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Rachel Usher- on how design defines mood.

We sat down with Rachel Usher to discuss her design story to date, and ask her why design matters.

design story x eporta

Read Time 7 minutes

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Tell us a little bit about yourself and Rachel Usher Interior Design?

Me – I am very happily married to my long-suffering husband, and we have two children (13 & 10) and a dog, Sox, who comes with me everywhere. It's my second career; I refer to my other one as ‘my former life’ as they're so very different.

The route to founding Rachel Usher Interior Design has been an organic one starting in 2012 when I was still very much in my former life. I worked as a freelance interior designer, and did it for one reason – I enjoyed it. It certainly didn’t pay well enough for me to think that I’d be doing it full time one day, but here I am. It also just felt like a natural fit, I’m one of those people who always has to be doing something, so working on multiple projects simultaneously, is a natural fit for my personality type.

Our approach to design goes far deeper than aesthetics. We can all appreciate something beautiful to look at, but we choose to stay, whether to eat, sleep or relax, based on how it makes us feel. Unravelling the intangible emotional benefits of a space has become my primary pursuit within interior design.

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What made you want to become an interior designer?

Ha! I'm not sure I ever did, it just happened. It was like a chain reaction that all started with the smallest of moves, freelancing in my spare time, to the creation of our studio, it wasn't a decision just an organic movement.

What's the best part of your job?

Often clients come to me knowing that their current space isn’t working for them, but they can't identify why, or how to put it right. My understanding of a home allows me to see beyond the sum of its parts and consider the sensory elements that are missing. Therefore for me, one of the best parts of my job is bringing a beautiful, meaningful space to people who are unable to visualise it or create it themselves.

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Running my studio has also meant that I meet lots of other business owners, and they are so positive. It's energising when you are surrounded by people who know the importance of their work because their livelihoods and reputation depend upon it. Above all, client relationships are incredibly rewarding; they are immensely grateful for all you do for them. I remember my first Christmas running the company, a client bought me a luxury Christmas hamper, it was terrific, and when I received it I cried! This gesture of kindness and recognition of my hard work over the year was something I had never experienced before.

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What's the hardest part of your job?

Dealing with hiccups. When you’re designing a space, you are juggling a vast variety of elements and individuals, which means things occasionally don’t go to plan. I find that I take our work very personally and so when things don’t run smoothly, I can't relax until the issue is resolved. I expect perfection, and I can probably be a bit intolerant when people are a bit more laissez-faire than I am.

Money. The British etiquette which makes some clients unwilling to discuss budgets openly. Without a clear budget in mind, our design work can be so much more challenging and time-consuming.

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Why do you believe that great design matters?

Our lives are too full, from crazy schedules to a never-ending drip of technology, along with the ‘things’ we accumulate over our lifetimes. Being in a well-designed space, with a careful curation of ‘things’ can make us feel more comfortable, enabling us to feel more focused, relaxed and content.

Interior Design is often perceived as superficial. However, it has such a significant effect on our mood and emotional wellbeing. It fundamentally alters how we live. Specifically; colour, texture, and lighting have huge cerebral impacts. Then there is scent! I bang on and on about the importance of perfume as smells have the power to unlock parts of our memory in much the same way a nostalgic music track can do, which is why it's a critical element of all our designs.

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What's your proudest design moment to date?

Crikey, I'm not sure that there is one single standout moment! We've thoroughly enjoyed every project we've had to date. Each is a unique puzzle with problems to solve that's what makes them so exciting. For example, we've recently completed a bedroom in a 17th-century house. It came to us with pitched roofs, virtually no storage space, awkward corners and hard to reach loft accesses to boot. I proposed to the client that we build some beautiful bespoke joinery to accommodate a much-needed wardrobe, while also providing hidden access to the loft — allowing us to create a bijou ensuite in a previously useless corner. This sort of architectural challenge is what makes my job so satisfying.

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What inspires your projects?

I look at the architecture, take time to study my clients understanding their personalities and lifestyle, and I look for the problems within the current space. My findings from these studies get thrown into a mixing pot of ingredients. As a designer, I also lift my head and look beyond our local environment; I would say there's an international influence on my design work. You need to keep fresh, so it is important not to become fixated on a trend or a dominant look. Every project needs to feel fresh as this means I'm continually challenging myself with something new meaning I'm always on the lookout for new materials that I can use creatively.

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While every design is bespoke to that client, do you have a signature design trait that identifies you no matter what?

I would imagine that anyone looking at our portfolio might see design schemes which belong to the same design family, but like with a family, each has its own unique personality. I don't like the thought of being ‘typecast’ to a design style as that would stifle my creativity. That said, every design embodies our company’s critical values within it; the use of texture and layers of tactility, careful consideration of lighting, an injection of subtle fragrance, and a considered colour palette. But for us, every project has its own story to tell.

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What would be your one piece of advice for a designer just starting?

I can't stick to just one, sorry.

1) Own your mistakes. Mistakes will happen, and they will cost you (or your boss!) money, but you’ve got to take that responsibility head on – right from the off. And you absolutely must learn from them.

2) Celebrate the talents of other people in your industry, the only person who is a threat to you is yourself. Take the time to understand your point of view as a designer and stay unique.

3) In that vein respect is an important word. You deserve to be respected, by colleagues, clients and subcontractors. You do not need to work with anyone who doesn’t understand that. Be confident when handling people, you are not a cushion fluffer.

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What is the most exceptional project you've seen recently & why?

The Desert X Mirror House in Palm Springs, California designed by Doug Aitken. Regarded as a piece of controversial artwork; every surface of this very traditional ranch house is clad in mirror, making it almost invisible as it reflects the ever-changing landscape surrounding it. It’s a juxtaposition between the traditional and the abstract is a surreal shock.

Quickfire round

Where is your happy place?

Movie night with the kids, all snuggled on one sofa in our PJ’s, under a blanket and of course Sox, the dog, typically joins too. The kids are on the brink of becoming young adults, so I'm trying to make more time for them while they still want to snuggle with me on the sofa.

How would you describe eporta in 3 words?

Approachable, collaborative and forward-thinking.

If you weren’t a designer, what would you be doing?

Oooohhh… If I could be anything, no barriers etc., I’d like to be an advocate for women in the developing world. Economically and politically unstable countries have fewer women in education and even fewer opportunities to access positions of leadership. All women should be able to live a life free from fear and repression. Women are important to world peace and also to the world economy so I'd work to see a world with an equal balance of empowered, educated and respected women shaping the future.

How would you describe eporta to a colleague?

A fresh thinking one-stop sourcing service, minimising the hassle of admin.

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