We adore the brilliant Claudia Baillie at Rockett St George!
Claudia is a very talented interiors writer and editor who's career sky-rocketed 13 years ago working as a Features Editor at Livingetc, Acting Features Editor at Homes & Gardens and Interiors Editor at Sunday Times Style.
Now a talented interiors freelancer Claudia hosted our 'In Conversation Evening' with Jane and Lucy (co-founders of Rockett St George) at Liberty London late last year and we were struck by how genuine, funny, intelligent and a total interiors goddess Claudia is. After our RSG event it became our mission to have Claudia in our #10MinsWith ... series! Kindly, Claudia obliged and took ten mins out to tell us all about how she started her career, her home and favourite RSG pieces!
1. As an interiors journalist working on all the biggest titles, it must be so exciting to be the first to see the latest trends and designs emerging. What and/or who inspires you?
People who actually make things always inspire me. As a child, I loved drawing, painting, sewing and craft, and I went on to study art and then fashion as a young adult. Now, although I write a lot I spend much less time being creative in the very literal sense and I’m definitely a frustrated maker, so I’m fascinated by woodworkers, people that weave, potters, glass blowers, embroiderers…the Burberry Makers House, which was a collaboration between The New Craftsmen and Burberry that ran during the London Design Festival was amazing. Not only was it beautifully set up there were bookbinders, calligraphers, engravers and people doing needlework. Along with a long list of other things (learn to play the guitar, cook more, reprise my horse riding career, get into yoga – so not much really!) in 2017 I resolve to draw more, start sewing again and generally make more stuff.
2. When did you decide that a career in interiors journalism was for you? And why?
I came to it relatively late in the day and only started doing work experience when I was 28. After graduating with a degree in fashion in the 90’s, I worked very briefly in trend prediction before deciding, as many people do, to take a year out and travel. When I came back I started temping and before I knew it I was and account manager for France Telecom. It was a great job with lots of perks but not a career I’d ever dreamed of, so when they offered me voluntary redundancy I took the leap. I always loved magazines right from when I was a teenager poring over Smash Hits and Just 17, then a student impatiently waiting for the next issue of Vogue, The Face or ID, so rather than straight fashion, that was the route I decided to pursue. My first internship was at a wedding magazine, and I spent many hours in the cupboard returning satin shoes and tiaras. After that, I worked at several other fashion titles, but it was only when I was offered a placement at Elle Decoration that I realised interiors was the way forward. I assisted lots of fantastic interior stylists before doing a stint at Livingetc magazine. It was there I started to do more writing, and eventually they offered me a full-time job. I guess the moral of the story is as long as you’re willing to give things a really a good go, it’s never too late to try something new.
3. What has been the highlight of your career so far?
Getting the job at Livingetc when I had no real journalistic experience but had worked really hard was pretty great, and also becoming Interiors Editor at the Sunday Times Style, as it’s a magazine that everyone knows and loves. While I was there I got to interview some amazing people – Mary Portas and designer Faye Toogood were both fantastic. I also interviewed artist Jamie Hewlett, who is the co-creator of Gorillaz. I’d been a massive fan since university when I got into his Tank Girl comic strips so that was quite a big deal for me. A couple of weeks ago I interviewed Tom Dixon, which was another highlight, and also fashion designer Rifat Ozbek, which thrilled my 90’s fashion student self. Then towards the end of last year, I hosted a talk at Liberty with none other than Lucy and Jane, the founders of Rockett St George. It was lots of fun, and (I hope) the audience enjoyed it so that’s got to be up there too. In summary, then there have been quite a few!
4. You were recently a judge at the Amara Interior Blog Awards. What would your top 3 tips be to bloggers wanting to create a successful interiors blog that stands out from the crowd?
- A really well-designed blog is always a bonus - visually pleasing, easy to navigate and not necessarily minimal but laid out in a way that doesn’t detract from the content.
- I like to read content that is exciting, original, and that teaches me something I don’t already know. Features are written by someone who has been out and about, talking to and interviewing interesting people and getting the lowdown first hand. It’s also important to say why things are relevant – if you’re saying something is a trend for example, why is it? I like ideas and tips, but they really have to come from the blogger asking an expert or creating something unique themselves – there’s nothing worse than stuff that’s just been copied, or people listing interiors ‘tips’ they’ve read somewhere else and pretending they are their own.
- A sense of humour is fantastic and blog copy doesn’t have to be as tight as you might find in a magazine, but it still needs to be well written. Also, avoid the interiors clichés – phrases like ‘pops of colour’ and ‘bouncing light’ are all very overused and really just a bit naff.
6. Your home is filled with colour and gorgeous vintage pieces. What room in your home do you love the most and why?
I live in an Art Deco block, and my living room has a big bay window so it’s fantastically bright. There’s also an original fireplace, which makes it lovely and cosy in winter. Despite my job none of my furniture is very high-end, it’s all from eBay or charity shops although I’m thinking of maybe investing in some classic Swedish String shelving if I can ever afford it. I also love my bedroom, which really sunny in the morning. I’ve a four-poster bed (only Ikea) and just before Christmas, I bought some dusty pink linen from the Conran Shop, which could be one of the greatest things I’ve ever owned. I’ve always had plain white sheets up until now, but now I think I’m a convert.
7. When decorating or shopping, what influences your own personal style at home?
I really am a big believer in filling your home with things you genuinely love. They don’t have to be expensive - some of my very favourite possessions have been inherited from family members, found in charity shops or bought from markets while on holiday. I’ve a little plaster statue of the Virgin Mary that I bought in Rio for example, a card full of antique buttons from Amsterdam, some beetle specimens from a market in Madrid. I remember when and where I bought them, and who I was with so they all have fond memories attached. A little humour goes a long way too, so try to include a few jolly things that make you smile. I also believe that nothing needs to match. Once everything that makes you happy is in one place it generally tends to work.
8. Since April last year you’ve been freelance - do you have any advice for others wanting to take the plunge?
Communicate with people, keep in touch and get yourself out there. I’m always REALLY grateful to be asked to any press show or event, so deadlines permitting, will do everything I can to accept an invitation even if its on the other side of London (or further). Also, be brave - say yes to things that take you out of your comfort zone. I’ve done lots of things since becoming freelance that I had no idea I even could, and it’s been brilliant. You’ll be amazed at how transferable your skills are when it comes down to it. And finally, respect people’s deadlines. I’ve been a commissioning editor and it’s really uncomfortable having to chase people, so don’t be the person that submits work late. If you really can’t make a deadline, let the relevant person know as soon as possible, make sure you agree on a new date and stick to it. Having said that, I’m now worried that someone will read this and think ‘she’s filed copy late to me before’, but I’m pretty sure there are very few of those people out there!
9. What does 2017 have in store for you?
As I said, since I’ve been freelance I’ve branched out into other areas other than writing – styling, art direction and consulting work - so I hope there’s more of that to come. I’m considering starting a blog, as there are so many interesting people, products and places I see and visit, and it would be great to have somewhere to record things that I don’t get to report on for magazines. I’d also love to write an interiors book. There’s so much stuff I’ve learned from interviewing experts over the years that it would be a shame not to put it down in some shape or form. I’m just thinking about the best and most original way to approach it.
10. Finally, list 3 RSG products that you love!
I am the proud owner of a Moroccan wedding blanket, which is fantastic and as an added bonus, wonderfully jingly. I wanted one for years and years, and even more so when I saw on Instagram that Jane uses hers to cover up a boring bed head, which is a genius idea. In my head I see myself lounging in the rattan peacock chair - currently, I don’t have room for anything as fabulous but one can dream. I also love the Marla beaded chandelier, which has something of a holiday feel to it and anything that reminds me of being on holiday is good by me.
Quick Fire Questions
1. I am happiest when… I’m on a plane and about to start an adventure in a new country.
2. My favourite magazine is… I couldn’t possibly say! I have lots of favourites, all for different reasons.
3. My dream holiday would be… a road trip around the USA. I’ve been to lots of the big cities, but the country as a whole fascinates me. I’d love to visit New Orleans, Austin, Nashville, Portland, San Francisco – basically all the hipster places, although I am in no way a hipster. I do think, though, that they’re places where there is lots of creativity and that’s something I’d like to experience first hand.
4. My ideal day would be spent… exploring a new place, preferably a town or city by the sea, with good weather, cool restaurants, exciting galleries, lots of great charity and junk shops, or markets to snoop around, and fun bars with live music in the evening.
5. My personal motto is…onwards and upwards!
6. My guilty pleasure is… bread. I could eat bread all day every day if it wasn’t such a terribly bad idea from a health perspective. Marmite on toast made from a fresh white loaf cut in thick slices, with real butter and a cup of builders tea would most definitely be my last supper.
7. The last film I saw was… a preview screening of La La Land at the Charlotte Street Hotel. I don’t know who I’ve got more of a crush on, Ryan Gosling or Emma Stone.
8. My favourite book is… don’t judge me but it’s The Dirt by Motley Crue. You don’t have to like rock or even be vaguely interested in the band to read the book, however, you must not be in the least bit easily offended as parts of it (all of it in fact), are pretty shocking and rude. An off brand choice I know, maybe I should have chosen something about crochet?
9. In five years’ time, I want to be…. a published author! Also, to have broadened my career and still be happy doing what I’m doing. Failing that, working my way around Asia, potting, drawing, or making something with seashells will do.
10. The three things I can’t live without are… Marmite, Guns N’ Roses and my urban family.