Vanessa Brady is founder and CEO of The Society of British and International Interior Design. She tells Tim Wallace which KBB companies impress her, why she believes the more resilient will continue to prosper, and what she's chosen for her own kitchen and bathroom.
Q: How has SBID fared during the pandemic?
A: We’re flying. COVID created time for me to look at my work/life balance. I’ve decided to travel less to achieve more and review everything I do using my ‘pleasure monitor’ – if I don’t like it, I no longer do it. I’m much happier and make more money. SBID is in the final stages over a six-year term of its application for a Royal Charter and has achieved exam status for those without a degree.
Q: How is the KBB and wider interiors market looking?
A: It's booming. Those of us left behind now are the last men standing – they will really ride a great wave and do extremely well. Those that have not adapted through COVID will simply die off. As an industry, I think we are in a great place. We will continue to grow and the home will finally become the number-one investment choice. The supply chain is the biggest challenge but we are getting production lines back up to normal levels and goods distributed across borders will soon rebalance. Let’s hope we see discounts return shortly too!
Q: Which KBB retailers most impress you?
A: I love to see new designers coming through but the same names often pop up as awards finalists. I like country showrooms as they are so different to the slick London looks; they’re more lived in and probably used more regularly. I like to see contrast. In London I like Nicholas Anthony and SieMatic. The Kitchen Shoppe, which sells German and Italian kitchens has also become very popular recently as they label their kitchens as interior styles. You can select ‘rustic,’ ‘metal’, ‘brilliance’, ‘basic’ etc. Contractors love this. I also like Benchmarx. Their service is great, the finishes and colours are subtle and they work very well in basements where staff kitchens in big houses are often located. I also love the price. I buy Howdens too as the carcass is solid wood not MDF.
Q: Should more KBB retailers offer a full interior design service?
A: That’s what I did. I don’t know how designers can make enough money on one room as a specialist subject. The only issue I have with moving away from, rather than diversifying into, new competitive spaces is that your core reputation and market advantage evaporates through a trend or shift. When that shift later evaporates it is very easy to have lost the original market space to a competitor. It’s too soon to see if the shifts are here to stay so I would suggest expanding into new areas but do not give up on your core business.
Q: What’s your view on top-end designers who don’t use a showroom?
A: They’re absolutely right, people will buy kitchens online. Who thought before lockdown anyone would buy a second-hand car online and yet Cazoo have already sold over a million.
Q: What kind of design trends has the pandemic triggered?
A: A growing awareness of the sustainable footprint of items. Colour is finally back too, but surfaces might need to incorporate hypoallergenic finishes as we get used to permanent ‘touch-free’ environments.
Q: Which interior design shows do you like?
A: George Clarke or Grand Designs as I like the construction side more. I like to use an eclectic mix of items in terms of age and finish. Often in shows they are all brand new and from the same collections and suppliers.
Q: What are your own kitchen and bathroom like?
A: My kitchen has a huge island with Silestone white veined marble and lacquered taupe finger pull handles on the cabinets. Everything inside is clutter free. I have a bath and separate shower with a central underslung basin in a double-sided vanity with a huge mirror above, glass shelves either side over the mirror and Hollywood lights surrounding it. It has lots of mirrors and storage with a washed wood wall covering – it's subtle, warm, cosy and glamorous.