An Inside Look… Victoria Smee Interiors
We are incredibly fortunate in our line of interior design to collaborate with a wide range of very talented suppliers, makers and specialists who really are experts in their fields. We recently caught up with Victoria from Victoria Smee Interiors to get an inside look into what is involved in the role of a curtain and soft furnishing making, as well as the more unusual client requests that come along.
Tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do.
We are specialists in bespoke, high-end curtain making and soft furnishings. If I am explaining to a friend who isn't familiar with the line of work then I describe our design and creation remit as ‘anything that you see in a room that is a dressing or system at the window, covered in fabric, soft or can be sewn’. We also project manage the process along the way and fully install.
How did you first get into the industry and what training have you undergone to get here?
I have always been a creative person, fascinated by the intricacies of design and detail, which led me to study art and textiles. I immediately took to textiles; the variety of colours and textures and the endless array of materials was extremely exciting and provided many opportunities to be creative whilst also seeing something being produced.
Following my studies, I successfully applied and obtained a role as a curtain maker at a curtain making & soft furnishings company in Devon. It was here that I received the best training that I have encountered in the industry. Everything was made to such a high standard. My fellow makers had been in the industry for up to 40 years and they were meticulous in their approach and had amazing quality control.
Describe a typical working day.
A typical working day involves waking up at around 6:45am, grabbing a cup of coffee before either preparing to go to appointments, overseeing installations and checking quality of finished products, or heading down to the workshop. There is always plenty to do writing up worksheets, allocating fabrics for making, checking and organising logistics for any fittings or deliveries on that day, placing orders, devising estimates and writing up any recent site visits.
We at RHI adore discovering new designers and fabrics to work with on our clients’ projects. Tell us about your favourite fabrics or pieces that you’ve created.
We are fortunate to work with such a variety of fabrics as with each designer and project the style and designs vary so much. Projects in London have a very different look to those of the Home Counties and also from my experiences in Devon.
My personal tastes are quite countrified, I love embroidered silks and linens with some interpretation of nature and the outside, e.g. florals, foliage, animals. Having said this, I admire the sleek, modern and minimal look, which requires very clever design skills and subtle details.
A favourite project of mine was for an 18th Century French Chateau in Louis XVI Neoclassical style where the interior architecture was amazing; pillars, volutes, decorative architraves, artist's painted ceilings, so very far from every day living. It was a curtain makers dream with huge rectangular windows enabling us to be creative with the treatments which included swags and tails, pelmets, Austrian blinds, multiple trims, valances, bed curtains with fabric sunburst ceilings.
Have you ever had any unusual requests from clients?
We have some requests at times which are out of the norm of our day to day, like sewing thousands of Swarovski crystals onto deep blue silk velvet to create the illusion of the night sky for a Harry Potter display, or making table-runners out of a divorcee's wedding dress! In addition, for a Gentlemen's private nightclub we have had some specifications that, on our part, it's best to just not ask too many questions about!
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I love the process of creation and seeing what I have designed coming together as a finished product. It's extremely rewarding! The making process has a very active involvement and can be hard work if the curtains are of a significant size but the general sewing is very therapeutic. If we are working for a designer, like Rebecca Hughes, it's so exciting to see their finished schemes altogether and to admire the areas of work we don’t get involved in like lighting, walling, flooring, artwork, accessories and styling. The transformations and our collaboration of work on the properties from the initial measures (of what is usually a building site!) are breath-taking.
What advice would you offer others wanting to work up to a similar career path?
Experience is everything! I would always advise anyone looking to enter the industry to gain as much "hands on" experience within your specialist area as possible.
Furthermore, ensure you keep a good book of suppliers. A strong supply chain is key to ensuring quality is retained from top down.