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Interviews

Harriet Hughes- It's about thoughtfulness not thoughtlessness.

We sat down with Harriet Hughes, founder of eponymous studio Harriet Hughes Interior Design, to discuss her recent residential project in Cheshire, which eporta were lucky enough to help her out on.

design stories x eporta

Read time: 5 minutes

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Involved from the ground up, there is little Harriet Hughes can't tell us about this 5,000 sqft new build home in the Cheshire Countryside. Nestled down a private lane this Georgian inspired home is unlike many of the neo-Tudor or red brick buildings in the surrounding areas, homes to some of the countries top footballers. The scale of Harriet's first major solo interiors scheme is enormous. However, having worked for smaller design studios since graduating from KLC in 2015, she has a wide array of hands-on experience of projects at this scale. Meaning it wasn't such a significant jump for her.

The client wanted a forever house, it needed all the technology and creature comforts of a modern home, while also being timeless.

With that in mind, the scheme has a continuation of the Georgian within. "This era of architecture inspired the dimensions, room flows and some of the design details within the scheme." Her client loved the sweeping Georgian facades and interiors of London Townhouses and wanted to inject a little of this into their country home.

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"The significant consideration from the brief, though was how to make the building scale up and down." Inhabited by a couple most of the time, the question was, how do you make such a big house suitable and comfortable for two, while also catering to an entire family descending on occasion. Harriet was acutely aware of this from day one, and her first solution was to change the suggested floorplan. The master suite is one half of the first-floor footprint, and the further three bedrooms sit on the other side of the sweeping staircase. "A master suite is just for two people, and it feels like they can close the other half of the house off by shutting the door. The split prevented the lifeless feeling of rooms not being lived in."

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Harriet's solution to scalability is variety. The vast open-plan kitchen living space provides mountains of room for entertaining large groups. But it's the clever vignettes that Harriet has created, which means the couple aren't swallowed up by the space. "The nook by the fireplace is perfect for two, although beyond that there is a large corner sofa that can house more people when needed." Even more, consideration was paid to the dining spaces with three options to choose from, a level of formality to suit every occasion and number of guests.

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When we asked Harriet what her favourite part of the project is she emphatically said "The Bathrooms!" She goes on to explain why, "I suppose when you do bathrooms, you always feel like you're taking two steps forward and five steps back. Holes are put in the wrong place, basins and taps aren't compatible with the wall depth, etc. This is why I spent a considerable amount of time on technical packages for every bathroom making it as close to foolproof as possible."

Harriet designed all the bathroom joinery, including the vanity unit. She worked with tile experts to create bespoke marble tiles precisely as she and her client pictured them. The fact that no-one else will have these exact tiles, is something she's particularly proud to be able to offer her client.

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In fact, all of the more significant architectural features of the project featured high up on Harriet's favourite list. But as the daughter of an engineer, Harriet has been fascinated with how things are built from an early age. "When I was younger, I loved soft furnishings and sofas initially drawn to the pretty, aesthetic side of design. But I've also always been exposed to design and engineering. My father had a boat, and I was transfixed by it – from how it looked, to how it was put together. This curiosity has definitely led me into design." This project has allowed her to flex those detail oriented, creative engineering muscles.

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When it comes down to design style, Harriet describes the space as timeless and classic, yet fun. And this concept of timeless design is a tell-tale trait of Harriet's design perspective. Longevity is a primary consideration for her. She is passionate about the design footprint she's leaving and the legacy it has for years to come. It's about "thoughtfulness, rather than thoughtlessness." Harriet continues, "Design matters because it impacts how we see the world, and importantly, how we feel about it. There was a big time frame when people were building hideous structures. And it's now understood that the design of a building is essential. It's about creating something for future generations. A considered design approach is starting to come back around again, as part of a growing understanding of sustainability and the legacy we leave for those to come." Her focus on timeless design can be seen in the kitchen. From the architraves and mantels through to the colours, this is not a fast-fashion interior.

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One detail we can't fail to mention is the sculptural chandelier hanging in the vaulted entrance hall. This bespoke piece was created with the client in mind. As a successful inventor of plumbing products, the light resembles water droplets stemming from a showerhead. An amazing injection of fun, it speaks to the client and those that know him on one level and for those that don't, it's a fantastic piece of visual art.

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We asked Harriet what was tricky if anything about delivering this project. Invariably, the hardest part was doing it as a one-man band, perhaps no surprise given the scale of the scheme. "Being an interior designer on my own at the moment, and having all the responsibility on my shoulders can be hard. The admin is a lot for a single woman business. It requires a lot of time to stay on top of orders, quotes and deliveries." We went on to laugh about the amount of admin a single cushion takes. From piping, front-facing fabric, reverse-facing fabrics, let alone if you add trimmings, it's well over four requirements per cushion. That's a serious amount of admin.

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Harriet pointed out that this is where eporta really helped. "It lets you take shortcuts without compromising on the results, and if you're a one-person company like myself, that's very important." This is the first project Harriet has worked with eporta on, so we wanted to ask her about her experience with the platform. "I just found it allowed me a less stressful sourcing experience. I was able to find pieces and get prices quickly. Speak with somebody from the brand immediately and, get invoices, quotes and trade accounts set up all in one place."

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As we can see from this project Harriet is very passionate about creating something unique for her clients. She considers this to be one of the significant expertise interior designers are hired for. However, in a project that needed so many pieces, she worked with her Account Manager to create bespoke items with suppliers through the platform. "Although I'm used to doing things by email, I spoke with suppliers through eporta's chat system. I found it easy to do the same as I usually would just with the added convenience of having everything in one place."

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The result of Harriet's hard work is clear to see. The scheme does everything it sets out to for the client, a balance between timeless and fun with a long legacy ahead of it. I guess it's true what they say; the devil is in the detail.

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