Interview With Gilly Craft, Founder Of Koubou Interiors
Hello! Can you tell us about yourself?
My name is Gilly Craft and I run Koubou Interiors which is an Interior Architecture and Design company. We mostly work on Healthcare projects but also work on residential and commercial projects. Our customers are very diverse, so tend to seek us out due to our unique abilities. We particularly understand designing for an ageing population and for dementia sufferers.
We also have good skills in spatial design and so tend to work on projects with challenging layouts!
What's your backstory and what attracted you to design?
I have had two careers in my life, both of which I have enjoyed.
For over twenty years, I was cabin crew for British Airways, rising to the rank of Purser managing junior cabin crew on 747s. I travelled the world extensively and this gave me a very good understanding of the local culture and architecture. I used to love sketching iconic buildings in India and Japan particularly.
When I was about forty, I became unwell which meant I was not fit enough to fly anymore. I certainly couldn’t retire and so had to rethink.
I had always been interested in design and had wanted to go to fashion college in my youth but my parents blocked it and so I thought this was an opportunity. I got a qualification in Fashion and Design and a job tutoring at the local college. At this time, I also opened a business with a friend making very bespoke special occasions and wedding wear.
After a while, I was asked to step into the Interior Design department at the college due to the tutor’s ill health. This meant more training and so I completed a Diploma in Interior Design which I gained with Distinction.
I carried on teaching at the college for a number of years but I was being asked to do projects for people and after a while, I decided that I had to make a decision.
Koubou Interiors was opened in 2005 in a studio that we renovated ourselves. We have been there ever since.
We hadn’t been there long when we were contacted by the local hospital who wanted to bring their building up to the standard of those enjoyed in America. We started with the Outpatients Department and ended up doing a new wing and several departments over a number of years.
This gave me a love of healthcare design and making a difference to people in challenging situations.
As a student, I joined the BIDA which became the BIID (British Institute of Interior Design) Over the years, I have sat on various committees and then became CPD Director joining the board. I was President last year and still sit on the board as Past President.
What do you love most about designing?
The process I think, seeing something evolve.
Who, for you, has been the most influential designer/designers?
When I was doing my diploma, my thesis was on Charles Rennie Mackintosh. I love Art Deco and have always wanted to visit the library in Glasgow he designed. Sadly it keeps being burnt down, so I am not sure I will ever achieve that.
Where/how do you find inspiration for new designs?
Inspiration is a strange thing, it can come from anywhere. I think because I am of a ‘certain age’, I draw on life experiences and my knowledge of history and travel. I also visit certain trade shows. 100% design is a particular favourite of mine because it deals with materials and surfaces more than pretty furniture.
My team and I work with the four walls of a space and get the spatial design nailed down first. When we can see how the space will work, then the rest comes together. We don’t work to presciptive designs, everything is bespoke for the client. I think this is why I really like Martin Brudnizki as a designer, his revamp of Annabels was brilliant, very different.
Describe your approach to choosing/using colours.
Because we work a lot in the Healthcare sector, colour is very important and we have to be very careful about how we use it. The LRV or light reflectance value has to have enough difference between the ceiling, walls and floor.
We often have to work to the client’s corporate colours, we don’t really get to choose. Sometimes it is really hard to make a pleasing scheme from the corporate colours but you have to pull it off regardless.
I don’t really have a favourite colour but I appreciate when the colour has been put together well with knowledge and style.
What do you like to hear people say when they view your work?
Koubou Interiors has been very lucky in winning a number of awards for our work. We have also had a lot of work featured in magazines and it is very satisfying that they should wish to feature our work.
What is your all-time favourite design (yours)?
My favourite design was for a centre for children with special needs and their families. We won two prestigious awards for the design and the Duke and Duchess of Wessex opened the centre.
What interesting projects are you working on right now? And what does the future look like?
We have some very diverse projects at the moment;
An orthodontic practice - revamping the existing part of the practice and then designing and building a new part to the practice for private patients. This is a two-phase project and will probably last another year. We have been designing the project for the last eighteen months, so we are very excited that the build starts this month.
We have a residential project where we are completely reconfiguring the ground floor of a house to include the design of a bespoke kitchen.
Another project is designing the interior space for two extensions to a residential home. We have worked for this client before as she has a child with special needs and we understand the constraints with the design.
We hope the future will bring even more diverse projects and we look forward to the challenge.