Sarah Mitchenall has had a varied and successful career, from designing clothes to landscape gardening, and now as part of the interior design duo Black Parrots Studio. On deciding to carry her skill set through to interiors Sarah applied to a little known (at the time) televised design show and went on to be crowned winner of the BBC2 program, The Great Interior Design Challenge, 2016. Sarah talks to The LuxPad about her inspirations, interior design, and how the Black Parrot Studio came to be…
What inspired you to apply to take part in the Great Interior Design Challenge, and what did you enjoy most about the journey to being crowned the 2016 winner?
I trained as a garden designer and had been designing gardens for absolutely years so I understood the process of designing. I love garden design but I also loved working on the interior my own home. When I applied it seemed like a good way to dip my toe into Interior Design and see whether I really liked the whole concept of interior designing – plus whether it could be part of a more rounded approach designing both inside and out to create a home. With garden design you need lots of patience, as you have to wait for the garden to grow in and reveal all the wonderful layers you’ve built into the design. What I love about designing interiors is that it offers much more instant gratification.
How did the Black Parrots Studio come to be – and what has been the hardest challenge in its creation?
Alexa and I have known each other for years and years. We’ve always shared the same kind of aesthetics and love for quite similar things. Over the years we had conversations about starting a business together and in fact just before GIDC we were thinking of starting a lighting business. Then the perfect moment happened when I was accepted onto GIDC giving us the big push to do it. We even have a couple of lights in our product range. Doing this together we have more confidence; we’re braver, bolder and stronger.
The biggest challenge has been setting up the business from scratch. We both had fairly successful businesses already but not on this scale. There is so much more than just design involved. Things like accounting, office management, marketing, networking and sourcing to name just a few of the areas that take up so much time. We went into this with 100% commitment and that required thinking bigger from the start and also realising that we couldn’t do it all on our own, so creating a team has been essential.
How would you described your own home style and what is your favourite room in your home and why?
My style at home is always evolving. I couldn’t pin it to just one particular style, although loosely you could say it’s eclectic with a vintage feel. What I love about my home is the layers of character created through objects I have found and things that I’ve acquired over the years. I love creating a colour story, so my home changes frequently. It’s also an occupational hazard that I get to see so many great interiors products and fabrics.
I love my living room and kitchen as we spend most of our family time in this space. It’s great for relaxing, eating, watching movies, and it’s a great party room too. It’s got just the right balance of pattern and colour, it’s expressive but very livable.
We are redecorating Alexa’s home at the moment alongside our other projects.
Who or what inspires you most?
Alexa inspires me most, as we are at a stage in our business where we are creating our first wallpaper and fabric collection. As Alexa has lots of experiencing in designing and selling products, given her jewellery background, she’s been an invaluable partner. It’s been a steep learning curve about the process, but seeing the evolution from concept to the completed designs is so exciting!
You’ve just found a time machine that can take you to the future or the past, what year do you go to and why?
1974. That was the year that I was born so I’d like to go back and see the house that I grew up in just to check that the carpet and curtains in my bedroom really were as good as I remember. My obsession with interiors started in the seventies and we are constantly referring back to that era. We love all sorts of styles but the seventies and vintage from that era was so extraordinary. The projects and products we design are modern but often have one foot in the past. So it’s a really relevant year.
What is the best advice anyone has ever given you?
Visualise where you want to be. I was told if you visualise something then you can make it happen. It relates to so much in life; business, friendships, love, interiors everything really. If you have a good strong vision of what you want, put it out there and make it happen.
What are your top three interior design tips for 2017?
That’s tricky because our interiors aren’t necessarily trend led. We are always thinking about colour, pattern and furniture shapes and we are constantly researching and sourcing for projects so we become aware of the trends; lots of blush pink around for example. We’ve been posting lots of gold on our Instagram account after our trip to Maison & Objet Paris in January.
It’s been a year of colour so far, seen in every magazine and trade show and that’s a signature trademark of Black Parrots Studio. We love colour and find we are always playing around with different colour palettes. We’ve been creating new neutrals to use in our forthcoming product range.
What is your most treasured possession?
That would have to be my children.
How would you spend your perfect day off?
My perfect day off would a road trip with Alexa to a massive antiques market in France somewhere to source some treasures and wonderful unique pieces. If even in my downtime I love treasure hunting, plus there would be French croissants!
What does 2017 have in store for the Black Parrot Studio?
2017 has extraordinary things in store for Black Parrots Studio. We are working on a hotel in Spain at the moment, which is giving us huge inspiration for one of our product lines that will be bringing out later this year. We’ve really enjoyed working on a large commercial project and hope that in 2017 there will be a good balance between residential and commercial interiors for Black Parrots Studio.
Later in the year we are launching a wallpaper line, which we are very excited about. You’ll see lots of colour and there will be plenty of pattern in keeping with our modern take on vintage style. We’ll also be adding Black Parrots Studio designed cushions to our product range. It’s shaping up to be a rather exciting year as there is just so much going on for 2017.