Today we are speaking with Helen Orrock aka @theinteriorslady who has created her ideal home while downsizing into a beautiful monochrome and sleek interior space.
When did you realise you had a passion for interior design?
It probably all stems back to when I was a child. I remember around GCSE time I was making my own curtains, bedspreads and cushion covers. I then kind of bypassed it entirely until I started investing in property that I got back into it. I had cancer a while back, and it made me stop and re-assess what I wanted to do and that was to open a little interior shop which is what kept me driven and motivated through treatment. I ran my own store for 5 years until re relocated to the city. I did an interiors course at the national design academy, fortunate enough that it was in my hometown of Nottingham. It gave me enough skills to pursue the career I wanted to do . I love seeing the potential in any space and helping people finding their own style.
Clients don't always realize that an interior designer can help you gain value in your home, not just with a big extension or full remodel but also in smaller elements that are crucial to the good function of an interior space such as proper layout planning and creating lovely areas within the home. This gives both me and my clients great pleasure, when we can find new life in a client’s current possessions.
What is your process with your clients?
What if a client picks something you don't like during one of your shopping visits?
I've got one of those faces where I can’t hide my emotions so I will be very honest with them and tell them that I don't think it would work in the space. I am brutal, but it’s for their own good. The issue with shopping trips is that you sometimes don't find exactly what you are looking for, so it might take multiple trips or going to various stores to find the item that is just right! You need to be happy to walk out with nothing if you just don't find what you want. Overall, we always end up becoming friends as it’s such a close way to work with someone.
How would you describe your design aesthetic?
Very neural and monochrome, with layers of texture. I have a very restricted colour palate, with a strong emphasis on the black tone. I introduce texture with wools, sheep skins, and textiles. Another extra element is green from plants and foliage.
Biggest design no-no
Following an immediate trend that doesn't work for you or trying to copy an interior you see without thinking how it adapts to your personality or lifestyle. Also, I think that compromising on quality is another big no-no. Things like bedding, or hardware or upholstery need to be investments as you interact with them so closely. I'd rather have less but better quality.
What is your top pet peeve in your home?
We are lucky not to have any things that annoy us in our home. This happened as we did a lot of planning and predicted the issues before we completed this project. The biggest hurdle was to create the spaces that we needed due to downsizing but it allowed us to get exactly what we wanted. If I were to re-do this home, I would make all the same decisions. But I'm not sure if this is our forever home, by embracing a more minimal life, it has made me realise that I can live with a lot less. So, my next step is to build my own affordable, sustainable, minimal Scandinavian hut, it’s something for me to look forward to.
Tell me a little bit about your journey into Pooky lighting
It has a been a relatively tortuous journey but incredibly fun! I initially qualified as a lawyer, but soon realised it wasn’t the thing for me. So, I jumped ship and went into catering for the best part of 20 years operating a variety of different businesses from restaurants, soup wholesale, commercial catering and eventually to high end food delivery services. That was amazingly fun and challenging. My business partner and I then decided to go into sofas and focus mainly online. At the time it was pretty revolutionary and despite lots of discouragement we slowly built the business of sofa.com up over 7-8 years. I started to live and breathe the shapes, fabrics, colours and spring systems. After selling up I decided to go into lighting, because lights are the number 1 thing that one should think about in their house. They make such a profound impact to the interior and the mood of any space. Equally I love the fact that you can turn anything into a light, you can be as creative or as wacko as you like and have a lot of fun with lighting.
It is clear how passionate you are about the importance of beauty and form and despite not specifically having come from a design background you have a definite understanding and appreciation of it, be it in sofa design or lighting. Did you self-teach along your journey?
How would you describe the Pooky aesthetic?
Who would you say is your quintessential customer?
What have been your biggest challenges with setting up Pooky lighting?
Our biggest challenge was getting brand recognition and awareness as well as taking a big financial risk. Because we wanted to sell pieces at an affordable price, we had to invest and buy lights in bulk. So, I had a warehouse full of thousands of lights, of which we didnt know would sell. I was there holding my breath, looking at my website, hoping that someone would come on and buy. Design is a risky business - you have as many flops as hits, you get better over time obviously, but no one has any certainty.
What are your best sellers and which styles are less popular?
(Chuckling slightly) Well now, the Metro light - is a beautiful slightly industrial, solid brass light in various finishes with a very strong design, but surprisingly not many people buy it! On the other hand, our best seller is the light called Trafalgar - it has a very simple design, a solid brass obelisk. It is very elegant but contemporary. It came from an offcut of brass on the floor that I saw in a foundry in Portugal which we put a very flat base on and kept it very minimal in design. Another light that is doing very well is the Stucco, we spent a long time agonizing over how big those petals would be, the shape of the light, how far apart the rows of petals should be.
When did you have that big "AHA!" moment when you realized that you were creating something special?
I don't like to be complacent about what we do, because the moment you start thinking that you have cracked it that is when the edifice starts to collapse, but it is great to read the feedback on our site. We have recently hit 10k reviews and virtually all of them are 5star reviews. Some of them are really quite moving as some people are really grateful of what we do.
What are one of the interior trends that you are loving right now and one that you are glad is over?
What is the next thing that you are working on?
We are launching our outdoor lighting which is exciting. People tend to be less brave with outdoor lighting as they see them as functional lights. We are trying to create a range of swan necks and lanterns that add that extra decorative edge to outdoor spaces.
I had a conversation with a client last week about what style her interiors should be. She mentioned how she felt torn between the design that she loved and the age of the building. I've had this discussion myself with various other clients and thought I would share my thoughts with you today. The way I see it is, you have three ways of doing things.
Playing within the design boundaries of the period of your home can help your interiors feel more linked and give them a sense of permanence. The trick to not make it look dated or tired is to use nods to the era but slightly more updated versions. There is a very satisfying joy of using vernacular pieces in a home. Like when you find the perfect Eames mid century arm chair for your lounge, or that gorgeous Edwardian bookcase for your alcove. It can fit like a glove and seem so timelessly beautiful.
In this method of designing, you note the architectural age of the property, but go off-piste with your design. This can be quite exciting and scary for some people but can really render some incredible rooms. This can work both ways, old to new and new to old. Some incredible spaces can be created by contrasting the style of the interiors to the architecture. Think of a gorgeous plastered ceiling and then a beautifully sleek modern sofa with an iridescent coffee table. Totally clashing but also beautifully striking. In reverse if you had a modern box of a room with beautiful floor to ceiling windows, why not bring some vintage charm in with an elaborate vintage Persian rug and an antique console table. Immediately enriching the space and displaying the antiques as art pieces within themselves.
Some people find this design a bit jarring but when done well, and for the right person, it can render some incredible spaces that are a joy to live in and experience.
Here a combination of the above is used. So In an old home, using some modern and vintage pieces together to tie in the interiors with the home but also bring it forward into the modern age and ensure that the space doesn't look like a museum. Or in a modern home, balancing off the ultra modern design pieces with some older pieces - therefore introducing a mixed design. This can be a tricky affair to master but is also quite fun to play around with. It means you don't have to stick to one or the other, but just follow the beauty, and experiment with the look. It gives you more flexibility and also helps create a really eclectic and curated space filled with your favourite pieces. And if you are anything like me, and a bit of a magpie for beautiful things. You will be able to have a home that sparks joy at every corner.
Introduce character - I needed some soul in my place. A new build has no history, no-one inhabited this space 20 stories up in the air at any time before me. So there I was the pioneer, needing to inject some humanity into this man-made space. I went vintage. This was a cheap and environmentally sustainable way of decorating my home. I trawled the vintage markets around Manchester for anything from vintage frames to ottomans and serving plates. Things that caught my eye came home with me. That reflected some of my soul back into my space. I still do this from time to time.
Command 3m Hooks are great! I had most of my art work up on these babies, and they rock! They don't destroy your walls and are super easy to move about. Winner!
If I was giving advice now to myself a few years ago , I would say: Don't be too precious with those brilliant white walls. Enjoy it a little, go for colour. If you really do not think that your property will sell with that colour on the walls, you (or the new owners) can re-paint it when it comes to selling. Also buy once and better, I had some purchases that after 3 years of life, looked very worn, and that s fine, but there is no point in wasting your hard earned cash on something that isn't going to last you any significant period of time.
I totally sobbed when I locked the front door of my flat for the very last time. The movers were beside themselves. And even though I love my current home, there is always a little special place in my heart for my first nest.
Why hire an interior designer?
The value I give to my clients as a designer includes a dedicated and well thought out scheme from beginning to end, with all aspects considered for the process ahead.
This is including lighting, heating, furniture layouts that work for different times of the day and uses of the space, storage, aesthetic cohesion and detail. I draw inspiration from the clients and what they require and dream of the space before we embark on the journey as it allows me to create a more bespoke space and a place that they truly feel nested in.
These images used above are not of my own work, but inspiration images I used on clients mood boards.