Even though my working day is filled with looking at and thinking about design, I still love spending time discovering new sources of design inspiration as much as I’ve ever done and that’s why I was so excited to have recently come across interior designer Fiona Duke’s beautiful work. Fiona started her design practice, Fiona Duke Interiors in 2014 and in just a few short years has created a beautiful and striking portfolio of work, creating dramatic yet homely spaces for her clients. I love her style; her use of bold colour and ability to mix different styles of furniture and accessories together so effectively; each of her rooms is unique yet completely liveable. So I was really delighted when Fiona agreed to an interview – I just love finding out all about the process behind the designs and where each designer gets their inspiration from and have loved finding out all about Fiona’s journey.
I hope you enjoy discovering her work as much as I have. I’m certainly going away with a few new ideas for my own home after seeing some of her gorgeous schemes!
Thanks for talking to us Fiona! To get us started, here’s a question which I know is trickier than it seems!
Which 3 words would you use to best describe your design style?
3 words….? Just so difficult as I really feel my style is such a mix of influences and totally depends on what project I’m working on :
-Contemporary boho eclectic
-French inspired elegance
-Simplistic calming Scandi
Is that allowed??……….
Yes! I think we’ll allow that!
You set up your design practice in 2014 and since then you’ve completed some beautiful projects, which we’re so pleased you’ve shared some of with us here. Can you tell us a bit about your journey as a designer? What prompted you to go into interior design?
I’ve always been a ‘creator’ and have always ‘made’ or ‘adapted’ things. I was also forever redesigning whatever space I was given in the family home, even as a young child. If I’m being honest, at the time I never really saw it as ‘design’, I just liked making and changing things: clothes, patchwork duvets, sculptures, rooms, accessories…. The world of design at that time didn’t really seem that accessible and I opted to study French at University. I look back now and see pictures of me arriving at University with my hand-made quilt and other items and it is clear that design has always been important to me.
Although my route into design has not been the most straightforward, it has nevertheless guided me to where I am today. My French degree allowed me to work in Paris and absorb not only the fantastic language and culture, but admire their amazing elegance in design, and my years working in a corporate environment in London gave me invaluable experience how to manage a business.
My passion for interior design grew and grew over the years as I began to design my own homes. Forever reviewing, reading and exploring new design ideas was something I just never tired of, and so when time allowed, I returned to college to study Interior Design and I’ve never looked back.
And for anyone considering doing the same, is there anything you’ve learnt that you wish someone had told you when you first started?
I never doubted the commitment needed to start your own business. I have always worked hard, loved to dream big and set myself goals. Nevertheless, I also knew that entering a new industry would have its challenges. Ideally I would have loved to work within a design practice but this didn’t really seem an option for me at this stage in my career. As a result, the first few years have been very much about how to tailor and how to communicate my individual design service.
You mention on your website that you’re a bit of a serial renovator of your own homes (something I completely understand!) I’d love to hear a little bit about the process. And about your plans for your current home – what are your priorities when re-designing a space for yourself?
Yes, for several years I did renovate numerous houses, which wasn’t always easy especially when I had 2 young children. By the time my daughter was 12 and my son was 10, they had lived in 5 different houses as I relentlessly renovated each one and moved onto the next. People thought I was mad but I absolutely loved it!
I moved into our new home about a year ago with a view to completely renovating it (when funds allow). It’s an early Edwardian home with a classically large hallway that I instantly fell for as I walked in. The dimensions of the home are great and although some original features have remained, many will have to be reinstalled, but it has fantastic potential. Main structural walls will be coming down and rooms will be added so it’s going to be quite a project. For me, it’s the planning stage that is the most important in any design, as you need to bring all the ideas together and make sure that the vision actually works.
It is absolutely key to visualise how every space will be utilised, and when I see TV shows where clients are building a new home and they are asked ‘what will this area be for?’ and they have no idea it completely astounds me!
Do you have a favourite project or design scheme? And if so, why does it resonate with you?
Spending so much time on a project means that you always get personally and emotionally involved and you get to know the client really well. One of the projects (Burns Crescent) was wonderful to see come together as redesigning a home can cost a substantial amount of money and for some people it’s a long term goal. This project had been a long term dream about creating a new home and I felt quite responsible to make sure we got it right – and thankfully the outcome was a success.
What do you think are the 3 most important things people should consider when redesigning their home?
Get the core design right – Spend loads of time on the planning stage.
Make sure your budget is realistic – and accept there may always be compromises, even with the biggest of budgets
Prioritise your budget – make sure you get the best design and the best materials
Now, I love to try and predict new design trends, even if it’s not an exact science! What do you see as the key trends and styles people should look out for over the coming year? And what materials and colours will you be focusing on in your projects?
I already use lots of greenery (faux and real) in my projects and I think this is going to be very big this year.
I’m working on two large projects at the moment that are using quite muted/soft shades (pinks/greens) – an interesting change to some of the darker greys of recent projects.
If you could do the interior design for any building in the world (and we’re talking complete fantasy here, so don’t hold back!), what would it be and why?
I would love to design a large Haussmann apartment in the centre of Paris. When I lived there I had an extremely small studio but I would gaze daily and admire these Haussman apartments with their high ceilings, full floor length windows, wrought iron balconies with views onto the boulevard, ornate mouldings, original parquet floor and marble fireplaces……
I’d love to know which particular designers you think have influenced your style? And what other influences do you draw on when creating a new design scheme?
I’ve been lucky enough to meet one of my design heroes – Ilse Crawford. Her entire philosophy of putting human needs and desires at the centre of all that she does resonates with me on a daily basis. My goal is always to create designs that work for the people that actually live there, making sure the concept makes sense for them in their everyday life. I also love the refined, serene elegance of Rose Uniacke and her designs. A major influence in my designs has also been the glamour and eclecticism of the wonderful Abigail Ahern who is an extremely generous designer and has kindly helped and encouraged me over the last few years.
Well, I absolutely love all of their work – there is so much inspiration to be had from looking to what each of them have achieved and what a brilliant start to your career as a designer to have the encouragement of the fabulous Abigail Ahern!
Finally then, I’d love to know what’s next for Fiona Duke Interiors?
More wonderful residential projects are on the horizon but I wouldn’t rule out the idea of venturing into an exciting commercial project or a maybe a collaboration….……? Who knows!
Thanks so much for sharing that all with us Fiona – I’m sure whatever comes next will be exciting and I look forward to seeing your forthcoming projects once they’re finished as well!
More of Fiona’s work can be seen on her website at www.fionadukeinteriors.com
All images courtesy and copyright of Fiona Duke Interiors.
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