Spotlight on Karen Knox of Making Spaces
Karen has always been interested in design from an early age and moved to Leeds in '97 to complete a Bachelor of Arts Degree at the Northern School of Contemporary Dance. Taking a career break after having her son, inspired her interior design interest again and she started up her interior design business from home, while looking after her son.
Her designs are simply stunning, cutting edge and more importantly, lived in by real people and if you head on over to her website; through the button below, you will see glowing references as well as her Blog where she shares her designs and inspiration.
Read on to hear her journey.
1. What was the reason behind you starting your business?
Interior design is something i’d always had an interest in. Choosing my bedroom wallpaper and paint colours, rearranging my furniture, rearranging my parents’ furniture, painting my brother’s bedroom when I was about 13. My dad was a Design & Technology teacher and an amazing carpenter. All of our furniture at home was hand made by him. Design had always been something i’d been surrounded by. My own background was in Dance, I began at 4 and ended my training aged 21 with a Degree in Contemporary Dance from the Northern School of Contemporary dance. Dance and project management within the arts became my career for the next decade.
After taking a career break to have my son, I craved something new, something different. I needed to do something creative with myself but wasn’t quite sure what. What I did know is that my obsession for design had grown immensely. I’d already bought, renovated and sold my first house and was in the process of refurbishing our new house. Friends would ask me for advice all the time, how to solve problems, find things, layout issues etc.. I don’t really know how I knew the answers, it was all instinctive really. But it was this that made me think I might be half decent at interior design. But not the average, every day run of the mill stuff when you hear the words “interior design”, I wanted to work with people like my friends, like me. Those people that would never have thought to work with an interior designer before.
I sure do like a challenge and nothing spurs me on more than changing people’s misconceptions about interior design; what it was and who it’s for.
2. How did you fund your business?
At around the same time as setting up Making Spaces, I sold my first house and made some money on that. Enough to keep my going for about a year before I needed to start panicking about making some money. The first year, I barely made any, it was about saying yes to everything. Getting myself out there. Networking (hate that, i’m a natural introvert and PR/Marketing spiel doesn’t go down well with my cynical northern-ness) but it’s something every small business needs to get their head around. Doesn’t matter how good your work is if nobody knows about it or sees it.
3. What help was missing for you?
Setting Making Spaces up whilst still being a stay at home mum was pretty daunting. I had a rough time settling into motherhood, so my confidence was almost non-existent after 2.5 years out of work. Childcare was difficult to juggle, that and not having any contacts, colleagues or a network to bounce ideas off or ask questions. I was literally setting up a business from scratch, in an area i’d never worked before, with no formal advice or info. I just worked really really hard and hoped it would amount to something.
4. What was the most difficult part of starting up your business? Access to money, advice, finding people to buy, marketing etc?
Juggling mum-life and my life and the inevitable mum guilt that goes hand in hand with the two. Making Spaces meant more than just a job, or a new career. It was a way of finding out who I was again. I also struggled with the sheer amount of “stuff” that needed to be sorted. I don’t have any admin help, a PA, someone that sorts my social media. I didn’t have anyone to build my website and couldn’t afford to pay for a photographer, so I had to learn so many things, some of them taking longer than the actual job I was meant to be doing.
5. What have you learnt?
Oh god, erm… lots. I’ve learnt so much, so quickly. And still am. This isn’t a job where once you’ve done a room you’ve learned how to “do rooms”. Each room is so different and throws different problems your way. Each client has different expectations, budgets and timescales. I’ve always said that if you don’t make a mistake on every project then you’ve probably not pushed yourself enough. The only way to learn and push design boundaries (god, that sounds arty farty doesn’t it?) is to try something that’s not been done before and see what happens. It’s brilliant when it works and when it doesn’t it’s a lesson learned.
It’s all consuming. Especially when you work by yourself. The buck stops with me for everything, so it can become quite overwhelming at times. It also means that I really get to know my clients and I believe you can only really do this job if you take the time to do that. All of my designs are based on them, their lifestyles, their belongings and their personalities.
6. What has been your biggest or favourite milestone?
Oh it’s so hard, as each and every month or year there’s something that I feel really proud of. Seeing two of my projects make the top 5 of the most popular bedroom tours on Houzz in 2017 was pretty amazing. I got the email on New Year’s day so 2018 started off pretty well.
Having my words, my work and my photography in the iPaper courtesy of Kate Watson-Smyth (Mad About the House) was bloody wonderful. Definitely one of those pinch me moments.
Co-founding the Interior Design Collective with my design buddy Fiona Duke has to be another.
The IDC is a unique community of interior designers, flying the flag for the very best accessible and independent interior design. As a collective we can offer exceptional design services across the UK. Accessible, client-led interior design has never been in greater demand, but finding a down to earth designer to work with in your own home is a difficult task.... breaking down the myths about interior design, even more so. The whole point of the IDC is to change that.
We have 21 designers across the whole of the UK from Edinburgh to Devon and Swansea to Essex. Everyone’s work is just that little bit different, but with a common ethos of making good design accessible to all, we share the same values.
We are very excited to have launched the very first IDC Design Surgery. A consultation style workshop for people wanting to help with their own home projects and design dilemmas. The first Design Surgery is being held at the MADE showroom on the top floor of Redbrick on Saturday 30th June, 10-3pm. Fiona and I can’t wait to meet everyone! www.interiordesigncollective.co.uk
7. And what do you enjoy the most?
Improving the quality of people’s lives. Because it’s great to see all of these rooms in a picture on a screen or in a magazine, but people actually live their lives in the rooms I design. And it’s so nice to hear back from clients who say that they enjoy spending time at home now, or how well the space works as well as how it good it looks. Solving problems gives me a proper buzz, hence the launch of the Interior Design Collective Design Surgery.
8. You've have an amazing blog so I'm interested in what got you started with Blogging? what drives you to write a blog?
The blog started about 4 months after launching Making Spaces. I used it as a kind of diary of what I was doing work wise. Documenting new projects, their progress, final reveal posts, but also sharing things i’d found out along the way: New products, places to shop, tips on how to do certain things and just general design based musings. I didn’t really know if anyone would be interested in reading what I was up to, but it seemed over time, the blog became part of Making Spaces as a whole. I kind of need it to keep me sane, it’s nice to also use it to chat through problems or crappy times. Because we all have them. Sharing is caring and all that jazz. People have told me they like it because i’m just talking like a normal person, showing the crappy bits as well as the shiny stuff.
9. What is the most important piece of advice that you could give others thinking about starting a business?
Oh i’m brilliant at giving advice but completely crap at listening to my own words, but I will repeat something I read a little while ago when I was getting increasingly frustrated at the amounts of plates I was trying to spin;
“You can do anything, but not everything”
And it’s totally true. I design. I write a blog. I co-run the Interior Design Collective. I’m a wife and a mum. And I try my best to be the best I can be in all aspects of my work and personal life. But sometimes a plate will wobble a bit and need a bit of extra attention and for this to happen you have to let another one do its thing for a while. And that’s fine.
The Girl with The Green Sofa