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On the sofa with Oliver Thomas, interior designer

We can’t resist a good interior design show, so when the fourth season of the BBC TV series The Great Interior Design Challenge aired back in January, we were hooked!

One of the finalists of the series was talented interior designer Oliver Thomas, whose creative flair (and obsession with cushions!) caught our eye. Based in London, Oliver focuses particularly on the personalities and lifestyles of his clients when he’s brainstorming his ideas, making sure that they don’t just get the look that they’re going for, but also personalised homes that are practical for them.

Oliver Thomas (image credit: Sophie Robinson)

We chatted to Oliver about his career and how life has changed since the nation watched him showcase his interior design skills earlier this year, in front of judges Kelly Hoppen and Daniel Hopwood, president of the British Institute of Interior Design.

Where do you find inspiration for your designs?

“Inspiration really is all around us. Sometimes I can be inspired by great pieces of art, photos in magazines, fabric samples and even movies. I can become so intrigued on the backgrounds and set designs in movies that I end up missing what the film is actually about!  With social media becoming such a part of our everyday lives, I think it’s becoming increasing difficult to not to be inspired by what surrounds us. Sometimes it is a question of looking and not just seeing.”

What would you say the biggest obstacle is that you have faced in your interior design career and how did you overcome it?

“One of the most difficult obstacles I’ve had to face so far is learning that I can’t always say yes. When the final of the ‘Great Interior Design Challenge’ aired, I thought my phone was literally about to go into meltdown with incoming messages from people wanting me to take a look at their rooms and their properties! That was great, but it would’ve been impossible to consider all of them. I like to pride myself on being one of the good guys and the idea of having to say no is something that I’ve had to learn.”

How often do you update your own home interior?

“My home is in a constant state of flux! When I have the time I’m always looking at changing things up and trying out new ideas. I think it’s quite important to do so as you should want your home to be a reflection of who you are and what you’re about. Your home should grow and evolve alongside you. My home in North London is the perfect space to experiment and try things out before unleashing anything onto my clients…”

Tell us about your own sofa, its colour and fabric – why did you choose it?

“Well…my current sofa situation – I have a large 4 seater, scroll arm and tufted in purple velvet. I’ve had it for roughly 4 years and I have to say, it’s still in fantastic condition! As I’m sure you’re aware, I’m very into cushions and love layering them up on my sofa. The purple really provides the perfect backdrop for my cushion obsession (which I’m not ashamed to admit). When you buy a sofa you should always consider it an investment. So, ensure you buy one that’s great quality and complimented with a classic design so it lasts across the seasons.”

Do you have a favourite design that stands out to you?

“A sofa that I absolutely love at the moment from Sofa Workshop would have to be the ‘Lady May’. Simply because it looks so damn sexy! The whole design is traditional, full of curves and features generous scroll arms with fabulous turned-legs ending with brass castors. It truly is a beautiful design and if it’s upholstered in any of the to-die-for velvets they currently offer (I’d choose the green!) you’ll definitely master that contemporary vibe.”

What is the most frustrating thing about your job? What’s the most rewarding?

“I’m a firm believer that you don’t have to spend a huge amount of money to make a room look fabulous. Time frame and budget constraints are probably the most difficult thing to manage about the job. You have a budget and you should always stick to it, which sometimes isn’t easy. You need to learn to do things like scale drawings and maths definitely plays a part… it’s not always about choosing nice fabrics for curtains and cushions, sadly. Still, that been said, the most rewarding thing is actually watching my design come to life. From a 2D mood board all the way through to the finished article, then watching my client fall in love with it. It truly is one of the best feelings in the world.”

Describe yourself in three words…

“Motivated, Creative, Honest.”

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