Sharon Simpson works in residential interior design but her background is in life coaching & portrait photography.
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1 Jul 2022
What would you say is the key role of an interior designer?
I work in residential interior design, my background is in life-coaching & portrait photography.
I think the key role of an interior designer, is to develop a good relationship with their client, manage their expectations and have excellent communication.
Other important roles are being creative, sourcing products, solving problems and managing budgets.
How has this role changed from your photography business?
Essentially it’s the same but completely diﬀerent. I’m in the business of causing a transformation.
Working as a portrait photographer & coach I created The Reveal Programme, a series of workshops helping women improve their self- image, conﬁdence and self-esteem.
I see interior design as a transformational process that can change lives. Change your interior, change your life.
Working with interior clients is very similar. Listen carefully, put them at ease, be creative, communicate well and get the best result.
If you don't like the position, size or placement of the photos, grab, move, rotate or resize them until you do!
What was the catalyst for this transition?
I struggled with an auto immune disease, Discoid Lupus for most of my adult life.
I was constantly searching for a remedy to heal my skin, which was covered in unsightly lesions.
At the same time as battling the condition, I was desperately trying to make my photography business a success.
Battling, struggling, desperately - all words of stress.
I had to step back from the relentlessness of it all. One day I just shouted "STOP!".
Once I created space I could breathe, see things objectively, it was then I knew I had to make some changes. So, I simply asked myself, “What did I want to do when I left school, before marriage & children?”
Instantly the answer was: Interior Design.
It was my Oprah 'a-ha' moment. I’ve always been interested in interiors and transformations, but never put the two together. My dream role was right in front of me.
I went to night school, got a Professional Certiﬁcate in Interior Design, discovered I have a natural talent for design because I’m creative, good at visualising and love working with people.
Since setting up Dark Romantix Design Studio, I’ve worked with several clients from creating concepts, 3D modelling, designing bespoke furniture, sourcing products and working with contractors.
My home has been featured in Reclaim Magazine showcasing my style and design aesthetic and I’ve designed my own home décor collection.
Describe a typical day in your life?
Wow, that really depends on what I’m working on!
I have a few projects at diﬀerent stages; a ground ﬂoor extension (the build is going to begin in 2023), a concept design for a living & bedroom, the beginning stage of redesigning a Clerkenwell showroom and I’m working on creating new products for my online shop.
I’m also working on my own home.
What are some of the key challenges?
I bravely set up my own studio after graduating, which means I work alone, that can be a challenge in itself.
Working with real clients is nothing like creating an imaginary idea in the safe environment of design school.
With so many elements to the process, I’ve made some mistakes, which I quickly learned from.
Projects can take time to implement. Work may not start until several months after the concept, plan and budget have been approved. This means I may not have images to present online for prospective new clients to view.
The interior design industry is ever evolving. There’s more emphasis on sustainability, wellness & wellbeing, making it essential to learn about these important elements, incorporate them into my business and stay relevant as a designer.
What advice would you give anyone thinking of moving into this area of business?
Go to school, learn the basics of how to create a concept, technical drawing, understanding how to read plans.
The ﬁrst thing I learned at school, was interior design is nothing like what you see on the T.V. It’s a very skilled, dynamic, creative, detail orientated, time consuming practice.
Get yourself a mentor, someone who has trodden the path you’re seeking to go down.
I’m fortunate to have Chloe Bullock from Materialise Interiors as a sounding board and Simon Hamilton of Simon Hamilton Creative, who’s believed in me since we met. These guys are invaluable to my success as a designer.
If you do choose to set up alone, it’s essential to have other experienced designers in your corner.
Familiarise yourself and go to as many design experiences as you can.
Talk to the suppliers, other designers, visit showrooms, ask questions. London has many design expos during the year, from London Design Week to Decorex.
Decide whether you will set up alone or get work experience/intern.
Will you work in the residential or commercial sector? I chose to set up my own studio, which has its own challenges.
Think about your ideal client from the get go.
You may want to design for everyone, but you’ll quickly ﬁnd that’s not possible.
Best to identify who the person is that you want to work with then attract them through your marketing, networking & projects.
How do you describe your work style as?
I love dramatic interiors, with bold colours, lots of layers & tactile textures.
Mixing old vintage pieces, like a gold Baroque gilt edged mirror in a room with a modern sofa.
One of my favourite movements is The Baroque, which dominated the 17th Century across the board in art, culture, architecture, music and is characterised by highly decorative, ornate, stylised expression.
My work has been described as “Bold, Edgy, Urban, Rock ’n’ Roll, Opulence!”
What kind of works in your portfolio are you most proud of?
A project in east London. I designed the whole ground ﬂoor, including a new extension. I created the concept from a ﬂoor tile that the client loved.
I’m proud of this project because it included an oﬃce, entrance hall, living and utility room.
The ﬁnal concept ﬂowed, had drama, the client’s personality and a little bit of my style too!
What is your preferred style?
For me interior design is about causing a transformation, telling a story and showcasing the client’s personality.
Working with clients that love dramatic, eclectic interiors, full of colour, character and tactile layers is my ideal.
I always want to work with those who want to push themselves past their own interior boundaries, that’s where the unexpected happens.
In my own home, I have dark coloured walls, a pink sofa, lots of plants, expressive artwork and many ornate objects that tell the story of what I love.
I’ve learned that creating a personality led interior is key to my design style. I want my client’s to see themselves reﬂected in the interiors I create for them.
What does the future hold for your business?
My business aspirations include growing my online shop to expand my home décor collections.
I have a home décor range called The Rununculus Collection. A series of stunningly, vibrant images of beautiful, black female ﬁgurines against a ﬂoral backdrop, available as cushions and ﬁne art prints.
I want to extend to wallcoverings and lampshades. I’m currently researching sustainable options for the lampshades as customers are seeking accountability about where things come from, what they’re made of and expectations for their second life.
I’m launching an in person online interiors course for small groups who want to change their lives through changing their interiors.
Combining my coaching skills, a step by step process, the key elements of interior design, I’ve created a transformational process, that’s fun, creative and easy.