Interior designer Carole King is the face behind the hugely successful Dear Designer’s Blog, which is listed as one of the top ten interior design blogs in the UK. She describes it as her ‘library of loveliness’, and a space to share inspirational content. From a hobby, it grew into a career and she now writes about interior design full time. Sara Walker found out more.
SW: I love the look and feel of your blog – it’s more like a scrapbook or mood board than a website. Was that the feeling you were going for, and if so, did it start out like that or evolve over time? How did you come up with the ‘Dear Designer’ name?
CK: I think it’s always been a bit of a scrapbook for me. It certainly started out as a place I could share anything that particularly inspired me. Over time though, it’s evolved into interior inspiration that is very much my taste and aesthetic. There are lots of things I see now that I like, but they don’t make it onto the blog because I prefer to keep the content recognisable and ‘on brand’. Much the same way that Instagrammers keep their feed consistent.
The ‘Dear Designer’ name is a bit embarrassing really! One morning on the tube I was reading The Sun newspaper over someone’s shoulder and they were looking at the agony aunt page, which was titled Dear Deirdre. As I was going to hopefully give advice as well as inspiration to my readers I thought maybe I could be an interiors agony aunt. Hence Dear Designer.
SW: Could you tell me a little about your background, and how you got into what you’re doing now?
CK: I studied interior design fourteen years ago at the KLC School of Design. It was a career change for me as I’d always worked in advertising, but I’d always been interested in interiors. One of the designers I worked for was featured on Desire to Inspire and after that I read as many blogs as I could.
Then in 2009 I started my own blog, and two years later started Heart Home magazine with Arianna (Arianna’s Daily) and Daniel (Atelier Tally). Both websites grew and eventually I gave up working for other people to concentrate on freelance work and the blogs. I certainly didn’t start out thinking that Dear Designer would lead to business opportunities. It was purely a hobby at the start.
SW: What would you say your personal style was (ie traditional, modern, edgy etc)?
CK: As a designer I’m interested in all kinds of styles. And I’d say my own style changes in line with current trends because it’s difficult not to be influenced when you’re surrounded by new things all of the time. And then it depends on other things too. My current home is a new-build so I’ve tried to inject some drama into it with bold wallpapers and strong colours. I love contrast. So much so that my boyfriend calls this my ‘black period’.
On the other hand I also have a holiday home in Norfolk and that is light and bright with neutrals and a much more traditional look. In both homes I have adopted a re-cycle and re-use approach as much as possible.
SW: Your website is so successful, you’re clearly doing something right! What do you think it is that appeals to your readers? Idealism? Attainability?
CK: I do try to keep things realistic. I may feature beautiful interiors but I do try to show that you can have a stylish home even if you don’t have a deep purse. A lot of the products I feature come from the high street for example with the occasional expensive item mixed in. I also only use magazine quality images. I’ve taught myself to take better photographs over the years (working with photographers on Heart Home magazine gave me invaluable experience) so that if I do feature my own home it looks as good as the press images I use. So in answer to your question, I think it’s a mixture of idealism and attainability.
SW: You clearly love travel as well. How much influence do you think that has on your sense of style?
CK: Travel is great for inspiration. Anything that gets you away from your daily life is good for creativity, but travel also opens up your mind to different cultures, landscapes, colours, food, architecture, crafts …I could go on. It’s hard not to be influenced. We’re lucky these days that you can buy pretty much everything from the comfort of an armchair but it’s not the same as haggling for it in a foreign market. I always bring something back. And zillions of photographs too.
SW: What opportunities has running such a successful blog given you?
CK: It’s given me the opportunity to run my own business and only work on the projects that really interest me. It’s also given me travel opportunities too. Win-win!
SW: What are your favourite design tips for brightening up a tired interior? (For example, some people swear by the use of clever lighting, I personally love texture and colour and would always start there.)
CK: Nothing beats changing the colour of the walls to liven up an interior. It’s relatively cheap to do, most of us can wield a roller and paintbrush, and it can be easily changed if we have made a terrible mistake! It can make a dramatic difference or it can do the opposite and calm things down.
After that, I’d change up the artwork and soft furnishings. In fact it’s what I’m currently looking at doing in my own living room. The white walls will soon be getting a coat of pink paint to warm it up a bit and I’m on the lookout for some new art and cushions.
All photos (c) Carole King/Dear Designer’s Blog 2018