10 minutes with…Leah Hughes

She’s a mum who’s travelled the world, runs her own business and when she’s not on camera for ITV, she can be found chilling out in Peter Andre’s Winnebago – we chat to the lovely and talented, Leah Hughes.

10minsInterior design expert, Leah Hughes, has an incredible career under her belt. She’s transformed bedrooms for well-deserving families (and made them cry with joy) on Peter Andre’s 60 Minute Makeover, and built a community eco-garden for children with special needs. Now Leah is bringing her creative flair to HelloHome and coming up with exciting design solutions for your kids’ bedrooms. So, we’ve taken the opportunity to get to know her a little better, asking her about her style, her career so far and what she thinks is the most important thing to consider when decorating your child’s bedroom.

WA_q_smHi Leah, thanks for taking the time to talk to us today. First off, we’re keen to know how your successful career in interior design began.

WA_a_smallNo problem! After completing a foundation course in Art and Design, I studied 3D Design at Leeds Metropolitan University. I exhibited my work in Brick Lane and Covent Garden, and I appeared in I.D. Magazine, Design Week and the Metro newspaper as “Young Hopeful”. This meant that I was able to receive backing and training from the London Development Agency to develop a fashion project.

WA_q_smWhat was your first interior design job?

WA_a_smallMy first position as Junior Designer was in Manchester. I then relocated to Cardiff to work for Eastlake Group, which was one of Britain’s largest workplace interior design companies. I’m very proud to have been involved in the design of the ‘BSF’ (Building Schools of the Future) programme, which is what piqued my interest in designing for children!

Luckily for me, S4C (the Welsh Language public service TV channel) was looking for a new designer for a children’s makeover series called Hip or Skip? I love playful design, so I embraced the challenge of creating thematic ideas on screen. Following that, I became a bit of a globetrotter! I was offered the opportunity to co-present a series exploring incredible hotel designs around the world – from Buenos Aires, to Helsinki, to South Africa. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity, which I jumped at!

I’m really looking forward to styling the HelloHome range, as the products blend a playful functionality with stylish design.

WA_q_smWhen did you start your consultancy business?

WA_a_smallI set up ‘Leah Interiors’ in 2011, after 8 years in the industry. I’ve worked on programmes for the BBC and MTV [Leah designed for the popular 2013 reality series, The Valleys, which attracted 1.1million viewers per episode] and Peter Andre’s 60 Minute Makeover.

WA_q_smWhat has been your favourite project so far?

WA_a_smallWorking on 60 Minute Makeover is brilliant. Challenging projects are turned around quickly, and we transform drab to fab with buckets of colour, metres of materials and dynamic and punchy prints!

WA_q_smWhat’s the best thing about working on Peter Andre’s 60 Minute Makeover?

WA_a_smallI’ve had some pretty dramatic reveals (the moment when we show the client their new room). I’ve been kissed, left people speechless and I’ve even been serenaded! Each reveal has been special and I’ll treasure those moments forever.

As a parent myself, I know how short on time we all are, so I like to offer solutions that create a big effect with a small amount of time and effort.

WA_q_smWhat is it like working to such a short timescale?

WA_a_smallDesign turnaround is tight! The scheme has to work for a client that I haven’t met and it has to look good. Dressing the space makes a big difference, as it ties all of the interior elements together. As a parent myself, I know how short on time we all are, so I like to offer solutions that create a big effect with a small amount of time and effort.

WA_q_smWhat is Peter Andre like to work with?

WA_a_smallPeter is a pleasure to work with. He’s always happy and looking to cause mischief. I was filming the second series five weeks after giving birth to my baby girl, and he was really sympathetic to me missing her. He gave me some baby tips and let me chill in his Winnebago!

WA_q_smWhat is the most challenging brief you’ve ever had?

WA_a_smallIt would have to be when I designed and built a community eco garden. Inclusive design was key, as the garden was going to be maintained by a group of SEN (special educational needs) children aged 11-16. The project was filmed by S4C and was very hands on. We worked long hours, battled the elements, and kept to a tight budget. I enjoyed putting my hard-hat and boots on and directing a force of enthusiastic volunteers and workmen. The outcome was wonderful and we met the brief – designing a low maintenance and vibrant garden to encourage children and teenagers to get green-fingered and grow their own plants.

WA_q_smWhat’s the dream brief – the most exciting project you could be asked to work on?

WA_a_smallThe dream brief would be one that allowed for a strong concept and playful design. I like to create functional and inspiring spaces, with cheerful designs that are colour conscious and include lots of patterns and tactility. I’m really looking forward to styling the HelloHome range, as the products blend a playful functionality with stylish design.

WA_q_smWhich is more fun – designing spaces for adults or kids?

WA_a_smallWhatever the age, the space needs to reflect the individual. Designing for kids tends to be more thematic, which naturally means you can have a little more fun. My style is bold and playful, which is perfect for kids’ bedrooms!

WA_q_smWhat are some of the challenges you face when designing kids’ bedrooms?

WA_a_smallThe biggest challenge with kids’ bedrooms is that the room has to do so much more – it has to be exciting and reflect a sense of individuality, but it also needs to be a calm space that induces sleep. It will be used as a dressing room, a storeroom, a workplace, a den and a place to relax and entertain friends. Additionally, the space will need to adapt as the child grows. If you’re a parent reading this and wondering where to start, I’ve put together some tips on planning which you can read here.

WA_q_smWhat are the most important factors to consider?

WA_a_smallChildren need multifunctional and practical spaces. Their rooms need to be able to adapt and grow with them and they should be easy to tidy and maintain – with bags of child-friendly storage!

WA_q_smWe recently asked parents about decorating their kids’ bedrooms and more than half said that their kids would be involved in the process. What are your thoughts on this?

WA_a_smallI think this is a great idea. If the kids are involved in the design process, they will feel a sense of ownership over the room – this will give them a sense of pride, which in turn will help them to respect, maintain and tidy their space. It will also make them feel secure, as it is a room just for them. The room becomes a haven, a space that they look forward to spending time in, which in turn should help them to sleep.

Leah has kindly picked some of her favourite products from HelloHome and added some top styling tips to help you make the most of your kids’ bedrooms. Take a peek here!