| Blog

Designing with employees in mind


You’ve got the great ideas, you put the hours in and your business starts to grow just as you hoped.  Or indeed you may already have an established and profitable business, you’ve attracted some fab employees and now you want to create them a working environment where they can grow and flourish.  And there’s no shame in saying it, maybe you want your clients and potential recruits to see just how good your business really is.

Whether starting from scratch, moving premises or having a revamp of your current space, there’s no stronger message you can send of your business’s success than through its smiling employees, proudly inhabiting their working environment.  At Sturman & Co., we believe this applies to every single business – who hasn’t got off the phone from a grumpy “computer-says-no” advisor with a mental image of that person sitting in rows and rows of faceless people, in a grey, windowless room somewhere in Nowhereville.  And so you see how a depressing workspace leads directly a depressing customer experience.

So apart from getting in touch with us (our commercial design consultancy fees start at £1,000 plus VAT and we’d love to hear from you), here are a few things to think about when your designing your workplace with employees in mind.

Whatever your business, you want your employees to enjoy their work so that they are super productive.  At Sturman & Co. we feel this means they need different spaces within a business to enable them to work in the best possible manner (and we’re clever about creating these spaces in the most surprising ways).

Recognising that everyone works differently we think it’s a good idea to think about the following areas in a workplace:

1. As much space as possible for the task in hand, which must be capable of being organised efficiently;

2. Space that stimulates (for that 2pm slump) – where space is limited we can design an artwork scheme just right for you;

3.  Creative space – sometimes more important than others, but don’t discount it!

4. Space for reflection, space for collaboration and spaces to play – these may be social spaces or just meeting rooms.   We can even help you make a meeting room do it all.

These spaces apply especially to an office environment, but surprisingly to other businesses too.  We can help you to think around your space and design it properly.  Remember – there’s no such thing as no design, just good design or bad design!


| Blog

A chance to sit down with a magazine on a long train journey means I’m only just reading about the new William Morris Pure Collection of fabrics and wallpapers which was released last month.  Available here, the William Morris team have ‘neutralised’ several of the designer’s original patterns by washing the colours out and turning them all into shades of grey.  They are, I think you’ll agree, very subtle and really quite beautiful.

So if the result is serene collection of stunning and classic prints, which are remarkably easy to use, so why is my overriding feeling one of sadness? I’ve said before that I love greys and I do, but I also believe that we can’t get away from the mood they engender. Sophisticated, yes. But also moody and, yes, sometimes more than a little bit depressing.

Grey (whatever the shade) is usually the bland bit of any scheme and in my view it is most useful as a counterpoint to colour. So, with so much grey about, I’m a little concerned that even William Morris’ beautiful colours are being censored. And I hate the idea that we’re all being taught to paint by numbers when it comes to interiors and fashion.  I often imagine how we’ll look back on grey in 10 years time.  Remember “Taupe”?  

So dare I say it, bring on the colours.  I’ll be pairing these fabrics against the softened pastels that the publicity team at William Morris only found in an open landscape shot of what looks like the Scottish Highlands.  

Or I’ll just go the whole hog and help a client to in some Original Morris and Liberty prints to a modern/mixed-era scheme just because they’re so damned beautiful. 

Life is better in colour, so why not cheer up our homes for a change and stop being fearful of anything but grey?

| Blog

Our Feelings for Ikea


Ok, we’ll whisper it.  We love Ikea.  If you’re old enough to remember the MFI furniture that infected just about every home in Britain (we are) in the 80s/90s, you may agree that the introduction of democratised good design from Sweden was long overdue.   From its cheap hotdogs and tealights to the now ubiquitous Billy bookcase, Ikea gets the basics right, but therein lies the rub.

If, like us, you went a little crazy at Ikea at some point (and/or rented student digs in the last 20 years), you’ll know that can be hard to lift the ‘first home’ feel out of Ikea furniture.  We say it isn’t impossible, but it does require extra thought.  So here’s a couple of Ikea items we find ourselves going back to again and again, together with our Sturman & Co. tips on how to use them…



Bess first used these huge (80cm!) pendants back in 2012 for the refurbishment of Outside The Box Cafe in Ilkley.  Many people ask where they are from and we like it so much we now have the smaller 55cm version in our Sturman & Co. studio (pic above).


Your electrician won’t thank you for the assembly process (allow at least an hour), but the overall effect is very strong, particularly if you have a high ceiling. And the trick to getting it right?  We’re sad to say that this iconic design needs to be taken well away from its birthplace at Ikea for it to work.  Make it yours by ensuring it is the only Ikea item in the room.  If you’re on a budget, team it with vintage finds, or otherwise go with high end luxury.



Another item we have in Bess’s studio (it’s perfect for setting out colour and mood boards), Ikea’s Ribba Picture Ledge turns even the plainest wall into a flexible art gallery.  It has often been copied (check out Etsy for more rustic versions) and was recently supplemented by the more decorative Marietorp and the deeper Mossanda.

It’s not difficult to use well.  Go to Pinterest and get creative with your walls.  And don’t forget to change it with the seasons..


| Blog

Where has the brown gone?

One thing we take pride in at Sturman & Co. is how Bess tailors each design specifically to each client’s individual taste and needs, using but not relying heavily on current trends.  We’re not about show homes, but forever homes which make a positive difference in real life.

The anchor points from which Bess start her design process with a client can be unusual.  Can we find something different that none of their friends have?  Or something they saw in a hotel in Australia?  Yes we can!  We’re never sure what unique sourcing request is coming next and we get a lot of variety, but one thing is certain – no one has asked for anything brown in a very long time.

Not a sofa, a carpet, or even a plant pot.  Brown has been relegated for a few years now, mostly in favour of grey, navy and black.  We suppose it’s a fashion thing, but we’ve started to feel a bit sorry for brown, so we set ourselves a challenge to find some brown stuff that still feels modern.

So the challenge we made was to find cool brown lampshades (not metallics, which are much more popular at the moment) and we found a few.  It’s not exhaustive and we would welcome any other suggestions…  Go on, have a look.  We’re collecting them all on a pinterest board here:


And the exercise has showed us that brown is still there, quietly retaining more than a little space in our modern interior schemes.  Solid brown swathes of fabric, less so, but it’s always there as a classic in wood flooring and furniture.

And the lampshades?  Brown is a versatile colour, which adds warmth and character to a scheme.  A balanced scheme needs light, dark and neutral shades and brown can take up any of these spots.  Style-wise, to keep it contemporary, just stick to simple shapes and natural textures.  Rattan works well with mid-century furniture (see below), whilst a Graypants cardboard option would be perfect in a sculpted minimalist setting.

| Blog

Summer inspiration

School’s out and so is the sun.  It’s the time of year we’re desperate to be outside, so the inside of the house can wait. 

But summer feels so good, wouldn’t it be perfect to bring a little of that summery feeling inside for the whole year round?  Here are a few summery ideas from Sturman & Co…  

This chap looks like he’s struggling with some 2pm heat, but check out the wallpaper from Timorous Beasties.


Timorous Beasties is a design studio for the braver decorator, whose current collection is as bold and beautiful as ever.  Much of it is inspired by insects, birds and paint splodges at the moment.  The essence of summer.  We also love their ceramics collection and their British Bird cushions. 


Bubble has also picked out Kartell’s Bloom pendant in metallic by Ferruccio Laviani, which reminds us of sunflowers.  The white and metallic versions are a safer neutral option, but the green would really bring summer into the home, set against a white-based palette or, for a stronger look, navy.  

Or how about this Eames surf board coffee table?  Go the whole hog and put it in an ice-cream palette mid-century scheme.  A Kitty McCall cushion from @haykinshop would tie the scheme together in a similar way to the print in the pic below.  

Happy summer shopping…

| Blog

Whine or Wine Wednesday?

Photo by Flaviu Pop:  Ilkley Cinema’s Lounge – A perfect spot for a glass of wine this Wednesday, designed by Bess Sturman in 2015

Is it Wednesday already?

Torn between posting about #whinewednesday or #winewednesday, we’ve opted for both. Yesterday a new enquiry came in of a type we see pretty often. It’s not quite a whine, but a definite cry for help, caused by planning (or not planning) a major building project at home.

The level of urgency varies from forward-planning types who haven’t yet had plans drawn up, to the other extreme where the builders have already left, but the problem is the same – how do we go from plans to the perfect finished room? Please help to make these freshly-plastered walls feel like our home.

At the other end of the spectrum this week, Bess had a quick note from a couple who were sitting down with their Sturman & Co. Lookbook and a glass of wine to pick out the finishing touches to the design scheme we left them with on Monday, so it’s ready to hand over to their builder when he starts next month, together with electrical plans and paint finishes. Their furniture orders will be placed so the installation will be completed by late September. It’s a Sturman & Co. Design, but they will be in control of the project itself, shopping from a list we have agreed together. It’s enjoyable and everything is in hand, including that glass of wine.

So, if you’re remodelling your house, or planning to, would you choose Whine or Wine this Wednesday? Please get in touch if you think we can help.