Media Interview with Judith Wilson, freelancer and contributing editor to House & Garden

With the March launch of her interior design book 'Children's Spaces 0-10' in paperback, we decided to get in touch with author Judith Wilson for more about her career in journalism as well as some style and decorating tips… 

Having written 13 design books, spent time at Homes and Gardens and now contributing to House & Garden (two very different magazines), Judith is also sharing the principles of panache with students at the KLC School of Design. What will we learn today? 

About your work in journalism

With 20 years of experience in interiors and design journalism, what have been the highlights of your career so far?

When I was still working at IPC Media, being appointed decorating editor at Homes and Gardens was brilliant. But I have been freelance for 16 years, and have loved the creative freedom that this has allowed: I enjoy the mix of working on magazine features, books, and giving talks. I have written 13 design books, so being commissioned to do each of them has been a huge highlight. I am a contributing editor for House & Garden, and I’ve enjoyed every single commission that I’ve done for them.

Where are we likely to have seen your work?

My work has appeared in many interiors magazines – the aforementioned publications as well as Livingetc, Country Homes & Interiors, The English Home, Red and Easy Living.

What’s the most memorable work you’ve done?

Working on my books has created some very memorable work. For most of the design titles I’ve devised the concept, picked the locations, gone on all the shoots and written the copy, and that has been immensely satisfying.

Is there a feature (or interview) you would still love the chance to do?

I don’t have a particular feature that I’m longing to do – I approach every commission with a fresh, open mind so each one engages me. 

As well as writing, you also lecture at the KLC School of Design. What do you focus on in your lectures, and how did you originally get into it?

I was originally asked to lecture on styling at KLC while I was still working for Homes and Gardens. Since I’ve been freelance, I’ve done a couple of lectures per term and I love talking about styling to the students, as it is a very visual, interactive session and they don’t have to take boring notes! I focus on the work of stylists on magazines and how to enhance your styling 'eye' and then we consider examples of successful, and not so successful, styling. I also look at how to pitch house features to magazine editors.

About ‘Children’s Spaces 0-10’

Your book ‘Children’s Spaces 0-10’ is due to come out in paperback next month – tell us a bit about what it covers…

The book is about how to have a cool, modern home that works for family life, but without making too many style sacrifices. With a little bit of thought, you can devise rooms that everyone can use, which are practical and can withstand the rigours of sticky fingers! All the locations photographed for 'Children’s Spaces' were real life family homes, in the UK, Europe and the USA, proving that stylish family living is possible. I really dislike it when I go to homes and there is an 'adults only' sitting room. 

What originally inspired you to write it?

I was originally inspired to write it when my own kids were small, and I couldn’t find much in the way of design inspiration for family homes. 

Any plans for a ‘Teenager’s Spaces 11-17 – The Messy Years’?

Plans for a teenage book? I’ve done one, called Teen Zone!

How do you feel about the gender binaries that frequently come up in children’s spaces (blue for boys and pink for girls, etc.) – do you feel they can be limiting?

Yes, I think the gender boundaries are very limiting. I’d rather see kids’ rooms in jolly shades like tangerine, leaf green or turquoise that work for everyone.   

About you and PRs

Where do you usually source ideas for articles?

Ideas come from a variety of means – perhaps a decorative concept that I’ve seen at a location, an idea that a designer has mentioned in passing, or I’ve noticed an upcoming trend that needs to be explored. I very rarely get features ideas directly from a press release.

How can PRs be useful to you, and how and when do you like them to get in touch?

I get regular press releases from lots of PRs. This is useful in terms of keeping me updated with product launches and collections, or perhaps letting me know about a designer who is new on the scene. I’m happy with email press releases. 

Do you find press conferences, trips, parties and other events useful or an interruption?

It is always lovely to be invited to specific parties and trips, but, sadly, they do take up a lot of time. If a trip is likely to yield a really interesting article, though, I would take the time to go, especially if there is the chance to meet a designer or to go to a location that isn’t easily accessible.

If you could make one change to the way PRs deal with you, what would it be?

It helps immensely if PRs understand which titles I write for, and target the information they send accordingly.

About you

Do you think Linda Barker’s recent stint on ITV’s superlative Saturday night show ‘Splash’ brought interior design to a new audience?! 

I’m really sorry, but I didn’t see it so I can’t comment!

This interviewer wishes she could say the same… If you had an unlimited budget, how would you design your own ‘space’? Are there particular pieces, or designers’ work that you covet?

I’m a great believer in spending money on good “bones” so the budget would go on things like really beautiful wide-plank reclaimed timber floors, traditional school radiators, amazingly efficient plumbing and made-to-measure curtains and blinds in heavy neutral linens. 

What’s the most beautiful interior you’ve ever seen?

A few years ago when I was shooting one of my books, we went to a house on Long Island in USA belonging to a French designer. It had a cool Fifties' vibe, with flashes of extraordinary colour like lime green and lilac. It was so inspirational.

Could you give us some basic 'dos and don’ts' when it comes to interior decorating? (a.k.a. Should I paint my bedroom walls black?)

Spend your money on quality surfaces, like a timber floor, simple metro-style tiles or a flash of marble in the bathroom and beautiful handles. You can save money on simple shop-bought curtains. I love white walls but don’t be afraid to use a little bit of glorious colour, perhaps on an armchair or one wall. Colour adds instant personality at home.

What books are on your bedside table, magazines in your bag, or blogs on your screen?

I’ve recently reviewed 'Around Beauty' by the US interior designer Barbara Barry. It is beautifully photographed and thoughtfully written. I studied English Literature at university, so I have also just ordered 'Mad Girl’s Love Song', which is about Sylvia Plath’s early literary life.

'Children's Spaces 0-10' is published by Ryland, Peters & Small, £14.99

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