Design Insights Interview: Vanessa Brady, President of the Society of British and International Design (SBID)

Vanessa BradyThis week we are privileged to have an exclusive interview with the President of the Society of British and International Design (SBID), Vanessa Brady, who is part of our international design jury, helping judge the designs in our Pimp Our Print competition. Vanessa is an internationally recognised, award winning practitioner and consultant.

The SBID is the national representative organisation to the European Council of Interior Design and Architecture. The organisation supports the profession locally, nationally and internationally and is part of a global network of 50,000 designers who are professionally accredited.

1.0 What inspired you to have such a keen interest in interior design?

I started off wanting to work in fashion. I began a fashion course but quickly realised it was not an environment where I felt comfortable or would be happy working in. But you can find something positive in every situation and I left that course knowing that I really loved colour and texture and fabric.

At the same time I was fascinated by mechanics; by how things function. When I was 16 I took a car mechanics course, not because I wanted to be a mechanic but because I wanted to understand how everything worked under the bonnet. I realised interior design was a profession that, uniquely, allowed me to combine these interests perfectly.

2.0 What trends do you most enjoy writing about?

It is the constantly changing way that people use interior spaces. For an architect the key to their design is the way in which a building fits into the environment. For an interior designer, the central focus is to create a space that is safe and suitable for its occupants.

I am fascinated at how the ways people lived and worked in the past had such a major influence on the design of buildings and their interiors. That relationship between function and design is never-ending. Every year we see how design and architecture is adapting to changes in modern life; such as more people living alone, or working from their home or properties being adapted to multi-generational care. All of these cultural and social changes create new challenges and new opportunities for interior design.

3.0 What decorating techniques would you recommend to a homeowner who wants to update a room without spending a fortune?

One of the simplest and most effective tips is simply to remove things. We all accumulate stuff in our lives. Every now and then it is a good idea to look at your belongings and ask one simple question: Do I want or need all of this in my life? Most of us do this with our wardrobes, but we are not so good at looking at the accumulated stuff cluttering up the rest of our homes.

It is still possible to pick up great buys at auctions and house sales. To re-invigorate an old chair or sofa, buy remnants from a department store and hire a staple gun; reupholster and you have a whole new look. Colour changes a style just as much as shape does: Your granny’s old chair painted fuchsia will look very up to date. Changing the handles on a piece of furniture can transform it. An old dresser can become a beautiful, new object by the addition of a marble top.

4.0 What is your favourite design magazine?

I like so many, but for trade magazines it has to be FX and Blueprint. They provide excellent general, practical and forward looking information for design professionals and there is always inspiration to found in their case studies and opinion columns. For retail I enjoy Florida Design. It’s a thick journal full of luxurious residential properties in an place that is always sunny. I spent a lot of time in Florida and have many happy memories of that time and there is the added thrill of spotting a street or area that’s familiar.

5.0 How about your favourite website or blog?

I like HUZZ and Dexiana as well as Designer Milk.

6.0 Tell us about one of your favourite projects?

A international fashion designer’s home. It was a dream project because there was no budget limitation and I had a year to complete it. I was able to source and incorporate many bespoke items and there were so many subtle, expensive and exquisite details that would have been impossible in most projects.

7.0 What’s your favourite colour combination for the home?

A home needs to be comfortable. It should be the place you return to replenish, relax and repair. I believe it is the people who live in the home who should stand out, not the interior’s vibrant colour and pattern. My general rule of thumb (although not set in stone) is to use three mediums and one colour with a contrast colour and then when you bring in the people and their possessions it comes to life – it’s timeless.

We live in London, where it’s dull, wet and cold for half the year so I use lighting to create a warm environment. I have an olive tree outside our front door as it represents peace. After thirty years of marriage, I don’t remember having an argument with my husband that lasted longer than five minutes, so it must be working.

8.0 What’s something you should never skimp on when decorating your home?

The comfort of your chairs, your sofa and your bed. Everyone works very hard these days so when we are resting we want to indulge in comfort. The first rule is that a home must be a place to relax and indulge. Avoid sofas or beds which do not give the user adequate support and comfort. It is such a false economy to go for a cheap mattress.

9.0 Are there any insider interior design top tips we should know about for 2013?

The big trend is intelligent design. People want products that will last and which fit in with the environment, so it is all based in the science of the manufacture of the products. I have noticed a strong trend in functionality beyond purpose. So a kitchen worktop must be strong, durable and easy to clean and also be long lasting.

10.0 And lastly…(cheeky I know!) what’s your favourite Brabantia product and why?

It is the one that the client, and often the designer, forget: A shower tray for shampoo, soaps, etc. It can be dangerous to bend down and pick up shampoos and gels when the shower is on. And if the tray is not the right quality, it can ruin the entire shower design. I love Brabantia products so can I choose two …I also want to select the flame lighter as I can run around and light the candles before guests arrive without setting the house on fire with matches.


Thanks so much to Vanessa for sharing her views with us.  Don’t forget there is still time to vote for the SBID International Design Awards – one of the most prestigious and enjoyable events in the design industry calendar. The public are invited to cast their vote for their favourite projects on the awards website The online voting will close at 5:30pm (GMT) on Friday 11th October.

The SBID International Design Awards 2013 Ceremony (Friday, 29th of November 2013) is the ultimate trade daytime business networking event. For luxurious city chic, it’s hard to beat one of London’s most exclusive and iconic hotels, The Dorchester, on Mayfair’s Park Lane. The Ballroom suite for up to 400 guests has recently been restored to recapture the opulent glamour of the original 1930s art deco style, with mirrored panels, subtle gold and crystals sparkling throughout. Book your table here.




Design Insights Interview: Vanessa Brady, President of the Society of British and International Design (SBID) was last modified: January 27th, 2016 by Aime
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