On Thursday 8 June 2017, around 200 passionate interior designers, suppliers and business experts gathered at 30 Euston Square to celebrate the role of marketing, trends, finances and strategy in the continued growth of our unique and evolving industry. 15 speakers — selected for their expertise and passion — informed and entertained a highly engaged audience with charisma and charm while providing in-depth and honest insight into property trends, branding, career pivots, business development, fees and ethics.

Following an introduction from current BIID president Susie Rumbold, Andrew Moylan (head of real estate products at Preqin) kicked off the day’s talks with a detailed summary of current and developing property trends. Touching on the impact of last year’s shock EU referendum result, he revealed that interest in property in Birmingham and Manchester — major economic destinations outside the capital — is continuing to gain momentum. He also noted that significant growth has be identified in investment in student accommodation and shared property concepts such as co-working spaces. This indicates a move away from the traditional residential property development that has dominated the property, architecture and interiors sectors in recent years.

For one of the day’s most highly anticipated sessions, interior designer and pillar of the design community Guy Oliver took to the stage accompanied by British GQ deputy editor Bill Prince. Sharing personal stories from the early days of his career in the Navy and the people who guided his first steps into the world of interior design, Guy spoke fondly of his life in interiors and discussed the complexity of working with high profile clients such as Claridge’s, The Connaught Hotel and 10 Downing Street. Bill asked some thought-provoking questions and we thoroughly enjoyed the well-matched pair’s conversation.

After a short break and an opportunity to get to know our fantastic exhibitors – Roca, Hamilton Litestat, Maison et Objet, Selectaglaze, UK Hide and Spiral Cellars – we returned to the auditorium to hear Lori Pinkerton-Rolet talk openly and with an endearing sense of humour about the ups and downs of transforming her business — Park Grove Design — from primarily residential projects to a purely hospitality client base.

“When you transition from residential to commercial the first couple of projects are a steep learning curve.” — Lori Pinkerton-Rolet

Putting the decision to change her business down to a single conversation had in her car with a particularly difficult client who demanded she rip out an entire bathroom because she broke a nail in it, Lori dissected the importance of monitoring the impact of branding and communication in order to build a sustainable business. The seasoned designer and businesswoman also spoke candidly of the importance of being transparent with clients about the cost of making changes and the importance of managing each stage of the design and build process meticulously.

“We always try to use the BIID standardised contract as it is the only one that protects us as designers.” — Lori Pinkerton-Rolet

After Lori’s talk we welcomed BIID president-elect Charles Leon, Taylor Howes founder Karen Howes and strategic brand consultant Nick Cross to the stage for our first panel discussion of the day. Leading with a strong focus on branding and the power of strategic marketing, Charles, Nick and Karen spoke independently and as a panel in support of investment and planning in the areas of identity, communications and PR. Charles in particular isolated the importance of the emotional connections that are pivotal to building a sustainable business at every level.

Following a break for lunch, we welcomed founder of Studio Ashby, Sophie Ashby, to the stage. Having started her business only three years ago, Sophie is one of the industry’s most exciting new talents and used her session to open up to our audience about the challenges she faces every day and the transformative impact her growing team continues to have on her brand, business and life as a designer.

“Through really careful hiring and recruitment I’ve got these key people who mean that anything is possible. ” — Sophie Ashby

Her honesty seemed to strike a chord with the audience of designers and many spotlighted her talk as one of the highlights of the day.

“It requires a lot of bravery to admit what you don’t know.” — Sophie Ashby

For our penultimate session, we invited three of interior design’s biggest personalities to discuss their survival secrets and the experiences and lessons behind their decades of business success. In conversation with BIID past-president Daniel Hopwood, Joanna Wood and Dickie Bannenberg talked frankly about the obstacles they have both faced in maintaining their motivation and businesses through years of economic highs and lows.

“I was 25 when I set my business up, with more balls than knowledge I must admit.” — Joanna Wood

The trio of design experts also spoke with great honesty (and a large dollop of humour) about the many ways they keep themselves creative and relevant in a developing sector that is driven as equally by property and investment trends as it is by raw talent and innovation.

After a final networking break, we returned to the auditorium for the day’s most business focused session. Chaired by current BIID president Susie Rumbold, Hewitsons Solicitors partner Colin Jones, KKS chairman David Keirle and design businesses consultant and strategist Rachel Smart came together to dissect the issues of mark-ups and handling fees related to the supply of furnishings, fixtures and equipment. For more than an hour the three experts shared their experiences — both positive and negative — of working with suppliers and clients and on projects in countries with cultures and etiquettes that contradict those adhered to by the UK’s design community.

“It is possible to run a successful design studio by balancing finances and creative excellence.” — Rachel Smart

Despite coming from different career backgrounds and working with distinctly different client bases, the panel were mostly in agreement when it came to the importance of complete transparency when communicating finances and the decisions that shape them. The group also reinforced the importance of working with industry regulations that protect designers and practices of all sizes.

“The problem with not having clarity is clients not understanding what you do and what you’re charging for.” — David Keirle

Departing BIID president Susie Rumbold, who will be succeeded by Charles Leon in the coming weeks, rounded off the fantastic day with a few words of thanks. We would like to reiterate her sentiments and thank the speakers and audience for a day of questions, answers and unprecedented insight into the world of design business.

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