Sourcing can be enough of a time-drain when it’s the only thing you’re working on, but like many members of the Eporta community, Tracy is a secret super-hero.
As we’ve worked with our community over the last 2 years, we realised there are many untold stories that you only get to hear in those rare moments you take real time to talk to someone. Our first interview is with a designer whose story really shines through.
In the kitchen of an ultra-stylish residential project in Kensington, London, we spoke to Tracy about how she made the decision to set up her own studio, the glamour (or rather, lack of) in the day-to-day of being an interior designer, and why she started a school for autistic children.
Why did you decide to be an interior designer?
I love the end of the project. Really seeing how the interiors have transformed the client’s home and created something for them that they might not have envisaged is the ultimate goal. After all, they put their trust and money behind you and the aim is to create a unique scheme – not something they could have just bought themselves on the high street.
What do you find the hardest part of the job?
Sourcing used to be harder but eporta has changed this for me (and I’m not just saying that because you’re interviewing me!). The thing I probably find hardest is managing deliveries and making sure everything happens on time so the project is complete on time.
People always talk to us about interior design being a very glamorous profession, although in reality when we see how hard our community works we see a different story. Do you think interior design is glamorous?
I agree a lot of people think it is but sometimes it really isn’t. Yes there is the side of interiors we all love, the creativity and purchasing gorgeous products. However, there is a side that is laborious and we are constantly juggling lots of things and fixing problems – I suppose if being on your hands and knees fixing something is glamorous then yes I have a very glamorous job!
Many things can go wrong in the process that we often don’t talk about as a community. We need to be honest about the things that don’t go to plan, it happens to all of us.
And how did you go about starting the studio?
Having worked for a property developer for over 7 years in Chelsea, it was a big step to make. However, no sooner had I left I was recommended by a local estate agent to a client who wanted a large property furnishing completely in the local area. I have been very fortunate to work on various projects in the last year and a half, pretty much all recommendations from existing clients.
What’s your ambition for the studio?
What I like about the studio now is building real relationships with my clients and that’s something I don’t want to lose by expanding too much. Helping a client create their dream space is what I love about the job, so being too far detached from that wouldn’t make me happy in the level of service I’m giving. So really I’d like to carry on working with great clients who really want help to create something special.
What made you decide to set up your own interior design studio?
I love working with lots of different clients and getting to know them, which I find you can do more when you’re working for yourself. Although admittedly a key part of the decision was really to do with my children. I have twin daughters, Freya and Chloe, who I need to work around like any other parent. Freya also has autism which has meant a very different set of challenges.
She was diagnosed with autism at a very young age. From birth she was different – she was difficult to settle suffering from silent reflux and found it hard to sleep. At 2 years 8 months we received the official autism diagnosis, it was shortly after that we were told by a private speech therapist that she still had no idea about communication – she didn’t recognise her name and couldn’t respond to simple instructions.
What astounded me at the time was the lack of support available for Freya. Feeling isolated, all of a sudden finding good care and importantly a way to bring Freya on was a very big challenge.
I was then approached by another parent who wanted to start a free school for children with autism – I joined the team and one year after starting the process the school was open.
I really wanted to make sure that I could take Freya to school and to see more of both my daughters. It was important that my work was flexible around that. So I made a decision that when Freya went to school I would start working for myself and set up Tracy Holliday Interiors.
We’re lost for words. Tell us more about the school…
When looking for schools for the twins I realised that a mainstream provision may not be the right answer for Freya, especially having just turned 4 and being non-verbal. It was when looking at other schools that I met Jo, the lead parent founder and started this incredible journey with the others to apply and set up the free school.
We particularly wanted the school to follow an approach to teaching children with autism called Applied Behaviour Analysis and feel incredibly lucky to have been approved and to have found an amazing team of teachers and tutors. We are now in our second year and have 58 children – we will eventually grow to 96 children from the ages of 4 – 16 years old. It sometimes feels surreal when I drop Freya at school, it has been the best thing I have ever done – especially when I see how happy she is in her new setting.
Supporting a new school and opening a business in the same year is an incredibly brave decision! How do you find the time to do all of this?
I have created a lifestyle that allows me to ability to flex between the two, however that is not to say that long hours aren’t involved! Managing my time is probably the biggest issue in my job however with the school now open and being ran by the professionals means much less involvement than the early stages. In truth, I love both.
You can find out more about Tracy and her work at tracyhollidayinteriors.co.uk
If you’re an interior designer, architect or trade buyer you might be eligible for free membership to eporta. Request membership at eporta.com
Discover Tracy’s latest residential project in Kensington: