Interview with Stephanie Rogers of SJS Interiors
Learn more about the Essex-based interior designer who chose Westbury doors and windows for her new-build family home project.
Wanting to bring a traditional feel to their Georgian-style new-build property in Essex, Stephanie Rogers and her developer husband John came to us for bespoke timber Sash Windows and a solid timber entrance door. The couple weren’t strangers to Westbury; we previously fitted timber casement windows in their first new-build project, which happens to be the house next door to their current home.
Both their new-builds have been featured in Build It magazine, and Good Homes magazine also published an article about their first project. Now there are talks for their current house to be featured in another magazine, but this is yet to be confirmed, so watch this space. Follow this link to read the case study for their first project and keep scrolling to read our conversation with Stephanie.
Stephanie had always had a passion for Interior Design, and she qualified with professional qualifications after they finished the first house. Six months later, the couple purchased the property next door, which they demolished and built a new family home for themselves.
From small beginnings, Stephanie attracted new clients by sharing images of her own home on her growing Instagram page. ‘I think the clients coming through on social media are much more interested in interior design and understand the value of hiring a professional to help them realise their vision,’ she explains.
How did SJS Interiors come to fruition?
‘I worked in IT in London for many years but when my children came along, I decided to build a career that allowed me to be at home more with flexible working hours. Becoming a mother allowed me to re-train and start doing something I wanted to get up and go to work for – it was time for me to do something I was interested in and had a natural talent for.’
But things started to get busy for you when the pandemic hit?
‘Lockdown accelerated my business. Being stuck indoors and using their homes in different ways seems to have sparked a desire for change, and I’ve had so many requests from new clients needing to reconfigure their interiors.’
‘To compensate for the lack of face-to-face meetings, I learned how to adapt and communicate more than I would usually do, with plenty of Zoom sessions and phone calls. I also discovered that clients like to be involved in the design process. Usually, I’ll order items for the client to my address first to check them. Now, they’ll go straight to the client’s house instead, which they like. Even though they’ve brought in a professional to help them bring their vision to life, it appears they still like being a part of the transformation.’
How would you describe your style?
‘My style is very classic contemporary. While it’s not ultra-modern, my work has a fresh feel to it. The details will often take centre stage in my designs, such as wall panelling or patterned tiles. I avoid features that date too quickly and choose timeless elements instead. For example, a hand painted kitchen is great because when you begin to tire of the colour, you can re-paint the cabinets and change the handles, and then you have a brand-new kitchen. It’s nice to have things you can tweak and adapt, but as long as the bare-bones are meticulously crafted, it won’t ever date.’
What is one thing someone can do to update their interiors quickly?
‘Paint! White paint is magical; it can completely refresh any room. If you want to bring your kitchen back to life, then a lick of paint and new handles makes a world of difference. I’ve just finished a project where the clients were looking to sell their property, and everything needed a refresh to get it ready for the market. The house had a lot of yellow-toned oak, which used to be popular but does feel a little aged. We painted the oak doors white and changed the handles. Then we fitted new worktops in the kitchen and painted the cabinets in a soft grey from Farrow and Ball. It looked incredible.’
What project has taught you the most lessons so far?
‘I would have to say, the house I’m living in now! It wasn’t the first building project we’d tackled, so we had already learned a lot from our previous challenges. By the time we brought the land for this property, I had my interior design qualifications so I could take things up a level and really go for it.’
‘Many developers renovate or build homes within a strict budget, but the quality of the finish is compromised to keep costs down. We didn’t want it to look like a new-build, so we wanted to go for the quality, Georgian-esque look. The Sash Windows from Westbury are spectacular – you don’t always appreciate what good quality windows can do to the front of a house, but the impact is impressive.’
Tell us more about the way you work with your clients.
‘I like to take my time and focus on each design properly. I’m working on a 6-month project in Essex for a house in the country, and the client is exceptionally open-minded. She respects my judgement and the value I bring to the project, and in return, I’m given the space to deliver something that suits her tastes and requirements.’
‘Some believe interior design is a simple case of putting some lovely ornaments together on a shelf or picking out a nice sofa. A lot of care and consideration must go into the process because you’re designing someone’s environment. What does the room feel like when you walk into it? If a bedroom is painted bright red, it’s not going to feel calming and restful. It might be a beautiful colour, but you’d be better off with a neutral bedroom and introduce colour through accessories and finishing touches.’
What is the most important thing an interior designer should do for you and your home?
‘An interior has to work for your life and your family. When I get a client requesting a glass coffee table or a glass staircase because they’ve seen it on Pinterest, and they have two young children, it’s my job to point out that they’ll always be cleaning sticky finger-marks.’
‘It’s not just how a room looks – the space has to work from a practical perspective too. I’ll be given a picture of a sofa and a stone floor and a fabric sample, and individually they are beautiful items but putting them all together doesn’t work. It’s not easy to make everything look great together at the end in a way that’s still functional.’
What features do your clients all want in their homes?
‘Having a smart home is high on everyone’s wish list. We’ve got an iPad in the wall which controls the lights, alarm, outside gates and music, which you can control from your phone. If you have a party here, someone can connect their Sonos to the music system and play their favourite playlist. Everyone will expect homes to include smart features in the future, so it’s a good idea to get ahead and incorporate it into a scheme now. Just because a house is traditional looking doesn’t mean you can’t have those modern comforts.’
What’s next for you and SJS Interiors?
‘I want to focus on a select number of projects on a local, exclusive basis. Taking on too many jobs at the same time would take my business in the wrong direction. My clients would lose that personal, one-to-one experience with me. A trusting, close relationship with my clients is essential for me to do my job properly.’