The Designers' Advisor Asks: Ciara Ephson

Ciara Ephson

Fentiman Design

Fentiman Design, as featured in the July edition of House & Garden, is an Interior Design Studio established in 2016 by Ciara Ephson. Following a degree in History of Art and Spanish, Ciara went on to further her studies at KLC School of Design before embarking on a career in high end interior design at Todhunter Earle. Having successfully completed a wide variety of projects, both in the UK and abroad, Ciara founded Fentiman Design with a view to creating unique and thoughtful spaces based on her love of contemporary art, antiques and bespoke design. Fentiman Design prides itself on its excellent attention to detail in every aspect of the design process and its strong relationships with clients, consultants and suppliers.

Ciara Ephson
Photography by Kristy Noble

How do you ensure you have happy clients – so vital to a successful business?

By listening to them. It’s essential to take a proper brief – make sure you understand what they want and then design and advise accordingly. Communication is key. Some clients like you to just go off, design the space and then make it happen, but most want to feel part of the process, understand what is happening and feel as though they have had some input in the end result.

If you could only do one piece of marketing for your business, what would it be and why?

Editorial features. I think social media is brilliant, but if you are able to get featured both in magazines and online it shows industry leaders take you seriously and are happy to promote you and your work.

What role does (or has) a mentor play(ed) in your professional life?

A huge one! Running your own business is incredibly tough and without someone to talk through your various thoughts, decisions and issues, they can roll around in your head unresolved. Having someone who can act as a sounding board and give unbiased, professional advice is essential in order to stay focused … and sane!

Polly has been hugely important to me. Meeting with her at regular intervals enables me to work towards set goals and has prompted me to structure my time much more efficiently. It’s also wonderful to have someone who can put you in touch with fellow designers, freelancers, CAD technicians, accountants … the list goes on! Industry contacts are essential and it’s so important to have a base of people you can call on as and when you need their expertise.

Why, if ever, have you turned clients down?

The main reason I have turned clients down is gut feeling. However, to ensure I can offer the best possible service, I am also conscious of not taking on too much work at any one time. When I first started working for myself, I said yes to pretty much every project that came my way. While I don’t regret doing this, as I think it’s all part of the learning curve, I quickly learnt that jobs will always come from somewhere and if you are tied up doing a project that isn’t going to benefit your portfolio and might not be paying enough, in the long run, it can hold you back. After an initial meeting with the client you tend to know straight away whether or not it is the right project. Listening to your instinct and learning to trust that initial feeling is so important.

How did you find your USP – was it immediately obvious or did you have to develop your niche?

I very much feel my USP is something I am still developing. Who knows, maybe by 2020 I’ll finally have the answer!

What’s your top piece of advice for running a business?

Trust your instincts and create a great network that you can call on for help and advice. I also think it’s very important to try and enjoy the fact that you are your own boss; take time to do things you enjoy and days off when you need to recharge.

Many thanks to Ciara Ephson

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