Architect and interior designer Lynsey Ford is the 2021 winner of the BBC’s Interior Design Masters.
She tells Frank talks about her passion for upcycling and her mindful approach to interiors, as well as her own practical strategies for sustainable design and living.
Hi Lynsey. How does it feel to be the winner of Interior Design Masters?
Lynsey Ford: It feels amazing! I didn’t even expect to get on to the show and then kept being so surprised when I got through each week, so to win was a complete shock. Then for it to be broadcast the same week as my daughter Poppy was born has been totally overwhelming at times, but I’m so lucky to have both experiences. I’m just enjoying everything as much as possible.
How did it feel as the heats went on and you were staying in the mix?
Lynsey Ford: I was just so excited and felt so lucky. It would be hard to get the opportunity to do commercial projects without experience, but now I’ve done commercial office space, hairdressers, hotel rooms, a restaurant, holiday lodges, and more.
I learned so much in the process and my confidence grew each week. The pressure was huge, with tiny budgets and only two days to do the work. Now when I’ve got a proper budget and more than a week to plan it feels like a luxury!!
What do you think set you apart from the others?
Lynsey Ford: The others were all really talented designers and I was so intimidated by everyone at the beginning. I think my architectural background helped me. Some of the spaces were really tricky, like hotels for example. There was a shoebox toilet in the corner of the room and a sink sticking out with no time or budget to get a plumber in. I had to be really creative to make it work.
I’m also used to working with small budgets and not having much time. When we built The Shed (her holiday home) nearly all the furniture in it is upcycled or built by myself and my husband, so that experience worked well for the show.
Your passion for upcycling and the sustainable edge you had over the others was clear. Where does this passion stem from?
Lynsey Ford: I’ve always believed we overconsume as a society with fast fashion and an ability to throw away so easily. It really hit home when I lived and worked in Uganda and we didn’t have bin collections. I had to either bury or burn the waste we produced. It really changes the way you shop even for day-to-day items – I started searching for everything with the least amount of packaging.
There are so many beautiful, well-crafted pieces of furniture which already exist that can either be left as they are or repurposed to match the style of your space. There are so many talented craftspeople around who can create beautiful pieces locally, minimising waste and long-distance transportation. In my designs I like to use a mixture of old and new; I think it brings in character that you can’t get with all brand-new pieces.
How easy is it to source sustainable paint, fixtures, and fittings?
Lynsey Ford: There are a few really good paint companies now that are achieving beautiful paints much more sustainably. This is so important as there are a lot of toxins in paints that people don’t realise and you are covering all your walls in something that affects the air you breathe. I worked for a housing association and we did studies on the air quality inside a newly built house. The results were quite shocking with all the toxins in the glues, carpets, paints, and other finishes.
I really believe it’s worth investing in toxin-free paints for your home. Fixtures, fittings, and furniture are harder to source but it’s getting easier.
Away from interior design how are you living a sustainable life?
Lynsey Ford: I try to minimise my consumption, reuse, and fix where possible and when making purchases I try and buy for longevity. The longer a product lasts, the smaller its environmental impact will be. I also try to buy natural products and secondhand where possible.
We have solar hot water panels and PVs on our roof and an air source heat pump for our heating and hot water. We also eat a lot less meat and buy it from our local farm shop; we get milk from our local milkman. It is more expensive but as we eat less of it overall it works out; you know where it has come from and that you are supporting local businesses.
Even though we live in a rural location we made sure we were near the station and where possible we get the train rather than drive. Day to day I think the small things make a big difference too if we all do them. We recently watched the Netflix show The Minimalist and that really resonated.
What are your top tips for redecorating a home sustainably?
Lynsey Ford: For me, it’s so important how long a product lasts, that it’s made of natural materials and hasn’t been transported from the other side of the world. As this does tend to cost a bit more, it is about choosing carefully and making things last.
When choosing for our homes it doesn’t mean we need to purchase a lot of new things. When buying, keep to a style and colour/material pallet that allows items to be easily moved around the home and that will work in other rooms. This gives so many options and means a refresh can be something that can happen regularly and easily.
I believe we should make every corner of our homes special. We spend so much time in them and it’s proven to have such an impact on our mood. Your home is your haven and sanctuary, personal to you and your family and I believe should be decorated in a way that makes you happy, not to try and be fashionable.