The summer is a wonderful time to update your home. Although an interior renovation project can be stressful and overwhelming, it doesn’t have to be if you utilise an expert for tips, advice, consultation and inspiration.
With that in mind, we caught up with one of Suffolk’s residential and commercial design experts, Jojo Humes Brown, who has been in the profession for over 15 years working on projects like Jimmy’s Farm Shop and Butchery. Here, she shares her thoughts on summer trends, styling tips and the overall interior design process.
How did you get into the design industry?
When I was in my late 20s, I had three small children and wanted to find a part time creative outlet where I could express myself. I’ve always been interested in design and loved it as there’s so many possibilities. Starting out, I managed to get a job at Laura Ashley where I was able to learn extensively about all aspects of design and here I am 15 years later.
Where do you draw your passion for interior design from?
I love to mix old and new and anyone who has seen my designs will know that I love a mix of different textures. My designs particularly layered, with lots of colour and I am not a fan of generic looks. Personally, I love to go vintage and I like to be inspired by nature.
Who are your biggest design inspirations?
Because I do commercial and residential properties, I am inspired by a lot of different people with varying design styles although my main inspirations have arisen from the hotel trades. So, commercially, I am inspired by Kit Kemp and also The Soho House Group aesthetic, which mixes the old with the new and has lots and lots of texture. Residentially, I am inspired by Abigail Hern and her use of dark and dramatic designs as well as her range of plants, which I like to use in my own schemes.
Do you think the rural landscape that surrounds your Ipswich showroom influences your design tastes?
Yeah, I do feel that being in the country is of real benefit if I’m not inspired. If I get a bit stuck, I can always just pop out with the dog, Hector who works with me. We go out into the countryside, get some fresh air and on our return we are fresh and inspired.
Can you talk us through the design process? Where do you begin and where does it take you?
The design process usually starts with me going to the premises, which can be either commercial or residential. I do this to visit and meet my clients, initially to see what work, if any they’ve already completed, so I can see what their taste is. Then, I collect some information on their budget requirements and time scales. I recognise that not everyone has a bottomless pit and I like the challenge of working within the budget and tailoring the service to each individual customer. So, that’s my first port of call.
Then, I come back to the office and gather lots of stylistic, colour and mood information from my conversations with the client. I utilise Pinterest, Instagram and other similar platforms to put together my ideas. Then, I start the process which sometimes can take quite a while. Overall, it’s an organic and mutual process that goes backwards and forwards. It not quite as it seems on 60 minute makeover, I like to provide a scheme with integrity and style that will last for years to come.
What would you say is the most challenging part of the design process?
I think my biggest challenge is when customers don’t really know what they want and say they have no expectations in the initial consultation. This is because, often, I usually go back to them with something and discover they actually do have certain ideas, likes and dislikes etc. So, I have found it’s very important to listen, take notes and ask lots of questions around what do they like and don’t like. Along with how they want to feel in their home and how they are going to use the room or rooms currently and in the future.
The people of Suffolk will likely recognise your adaptation of the Butchery and Farm Shop at Jimmy’s Farm. How did you go about designing this space?
Well, I saw what they already had and we talked in length about how the whole design would work. Sometimes, the shop goes from being not very busy to being absolutely mad during a festival, so it needed more space and better flow as the previous layout wasn’t the most productive. Although I wanted it to look good and photograph well, the new design needed to work better, I have not fulfilled my brief if it just looks good.
As part of this, we created different avenues, so different client bases, including people with families could easily navigate the shop. It also made it so the shop could stock and display more food products on different levels and accent the many different points of interest. This way, when customers enter, they see the beautiful tiles, but then also see the hanging racks and greenery that are there. This way, it’s not all just instant as people go in and rather like a journey through following our opening up of the rear entrance
As a floor fitting specialist, we endeavour to stay ahead of the curve and give our clients a floor that is both stylish and practical. How do you think about the flooring aspect of a project?
Flooring has to come first because it’s usually the first thing to be done. I like to ask customers about what aspects they care about most when discussing the flooring, including the appearance, durability and practicalities. For instance, do they have pets, what is the budget and do have time to look after it? You have to start from the bottom up really. So we start by determining what floor they want and then we work up from there.
Do you have any preferences to carpets, laminates, hardwoods or rugs? How do you like to dress your floors?
I love to dress them all and I love to layer them. As an example, I’d love to put a wooden floor down, whether it’s a laminate or an engineered oak, and then layer it up with a beautiful vintage rug. I prefer to use flooring types across the board and don’t like to limit myself to anything, so I like to use them all where they work best.
What kind of flooring would we find in your home?
My home is a 70s home, so it’s a mid-century look and I’ve got cork flooring, which I like because it’s ecological and very hard wearing. I’ve also got some wood and some tiles as well.
What advice would you give so somebody who is looking to spruce up their home this summer, are there any trends they should look at?
I always say to all customers that every home needs some plants and greenery in it because otherwise, it looks a little flat and lifeless, plants give so much back. I’m not really trend driven and prefer things that are timeless such as art and plants and would rather spend some money and invest in a really good piece that will last me and can adapt and could move around and be used for different things. Still, the finishing touches are definitely the throws and the cushions as they are something that you can adapt from room to room and season to season.That is my preference so it’s not a sort of a short-term thing.
If you could go back in time to when you were just starting out, what advice would you give yourself (and others in the same position)?
When I was a child, I was told interior design wasn’t possible as a career, so I went off and did something else, but still kept at it. Eventually, I decided not to take no for an answer and here I am today. Sometimes, you just have to put yourself out there and show people what you can do. There’s so much scope now with all the social media platforms and it’s all a visual thing. I still do mood boards and people still want them, like them, keep them and show them to their friends. Although I’m not formally trained, that hasn’t held me back. However, if you want to go down that path I think now you have to learn to use key apps and technologies like Sketch Up and Photoshop. And it is key to be good at speaking to people – it is very important for the job.
We extend a huge thank you to JoJo for taking the time to talk to us. Don’t forget to check out her website at https://jojohumesbrown.co.uk/ and for more interior design talk, please read our interview with Avoda Stein on how to decorate for the season.