#IWD2020 4!

  • Jacqui Smith from Homesmiths interiors is an interior designer. Here is her inspiring contribution.

What is your business and how did you get into that particular line of work?  “As a little girl I would decorate dolls houses and drive my parents potty, rearranging my bedroom yet I went to a very academic school and ended up studying Economics and Maths at St Andrews.  On graduating I ended up in sales promotion but never felt like it was me.  When I met my now husband, a cabinet maker, the idea of running our own business started to take shape.  I had been helping friends with design projects for some time but nothing on a professional basis so I went on some courses to deepen my knowledge in certain areas.  In 1999, HomeSmiths started as a bespoke furniture business and the interior design side grew from that. By 2007 we decided to focus on purely on the ID side of the business and close the workshop. By 2010 we had won a contract with Barratt Homes to design their show homes, and also embarked on our first care home project.

Did you/do you have any challenges to overcome? If so, how did you do/are you doing?  In 2012 with the business growing in both residential, show home and care home sectors, I permanently lost the sight in my left eye.  This proved to be a pivotal point in the business as my own personal experience of sight loss gave me a real understanding of how the built environment play such a key role in supporting people with sensory loss.  I am now a specialist in care home and retirement living design, with a deep understanding of dementia friendly design.  I give talks about my experience, guest lecture at Solent University and have taken up a local role as Chair of the Haywards Heath Dementia Action Alliance.

What are your most important successes and achievements in your opinion (inside or outside of your business) that you are most proud of?  David and I started the business with nothing and are proud of how we have grown despite navigating recession, my sight loss and Brexit!  We have some great clients within retirement living and care homes and so much of our work comes via word of mouth.  My sight loss has been life changing but at the same time, it has propelled me into a sector which I feel I was always meant to work in.  We have twice made finalist an international healthcare design awards and just recently completed a luxury care home (Henley Manor) for Hallmark, of which I am extremely proud.

What is one piece of advice that you would give another member based on your unique experience? Imposter syndrome is something that I have always struggled with since my degree is not in ID.  Deep down I have always believed I had the skills to be a successful designer and in 2005 I met a hugely talented American designer, an ex-banker.  Meredith told me that she had no formal qualifications and that she felt to be successful in ID, you needed to have an eye for colour, be hugely organised and “smart”.  That helped me.  Also, the knowledge now that the people in this world who do not live with a degree of imposter syndrome, are probably more likely the imposters and those who do, are humble enough to always strive to learn and improve, so are not the imposters!