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Lewis Knox: How I Started My Interior Design Business

The art of getting a home or business premises to look and feel right is often underestimated. Anyone who’s scoured furniture stores, overwhelmed by choice and the fear of purchasing the wrong item, will have probably thought at some point if only I could get someone to do this for me, someone who knows what they’re doing. And that might explain why interior design is such a thriving business. 

Yes, as our standards and expectations change for what living and/or workspace should embody, so too does the demand for the Interior Designer. We caught up with Helen Knox, based in Cheshire, whose interior design studio, Lewis Knox, has been going for just over a year, to find out what’s involved in starting and running an interior design business.

 

How would you describe Lewis Knox in a sentence?

I would say we are a dynamic and approachable Interior Design studio.

 

When you say dynamic and approachable how does that translate to the work you do?

We like to approach our projects differently to other studios; taking time with our clients really building a rapport with them.

Designing interiors, whether it’s a dream home or business premises, is a token of trust on our client’s behalf. We want them to feel totally at ease with us. By taking time at the beginning to do this, we build up an honest relationship with them which allows us to design a space which really represents them as an individual, family or business brand.

 

How did you become an Interior Designer?

I’d always had a keen interest in design, from my early childhood playing with Lego through to school.

College opened my eyes to a vast array of different design disciplines. Of these, Interior Architecture really took my fancy.

I embarked on a four year Interior Design degree with a year’s placement where I designed traveling exhibitions for top sporting brands. I learnt during this time how my designs for these exhibitions came alive from pencil to reality. I loved this process.

Since then I’ve been able to work with some truly great clients designing their homes and business ventures. Many of these clients I still work with today, which is lovely. 

 

Sketch proposals for a boutique coastal chalet concept via @lewisknox_

Instagram: @lewisknox

 

What were the challenges around launching the business? Where did you find your time was spent?

All the decisions!

Running an interior design project there are so many decisions to be made. But that’s part and parcel of our job role and being creative.

I’m quite a decisive person and know how the final result should look. However, launching the business I had to consider my branding, marketing, website, social media, fees, legal contracts, insurance etc which is a mind-field.

Luckily I had a great business mentor and talented contacts in branding to really help me get this just how I wanted.

 

How has the business grown since your launch? Have there been any particular milestones?

We have only been running for 12 months, but already have been impressed with how our reputation has spread. A lot of this is through word of mouth and recommendation, which is a lovely compliment. 

A huge milestone for us has been the launch of our fantastic new website, which I hope will attract new clients.

In our second year of business, we hope to get some more of our projects showcased on our website so everyone can see the vast array of work we have been doing in our first 12-18 months, as well as opening our new design studio later in the year.

 

Coastal Cottage in Abersoch

 

What are the most effective marketing tools for a business like yours? Has that evolved with things like social media? What about word of mouth and referrals?

As with so many service-based businesses, word of mouth and referrals is always number one. There is no bigger compliment or seal of approval than when if a client recommends you. It’s a great pat on the back.

Social media is also really important. We knew this from the start so use platforms such as Instagram and Pinterest to showcase our portfolio, as well as giving our followers more of an insight into what we do.

Social media has helped those that thought we just ‘picked paint colours’ and ‘plumped cushions’ to realise it is so much more than that. We spend a huge proportion of our time remodelling and designing dream houses, technical drawing packages for the main contractor and running a full build team on site. (Although I will confess it is nice when you get to the cushion plumping stage… after being on dusty building sites for so long)

 

How do you mark yourself from your competition both online and offline?

It’s hard to stand out in a highly competitive market, but a lot of my friends are also in the business so it’s lovely to keep in touch as we all have a different approach to our design method.

For us, I wanted clients to feel we are an approachable and highly creative studio. I have a great team around me with huge talent, so our clients know a design from us is very thought out and highly personal.

We don’t have a set style, which a lot of Interior Design studios do have. Instead, we love building a unique signature style for an interior with our client that is just perfect for them. Our approach both online and offline tries to portray this to clients.

 

Instagram: @lewisknox

 

What are the challenges on a personal level running a business?

The time and the lack of it, especially in the first few years as you’re establishing yourself.

Luckily for me, I have a hugely supportive team and I’m somewhat of a workaholic. I love what I do, so suppose I never switch off.

I’m currently in the midst of remodelling our own home so juggling the two has been interesting. I always find time with a long walk with my dog Rosie, which always provides a source of inspiration for me between design sessions.

What has surprised you most in your first year of business?

How the projects keep coming!

I suppose there was always that doubt that the work wouldn’t come in, but the enquiries and contacts keep coming which always keep me smiling. I’m so lucky to have a fantastic team so have found the whole experience in setting Lewis Knox up less daunting that I first thought I would.

 

What are your proudest achievements?

To be honest, I’m just really chuffed to be where we are now; a small agile design studio with some fantastic projects to kickstart 2018 with, as well as repeat clients.

We have started work on our new design studio too which I’m super proud of. I thought we would be another year off that so it just means we are growing quicker than I imagined.

 

What are your top three tips for someone looking to launch an Interior Design business?

Learn your discipline. Not just what you have been taught at university. I’ve been in industry ten years and took time to really train hard and open my eyes to all levels of Interior Design before embarking on it myself. With that level of experience behind me, I then knew the timing was right.

Network. Our career choice is quite a niche area and you work with some super talented designers and artisans. I’ve loved building those relationships and learning from them when your working on a tricky design project where you need a trusted team to help you realise your design. From cabinet makers through to seamstresses, these are the tradespeople that will realise your design details.

Enjoy it. If you don’t there’s no point launching your own business in it. It’s one thing working for a design studio, but you need that extra level of commitment and passion for the discipline to really create a successful Interior Design studio.

 

For a comprehensive guide to getting your business up and running, download our how to start a business in 20 days eBook

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Helen Knox runs Lewis Knox, an interior design studio based in the North West. She was speaking to Huw Moxon, Digital Marketing Manager for Informi.

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