An interview with Karen Walker, Interior Designer
Karen Walker talks to us about starting her own business after 23 years working for someone else’s company and the specific pressures brought by working in the North of England. We also showcase some of her hotel and library projects.
How long has Karen Walker been going?
Since 2017, before that I worked for a commercial interior design company in Newcastle for 23 years. I had been doing small projects myself in my spare time and had obviously had many years of experience and it reached the point where I needed to step outside of the box. There were restrictions on me working for someone else and so I said to myself “It is now or never”
I really listen to the client, everything comes from them. The more they give me the better I can create their style of interior, I never put my own style into it. It is all about the personality of the client and it all depends on them.
My ideal client
My ideal client is one that knows what they want and is willing to give a brief that I can go on and fulfil. A client that is willing to try new things, give it a go and not be afraid to let me get on with the job – and of course ideally to not be restricted by budget although I confess a lot do have budget restrictions.
Interior of Jesmond Dene House Hotel, Newcastle upon Tyne by Karen Walker Interior Design
In my area of country, the North, budget is not only important but usually tighter so I really have to be clever about how to achieve the wow factor. In fact if there was too much money to spend I wouldn’t know where to start.
My preferred sector
I like a variety. Commercial clients are not usually emotionally connected to the interior design whereas domestic clients are very emotional and attached about their home and that makes it hard going sometimes. Commercial projects have valuable reasons for carrying out the design work and I like that.
Interior of Ashington Library, Northumberland by Karen Walker Interior Design
Projects I would not undertake
I have never turned down a project and always wanted to find out more about it and speak to the person first, I certainly would never turn down a project without first knowing more about it. I do like the variety and have worked on education, hotels – across the board really.
A typical project of mine
I have been working on a small boutique hotel, Jesmond Dene House in Newcastle upon Tyne, and have been given scope to upgrade the bedrooms and lounges, I have really enjoyed it. It is the biggest commercial project I have done since starting up on my own. The core challenge was the budget – the rooms were already designated so the challenge was to put a new stamp on it.
My biggest frustration is when I have been working on a design alongside the client and at the end of the day they end up going for something completely different! Turning it on its head like that does not please me.
The stages I work to in design are Budget stages, Planning stage, Concept design then detailed design and then full costings.
I wish I had started my own business earlier although it is incredibly hard work. It is early days and I am finding it very rewarding. One of the areas I find challenging is the marketing as “putting it out there” is not really my style.
Currently I am winning business through word of mouth and my business is building up on the trust I create with my clients.
Interior of the lounge in Rothay Garden Hotel, Ambleside, Lake District