Tanya Leech (www.tanyaleech.co.uk) is a registered designer of the British Institute of Interior Design (biid.org.uk) and has a Diploma in Interior Design from the world renowned KLC School of Design, Chelsea.
A varied career path has given her a wide ranging wealth of experience. She combines the two essential elements of a professional interior designer – creativity and practicality – with great organisational skills thrown in for good measure! Tanya has worked on projects from a grade II* listed manor house in Dorset to super yachts at Pendennis Shipyard, and built her own contemporary new build home in 2014, which she managed entirely from start to finish. Most recently, Tanya has been commissioned to work on architect-designed new build houses in some amazing coastal locations in and around Cornwall.
No hitting the snooze button today – it’s a super early start to drive to Hampshire for a site visit at the largest of my current projects, a listed Georgian rectory. Most of my work is in Cornwall, and my normal commute is a few paces into my studio, which is in part of the contemporary house we self-built a couple of years ago. But having worked for this client on their holiday home in Padstow, they then asked me to design the interior of the rectory they’d just bought – and no interior designer worth their salt would turn down the chance to work on such classic English architecture in a beautiful village!
Arriving on site, I grab a quick coffee as I put on my hi-vis jacket and safety boots, ready to meet the client, architect and building contractors. Today’s agenda includes discussing strengthening the old lathe and plaster walls to take the weight of heavy curtain poles and curtains, which size of lantern will look appropriate in the hallway, and the colour of grout to be used on the limestone flooring. Having a degree in civil engineering and having served in the Royal Engineers, has given me an invaluable technical background and I’m never happier than when I’m on a building site, full of the buzz of skilled tradesmen.
My day ends in the less than glamorous surroundings of a Travelodge in west London, where I frantically try to catch up on all my emails and type up the minutes of the site meeting.
Today I’m off to Chelsea Harbour for a meeting of the Advisory Panel of KLC School of Design. We’re a group of about a dozen alumni of the school who completed our training at different times, via a range of different courses. I studied online, which took a huge amount of determination and commitment, as the course had no deadlines, but I loved it.
Not a natural historian, discovering that I had to write a dissertation on the History of Interior Styles from 1660 to the present day was a daunting prospect. Having said this, no-one was more surprised than me to find I loved tramping round museums and National Trust properties, researching the different periods. You need this firm grounding to give you the confidence to work on historic properties, such as the rectory.
The Advisory Panel aims to inform the future of the school and increase their understanding of current industry issues, but it’s also a valuable chance for me to meet others running their own design studios and exchange ideas.
I make the most of my free afternoon in London to visit potential suppliers, such as de Gournay with their glorious hand painted wallpapers and Beardmores, an absolute treasure trove of handles, latches and catches.
Yesterday’s meeting in London dovetailed very neatly with attending a Toolbox Talk day at Benchmark Furniture near Newbury today. This gives me CPD points, which I have to accumulate each year to ensure I’m keeping myself up to date as a BIID Registered Interior Designer.
The day included a fascinating behind the scenes tour of the workshops and talks from two visiting speakers, Edward Bulmer and Eleanor Pritchard, who tell us the stories behind their businesses. Edward talks pigments and natural paints, while Eleanor shows us the inspiration behind her woven textile designs, though quite how she works out which bit of wool to put where on her hand loom is beyond me!
I’m invigorated by my trip – I love learning and broadening my knowledge, networking with others in the industry and keeping up to date with the latest trends in London – but it’s also great to get back home to Cornwall. Inevitably, there is masses to catch up on as soon as I’m back at my desk. Samples to order, emails that need replies, social media to be posted, not to mention all the regular admin of recording the time spent on each project, invoice checking and VAT returns.
Attention to detail is vital as a designer, where transposing two figures could result in completely the wrong product being ordered, and as a self-confessed control freak, I know it would be a challenge to delegate some of my work, having always worked on my own. I also know that I’m simply trying to do too much at the moment, so I’m thrilled to have been accepted on a funded Business Growth mentoring programme which starts next week. The big question is, do I take on a new recruit? It would be an exciting next step, but I don’t underestimate the commitment I’d be making.
Jumping out of bed this morning, I immediately checked the weather and breathed a sigh of relief to see a fine day dawning. Plenty of bright light is just what my photographer will want for the photo shoot of a major project I recently completed.
I’d met the client (for just two hours!) at a traditional Cornish cottage, which was being completely renovated and extended. During our meeting she asked me, “Could you please do all the decorative schemes and furnish the whole five bedroom house in the next 12 weeks?” before getting in her car and driving back home to Scotland!
Excited, but also slightly terrified, having had so little time to get to know her, I set off on what turned out to be a three month sprint with emails pinging back and forth between us from dawn till dusk every day. A busy lady herself, (with five children and running her own business!), I enjoy making the whole process as stress free as possible for my clients. It’s a huge responsibility to be working on someone’s house, when they’re hundreds of miles away, and it’s vital that they feel they can trust me implicitly.
There were paint schemes to specify, curtains and blinds to be made and bespoke joinery to commission. Not to mention the hundreds of products to source, order and take delivery of, from sofas, tables, mattresses, sun loungers and table lamps, right down to doormats and vintage style coat hooks.
To my great relief, the client loved it and I’m super keen to have the project professionally photographed for my website. It was seeing photos of my previous projects that had led the client to contact me in the first place, confirming that high quality images of your work are vital to attracting new business.
Saturday & Sunday
The fine weather continues, so my husband and I take the opportunity to sail from Falmouth to Fowey for the weekend on our 31’ boat. Sailing is our shared passion and we’ve been lucky enough to have sailed across both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans together. Now our trips are much closer to home, but a weekend can feel like a mini holiday. I think it’s vital to switch off the endless digital chatter for a while, feel the wind through my hair and re-connect with the stunning beauty of the natural world, right here on our doorstep in Cornwall.
For this story with all images, please view http://indesignmagazine.co.uk/march-2017/
For further information on Tanya, please visit www.tanyaleech.co.uk