The Designers' Advisor Asks: Lizzie Tovey

Lizzie Tovey

Studio Houghton

Lizzie Tovey founded London-based interior design firm Studio Houghton in 2016. Coming from a line of architects, and growing up in a Georgian house, she has a natural appreciation for design, scale and proportion. After graduating from the Inchbald School of Design, Lizzie joined leading interior designer Todhunter Earle where, over the next decade, she ran projects from townhouses to country homes, chalets, villas and even a super yacht. Lizzie understands how important a room is to happiness and wellbeing. She thus focuses on designing beautiful rooms that reflect her clients and their aspirations.

Lizzie Tovey
Photography by Guy Frederick

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

I would say people generally appoint designers in spring or autumn; however, you could be approached by a potential client at any time of year. Therefore, I would focus on setting up your business at a time when you will be able to dedicate time and energy to getting all of the systems and processes set up. When you then secure your first client, you will be best prepared to offer a polished service right from the word go.

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

I find the best way to stay inspired is to try to avoid comparison with other designers. Focusing on your competitors narrows your field of vision and restricts your creativity. Use social media as a platform to express your brand, rather than as a means to feed your creativity. Instead, find time to go to suppliers to see their latest collections and, whenever possible, speak to the craftsmen to find out what inspires them. Go to talks, events and galleries, taking photos or sketching things that interest you. Most importantly, try to take risks –that is often where the magic lies.

How do I get my first client?

Firstly, get laser-focused on who your ideal client will be and what service you would like to provide. Then tailor all of your branding and communication to appeal to that client. Don’t be scared to be specific right from the beginning – it will help you stay focused and means you will be attracting the right people. Generally, telling everyone you know about your company – both in and out of the industry – is the best course of action. A personal recommendation is the strongest introduction to a potential new client. Lastly, stay positive and seize opportunities when they present themselves.

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

I found Square Space invaluable for setting up my website. I could have an online presence right from the start, without investing heavily in a branding company. Programmes like Estimac or Esti PC are essential for keeping on top of orders and will make the accounting process much easier.

Is there a right and wrong way to source suppliers?

The best suppliers often come by word of mouth. Don’t be scared to ask the Camberyard Collective or other people you know in the industry for recommendations; however, sometimes this isn’t possible. In this situation, go and see the craftmanship in person and do your due diligence, asking for references. Try to minimise risk by appointing a limited number of new suppliers in any one project. When deciding whether to put them in your ‘little black book’, remember – they should be judged just as much for their after-care as for the quality of their product.

Many thanks to Lizzie Tovey

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