Business name: Camellia Interiors
Office location: Truro, Cornwall
When was the business founded: 2003
How many employees: 5
Business Cornwall: How is the business best described?
A Cornwall-based interior design practice with an edgy understated approach to designing, furnishing or refurbishing private homes, holiday homes, show homes, home staging and Commercial projects. Founded and run by myself, Elaine Skinner, I have 30 years experience in the industry. I have purposely kept the practice small which means all clients get to work with me personally. This close interaction with clients enables me to deliver a highly individual and tailored approach. We are also one of the only qualified and accredited British Institute of Interior Design practices in the county, which I am extremely proud of.
Business Cornwall: Why was the business founded?
In 2003 I had a bad road accident and I had to have several operations as a result, which really put a sense of fearlessness into me. During this time, I borrowed some money from a close friend who believed in me (thank you Clive!) which meant I was able to get started. To me this felt like a no-brainer. My biggest motivation was wanting to be able to stand on my own two feet and prove to everyone that I was independent and successful despite going through such a tough time. I was a ‘go-getter’ and wouldn’t take no for an answer, constantly on the phone to suppliers and contractors to try and make everything run smoothly in order to create success. My first real client was a couple called Sally and Sean, whom I still see now, thank you both for believing in me! Once I was in the swing of things there was no stopping me and began to grow organically through word of mouth and recommendations.
Business Cornwall: How does the business compare to competitors in the industry?
I totally understand and always consider return on investment, as well as design, function and aesthetics. In the current climate, it feels that many others are striving to do everything and cover every angle from design through to retail. I don’t, I offer an old school service where you are getting design from the person with the most experience not a graduate or junior and you are getting 100% of my attention on your project. As my business expanded, I was increasingly working on everything other than my clients, who were being looked after by the rest of the team and I realised this was wrong, clients want the top person. I know what you can spend on, what and how you can play with budgets, and how to get the best out of your budget and stick to it, regardless of how much you can afford. I am recommended as I can be effective and I get to know quickly what a client values or doesn’t.
On average Camellia Interiors increases holiday home revenue by at least 25%, impressive in such a crowded market place and with our show homes and home staging work, we make estate agents and developers jobs easier. I also make sure our designs will last, not just the heavy footfall and everyday wear and tear but outlive any trends that may come and go, ours remain timeless, an important factor that is too often overlooked by interior decorators. I totally understand just what it takes to set the tone for today’s discerning customers and deliver a premium return on investment for my clients.
Business Cornwall: What are the business’s plans both short-term and long-term?
In the last few years I have streamlined the business back to its roots of being solely a design practice. Clients needs have changed and we have adapted accordingly. Often they want to supply much of their project themselves, so I decided to ensure we were prepared for this, working more as consultants, giving them my experience and sourcing knowledge but leaving them free to buy if they want to. The Internet has given everyone so many resources that I no longer wanted to keep the retail element going, we will be concentrating solely on the practice side of the business. There are many good Interior Decorators around Cornwall offering the retail part, but that is not us, we are qualified and accredited Interior Designers.
To clarify, interior design is the art and science of understanding people’s behavior and to create functional spaces within a building. Decoration is the furnishing or adorning of a space with fashionable or beautiful things. In short, interior designers may decorate, but decorators do not design. Interior designers must adhere to code and regulatory requirements and encourage the principles of environmental sustainability, the same process that an architect follows. In Europe and America and pretty much everywhere but the UK, you can’t call yourself an interior designer unless you’re licensed, it’s illegal. It is a shame that it isn’t the case here, as many professionals shy away from working with designers as the experiences and beliefs are that we are all interior decorators and that is not the case. A long-term goal of mine is to clear the disparity to enable both decorators and designers to have respect for what they do and what they can offer.
Business Cornwall: How does the business define success?
Being an interior designer can mean lots of things, loads of creativity and vision, understanding people, objectives and budgets, loads of planning, a little bit of hand holding, some psychology and lots of empathy. You’ve got to be able to empathise with your client, the builder, the supplier, everyone.
When you have designed a space and the client loves it, that is success. It is the best feeling and the best thing about the job. If you create something and you put it out there and you know that somebody else is genuinely thrilled with it, then that is your reward and there is no better feeling! It’s a business of helping others and I absolutely love what I do.