With 30 years experience in the interiors industry, interiors stylist Sarita Sharma knows a thing or two about how to put the perfect dream scheme together. Having began her career at homewares and furniture brand Habitat, Sarita now freelances for some of the biggest brand names and magazine titles in interiors including Ideal Homes, John Lewis and of course Woodchip & Magnolia.
We teamed up with Sarita on our Fearne Cotton collaboration back in 2021 and Sarita has since used our patterntastic wallpapers and colourful paints in many of her interior designs. We wanted to find out more about what goes on behind the scenes of an interior designer's job and the inspirations behind her work....
Hi Sarita! We love your work. Please could you tell us a bit about your job as an Interior Stylist?
As a stylist I get commissioned to produce and style shoots for clients. I have a wide variety of clients and no day is the same; it could be anything from shooting Christmas content in July for a magazine, shooting spring/summer furniture in January for a garden furniture company or completely re decorating a location for a wallpaper brand. There are more days working on the production of the shoot then the actual shoot days as this will involve creating mood boards, props sourcing, location recce, booking photographers, set builders and assistants and just working out all the logistics.
Could you tell us a bit about your background?
I was fortunate enough to start my career working on the Habitat catalogue when Sir Terence Conran was still involved. That gives away how long I’ve been a stylist!
When did you realise you had an ‘eye’ for styling?
I didn’t go to art school and don’t have any art qualifications but I did have a creative eye and got the best training working for Habitat, which was one of the most prestigious interiors brands. Fortunately they saw that in me and gave me the opportunity to style one of the smaller seasonal catalogues which then led to working for 5 years on the main Habitat catalogue.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I don’t really have a typical day but on days I’m producing the shoot, I will be working out budgets with clients to see what can be achieved then designing sets and putting together colour schemes, location suggestions and props. I’ll do a dog walk which breaks up the day and gives me time to recharge, otherwise I can be on my computer all day. I also get the opportunity to go to press shows to see what brands are doing for the next season. On those days I make the most of being in central London and spend a few hours walking around the stores to get inspiration.
Once everything has been approved by a client, it’s then time to visit the prop hire companies, purchase props that can’t be hired, confirm locations and book the team. On shoot days it’s usually an early start if shooting in the winter months. I am lucky enough to have a location house so I love it when I get to shoot here. Shoot days are hectic; if we are lucky enough to have a set up day thenthat relieves a bit of the pressure and gives time to get the shot completely ready the day before the photographer comes in. It also allows for any missing products to be sorted and the set builders to decorate the location. On the shoot I will be liaising with the photographer, set builders, assistants, clients - it is very busy but always worth it when the client is happy with the end result.
I was working as PA to the Habitat catalogue director who was responsible for the design and photography. It was him who suggested I became a stylist.
What inspires your work?
I absolutely love my job and not many people can say that after 30 years of the same job! I love the team work, the creative input and the satisfaction of seeing the results from start to finish.I get great inspiration from other stylists and designers, travel and also my husband Dominic Blackmore who is an interiors photographer who I met when working on Habitat.Do you have any projects you’ve been particularly proud of?
During lockdown it was impossible for shoots to happen however I was in the fortunate position of having a location house, being married to a photographer and having a son that does set building, so we were able to carry on working by getting clients to send products to us so we could shoot them and did the whole shoot remotely. They were so grateful as they needed images for their websites as everyone was doing online shopping. I got to work with a lot of small brands who had their products readily available.
How would you describe your own interior style?
I have a large Victorian house which definitely has a feel of modern rustic. I love mixing in old pieces with very contemporary styles. I don’t particularly like clutter but it needs to be homely and welcoming.
What do you enjoy most about your work? No two days are the same, there is so much variety which keeps it exciting. I have always been freelance so love working from home on production days and then working in fabulous locations on shoot days
I recently did a shoot for Hypnos beds in an amazing manor house and wanted to use a combination of wallpaper and paint. The great thing about W&M are that the paint colours compliment the wallpaper colours and the result of using ‘Fern’ in Lush Green with ‘Mallard’ paint was stunning.How does pattern and colour play a part in your styling?
Because my own house is fairly neutral, I love creating colourful bold rooms for shoots and any chance I get to use a W&M design I do as they work so well in photography. I spend ages putting together colour schemes, in fact I am doing one at the moment and have a floor covered in tester pots and fabric samples!