With our background in design working on English country estates and large London properties we can’t help but be inspired by John Colefax and Sibyl Fowler, Robert Kime and Nina Campbell. They all have a way with pattern and colour and always stay up to date. We are also inspired by the American designers Michael Smith for his classical look and Steven Gambrel for his use of colour and working with the architectural details of a home.
Don’t underestimate the value of the experience you will gain from working under a great designer before you forge ahead on your own. We were both incredibly lucky to have done that and truly believe it is the knowledge we gained during this time that has enabled us to offer such a full service to our clients. It has also given us confidence in our designs.
Nicola Lawrence, Textiles and Papers is an Australian retail business specialising in artisanal, hand blocked and hand screen printed textiles and wallpapers of exceptional design and quality. Today we are discovering a bit more about Nicola and her business.
Hello Nicola, it is such a pleasure for me to have you opening my new “In conversation” series. First of all, I would like to know when your passion for interiors started.
Thank you Gloria – how lovely to have been asked. My love of decorating and interiors has been life long. My earliest memories are of my childhood home and I can recall every detail of it, including the garden. My mother had an eye for beautiful things and our homes reflected that. At about the age of four she allowed me to choose fabric and wallpaper for my new bedroom and I remember the joy of looking through the sample books. I selected a chintz in greens and blues, with birds, flowers and branches and I loved it. The wallpaper was a small, textured all over pattern in soft greens, blues and creams in which when lying in bed, I could find trees, lakes, houses etc. I had a blue chenille bedspread which I never really thought worked but it was of it’s time. I’ve always found decorating comforting. For me, looking at (being mesmerised by) beautiful rooms in books or magazines, or being in them, or looking at or feeling the texture of a gorgeous fabric or a decorative piece, is balm for the soul.
When did you realise you wanted to have your own business?
My background is mostly in farming – beef cattle production – and mental health/psychology. I love the former, however whilst I do have an innate concern for the wellbeing of others, I knew that working in the field of psychology was not for me long term. In 2011 I travelled to London to study at the Inchbald School of Design and for the first time, found myself in a stimulating learning environment with like minded people (I didn’t want to walk out at the first break – which was telling!). It was the most wonderful thing to have done. Returning home to Australia and living in a rural area limited my options as far as design, however I saw an opportunity. I had been frustrated that in order to purchase quality fabrics or wallpapers, I had to go through an interior designer, when I knew exactly what I wanted to buy. It all seemed a bit convoluted. The idea of establishing a business where people could view the products online, order samples and purchase directly was formed and became a compulsion. I could see a further niche where I could sell or introduce fabrics and wallpapers from specialist interior designers / small supply, artisan type fabric houses that weren’t as well known in Australia as they are overseas. In 2016 I established Nicola Lawrence.
I love your website and the way you show us your products on Instagram. Do you think online businesses are the way to go?
Not necessarily. For my business, yes, because it allows for a broad audience to view and get to know the product and how it might work for their own home – and also allows for shared ideas and ease of ordering. In my circumstance it is quite a simple process – view, consider, order, receive. However, there are many people who acknowledge they have no aptitude for or confidence in decorating and therefore access to the advice and skill of an interior design professional, in person, is invaluable.
What did you find the most difficult part when starting your business? And the most rewarding?
Finding the right web designer and graphic designer was important – especially those on my wavelength with an understanding of what I was wanting to achieve. Establishing relationships with the textiles designers and agents took time and quite a bit of diplomacy and explanation. It was really a leap of faith for some, however overall I have found the positive response from textiles designers, customers and public heartwarming. The designers have indicated that they like the way I promote their product and that this has generated interest from other quarters. As for my customers, I am rewarded by the communication I have with them, the excitement I hear from so many of them and the fact that I have provided them with the opportunity to purchase a special fabric or wallpaper, or a custom cushion or lampshade online – or view the product and save up for it.
What is your advice for anyone who is thinking to start a business in the home décor field?
It’s only early days for me, but I think it’s important to enjoy and believe in what you do or what you are selling and to educate yourself as much as you can about your product and potential customer. Be aware that it is not easy, for many, to make a living in the design industries and it can be hard slog.
Take an interest in what is happening in the design world internationally, and also historically. If you are planning to be a decorator or designer, don’t understate the value of education in supporting your natural flair – nor for learning on the job by working with experienced designers. Be open to learning from and sharing with others and be respectful of the work of others. Be inspired but don’t imitate – create. Be your you.
What are the fabrics and wallpapers that you are obsessed with at the moment?
Gloria! I am obsessed with something new every day – anything that lands on my desk or that I see in a beautiful room. I really do love everything that is in the Nicola Lawrence collections, which is why I stock them. There are so many exquisite fabrics and wallpapers – so many colours, designs, textures – and so many opportunities to use them that I find it hard to narrow this down to one particular style. However, sometimes samples stay on my desk as I just can’t bring myself to put them away and for example, right now I have Madeleine Castaing’s Rayure de Fleurie fabric just waiting to be used (I need a new home). In general, I am drawn to the texture of the base cloths used by ‘my’ designers, the hand printed nature of the products, the depth of colour and the quality of these fabrics and wallpapers. I see something to be obsessed by in each design – but birds and flora/botanical prints do seem to be a continued devotion.
Finally, if you could pick one interior designer to decorate your own home, who would it be?
I admire so many so this would be hard – but if I had to today, having just re-read one of his books – it would be American designer Jeffrey Bilhuber. The home he created in rural Westchester is a dream – and is a perfect inspiration for decorating our farm house.