Category: Blog

| Blog

Could a POM-POM save the day?

There is a place for pom-poms at Sturman & Co. but truth-be-told it’s only small.   We’re not the sort of professional studio to install curtains with ornate swags and tails, or where things are shiny for the sake of it.  Sometimes a scheme or a client calls for a little bling, but with me steering the design it will only ever be a little.  Enough to raise a smile, not an eyebrow.  

Yesterday a client and I had a proper giggle during our scheme approval meeting.  It got me thinking about the frivolity of my work, and not for the first time.

As I had typed the words “POM POM” into my notes, I reflected on the conversation we’d only just moved on from and I couldn’t stifle a tragi-comic chuckle.  We both ended up laughing.  

By day (and often night), my lovely client is a director responsible for a multi-billion pound turnover.  She had just told me about how she had been recently dealing with the kind of serious stuff that directly affects thousands of lives and the wider economy.  Pretty much the antithesis of pom-poms then.  The irony that we had manage to move between the two subjects so seamlessly was too much!

Understandably, the project we’ve been working on together has needed to take a back seat for the last few months.  But yesterday’s meeting was a good sign that things are back on track for my client and her family.   She adored the pom-pom sample I had brought along and she also confided that my design schemes have kept her going at times during a really tough few months at work.  Since I last saw her she’s even found time to prepare for the big changes ahead at home.  Sorting stuff out and getting a clear head about what her family home means and how it should function.  We’ve just scheduled the transformations to take place in July. 

It was a really exciting meeting for us both, signing off on the details that will make home a more comfortable, luxurious and fun place for this family.   She cannot wait to see the changes brought to life, through 7 rooms of their home.  And the meeting also underlined two of the biggest pleasures I get from my professional work: Firstly, I get to work with some very inspiring leaders who have fascinating lives and who really interest me on a personal level.  I often feel lucky to be chosen by our clients and I love talking to them and learning about their stories.  Secondly, the satisfaction of knowing I’ve helped them to make changes that they wouldn’t have arrived at by themselves, but which will continue make their lives easier and make them smile.

So there we have it – a (tenuous) story of how a humble pompom trim could possibly have helped to resolve a major headline crisis, maybe even saving jobs!   By putting a smile on the face of my very capable client and helping her to relax at home, so she can get on with doing a great job on the really important stuff in her life.  Whoever would have thought it?

| Blog

Top 100 Interior Design Bloggers Award


A few weeks ago I posted good news on my Instagram stories and promised to reveal why we were celebrating.    Bless her, Isla looked as if we’ve won tickets on the Saturday Night Takeaway plane!  It’s not quite that exciting in her world.    The news was that I got featured on a list of the Top 100 Interior Design Bloggers.    You can see it by clicking here.

I’m still over on Instagram rather a lot at the moment, so I haven’t blogged for a while.  It’s really nice to be noticed from as far away as Australia for the various musings I’ve posted over the last couple of years, though.  So thank you to the judges at Novus Homes!

If you have the time to scroll right down to find me (I’m number 96), you’ll go past some really great bloggers, including and rockettstgeorge, plus many more.     Be warned, many an hour could slide by whilst you’re looking.

| Blog

What’s in a name? And addicted to Instagram…

I’ve been on instagram a little while, but I mostly left it alone until recently.  I know it’s not the right thing to say, but I’m not much of a user of social media personally.   I don’t know where the hours go when I’m on there and I find it difficult to moderate my time, and to give proper attention to the real world.

But instagram is just so damn pretty!  I can’t stop looking at the moment.  As if I hadn’t wasted enough time #justlooking this week, there I found myself one day on a site where you can find your ideal instagram name (I originally set up our account with the handle SturmanCo).  “Sturmanthegerman” and “piemansturman” were amongst the gems I unearthed on (don’t go there -I’ll never get those minutes back).   Not to be taken seriously, but it did get me thinking a couple of things.  Firstly, there are a lot of men in those those names!  Secondly, German and Pieman?!  What does the single word “SturmanCo” say about what our design practice?

I should say I love Germany and have no problem with being mistaken as being from there. I took a traditional view when I took my husband’s name “Sturman” and I’m proud to have adopted a name from ancestors who once steered ships across the cold seas of Northern Europe. Having grown up in Newcastle upon Tyne, it even amuses me a little to have “man” in my name – I used to end most of my sentences with that word.

And so I am a happy Sturman and our interior design studio is proudly called Sturman & Co.  It’s especially important that our growing little team is recognised for their fabulousness by the “&Co.” bit.  We now deliver on a volume of projects that I couldn’t manage without their valued support.  When I was naming the business, I chose to use my surname not my first name because I am a professional – and it felt right to me.

But IRL I have always been Bess – both professionally and personally.  A couple of clients have referred to their houses as having been “Bess-ed” over the years.   The designs and inspirations on this page are the result of a personal collaboration between me and my clients, hence the new name and tag @bess_designs for our instagram account.   Please come on over and see what we’re up to.  Meanwhile, this picture was taken in my last studio (I’ll post pics on instagram of the new one when it’s ready) by very talented lady @photokathryn. Whilst I’m in personal mode I may as well confess – IRL I look nowhere near as good as this!

| Blog

Bo Selecta! Hello 2018

What with news, audiobooks and Heart 80s dominating my usual car audio, I don’t listen to much proper music radio any more.  But when I heard the dulcet tones of Trevor Nelson being interviewed about his career this week, I left the dial on Radio 2 and tuned right in for a nostalgia trip back to the 90s.

Image credit BBC Radio 1

Trevor was talking about the difference between being a ‘Selecta’ or a DJ – he identifies himself as a Selecta.  The difference (I didn’t know) is that DJs mess with the music they’re playing, whilst a Selecta chooses the right music for the right time.   So I am a little closer to understanding what Bo Selecta! actually means.   It’s also an interesting contrast which gets me thinking one of my favourite thoughts; what are the real differences between art and design?  If a DJ is an artist, is a Selecta a designer?   And where on this spectrum can a really good interior designer fit in?

Image Credit: Damon Kelly, Ligature 23

Trevor Nelson has 10,000 records and regularly sheds extras from his collection because he knows he’ll never have the time to listen to them all again.  If he looks at the sleeve and can’t hear the music in his head, it’s time to say goodbye.  Again, there’s a parallel – we’ve been relocating the Sturman & Co. Studio this week and I found myself asking a similar question as we moved and sorted hundreds, if not thousands, of fabric and wallpaper samples.  Could I love this thing (fabric, wallpaper, metal sample) enough to recommend it?  As we haven’t recommended it so far (more on that later) would it actually be better to shed the baggage and keep looking for new ideas?

Sorting out some pink fabrics in our new studio space this week

Meanwhile, a hundred emails have landed from suppliers of all sorts since 1 January shouting and showing off everybody’s new collection.  The “New You”, “New Now” phenomenon is everywhere at this time of year.  But how appealing is the summer right now, the brightness and freshness of June, July and August?  And the feeling of relaxation that comes in the mid-year, when our resolutions are a distant memory. Sigh.

So we’ve sorted the silks, linens and velvets that once had enough intrigue to justify ordering a sample, but haven’t yet made it into a client’s home or business, into two piles.  The keepers are back in our sample drawers.  We have a strict policy at Sturman & Co. that we never use a scheme-defining accent piece twice, so we catalogue these carefully too.   A statement lamp, a funky accent fabric or a piece of furniture won’t be top of our list once we’ve already used it, as we don’t want to be the sort of studio that rolls out the same ideas time after time.  Our clients come to us for something original and bespoke to them.  This policy keeps the team focused in our creativity and the ‘art’ side of our work.

When we are playing a ‘Selecta’ role the order of play is the key.  We love linens and velvet, but whether it’s cushions, sofas or walls, our chosen placement is the surprise.  Teal, yes please.  Walls, fabrics or just a peacock’s tail accessory, perhaps?  The Selecta takes things we already know and places them in a new way, in the right place, for the right time, for the right person.

As for the part of being an interior designer who is more like an artist or DJ? I love that part too.  We have several bespoke furniture designs on our studio desks at the moment.  From a giant coffee table that will fit around a structural steel pole to a regency-inspired media cabinet, it can be so fun and rewarding to create something never made before.  You can watch this space to see these and other designs come to life in 2018.

And meanwhile, have a lovely weekend.  I’m putting some 90s tunes on!

| Blog

Winding down for Christmas

The Sturman & Co. studio closes today and we will be back on 3rd January 2018.  It’s time to put our current projects to rest and say thank you to our lovely clients whose homes and business we’ve worked on in 2017.

Reflecting back on 2017 gives me a few ideas on how I will be relaxing over the Christmas break.

  1. 1. A long bath

This bathroom was completed for a Boston Spa client in Spring 2017.  The tile pattern almost made the tiler cry(!), but art requires sacrifice, don’t you think?    Don’t worry, I won’t be turning up at their house, but long baths will definitely feature over my own ideal Christmas break.2. Lighting the fire

  1. This one’s from my own Ilkley home.  Farrow and Ball’s Inchyra Blue is almost green – such a relaxing and enveloping colour.   Our mustard corduroy sofa was inspired by a pair of trousers I used to have (oh dear, I know!) and I love these paintings bylocal artist Julia Poulton, sourced through Silson Contemporary Art.
  2. 3. Learning something new
  3. Leonie Pratt runs sewing classes at The Sewing Shed in Ilkley and her classes are always really popular.   I helped with the design of her new business premises back in the summer, persuading her landlord to paint out the beams in this wonderful chapel roof room to provide a back drop for a fresh, fun space.  It may not be sewing for me, but The Sewing Shed definitely gets my mind ticking about new skills I could learn in 2018.
4. Playing games

I designed this playroom for a family in North Leeds earlier this year to a brief of ‘sophisticated teenager’s den’.  It’s Hague Blue this time, by Farrow & Ball, and we had the pool table recovered to fit into the new scheme.   The walnut herringbone parquet, accents of copper and a bespoke media unit finish off the scheme.

Whilst I don’t have pool table at home, we’ll be playing Trivial Pursuit and doing jigsaws at home.  Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas otherwise…

Merry Christmas to you!  And very best wishes for 2018!



| Blog

The Art House by Outside the Box

Last Thursday I took the kids along to the opening of the new Art House shop on Skipton Road, Ilkley.   And what a lovely event to get a first taste of Christmas, with so many local people supporting the charity.

Set up by the hard-working team behind Outside the Box, the Art House is an arts education facility committed to supporting and enabling people with learning disabilities to live fulfilling and independent lives.   The former Stone Tile shop is their new home, just round the corner from Outside the Box Cafe.   The signage is still a work in progress but opening hours are on the door in the meantime.   Much of the work is done by a team of fantastic local volunteers.

The shop sells handcrafted items made by the members during their workshops.   Just like Outside the Box, there’s always a smile waiting for you and the Art House is also appealing for any local artists to get in touch who could help to broaden the curriculum.

I love the ‘splat’ wrapping papers and these bright postcards remind me of exotic tribal masks.    With our support, both could become new icons of Ilkley!   Either way, they are very cool accessories for those inspired by mid-century decor and will brighten up the dullest of days.

It’s a charity that’s been close to my heart since I was involved with the original Outside the Box Cafe back in 2012 (see below).   So here’s wishing The Art House every success with the new shop.