Interior Design Q&A with Tanya Leech


When did your passion for interiors begin and why did you decide to set up Tanya Leech Interiors?

I was lucky enough to be able to buy my first tiny (just 8’6” wide!!!) cottage when I was just 21, and with that came the realisation that it was mine to do what I wanted with! But I never imagined at that stage that it could become my career. As it turned out though, my time as an Army officer, followed by a stint in banking, together with my diploma from KLC School of Design and an engineering degree, all combined to provide me with a really solid background of experience and knowledge.

I have a slightly unconventional streak too though, and setting up my business also gave me a chance to indulge my love of long distance sailing for several years. Now I can’t imagine doing anything else!

How do you begin the initial stage of the design process?

Getting to know the clients – how do they live their lives? what’s important to them? As a designer you need to try and get inside the clients’ heads to really understand them. I ask lots of questions!

Your designs are a wonderful combination of creativity and practicality, how do you set about achieving this look within a new design?

You have to get the bones of a space right first. Design is an iterative process and I try not to have any preconceived ideas. I love the jigsaw puzzle of trying different layouts and considering all the possibilities, rather than just going with the first option. If the practicalities don’t work for the client, they’ll never love a space, no matter how great it might look. Once I’ve nailed the layout, then I can start on the decorative side of things.

Where do you draw inspiration from?

The coast! I simply can’t imagine not living on the coast. Whether I’m sailing in summer or walking along the beach in winter with the surf crashing, I just love being by the sea. The sound of water and it’s constantly changing colours, calm and rejuvenate me and are woven into all my designs. I also look to the period and style of the property I’m working on, together with its situation, for my inspiration. The decoration of the interior needs to sit happily in the architecture and style of the building and provide a sympathetic backdrop to the view beyond.

What would you describe as a typical day in the life of what you do?

My time is divided between client meetings, site visits, design and drawing and all the admin, sourcing, ordering and deliveries associated with a project. The popular misconception is that designers spend all their time choosing fabrics and colours, but time spent in the specification and on attention to detail onsite is vital too. Done really well, the client probably won’t notice these details, but they are what elevate a project and make it feel just right, because every decision has been carefully thought through.

The majority of your projects are based in Cornwall but you also work on some incredible projects all over the UK. What has been your favourite project to date and why?

The remote cottage in west Cornwall, directly overlooking St Michaels Mount, was a very special project. The clients weren’t able to make many site visits, but they invested all their trust in me and were a joy to work with. I took the project all the way from reorganising the space internally, through running the site meetings with the contractors, to taking delivery of all the furniture and even making the beds up and hanging the pictures! You get an enormous sense of satisfaction and pride, handing over projects like that.

What advice can you give to someone looking to embark on a new project?

Engage an interior designer right at the very beginning of the project. You’ll get the very best results when your designer works with your architect from the earliest stages, so that between them, they can create a seamless join between the architecture of the building and the interior.

What’s next for the company?

More of the same I hope! I love working on a small number of substantial projects each year and I really enjoy getting to know my clients and working with them so closely. It’s a privilege to work on their most personal spaces and I simply never tire of visiting different properties and seeing their potential!

Images: Tanya Leech

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