There are a handful of people who have carved the landscape of the interior design industry in recent decades. Their unwavering commitment to professional relevance and decoding contemporary living means that these figures have become the faces of British interior design and continue to inspire generations of new talent. Joanna Wood is one such designer, so we’ve invited her to speak at the BIID ‘Inside Knowledge’ conference on 8th June.
Recognised for her use of craftsmen and furniture makers in order to create truly bespoke interiors, Joanna is regarded as an industry leader and has enjoyed success as founder of Joanna Wood International Interior Design Practice, and as the author of widely acclaimed book ‘Interiors for Living’, published in 2015.
As Joanna prepares for her conference session in which she will share the highs and lows of her journey through the world of interior design — Secrets of survival: running a business, staying creative and maintaining your sanity after 25 years in the industry — we asked her when she first felt like a businesswoman, what keeps her creative and who she turns to for professional guidance.
Joanna, you’re an industry leading interior designer with a clear passion for business. When did you realise you wanted to be a businesswoman — as well as a designer — and what were the first steps you made in that direction?
My mother ran a business in a funky little street known as Beecham street in the sixties so I was brought up in that environment. My first experience was selling daffodils on the side of the road at 11 with a friend and my sister.
Your talk at the BIID conference will focus on the secrets of surviving business and staying creative. What everyday habits or rituals you rely on to keep you focused and motivated?
A very good, strong cup of coffee to start the day and trying to put the big problems on the top of the pile not the bottom. Keeping a sense of humour and a sense of balance, humour being the most important.
Most brands rely on aesthetics for a consistent and recognisable identity, but interior design involves creating looks for other people’s homes, where that isn’t always possible. What is the role of “the brand” for interior design businesses and how do you manage yours?
We have a reputation for being professional as well as creative and from a property development background are aware that programme and budget are of paramount importance. It’s not only the look that is important — it can’t just be style, it must have substance and discipline as well.
Your career spans more than two decades, how do you keep yourself updated and informed of the latest industry information such as legal, marketing and manufacturing developments?
I dedicate Monday mornings to seeing representatives and new products, to keep us up to date. I also rely on our people, like our PR agency and financial director — my professional advisors who I trust who inform me on topics outside of my personal expertise.
In 2015 you released a book. What did that milestone reflect in the context of your career and your interior design work? Why was it the right time to do it?
I have been asked to do it so many times, for so long, that I felt I couldn’t wait any longer! I took a deep breath and just got on with it. I also felt I had a body of work that showed the scope of the company’s abilities. The book covers properties from a cottage to a palace.
Seemingly following in the footsteps of fashion, there’s an increasing focus on trends in homewares and interior design. Are they good, or creatively stifling?
I have a mixed feeling about it. It is actually forcing the consumer to spend money that isn’t necessarily wise, but it also ensures we keep our eyes and minds open to new ideas. There is good and bad in fashion and interiors. Stylistically though, I like to read a client and suit them, not fashion.
You are a member of BIID and IIDA, and an affiliate of RIBA. Why is being associated with professional bodies important and how do you use them to develop yourself and your business?
I think to be a representative of a body that recognises that its members are qualified professionals and exist within a set of business criteria is terribly important. It is vital in fact. Otherwise you are just a little person flapping around with a few samples and a Pinterest account, and there are plenty of them.
Your talk is called “secrets of survival”. If you could give three survival tips to your younger self what would they be?
Firstly, you do not succeed without working extremely hard, so ensure you look after your health. Secondly, ensure you have cash reserves. And finally, make sure you’ve got a great hairdresser!
What or who is your biggest source of inspiration?
I have got several and they are mostly stylistic. They include David Hicks, Terence Conran, and John Soane, to name but a few. I am also inspired by travel and the arts.
Learn more about Joanna’s session and book tickets for the BIID Inside Knowledge conference here.
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