Textile design expert and colour extraordinaire Fi Douglas is the founder of the textiles company bluebellgray. We caught up with her to chat about her design inspirations, her favourite hangouts and the new bluebellgray store, which has just opened in Glasgow.
How did you discover interior design?
My mum has always loved interiors so I grew up in a really colourful house where she was always planning and changing things, buying things from junk shops and moving things around- she always rearranges all my shelves for me when she comes to stay at my house! I always loved changing round my bedroom furniture as a teenager and battled with my dad to let me paint my room the colours I wanted, he eventually relented...I can see why he was nervous I wanted to paint it lime green and orange! My mum was also an avid magazine reader so I grew up looking at all her copies of interior magazines. I grew up in the pre-Instagram and pre-internet age in the north of Scotland so magazines were an amazing window into another world form, I still love them. When I studied textiles I knew pretty early on that interiors was the route I wanted to go down, I adore clothes but felt more of an affinity to designing for interiors thanks clothes.
What and/or who are some of your design inspirations?
My team are a constant source of inspiration to me, they are all amazing creative people and I love bouncing ideas round with them so much! I also love travel for inspiration, seeing new places always gets my mind thinking, and I love visiting warmer places and spending time outdoors, I love nature and am always in awe of how beautiful this world is, its a never-ending source of inspiration. I’m always just soaking up the world around me, I’m definitely a bit of a daydreamer!
What does a typical working day look like for you?
I get into the studio around 9.30, I have 2 little boys aged 3 and 4 and having that flexibility on having a slightly later start is what keeps me sane, it means I see them in the morning and eat breakfast with them which really helps me start the day out positively. Every day is truly different, I actually spend very little time sitting at my desk, the first thing I tend to do is catch up with my brand director and talk through the pressing issues for that day and plan times in for the day to work on current projects. I check in with my finance and operations team to ensure everything is running smoothly, I always think running a business is like a never-ending problem-solving exercise, every day brings something different.
I spend the majority of my day with my design team, maybe working on a new packaging concept or tweaking colours on fabrics, its always exciting to see new product samples for new collections come in from the mills and factories we work with, its one of my favourite parts of the job. In between working with my team, I’ll write emails and take phone calls, we work a lot internationally so keeping in contact with our overseas partners and ensuring the brand is being taken care of in other countries is a big part of my job. I also manage our Instagram account, our other social channels are managed by a member of my team but I think its really important that customers can have that personal connection to me through Instagram and I love connecting with people through it.
The way I manage the painting and design side of the business is to set aside blocks of time for travel inspiration and painting, over the years as the business has grown its become harder to find time to paint as other things business thing take over, making dedicated time for it has been a game changer for me and makes sure I keep inspired.
Bluebellgray has become synonymous with Scotland. Is there a space in Glasgow which you find yourself continuously drawn to because of the beautiful interior?
I really love the interior of The Kelbourne Saint, a bar in the west end of Glasgow, it has the most beautiful ceiling, the whole thing has been hand painted like a sky with beautiful blues and white clouds, it's really stunning.
You’ve recently launched your range in South Africa - congratulations! Do you have a particularly favourite country/region to work in and why?
Its been so lovely to see how much warmer countries love bluebellgray, I’ve loved seeing how interior designers have used my prints in Australia and New Zealand, they love colour and have really embraced the brand, I’m looking forward to seeing how South Africans take to it and apparently Hawaii is one of the top sales areas for bluebellgray bedding! I love working in the UK, I think the UK is really doing a lot of exciting things on the design scene and its a really vibrant design community to be part of. I love that people in the UK embrace lots of different styles of decor and that they appreciate quality and provenance.
Is there a bedroom you’ve stayed in where the interior design really impressed and inspired you?
My favourite bedroom I’ve stayed in has to be at The Ham Yard Hotel in London, I love the Firmdale Hotels, Kit Kemp is a master of colour and pattern and has created something very special with her hotels- the bedrooms are all individually designed and she fills them with super comfy beds, beautiful textiles and art, every bedroom I’ve stayed in at her hotels has been beautiful. I also love the Pig Hotels, the bedrooms have a real sense of comfort and style to them and are full of little extra touches that make the room extra special- one room I stayed in had a wood burning stove, so cosy.
What has been your most challenging Bluebellgray project?
Opening our first ever bricks and mortar store has definitely been my most challenging bluebellgray project to date. We moved our studio as well at the same time, which definitely added an extra challenge to keep the business running smoothly while all that went on! The shop was a full renovation project, at one point there were floors and stairs missing, and every day there were decisions to be made, some huge and some tiny, and every day was problem-solving, knowing when to compromise, knowing when to push and make sure at the same time I didn’t take my eye off the ball for our day to day business. It's a big decision to take on a store, it's a big long-term commitment for the business, and it was a huge challenge to do it on a tight budget.
What have been some of your favourite Bluebellgray projects?
Despite the shop being my most challenging project it has also been one of my favourite projects - it was a true once in a lifetime to plan and decorate such a beautiful space and have it as a real blank canvas to start from, it was such a free project, the only constraint was our budget! Its been amazing after all these years to have a space to really showcase my vision for the brand and show customers what we are all about. It was a real joy to work on it with my team, there were a lot of late nights, but lots of fun too and it was a real opportunity to use all the colours we love! I’ve always loved projects where we collaborate with people or companies, it's always inspiring to work with other people who bring their own expertise and provide something for the project that we can’t. Working with Studio Levien on our ceramics range was amazing, Robin Levien is someone who I really admire and is an incredible designer, he is a wonderful person to learn from.
We have to ask…what’s your favourite Button & Sprung bed?
Eliza without a doubt! The shape is just that beautiful balance of contemporary and classic, I’ve used Eliza over and over again for our bedding photography over many years, and it always looks great and works so well with our style. I love an upholstered bed, I think beds are such a great place to add pattern into a bedroom. I love it so much I’ve put a Super King Eliza Bed Frame in my bedroom!
As an ambassador of bringing joyful colour to your home, what advice would you give to our readers on how to add colour to their bedroom?
The bed is the most natural and easy place to add colour to your bedroom, I like to keep my walls quite neutral in my bedroom and add the colour through the textiles. I really love an upholstered bed, in lots of our shoots we’ve used upholstered beds and they really add something special to a room, it's such a great place to get in some colour. An upholstered bed is also a great way to do something really fun, a patterned upholstered bed is such a cool way to add personality to a room- I’ve gone for white walls and a full patterned bed in my bedroom at home and I love it. And of course I’m a big advocate of bringing in colour through bedding and cushions too, I love layering colour in bedrooms with different textiles, it really helps create that feeling of comfort that is so lovely in a bedroom.
What exciting new projects do you have on the horizon?
As part of the new shop opening I’ve also created a gallery space to sell my original artwork, up until this point I’ve very rarely sold original pieces but have been asked many times for original paintings, so creating and painting new pieces for my gallery is my next project.
The bluebellgray store is now open to visit in Glasgow, where you can purchase bluebellgray cushions, fabrics and wallpapers, as well as other items from around the world. You can also book a free interior and colour advice appointment in advance.