Getting Inspired: London Trip To Grand Designs Live And Clerkenwell

My round up of Grand Designs Live and Clerkenwell whistle stop tour

Before I share ramblings about my recent adventures, I thought I'd let you in on some of my thoughts since I went self employed.

I really wanted to push myself out of my comfort zone this year so I made it my goal to do just that. Over the past couple of years I've let worry and self-doubt get in the way of my aspirations but I decided I wasn't going to let it hold me back any more. It's strange how sometimes stressful experiences can make you scared to do the things you want to do and you often find yourself choosing a life that is safe, comfortable and stable. However, after swapping to a 'normal' job a few years ago I realised that I missed being creative and I craved working in the interior design sector again.

So as you may already know, just before Easter I left my 9-5 job to focus on my business after a long period of juggling my blog, sideline interior design projects and full time job. It's been an exciting journey so far and a very busy six weeks. I have loved every minute and I'm looking forward to the future projects I'll be working on! One of the main things I've been working on recently is the full interior design and project management of an office space in Liverpool city centre and I'll be sharing more about it soon on my blog.


I've recently learnt a lot about business over the past few months; from attending workshops, speaking to other business people for advice as well as friends and family and one of the things I've been advised not to do is to tell people I'm a new business. But I'm all about being transparent, honest and real, and if people are going to use 'being new' as a reason not to use the services I offer, those people probably would have also assumed I don't know what I'm doing because I look eighteen. I'm actually thirty but I just have good asian genes haha!

It's actually funny how many people have asked me if I've just come out of college/uni the past few months and when I laugh it off and politely tell them I graduated almost ten years ago, I sense they feel a little bit embarrassed for asking. I suppose it's better than being mistaken for being ten years older. I also had a lady ask me what I do recently and when I told her I run my own business, she seemed really shocked and said 'How old are you?! You look so young!'. So yes... I'm very aware that I look young and naive and yes I'm new in business, but I'd like to think I've got my head screwed on and I'm pretty good at what I do.

It does make me wonder if my young looking appearance will have a negative effect on how successful I am... but luckily it hasn't hindered me so far. I'd be interested to know if this has affected you in any way before.

(I know I've gone off on a massive tangent here but I'm finding this quite therapeutic!). 

Grand Designs Live

Solo trip

Without further a do, here is a little round up of my recent trip to London. I embarked on my first 'fully solo trip' visiting London for Grand Designs Live and whilst I was there I explored some beautiful showrooms in Clerkenwell. By 'fully solo trip' I mean actually travelling and staying in a hotel on my own. I always thought a solo trip would be great, without having to please anyone else but yourself. Plus I was also thinking that I could take as long as I wanted, without being told to hurry up. Win win! But then you get to the part where you have to go for dinner on your own and when your i-phone battery has died after a full day exploring, it's not very fun at all! I'm not sure I would opt to go away on my own again, or at least next time I'd make sure I had my power pack fully charged as a back up, so I can at least bury my head into my phone during a meal! Normally I would end up dragging my friends or loved ones to these type of events (who would probably rather not be there) but I think I'm going to need to find a new design buddy to come along with me in future.

Grand Designs Live

Despite the first evening mishap, I had a great two days exploring London. On the first day I visited Grand Designs Live; this year it was centred around an eco-friendly theme of 'save our seas' with a plastic free campaign. They decided to make a bold move following the recent publicity surrounding the impact of single use plastics on the environment and the team worked alongside ExCeL, prohibiting the sale of plastic bottles from all in-show catering points along with the distribution of plastic straws. Plastic cutlery and show goody bags were also replaced with biodegradable alternatives.

'The Cockroach' made entirely of recycled items such as bike frames,  'for sale' signs and old grand designs signage.

I thought this was a fantastic initiative as I'm really passionate about eco-friendly design too. I can't even imagine how many bottles of water would normally be purchased over the course of an event like this. It must be hundreds of thousands!

Architectural Salvage Zone

There was a real focus on sustainability with Kevin's Green Heroes, the Architectural Salvage zone and many of the talks discussed how we can be more environmentally conscious in the sourcing of products and even upcycling! I think it's really important that as consumers, we must make a conscious choice to be a lot more aware of how things are made and what they are made from. If something is eco-friendly, it doesn't mean it will look less aesthetically pleasing. There are many products you can choose that are either reclaimed or made from sustainably sourced natural materials and they look great too!

On the whole I left Grand Designs Live a little disappointed with the interiors section. I'm not sure whether it's because I've already visited before, but a lot of the stands were the same type of products that I've already seen before and I always hope to see a lot more innovation when I visit an event like this. I did however find a few gems. Here are some of my photo highlights of products that intrigued me.

X-Ply, plywood furniture
Moso bamboo surfaces - sustainable bamboo products
Adventures in Furniture
Adventures in Furniture - wooden extending dining table with ceramic heat proof and scratch proof top

IMG_1870.jpg IMG_1877.jpg

Centor bi-folding doors with amazing built in fly catcher and sun screens.
Interior design room sets
Interior design room sets
Interior design kids room set
Urban Outline Candles
Cadira dining chair
QLA Interiors - flexible stone, concrete and marble veneers


Koivu - bespoke birch plywood kitchens
Objects in glass - decorative glass manufacturer
Delicate Japanese paper set in a glass shower screen - Objects in glass


On the second day I was given a whistle-stop tour of Clerkenwell by the brand ambassador of Bisley. Trudy showed me around some of the beautiful showrooms and introduced me to a few other suppliers such as Boss Design, Morgan Furniture and Ahrend. I would have liked to spend another few days exploring as there was so much to see, but I only had one day unfortunatly! I was blown away by the impressive displays and I wish I'd chosen to visit London for Clerkenwell Design week instead. Two trips to London in such a short space of time is difficult for me being based in Liverpool, but next year I will definitely be putting Clerkenwell Design Week in my calendar as the chosen event for May! Despite my short time limit, I came away with so much inspiration. Two of my favourite stores were Morgan Furniture and Cappellini. Look at those lights in the below picture! Morgan Furniture often collaborate with lighting designers and artists for their beautiful displays and these lights are by Innermost Design. I regretfully didn't take my professional camera with me on this day; there were so many inspirational photo opportunities that I wish I was able to capture. Here are a few photos I managed to snap before my phone battery died again.

Morgan furniture shoowroom
Morgan Furniture showroom
Havwoods engineered wooden flooring showroom
Ahrend showroom
Ahrend's Showroom
Boss Design - Mea task chair
Cappellini showroom London
Cappellini Luke chair - Fusing traditional rattan processing with contemporary design

Hopefully if you are reading this and you know someone who may need an Interior Designer in Liverpool, you will think of me and pass them my details 🙂

Why not take a look at the past projects I've worked on here.

Natalie x

You may also like:-

The Evolution Of An Interior | Essential Things To Consider Before Renovating |6 Reasons Why You Should Hire An Interior Designer

9 thoughts on “Getting Inspired: London Trip To Grand Designs Live And Clerkenwell

  1. I’m not a big fan of travelling solo either. I have a really poor sense of direction and I’m always scared of getting lost. I never really do but I still get anxious about it. Like you I’m planning to do some more travelling this year to help me get over my fears. I think I’ve been to Clerkenwell Design week once before but I’d definitely like to go again.

  2. I was quite disappointed with the interior section at Grand Designs too. so it seems like we are on the same page there! Clerkenwell Design week looks fab though! Like you I’m also quite into the idea of finding out a bit more about business so those workshops sound great! Any personal recommendations are greatly welcomed!

  3. Well done on the solo travelling! It’s definitely not for everyone, but if you can overcome the thought of feeling a little silly in the evenings, it can be really enjoyable. I’ve just been to Greece on my own for 4 nights and loved it.

    You saw lots in 2 days! I can’t make CDW this year sadly, but will hopefully be there next year. Hollie x

  4. Wow, you saw so much! I love the Clerkenwell area of London and will be going to Design Week (and will definitely be checking out some of the showrooms here). Hopefully I’ll be as inspired as you were!

  5. Well done Natalie for pushing yourself and having rewarding time. Next time you’re in London give us a shout and I’ll join you for a cocktail! Off the clerkenwell this week so thanks for the lovely suggestions x

  6. Two destinations and two different design outlooks. Well done you on travelling solo – if you’re not used to it, it can be exceedingly daunting. This is going to sound strange but the thing that gave me anxiety about travelling on my own was eating on my own in the evening…… might sound odd but I always felt like cinderella. Until I discovered that Sushi bars were my friend. I was never bothered at lunchtime just in the evening, I’d feel people were looking at me. I don’t actually care anymore, but it was a hurdle I had to overcome. Love the Clerkenwell studios you chose to visit!

    1. That is the exact same thing that I didn’t like! I don’t mind wandering around in the day on my own but when it came to eating in the evening, I felt so odd. Everyone else were sat around socialising and enjoying themselves and it made me feel really lonely. I could have died to sit in a pub garden drinking a cocktail because it was such a lovely day but didn’t want to look like an idiot drinking on my own haha! I ended u retiring to my hotel room at 8pm like a loser!

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