The Designers' Advisor Asks: Emma Kewley

Emma Kewley

Interior Folk

After graduating with a degree in Fine Art, Emma studied interior design, spending ten years working in London and developing her craft with leading designers Martin Hulbert and Mary Fox Linton. As she gained accolades and her career and life evolved, Emma yearned to find a place where she could be inspired by nature yet maintain the quality and challenges of her current career. Now, five years later, she has a successful practice in the South Downs. The beautiful location inspires her work as she strives to create natural and enjoyable environments for people to live and relax in.

Emma Kewley
Photography by Martin Gardner

Is there a 'best time of year' to start a business?

September is a great time to launch. Kids are back to school and potential clients have returned refreshed and inspired from their summer break, ready to start new projects. It’s also London Design Week, so numerous design trade shows and new collections are launching. This means lots of press and social media interest in interior design, which you can use to your advantage.

How do I ensure I stay inspired, and don't burn out?

Plan creative or relaxation time for yourself and put it in your diary every week. Be strict and stick to this commitment. Remember, you are your greatest asset and need looking after.

How do I get my first client?

It depends on whether you have any previous work photographed to put on your website and social media. If you don’t, you need to complete some small projects in your home or for friends and then photograph them. Once you have real projects to show off your capabilities, then networking is key. Interior design is all about relationships, so identify your target clients as well as influencers, and then plan how to go out there and meet them. Look into local business networking events, trade shows, industry training sessions and members clubs as well.

Are there any particular pieces of technology I need before launching my design startup?

You are probably already familiar with the essential drawing and design packages like AutoCad and Indesign. I would also recommend exploring apps that help you organise your time and projects effectively – time management is critical to a successful practice. Apps such as Trello and Asana help manage your projects and keep you and your team on track in an easy-to-follow, visual way.

Is there a right and wrong way to source suppliers?

Create a set of criteria that your suppliers need to meet – their product and company ethos must fit with your brand. Good suppliers should, at a minimum, give you samples and offer bespoke or tailored options at a trade price. Recommendations from other designers are useful, but follow it up with a visit to the supplier’s workshop and showroom so you can assess their capabilities and work in person. I always try out new bespoke suppliers first, either in my own home or I ask them to produce a sample. You could, for example, ask a new curtain maker to produce a Roman blind for your house and then see if they keep to their deadline, have excellent quality and workmanship, and have developed a positive working relationship.

Many thanks to Emma Kewley

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