For interior designer Sophie Paterson, becoming a mother has been as natural and serene as the calming surroundings she creates...
“I love everything about motherhood,” she says. “Rediscovering the world through Ava’s eyes – how everything is fascinating. I love how complete and happy I feel now. I’ve never felt more calm and content. I am so aware of how lucky I am to have a healthy, happy baby.”
Yet you would scarcely believe there was a little one in her vast Surrey mansion – all imposing staircases and elegant lounges in a sea of blues and greys, muted taupes and creams – as there is not so much as a Lego brick out of place. Even the nursery, with its plush furnishings and bespoke rocking horse is more luxurious than the average living room.
When we meet for our photoshoot Sophie is juggling feeding her seven-month-old while running her thriving interior design studio. There is a lot to do – as Sophie explains, her business is not just design but marketing, accounting, HR and networking. “I’ve actually become more focused and ambitious since having Ava but I’m always careful about what I take on – I only want to work on projects that excite me and that are worth taking time away from Ava,” she says. “Pregnancy was good for me as it helped me to relax and learn to delegate the bits of my job I don’t have to do like bookkeeping. Now I just want to focus on the areas where I bring the expertise.”
Sophie began her career aged just 23, making the jump from events management to interior design through a property developer who visited her home and asked which designer she had used. She explained it was all her own work and he gave her the chance to design the interiors in his latest project. More than a decade on and her portfolio includes commercial and residential properties around the world, her name is synonymous with a considered, classic contemporary style, and then there’s the 159k followers on Instagram eager to get a glimpse of her perfect family/working life.
“It’s all about balance – I want to feel that I’m fulfilling my potential and making a difference at work but I also want to spend lots of time with Ava and my husband and not feel stressed and overwhelmed,” she says. “You can’t get it right every week but on the whole I’m very happy. More is not always more, so I’m careful not to say ‘yes’ to everything.” Read on to find out more about how motherhood has changed her life, uncover some of her design secrets and meet her scrumptious little girl with her enviable shoe collection.
What do you love most about your work?
I love that I get a creative outlet. I am obsessed with fabrics. I always start an interiors scheme by plotting the furniture on the floor plan and then deciding which fabrics should go on what piece and building the colour scheme that way. I also enjoy the business side of it too, especially marketing and meeting new clients and suppliers.
How do you juggle work with Ava?
I have help, a nanny a few days a week and a housekeeper, a great team of designers and interior architects at work and an understanding husband when I have to occasionally work late or at the weekend.
How do you stay motivated?
I have goals I write down to achieve for that year. I’m quite a driven person and I have a fear of being lazy!
Where does your confidence come from?
My husband. He has so much belief in me and is the coolest person I’ve met – if he thinks I’m good enough then that’s all the validation I need.
What are the secrets to being successful in business?
I think a lot of it is common sense – just do the right thing, which generally isn’t the easy option or the option that will bring you short-term gains. I had a clear idea of what kind of company I wanted to build so when I get offered work in other avenues that isn’t aligned with that I know instantly if it’s the right direction to go in or not.
Images: Ray Main
And on social media?
I like to share a mixture of my work and personal life. Everyone who meets me after following me [on Instagram] always says that I am just how they expected, I am very much myself on social media. I think you need to offer a unique view and to do that it has to be genuine rather than copying someone else on social media who is doing it well. I try to post regularly but not bombard my followers with too many pictures on one day. I give a real insight into the behind-the-scenes of our studio and my life and I think our followers really enjoy that.
Growing up, did you always love interiors?
I always loved it especially rearranging my bedroom, my friends’ bedrooms and my cousins’ bedrooms. I remember tidying up friends’ bedrooms and finding it fun, which, looking back, I realise is so unusual! I also asked for Christy towels for my eighth birthday and a weeping willow tree for my 12th. I don’t know where it comes from as neither of my parents are creative or have any link to the world of interiors. My mum always let me have an input into our home from a very young age and I remember her letting me take a day off school to go house hunting every time we bought a new property so I could have an input into the house we bought – we moved house six times between the ages of 11 and 18. I was quite precocious and had strong views on how our house should be. which my mum humoured me with.
Were there any other giveaways of your career path?
At 16 when all my classmates went off to do work experience in law or accountancy firms I remember my careers advisor at my very academic school being so perplexed that I wanted work experience with an interior designer. She kept offering me opportunities in the professions that were expected from me and I just had no interest. Eventually she managed to get me two weeks with Zoffany and Cole & Son which I just loved – being surrounded by beautiful things and having customers ask me what fabrics I would combine with which wallpapers was heaven!
Your sister is a florist – do you enjoy supporting each other in your respective businesses?
Yes we love sharing advice and contacts. It’s so different running your own company to working for someone else. It is so rewarding but also so all encompassing and it’s nice to have someone who is one of my best friends who can share and relate to that. I am very proud of all she has achieved and how hard-working she is. She definitely inspires me with her bravery – she does workshops in front of audiences which would terrify the average person but she takes it all in her stride.
“ My mum is very good at being in the moment, enjoying her grandchildren and nature. She is always trying to tell me to slow down and take it all in. I love watching her interact with Ava - I really admire how she connects with children on their level and how they respond to that ”
What did your mother teach you about life and motherhood?
My mum is very good at being in the moment, enjoying her grandchildren and nature. She is always trying to tell me to slow down and take it all in. I love watching her interact with Ava – I really admire how she connects with children on their level and how they respond to that. She is very hard working and studious and instilled a good work ethic in me as well as the importance of good posture and grammar. Things that seemed annoying as a teenager but I am very grateful for now!
Who do you admire?
The person who I admire most in the world is my husband. He is one of those people who always seems to know what is the right thing to do no matter how tricky the situation. I go to him for advice if ever I am stuck and even my sisters ring him for advice with their careers and personal lives. He is a great combination of kind, strong and confident.
What are mornings like at home?
They start off quietly – the first thing I do in the morning is feed Ava in bed and have a cuddle with her but they quickly escalate to a flurry of activity!
What’s life like as one of London’s leading interior designers – is it as glamorous as it looks?
It’s getting more glamorous. When I first stated I worked by myself and did everything. Now I’m lucky that I have a great team to support me. The glamorous things are visiting my clients, photoshoots, sourcing trips, travelling, dinners and parties. The unglamorous moments are still plenty though. I think most people underestimate how unglamorous some aspects of being an interior designer is but I like the balance and I’m not afraid of getting my hands dirty.
How do you keep your home clutter-free now you have Ava?
I don’t go crazy buying her lots of toys. I have a lot of wicker baskets to put her toys in. I’m about to sacrifice my TV room to make a playroom for her, which isn’t easy for me as I love that room but it’s amazing how once you have a child they are your absolute priority. I’m going to take out the coffee table and put it in storage and put down some foam mats I recently ordered (in grey and white though to complement the colour scheme!!)
What are your beauty staples?
I love Sunday Riley products. I’ve never had so many compliments on my skin as since I’ve started using their products. The Good Genes moisturiser is amazing.
What are some of your working and mummy wardrobe staples?
I’m wearing a lot of shirts as they look professional but are good for breast-feeding too. I wear tailored trousers and as for brands I like Theory, Club Monaco and Joseph for workwear.
What do you like Ava to wear?
Belle Enfant and Tartine et Chocolat are two of my favourites. I also love Pretty Brave shoes as they have great prints and stay on all day. They do a cute pair that look like mini Chanel ballet pumps.
Do you have any plans to move?
No I’m very happy where I am. I love my home and am excited to see Ava grow up here and play in the garden. If I was to buy another property I think it would be a holiday home – maybe a rustic cottage on a beach somewhere in the Mediterranean. I’d make it very understated but luxurious with lots of stone and linen fabrics.
Where would you recommend on the high street for interiors?
I think French Connection have some good pieces for a slightly more industrial look.
Which is your favourite space at home?
My kitchen as it is so relaxed and sociable. I can’t wait for the warmer weather to arrive so I can leave all the French doors open – it has such a great indoor/outdoor vibe. I intentionally used similar colours and styles on the terrace as the kitchen, for example the bespoke, outdoor sofa cushions in dark grey herringbone link visually to the corner sofa in the kitchen sitting area, and the clusters of petrified log tables are found both inside and outside. I also love Ava’s nursery as it is such a pretty and calm space.
Could you give us some tips on how to create a beautiful nursery or bedroom for our little ones?
I love using wallpaper in nurseries. Vinyl wallpaper is a good option as it is more hard wearing and stain resistant. I like using fabrics and wallpapers that will grow with the baby and then art that is more fun that can easily be changed. I’ve always put a bespoke sofa bed in nurseries if there is room as it’s great for visitors to sit on during the day and for the mum or night nanny to sleep on at night. As the baby gets older it can transition into their bed.
How can everyone make their home look more luxurious?
Have cushions made up by an upholsterer or curtain maker in fabrics that you love – go slightly larger around 55x55cm and use a feather fill – they look so much better than the ones you can buy in the shop. And declutter your home – a tidy and organised space always looks much better.
Where is a good place to start when it comes to redecorating?
Create moodboards or use Pinterest to gather your thoughts before you start buying – everything will look more cohesive if you plan it all out rather than buying things one at a time.
Is there a colour or palette that works in pretty much every room?
I think it’s all about finding the right tone and using the fabrics in the right way for your tastes. I don’t like overly busy or colourful rooms so I tend to use colour on the cushions art and accessories. I’d be happy to use any accent colour my clients’ request provided I could balance it with the right neutrals and use it in a delicate, sophisticated way.
What have been some of your biggest career highlights?
Being featured in the Andrew Martin Interior Design Review – The Times called it the Oscars of the interior design world so that was a huge honour. I also love that we get to work on such beautiful buildings around the world.
What kind of role model do you want to be for Ava?
I want her to know I’m available and there for her. I hope she always thinks I’m kind and have time for her. I also hope she likes the fact I have a life beyond her with my work and have fulfilled my ambitions. I hope it inspires her to do the same and be whatever she wants to be, secure in the knowledge that we will love her and support her in whatever career and choices she makes.
What is the best career advice you have been given?
Seize opportunities that come your way – you never know if you will get that same chance again. And integrity is everything. Doing the right thing is something you will never regret.
Name three Instagram accounts that inspire you…
I love @sheerluxe, my sister’s account @wildwoodlondon and @foxandchatto.
And what is next on your agenda?
We have some amazing projects in the UK and abroad we are working on for the next 12 months that I am so excited to be involved in. I am excited to work more in the UAE. Once Ava is in nursery I might look at developing my own collection or expanding the business further.
SOPHIE’S QUICK FIRE QUESTIONS
Coffee or tea: Decaf oat milk latteDecaf oat milk latte
Typical breakfast: Paleo pancakes made from banana, eggs and nut butter with fruit and Greek yoghurt or toast with avocado, apple cider vinegar and salt.
What’s on your bedside table: Water, Calgel teething gel for Ava and a small antique shagreen box for storing my rings while I sleep.
Exercise of choice: At the moment nothing beyond walking and carrying Ava. I was being good and exercising at 5.45am before Ava wakes up at 7 but now she’s teething and waking up in the night I can’t do it!
Book you’re currently reading: I don’t have the time!
Heels or flats: Flats during the day most likely Chanel ballet slippers unless I have a client meeting.
Pram of choice: I have a Bugaboo Cameleon and a Stokke Xplory. I like both but the Bugaboo folds up more easily. Now Ava’s older, the Xplory is great in the upright seat position as she can sit up high if we eat in restaurants.
Baby bag: I use a Goyard carrier that you can chuck everything in.
Sunglasses: Shaun’s California
Websites you regularly visit: Pinterest for some visual escapism when I’m travelling – Instagram for fun.
Must have essentials for a beautiful tabletop: Good linen napkins. Monogrammed if you want to go all out – that is the ultimate.