This month, we put the questions to interior designer Claire Rendall, who has been working on projects across all areas of the home for almost three decades…
What is your career background?
I have run my own design business for 28 years. The challenge when you run your own business is that you often end up at the asme point doing all the roles. However, I am happiest at my drawing board.
Previously I was a graphic designer and specifically designing food packaging and promotions. It was great training because it teaches you to have a fastidious eye for detail and an ability to pinpoint what your customers want. If you can sell your packet of cheese amongst all the others in those split seconds, chanced are you’ll be able to hone into what your clients’ tastes are and what they want in their home.
What made you choose a career in design?
I’ve always loved design, across all areas from fashion to film to architecture. Interior design is great because it encompasses so many areas from textiles to 3D design of furniture and the magic of lighting. It’s a little bit of theatre, a bit of fashion, a bit of architecture and a bit of sculpture. I’m always fascinated at how different people react to different interiors; how one person’s cozy is another’s stuffy, and how someone might love cool, chic contemporary interiors which another will find cold and sterile. We’re all different and that’s what makes it so interesting.
What is the best part of your job?
The very best part is the reveal to the client. All the hard work, blood, sweat and tears finally completed into something you are truly proud of. That is the greatest buzz. I love the process too and the magic of transforming drawings into reality and working with some fabulous craftsmen and women.
What is the toughest part of your job?
Each project has its own peculiarities and unique set of problems. I love the problem solving part. I don’t like to take no for an answer and I love working through issues with professionals in their own fields. Unrealistic timing are probably the biggest worry but it’s about managing expectations and creating schedules that are realistic for everyone to create their best work.
Which designer/product/building most inspired you and why?
I love Frank Gehry, Frank Lloyd Wright and Zaha Hadid. I just love their unique way of looking at the world. One of my favourite buildings is Falling Water by Frank Lloyd Wright. I love the way it sits in the landscape and how everything is thought about inside from a fireplace that makes you feel as though you’re sitting by a river to repeat patterns in every texture and door handle. I love a building that’s a complete concept. Gehry’s museum in Bilbao is phenomenal and I don’t think there’s a design by Hadid that doesn’t make me think ‘wow’!
Which have been your favourite projects so far and why?
It was obviously a joy and privilege to create interiors and furniture for Lord Bath at Longleat. To add to such an incredible collection was as daunting as it was exciting. Designing for and appearing on BBC1’s DIY SOS was also great because we helped some really lovely people.
My first project in Sydney was also a joy. The client wanted ‘sumptuous’ so I created rooms with solid walnut skirtings and door frames, richly veneered doors with handmade bronze door handles. All furniture was bespoke and designed by me. The kitchen was one of my favourite rooms. I used richly figured burr walnut with ebony detailing and 200-year-old oak flooring from a tobacco factory in the Loire.
All cabinetry was made from walnut with beautifully dovetailed joints. For the splashbacks and worktops I used book matched Carrarra marble. I used the same marble for the bathroom. Massive book matched panels were installed by a fabulous Italian craftsman who came out of retirement to make sure everything was perfect. It was so perfect that the marble pattern reflected in the mirror and perfectly matched the marble surrounding it.
Who are what inspires you?
I’m a bit of a photographic freak and take photos all the time. It can be of textures or shapes or shadows. These can often trigger an idea. I love travelling and I think it’s important to top up the image bank in your head with new ideas and ways of doing things.
Current music choices:
Last night it was Tinariwen, fabulous Tuareg musicians from Sahara. I can also happily be stuck in the 80s, or Bowie or classical music. A little like my interiors, my tastes are pretty eclectic.
Favourite place in the world:
There’s a pebble beach in Devon. It’s on the Jurassic Coast and it soothes the soul.
Which famous designer (past or present) would you most like to invite round for a cup of tea?
I have in my mind that Schiaparelli might be fun because her work is so whimsical and playful and that appeals to me. Having said that, the twinkle with which Frank Gehry gave a journalist the middle finger for suggesting that this work was just about spectacle makes me think it would be an interesting conversation. And I love his work.
Social media: love it or loathe it? If the former, which do you use?
I’ve been dragged kicking and screaming into the social media age. Parts of it I love. I regularly use Twitter and Instagram. I should use LinkedIn more. I do have a bit of a mental block about Facebook. Don’t know why but I find the format a bit hard work. I think I like Twitter and Instagram because they can be image-led and short and sharp. Perfect snippets in a busy day.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
It wasn’t said directly to me but Nina Campbell once said “Never believe your own publicity.” I think a sense of perspective is a good thing… in more ways than one (that’s an interiors/architects joke by the way!).
Claire Rendall / clairerendall.com