Meet talented and totally awesome interior designer Celia Sawyer, star of BBC TV’s Your Home in their Hands and C4’s Four Rooms, producer of gorgeous interior designs, and wearer of some of the highest shoes on TV! Celia spent 20 minutes on the A Passion for Homes sofa answering some of our most burning TV and interior designer questions.
The new series of Four Rooms on More 4 is very popular, how did you become involved in the show?
I do a lot of buying of bits and bobs for my clients, collectables, and because you are part of this network you get interested in these kinds of programs, so I saw it on television – it was the first series, as I wasn’t in that one – and I thought that might be quite good for me to go on, I might get some good deals. I saw an advert from them asking if people have any interesting objects for the show, so I sent them a picture of myself and said how about me as one of your dealers and the next thing I know, they phone me and I went to see them, and that’s where it all started.
Are there any items that you wished you had secured but didn’t?
There are always items I’d wished I’d secured, such as an Agatha Christie silver box that I really loved and Gordon got that one, there were Alexander McQueen prototype dresses that I really loved but they were bought by someone else; I actually fell out with that dealer at the time! But what normally happens is you get over it and you find something else, because there’s so much choice on that show that you can always find something else you are happy with and you can get your own back then from someone who has nicked something else from under your nose!
Highlight of the show so far for you?
There have been quite a few nice pieces so far this series, one of the first items that was shown in this series is Maurice Gibb’s guitar from the Bee Gees, he composed Jive Talking on that, and that’s probably one of my favourite bits and pieces that I’ve bought this time. It’s a bit more special than having it signed by him – it was his, that he used, and so it has good providence as well as history. It was a nice item to buy and I was quite pleased because I managed to get it at a good price, which is my favourite part of the show!
How enjoyable was doing Your Home in their Hands?
It was a great show to be on. It was very odd because I didn’t get to see the houses finished, I obviously saw it when I went in to meet the clients, but then I’d only see it then when finished, and walk in and have a great shock, usually thinking ‘Oh my goodness, what am I going to say to the owners, I hope they don’t think I’ve done it!’. Of course, I did feel involved and would think, ‘Oh my goodness, maybe I should put it right for them!’. That would change the format of the show a bit though, although it was something that was discussed at one point. It’s very difficult because you are dealing with people’s homes and they’ve all given up their homes, knowing what might happen.
At the time people said it was a bit cruel but actually no-one was forced to be on the show! They were told all the way through the possible things that could happen and that they could pull out at any time because the designers are not professionals, but they all wanted to do it, so although there were a few upset people, they did know what they were letting themselves in for! I’m sure you will agree that the some of the houses looked pretty awful before they were touched and even if they didn’t like what had been done, it’s a new room, it’s all fresh and it’s better than what they had.
What’s it like opening the door and not knowing what’s on the inside?!
Yes, I was dreading it! You know when you open a door really slowly because you’re wondering if you really want to be there and actually go inside. It was fun to film and there were some great people involved; some people were extremely happy with the results and some people weren’t so happy.
Is there one particular design that stands out for you?
There were a few awkward ones – I mean the bedroom one, where the ceiling was red and the room was a bit of a mish mash of colours and patterns – very strange. I mean interior design is very subjective, but that room I couldn’t get my head around – I couldn’t see anything that tied up with anything else!
I felt the guy who did the bathroom in that episode was good – he had a good eye – and also there was a dining room later on that was particularly good, she’d done the bedroom earlier on in the episode and the dining room was the shared room. I think she had talent and she’s obviously read a lot of books and she loved interior design, where as some of them were just a bit too ‘out there’ for the people’s houses they were designing for.
What do you think was the hardest room to design for the amateurs?
In my view I would think doing a child’s room, especially a teenager’s room as they can be quite fussy! If you get it wrong… well, if you saw the episode with the teenager’s bedroom, she was obviously quite upset because she wanted things like a dressing table but she didn’t want them just drawn on the walls with a thick marker pen, she wanted the real items! That was difficult and I think when it comes to the kind of person who is the client in this programme, I think you can maybe convince the adult of the positives and they’ll go along with it and try most things as long as it looks nice and has functionality but when it comes to teenagers it’s a bit more tricky, so I thought that was quite a tough one. I thought ‘What would I do in there?’ because I didn’t know much about her, she didn’t give away a lot about what she really, really wanted, so it would have been a bit more of a challenge, especially as it was a small room. She wasn’t happy with the outcome, poor thing!
Any plans for a new series?
We’re talking about lots of things at the moment so I can’t say for sure. If there is a new series, it will probably be tweaked and if there isn’t there will probably be something else, it’s in the pipeline, so I can’t really say at this moment, but as soon as anything develops, I will let you know.
What’s been your most unusual or your favourite interior design project through your own business?
There have been a few but I think one of the most recent ones was a house in Avenue Road in St Johns Wood and that was quite a challenge because it was redeveloped by someone in the past, and it need a lot of help, it needed to be really glammed up. It was nice to do as an interior designer because it needed a lot of accessories and a lot of light and reflective surfaces, it needed a lot of help because although it was a pretty house from the outside internally it was quite ordinary and a little bit dull, so to glam that up was fun. I’m also working on a very nice beach home at the moment, which I’ve also made all the furniture for, and that’s lovely because I’ve just designed it for that particular home. Again, I’ve used reflective materials because the home is near the water, looking out at it, so it’s nice to see those sea views in those surfaces as well as in mirrors on the wall.
What’s your personal interior design style – we’re just being nosey really, wondering what your home is like?!
According to most people who come there it’s very comfortable and the layout is quite nice; it’s warm, inviting and comfortable, but still contemporary without being cold so it’s not quite as, I suppose, glamourous as other houses; I’ve got quite an eclectic mix of things, a mix of antique pieces and a lot of artwork on the walls which makes it interesting, quite a mix!
What are your top three interior design tips for the amateur designer?
If you’re quite an amateur or DIY starter or novice I would say keep your walls and floors quite plain and then add your colours and any patterns with your accessories until you become braver and know a bit more about it.
Always have a ‘star piece’, you need something in a room, doesn’t matter what it is or your budget – you can find something in a junk shop even – it just needs to stand out, be a little different and I love using one of those in every room I design; just one.
Also another tip is to work out if your walls are your background or your foreground, so if you’re going to put wallpaper up, don’t make it too busy if you’re going to prominently display your artwork on top of it. If you don’t want to display your artwork, or it’s not important to you then that’s fine, have a great pattern on the wall, but if you want to use the wall as your background, a canvas, then keep it simple.
Is there one error that most people, including the designers on your home in their hands, repeatedly do?
I find doors can be a problem! A lot of people I work with put their doors on going into the room the wrong way, and cut off a large portion of the room than if they had hung it the other way. Or people forget if they are doing a refurb to think about using sliding doors because it saves an awful lot of space. Things like that are very important to consider when you’re designing a room. When thinking about using colours and choice of furniture, one thing I often notice that people don’t do is thinking about the flow of the room, and that’s really important. The room feels blocked – even if it’s not obviously blocked like walking straight into the back of a sofa! – but the way it’s laid out blocks the flow, but that’s something that you can learn to do with time and practice.
I’m talking to various people about TV projects which will be to do with interior design, I’m also designing more of my own furniture which is made in the UK, which is great. It’s something I enjoy doing wherever I am – I designed one of my cabinets on the back of a napkin in Pizza Express, so it’s now called the Pizza Express cabinet (laughs), but it is a lovely, beautiful cabinet! I’ve got lots going on, talking to young people to help motivate them in 6th forms in school, I do a lot of charity work and I’m designing a jewellery range too, which is in its early stages as it’s taking me a lot longer than I thought it would because it’s more complicated. I’m always on the go!
When do you sleep?!
(Laughs) That’s right, I get very tired and then think to myself, I wonder why that is! The girls in my office are like; ‘Oh my goodness!’ and I also look after my two children, so they tire me out!
How do you walk in your gorgeous shoes – we are in awe!
Oh my shoes! Tell you what, it’s taken a lot of practice! I never used to be able to walk in any high heeled shoes at all, and I’m still not great, but I walk very slowly! I love shoes and I pick some fantastic looking shoes and then I think, ‘great, how am I going to walk in those?!’ and do you know what, I just walk really slow, because you can get away with that on television! If I was walking along anywhere you’d be seeing me half a mile behind you!
Thanks Celia! Keep visiting A Passion for Homes for a nose around Celia’s latest interior design project, coming soon.