Established in 2016, Claire Totman Designs specialises in high-end design for private residential clients and developers ranging from design focused extensions, major renovations and new build homes. Claire runs her architecture, interior design and project management studio from Surrey with her team. We spoke to Claire to better understand the design process behind her work and how she creates such perfect spaces to relax in.
How did you get started in architecture and interior design, and what led you to pursue it as a career?
Architecture and design has always been a huge passion since I was a little girl. I was always re-decorating and arranging my beautiful dollhouse and my parents’ home. They’d come back from evenings out and I would have rearranged the furniture! I had files and files of houses I’d drawn as a child and the families that lived in them. After graduating from Oxford Brookes University I moved to London and jumped into the design world. Over the years I worked my way up in various well known design firms and then the company I was working for at the time went under. This was my chance to take the leap and start up on my own. It was always the end goal but this was the push as I was made redundant. The rest is history!
Your renovations turn dated buildings into dream homes. Where do you find inspiration for your design projects?
When I see a property crying out to be improved, I can immediately see the vision in my head. I love finding projects on RightMove and mocking the design up in my head and wandering the local streets looking at what’s been done/still needs doing. I would say my inspiration comes mainly from Instagram but also from visiting beautiful hotels, restaurants and country homes.
What should people think about before starting work on their own project?
Budget budget budget! Materials and labour are at an all time high, we’ve never seen it this bad so a healthy contingency is absolutely vital. I would also consider moving out if you can. A project will run much easier and faster if the clients aren't living in. In terms of the design though, spend time making sure you are happy with your architectural plans and your interior design scheme. Don’t settle for something that doesn't excite you. And lastly, don’t buy cheap. If you buy cheap you’ll buy twice!
What do you think the next big trends will be in interior design?
It’s hard to tell but I am always very conscious not to follow trends. Trends go in and out of fashion. My style is classic and traditional with a contemporary twist so I believe designs that have lasted for centuries will always win the race.
When designing your own home and bedroom, what were the most important things to you?
I was so excited to design our current home. When we bought the house it had been empty for four years and hadn’t been touched for decades. We ripped everything out and extended. The most important rooms in my home to me are the kitchen, bathroom and our bedroom. These are the three rooms I spend the most time in. Our kitchen is a large open plan area where we spend time as a family but I do love a hot bubble bath and an early night so these rooms were also super important. I designed our bedroom in a very calming way with neutral colours with subtle pops of colour. We have a huge super king bed and good quality bedding is very important. There is nothing better than climbing into fresh sheets. White bedding always!
When it comes to finishing touches, what items should you always invest in, and where can you save budget?
I believe you should always invest in good quality bedding. It’s where we spend so much time, and it also needs to wash well. There is nothing worse than white bedding that goes grey or see-through after being washed too much! You can save on items such as scatter cushions and throws as these are more decorative so they are used and washed less often so they don’t need to be of the same quality as the bed sheets. For finishing touches in other areas of the home I believe you should invest in good quality carpet especially in the high traffic areas. I only like to have carpets in bedrooms. I am also partial to good quality expensive candles. I love filling my home with gorgeous smells. I think it’s so inviting to enter someone's home that smells amazing.