After studying for a Diploma in Interior Design and Decoration at the Inchbald School of Design, Michelle Chasey launched her own interior design business, The Design Fairy, in 2010. Although Chasey offers a traditional interior design service, where she handles the project from first meeting the client to full completion, she’s become best known for her virtual design service, ideal for those with busy lives who don’t want to trawl through endless swatches of fabrics and samples of flooring. The online service helps design novices transform a room from as little as £250, making it one of the few ways to achieve an affordable interior designer finish. I met with Chasey to find out what sparked her passion for interior design, why she launched The Design Fairy and which trends she sees emerging.
What inspired you to become an interior designer?
Initially I did a degree in business and Spanish at university but I was never really that into it. I always wanted to do something property related. I had moved a lot when I was younger. My parents would buy a house, do it up and we’d move a few years later. So I always had this interest in property. When I left university I was a bit lost. I thought about becoming an estate agent but it wasn’t for me. Someone suggested I look at interior design and I fell in love with it. I’ve always been interested in interiors, I loved reading interior magazines and looking at furniture. I just loved being submersed in it. I did a course online while I was worked for an interior designer. Then I worked for homeware brand, OKA, in their interior design service. In 2010 I came up with the idea of The Design Fairy.
What service does The Design Fairy offer?
It started as a virtual interior design and advice service. I put together the interior design for a client but they implement it themselves. It’s all done virtually. I do all the drawings and presentations and I send it to them but they implement it themselves. It’s more affordable than a traditional interior design service. So that’s how it started and it’s doing well. I still do traditional interior design for those who want me to meet them, come up with the concept and follow it through until completion, but many clients are so busy, they don’t want to meet regularly. A lot of clients just want to know what to buy, where to buy it and how to create the look. I am hugely keen on providing a really personal service. Some people say they have no idea what they want, but when you give them a design they hate it. You have to get to know what they do for work, where they travel, what they like to eat, everything that influences their life. I was recently working on a project for a client who loved Italy and cooking. We had to make sure she had lots of space to cook and lots of accessories that were personal to her, such as beautiful pasta jars and space for her cookbooks. I provide little touches that are personal so they know they are paying for a one-off design, rather than just a knock off of something you’ve done before.
What projects are you working on right now?
On the virtual side I’m working on a really lovely two bed apartment in Kent. The lady has just moved in. She sent me photos and all I could see was boxes. She works full time and has an online business on the side so she doesn’t have any time. I’m also working on a holiday home in India. I have a lot of international clients using the virtual service, particularly in India and Dubai. They seem to really connect with it which is great.
Then on the traditional side I am working on refurbishing a conference room and waiting room for a high profile organisation on the Embankment [in London]. It’s quite different to anything else I’ve done before. It’s a very hotel style. I love traditional interior but for them everything has to be modern and sleek. I’m using lots of mirrored glass, silks, gloss and black lacquer. It’s pushing my creativity. It’s really different. Other than that, I’m just finishing off a complete refurbishment of an apartment in Balham and coming up I’ll be working on a three bedroom house in Fulham and a two bedroom apartment in Battersea.
When it comes to interiors, what’s on trend right now?
In terms of trends, I wouldn’t say people are getting back to basics as such but there is a definitive leaning toward a more natural look. People seem to love chunky knit cushions and natural materials, wooden coffee tables and furniture. Right now people want furniture that doesn’t look as if it’s been processed, they want it to be as close to its natural form as possible. I’ve also noticed, although I’m not sure if it’s because of a certain popular book, that everyone seems to love grey right now. Grey seems to be a favourite for colour schemes and soft furnishings. Also, and this could be seasonal, autumnal colours, leafy greens, amber and orange are all popular. During the summer months people’s focus is on the outside. During the winter months that focus shifts to the inside, you’re in a confined space and you want to be comfortable in that space. I think there’s a certain psychology behind it, you have to have somewhere to enjoy the inside time and adding warming touches makes it more comfortable.
Can you give us some foolproof interior design tips?
I definitely don’t advocate white on walls at all. In terms of trends at the moment, I think grey walls are lovely. I really love Farrow & Ball’s shade cornforth white. It’s a very soft grey, it’s very warm but it’s not dark, so it doesn’t make the room feel small, instead it feels light and airy. In terms of other tips… I suppose if you want to change a room without going to a lot of expense, then buy different cushions, throws or wall art. With the trend of naturals, you can use a lot of textured frames to create a feature wall. Each frame can have a lovely memory in it. It’s also nice, particularly at this time of year, to bring a bit of the outside in using faux flora.
Do you have any essential go-to brands?
Having worked there, I have an affinity for OKA. I love their furniture and accessories. Their style is right up my street. I also love John Lewis. It may not stock only British products, but the store itself is quintessentially British and they’ve got great variety. There are lots of good smaller places that offer excellent decorative works. I love NotOnTheHighStreet.com too. They’ve got lovely stuff and it’s a great place to find new British designers. I came across Squint Ltd recently. All of Squint’s furniture is made in the North of England and they upholster it in Shoreditch [London]. Each piece is patchwork, so quite striking, so ideal for statement pieces. They also have some great lacquered furniture too.
To find out more about Michelle Chasey and The Design Fairy visit www.thedesignfairy.com