10 Questions with Bec Kirby
"We have been able to react to how to space feels at certain times of the day - we’ve been able to feel what it needs, and what it doesn’t need. "
Could you please introduce yourself to our readers?
Absolutely. I’m Bec, and I’m a designer. It’s quite hard to introduce yourself quickly, but I guess I could tell you that I won ‘Friendliest face award 2009’ at school and that just about sums me up. I’ve lived in a number of different places, moved to Amsterdam for a while, interning at Concrete — which was a fairly mind-blowing experience for a 20 odd year old and I definitely had no idea what I was doing, but you live and learn. I now work at a small studio in Manchester's Northern Quarter and live just out of the city - with two very chunky, happy cats and my partner, Tom.
For your latest project, you worked with your partner, Tom, to transform an 1880’s terrace into your new home. What were some of the challenges that came with the renovation?
The whole house has been a challenge if I’m honest, and still is. It’s old and hasn’t really been looked after by it’s previous owners. It’s had all sorts wrong with it, but we’ve just slowly been repairing as we’ve been going along. We had a terrible start to the renovation — with everything and anything going wrong, I remember saying I would never renovate ever again but I’m over that now, you learn a lot just by being in the thick of it — bad decisions, shit tradesman and sleepless nights are all just part of the fun.
What are some of the original features that you could preserve from the old build?
Unfortunately, up to now, we haven’t been left with many original features. We’ve restored the coving along with the ceiling details in the hallway and kept the original York Stone hearth, but that’s all we’ve been able to hold on to. I’m keen to get behind the walls in the bedrooms to see what we find there.
How did you find designing your own space? Was it easier or more difficult in comparison to a project with a client- did you find it an opportunity for experimentation?
This has been the most rewarding and enjoyable project I’ve ever worked on. The freedom of having an idea and just running with it without any consequences has felt great. We’ve made some of the decisions on the spot, and some of the decisions have taken months — but they’ve all been in our own time and all in our own way. It’s also been really good to see how samples react to light within the house, at different times of the day — I guess this is something you don’t really get the chance to do when working on larger scale projects such as a hotel, that isn’t being built for another two years. It’s definitely felt quite alien to have such free rein, although I do have to run everything through Tom, it can be a task in itself getting him on-board sometimes.
How would you describe your own personal interior/design style?
Straight forward and simple - no frills.
I’m sure each project is different, but do you have any principles that you always start with when designing?
Understanding who you are designing for and why is absolutely paramount — so I find it’s so important to take that time at the start of a project to really understand the who’s and why’s and then the rest sort of comes naturally. Apart from that, if it feels right I usually just go with it.
Who or what inspires you?
A lot of things — people, other designers, music, past experiences, nature, friends, places. I think you can get inspiration from basically anything if you look at it in the right way. Also, myself. I’ve never had much confidence in myself growing up, but I’m slowing realising I’m capable of much more than I give myself credit for, learning that in itself has been inspiring.
There seems to be a good mix of materials and colours, comprised mainly of wood, white walls, and grey tones- what type of feeling were you trying to create?
The only aim for the house was for it to feel calm — everything up until now has happened naturally, I didn’t actually pre-design any of it (so far). We just slowly started to bring in materials, furniture, lighting as we went along. Living in the house whilst renovating it has had its advantages. We have been able to react to how to space feels at certain times of the day - we’ve been able to feel what it needs, and what it doesn’t need. It’s been a really refreshing way of designing, when usually it’s quite the opposite, with every decision finalised before the space is even built.
"The freedom of having an idea and just running with it without any consequences has felt great. We’ve made some of the decisions on the spot, and some of the decisions have taken months — but they’ve all been in our own time and all in our own way."
What do you look for in a piece of furniture or artwork- is there a mental checklist you go through before choosing it for your home?
I don’t think I necessarily look for anything in furniture or artwork, if I like it, I like it. But I do feel like I’m always gravitating towards weird furniture. You know the furniture your Nan wouldn’t ‘get’? The pieces that can’t work out if they’re ugly or amazing. I’ve currently got my eye on a table by destroyersbuilders called ‘Windows of Bo Bardi’ - I’m hoping this will be the next piece for the front room (but I’m not allowed to buy any furniture until the kitchen is done, so it may be a while till I have my hands on one of those gems.) The same goes for artwork. Bill Traylor is my favourite artist; his work has that ugly / amazing feel too. Sadly, I’ve never been able to get my hands on or afford any of his pieces. But hopefully one day!
What are you looking forward to in the future?
Surviving 2020 and finishing the house — Is that too much to ask?!