power tools. I guess I also wanted a job that felt more ‘behind the scenes’. It made sense to me. My brother-in-law connected me with a marine trimmer, and so I ended up working for a great company called Interiors & Coverings, doing upholstery, covers, clears and carpet for boats.
And how did Snick come about?
Snick began in February 2019, three months after my brother, Terry, passed away. He was one of the kindest, most creative and gentle humans I’ve ever known. That absolute loss reframed everything for me, highlighting both the limited time we have and how it’s up to us to change our circumstances to get what we want out of life. The definition of ‘snick’ is to make a little cut. I thought it sounded fun.
What exactly do you do?
The job is really project-dependant; I feel lucky that it’s very diverse. It’s fun to see large-scale projects come together, like commercial ones, where I work alongside interior designers and construction teams on hospitality and retail fit-outs and custom pieces for homes. Otherwise, I work directly with customers. I do a lot of squabs and window seats, and also speciality designer furniture that may take a bit of problem-solving and complex pattern-making. My last big job was the leather interior and curved, red outdoor seating at [Auckland eatery] Azabu Mission Bay. More recently, I’ve been reupholstering some interesting pieces for [vintage furniture and homeware store] Babelogue on Auckland’s Karangahape Road.
Do you work alone or with a team?
I currently work solo, but I’d like to build a Snick team in the future. I work in a shared workspace on Cross Street [in the inner city] with some incredible industrial designers, and I love the company and being able to bounce ideas and concerns off each other.
What’s a regular workday like for you?
Always coffee first, then I jump into whatever project is highest on the priority list. Every project is different and I usually have a few on the go at once. That means I could be patternmaking, cutting fabric, sewing, upholstering or battling the admin side of things.
What part of the process do you enjoy the most — starting or finishing?
There are things I like about every step in the process. I definitely start projects optimistically, and I also love being challenged. Of course, it’s easier to say that once I’m on the other side of it.
Do you rely on any everyday routines to sweeten the deal?
I have lunch in Myers Park with a friend almost every day. It’s a great way to break up the day and soak up a little sunshine.
What fabrics/textures/colours are you jazzed about?
I’m loving really rich, extra-thick and textural fabrics right now, and deep, earthy oranges and dark green colours. I’m getting into fabrics that are reminiscent of the ’70s, but I’m also loving soft pinks and butter yellow, and creating shapes that feel really ’80s.
I’m putting this out there for anyone working on a new build: I really want to make a conversation pit! These sunken living rooms — built-in seating that’s lower than floor level — were popular in the ’60s and ’70s but are thought to have first been designed in the 1920s.
Where do you find inspiration?
My partner and I have been watching a lot of films made in the ’80s and I’m always pointing out shapes and colours I love. I’m often inspired just by seeing combinations of colours together out in the world. There’s magic everywhere. snicknz.com; tradespeople.co
“That reframed everything, highlighting both the limited time we have and how it’s up to us to change our circumstances to get what we want out of life.”