Rachel moved to Edinburgh from Oxfordshire in 2015 leaving behind a successful interior design partnership to be closer to her husband’s family in Scotland. In record time she set up a new practice Hen & Crask, offering the same highly individual, bespoke service to her Scottish clients. She has since set up a second partnership with a fellow designer, Decorair, offering a cut above service to the airbnb and buy to let market, helping investors renovate their properties beautifully and efficiently. She has also set up a designer hub and workspace in the centre of Edinburgh where like minded professionals share a creative and supportive space at 13 East London street.Keen to catch up in our moment of unplanned down time I asked her a few questions about her approach to design and interiors and I can give you, my readers the chance to have a look round her incredibly beautiful home.
AG: Hi Rachel, when we first met you had just moved to Edinburgh and had just set up a practice and you deliberately chose not to carry a stock of books of fabrics and wallpapers, believing them to be restrictive to your creativity. You preferred to respond to every project uniquely. Is this still the case?
RR: Yes it is! Although Hen & Crask is a distributor of Designer’s Guild paints, we still use other paint libraries and still collate fabrics on a job by job basis. This means that we are not tied to offering what we have in the studio – we can explore every new collection and include the most recent releases in our work! We’re not tied to any particular brand and that allows our work to be more eclectic and interesting.
AG: I know you are a lover of contemporary art and an avid collector. Do you encourage your clients to invest in art?
RR: If they have the money to invest and it’s a passion, then definitely! However, there is such interesting poster art on the market now and I always say to clients who can’t afford to invest in gallery pieces that they can find some really interesting pieces on a budget.AG: Your colour palette seems to know no bounds. How do you persuade clients who are anxious about using colour to step out a bit further?
RR: Skills that are really essential in interior design are to listen and to observe. During consultations we take everything in, from a client’s current style to what they’re wearing. Whilst we’re very respectful to adhere to what a client wants, we also try to push them outside of their comfort zone. I have had clients in the past who have said they ‘love the punches of blue’ and would never have thought of blue, however they’ve been dressed in it from head to toe!
AG: How do you structure your day? With three teenage boys in the background I sometimes wonder how you find the energy to manage it all – your projects, their activities and all the ragged necessities of running a business and a family home?
RR: It used to be horrendous (especially when the kids were tiny) and I was constantly exhausted as my husband worked in London and I was based up here with the children and business. However, he has been working from home for 18 months now and has taken over with a lot of the household chores, cooking etc and it has allowed me to get to the studio and work unbroken hours. I used to pick the kids up from school, sort them all out and then go back to work at the kitchen table until 2am or 3am in the morning sometimes. It’s so much better and fairer now and Adie loves being present. We are both self-employed and it’s been a slog for both of us!
AG: Is your dog a help in the whirl of it all?
AG: Do you have favourite go-to suppliers for furniture?
RR: We have hundreds of trade accounts and shop everywhere for clients. Many of our schemes are a mix of designer and High Street pieces. When it comes to High Street, I really like Sofa.com for good quality sofas, West Elm for individual pieces, French Connection, Swoon and Made.com. For designer pieces I use local suppliers in Edinburgh such as Pad Lifestyle, Moleta Munro, Catalog, as well as Heals and Conran of course. We also like to keep our eye out for boutique pieces for clients.AG: Describe your style?
RR: I’d say it’s pretty eclectic as I love to mix things up. When I try to stay monochrome or neutral in my own home it never works – I just love colour, texture and pattern and it always creeps in.
AG: Where do you find your inspiration for your work?
RR: I lived and went to school abroad and travelled a lot as a kid and young adult. My parents moved abroad when I was 12. They lived in the Netherlands, USA, Africa and France and my father travelled the world. This really opened my eyes to different cultures, styles and ways of living. I still scour magazines and sites for inspiration from abroad. I also take in my surroundings all the time – restaurants, bars, other people’s homes. I sometimes find myself taking photos of random objects that catch my eye! There’s beauty and inspiration to be found in most things.
AG: How are you filling your time during lockdown?
RR: I’ve got into a really good routine with the family now and we seem to be really busy! My two teenage sons are very disciplined with their school work and take care of themselves, but we’re having to home school our 8 year old. Adie takes care of maths and science and I teach everything else. I’m enjoying it to be honest. We’re pretty relaxed about it – it’s a rubbish time for them too and they miss their friends. Exercise is very important and we’re all trying to do something every day, even if it’s just a long walk. We all clean the house together too.
Although our site projects are on hold, I still have design work coming in and it’s been fun actually. I still love producing small schemes that are budget conscious as they’re a challenge and I’ve had a number of lovely clients in the last few weeks who are locked down and wanting to change the look of their rooms, but can’t be frivolous with money. My staff is furloughed so I’m working on these projects by myself, but they’re fun to do and I’m grateful for the work.
If we can keep our heads above water and come out of it with our studio and staff intact then that’s all we can possibly ask for. The most important thing is everyone’s health and staying safe. I tell my children every day to try to learn from this situation. There are awful negatives – people dying, people having to put their lives at risk to get us through this, people not listening to government advice. I also tell them to consider the positives – we have our health, a warm and loving home, they can still talk to their friends and study. We’re all together and we have Chewi and the crazy Wayne Diamond for company!