A warm welcome to our newest Rosanna ETC contributor, Lizzie Tovey!
Lizzie Tovey established her interior design business, Studio Houghton in 2016 after working for a decade in house at a top 100 high-end residential interiors firm based in Chelsea. Whilst there she ran projects including London town houses, country homes, chalets, villas, and a super yacht (fun!). Since founding Studio Houghton Lizzie has worked on some amazing homes in and around London, and was recently invited to speak on a panel at top interior design trade fair; Decorex.
As a little introduction to her, as our latest Rosanna ETC contributor to come on board, I thought it would be interesting to interview her on her work and how she goes about putting together clients’ homes, as it’s a process I’ve often wondered about. I hope it will give readers inspiration on how to go about elevating their own homes, and if you still need help after reading all of the pieces we are planning together, you can add yourselves to her waiting list and get her expert help in person!
Lizzie does high-end residential design with a focus on her clients’ well-being. She says ‘I believe that the home environment hugely affects a person's happiness and well-being, so I like to design with that in mind.’ When a client approaches Lizzie, she will first meet with them face to face, ideally in the space they will be working on, and talk about what has and hasn’t worked for them, and what has driven them to seek her out. ‘We work through the practicalities of what they need and how to make their life easier through design. I ask them how they would like to feel in the space. That gives me a focus and an insight into what's going on in their mind.’
Lizzie also asks clients to give her visual aids (by creating Pinterest boards or by cutting out images from magazines) to show the style they are looking for. ‘Words can get confused’ says Lizzie. ‘If I said to you, "I love a bright interior," you might interpret that as a brightly lit space, but another person might understand it as a really colourful room. So, it is important to have inspiration images to ensure that I really understand what kind of a look they're going for.’
I always wonder how you get started on the actual buying of pieces and ask what her usual plan of action is. Lizzie likens designing a room to creating an outfit. ‘You might have a really chic designer handbag and that might be made bespoke for the client to fit a certain need. And then you might complement it with other things which are from the high street. The process is always very structured: before you go looking, you've already done a floor plan and you know exactly what is required. For example, I’ll know that I'm looking for certain pieces of furniture at a specific size, and then there will be other elements of the room that will fit around them.’ She has an enormous list of preferred suppliers she uses to achieve a really tailored mix, ranging from high street stores to highly skilled specialists who create bespoke items. ‘I like to make the whole room feel like it's more organic that way and that it's been brought together more naturally, rather than every single item already out there on the high street and seen. I like to mix it up a bit.’
When it comes to choosing items, Lizzie will often opt for vintage, ‘a few choice accessories or a beautiful armchair that can be re-covered and refreshed, brought up to date’ and really give a dose of character and make a space look a bit more unusual.
Naturally, I immediately ask her for some hot tips on where to look for these pieces. ‘I go on a lot of websites like Decorative Collective and Vinterior where they edit together a lot of different pieces from a collection of dealers. Then you have 1stdibs, which does very high-end chic pieces from all over the globe, but they’re not in everyone’s price range!’
I asked Lizzie a question a few weeks ago when we were having brunch and remind her of it now. I asked her if she could interior design any building in the world, what building would that be? The Taj Mahal…Buckingham Palace…The White House…?
‘This for me was really interesting! My mind went flickering through all the beautiful country homes or iconic houses in London, but I wouldn't say that there's one particular house that I need to design. For me, the buzz is more creating beautiful homes that really represent my clients. However, my dream at the moment is to do a complete renovation of a villa in Notting Hill. So, if I had to say right now what I would love to work on it is quite simple. I'd love a villa in Notting Hill.’ Notting Hill residents are you reading?
Lizzie’s own home is a stylish, warm and colourful two storey apartment in South West London, made even cosier by Austin the rescue cat. There is always a plan hatching, a way she can tweak something or a new idea she wants to try, so whenever I go over, I am always surprised by a new colour, texture or quirky piece of art. It’s very inspiring and I always leave thinking ‘I must really do X’ to my own flat. Asked which is her favourite room, her answer is her sitting room. ‘It's bold and unique and it has some curated pieces, some vintage pieces, textiles from South America, it's quite rich in colour.’
But for her clients, her favourite rooms are the ones where the clients want the design to be an expression of themselves. She explains ‘This is the complete indulgence. It’s that opportunity where you get to design things which are totally in tune with that person. People have a public and a private persona, and equally they have public and private spaces in their home. The private spaces are where the clients’ energy changes and they might want a little bit of humour, or they might want something which is comforting and reassuring, whatever they are needing in their life - that's what you get to actually create for them and that's really special.’
I ask her about trends, and whether she keeps track of them, follows them, avoids them…and what she can see coming up. ‘In this industry, they do talks on trends, particularly colours and you walk around the trade fairs and you'll see the shifts. Ten years ago, it was all about white and beige, and then it went into white and grey, and now it’s going into colour…so there is definitely movement. But for the people working at the top of the profession, right now individualism is really coming into its own, rather than sticking to a trend. The designers are letting their characters out, they are no longer restrained. Everyone is going for embellishment, pattern, colour and self-expression in whatever form that means. It's almost like we've had enough of holding back and for me, that's really exciting.’
Speaking of individualism, I ask how she injects her own self into her work. ‘I find more and more that I'll only present what I really love to the client. I'm very fortunate that I do have quite a broad taste, and I like quite a lot of different styles from modern through to classic design. I think increasingly, I'm trying to envisage what the client would like, but really editing through my own eyes.’
As well-being in the home is such a key part of Lizzie’s design process, I ask what well-being is to her personally, and how she takes care of her mental health when running a company that calls on both her business and creative minds. ‘I think that the key to having a fully rounded business, and being creative and expressive, is actually to have another separate passion in your life. And for me, that's ballroom dancing. I think that moving your body and engaging your mind in a different type of creativity really helps. You’re learning the moves but you're also having to do it through your own language. So, it's a really beautiful way of complementing the creativity and structure of my job because it's the same thing; you need a structure and rules, and then you work with those to embellish and make it your own. So, I find the two really complement each other.’
Lizzie is currently working on two really exciting projects at the moment in Notting Hill and Chelsea and regularly training with the odd dance competition thrown in. But thankfully I’ve convinced her to still squeeze in the odd thing for Rosanna ETC and I am really looking forward to collaborating together. If you have an idea for what you’d like to see, drop me a line I’d love to hear from you. And now I’m going to try and stop myself from taking out a second mortgage so I can buy an art deco drinks trolley I’ve just seen online during the course of researching this post. Sigh.