Named as one of Andrew Martin’s top 100 in the world, London-based interior designer Naomi Astley Clarke is in hot demand. We get the lowdown on her eponymous practice
What drew you to interior design, and what were you doing before?
From an early age I’ve always been obsessed with the pursuit of feeling cosy and spent much of my childhood moving my bedroom around! After studying English and Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia I took the Inchbald School of Design one year diploma. I worked for Sally Metcalfe at George Spencer Designs for around five years and then subsequently Stefa Hart at Hambleton Decorating before setting up on my own. I set up my own studio because, whilst freelancing for Stefa and Sally, I was inundated with private clients and so over time I gravitated towards working for myself. There was never a grand plan in terms of setting up my own studio, it’s merely evolved as my workload increased and has now become an obsession.
How would you sum up your design ethos?
Timeless elegance that doesn’t take itself too seriously. The words I associate with my work are: Cool, Glamorous, Relaxed, Elegant, and Uplifting. Much how I view most of my clients!
What can residential clients expect from a Naomi Astley Clarke project?
Ensuring that we exceed our clients’ expectations is at the heart of everything we do. Our designs are intelligent, uplifting, and exciting and our space planning is second to none. We vigorously protect our clients’ privacy, and our small team ensures that we deliver a unique and personal service. The majority of the work I undertake is from referrals of past clients, which is the highest form of validation and endorsement that a designer can wish for.
We work tirelessly to ensure a keen attention to detail and the highest level of finish, only working with the most skilled craftspeople and designers. Our design and fit-out drawings are all carried out in-house to ensure the seamless delivery of our and our clients’ vision, however, we are always happy to work alongside architects for construction drawings and planning expertise if required. I’m proud that our design studio has been selected as Country & Town House’s 50 Finest Interior Designers this year and named as one of Andrew Martin’s Top 100 in the World.
How do you work with clients to achieve their dream home?
It all starts with the brief. Get this right, and you’re on your way to a successful project. You can’t just listen to a brief, you have to actually “hear” it. Pushing clients at an early stage to the edge of their comfort zone but being mindful to their overall vision and wishes. I think about integrating their existing loves and passions, from art and knick-knacks to how their children’s sports kit is going to be used and stored. I’ve been known to measure up and draw up a particular prep school rugby bag so that I could ensure three boys’ kits could be properly stored.
I always love to go through images that a client has pulled together at the beginning of a project, whether it’s tear sheets from magazine or a Pinterest board they’ve put together, even if the photos bear no relationship to the budget or the bare bones of the house. It’s so helpful to get an unrestricted idea of their dreams and wishes before budget or time constraints or planning constraints come into it. I love it when a client brings their own ideas to the table – it is the soul of what we do. I take into account all of their passions and quirks so the final design really couldn’t belong to anyone else.
Everything I create is bespoke to a client – from a shoe closet being tailored to their exact shoe size, to the layout of their kitchen pantry – and in order to do this you have to get to know your clients and their families well. It goes without saying that you also have to look after their money and be completely trustworthy. My clients know they can tell me anything and I will always work in their best interest.
In terms of why my approach is unique, I think that is for my clients to say, but ultimately, I consider myself to be someone who is in the service industry, not a diva who needs to be obeyed. I’m a total workhorse and my clients’ homes are there to make them happy. Of course, I will push them to discover new things and to stretch to the edge of their comfort zone, but I don’t ever try to steer a project away from my clients’ end vision. I am creating something for them.
Can you tell me about the role of sustainability at Naomi Astley Clarke?
Every year our design studio moves more and more towards increasingly sustainable practices. It’s always going to be a work in progress, however, I am proud of the direction the studio is heading. I have also noticed this change in my clients too, with many wanting to make sure their homes are as environmentally friendly as possible.
From our craftspeople to our suppliers, we are always sourcing as locally as possible wherever we can. My work has also emphasised embracing reclaimed finishes and secondhand furniture. Increasingly, my clients are prioritising swapping new furniture for quality antiques at a similar price point. For many, the thought of decorating with antiques previously conjured up images of highly traditional tastes and stuffy old collectables. But this has changed. People really appreciate how storied items can bring warmth, history, and soul to their homes.
What’s next for the practice? Any exciting projects coming up?
We have several very exciting projects in the pipeline. All will be revealed in 2024… My absolute dream job would be to design a boutique hotel in London.