Where it all began
Isn't it funny how time is the only way you get to see things go full circle? I sometimes think, if only I knew back then that in twenty years' time, I would be doing this for a living.
I was around ten when I unknowingly fell in love with interior design. It brings me a lot of happiness now to know that throughout all the twists and turns of the last ten years after leaving school, of figuring out who I am and what I want, that ten-year-old me was right all along.
It came naturally to me
As a little girl, I was lucky enough to have lots of opportunities. My parents sacrificed a lot to put my brother and me into various clubs - I danced from age 3 - 22, I did Karate (my dad was the teacher), I played the Piano, I did trampolining, I attended summer camps. But there was one thing I really enjoyed as a youngster that came naturally to me and it was something that I enjoyed for myself, and that was immersing myself in interior design programmes and drawing.
We only had four channels back then, so I guess most of us 90s kids watched the same programmes - DIY SOS, Changing Rooms, Ground Force, you see where I'm going with this. But, my obsession went deeper. On the one hand, I'd find myself totally amazed at how you could completely transform a room in a house, and how happy it would make the homeowners, but on the other hand, I'd find myself critiquing the designs, and pointing out how I would do something differently, or how something could have been better.
I was serious about my designs
I'd spend my evenings after school sketching floor plans of our family home. Each room in the house would have a new design, and I'd use whichever catalogues we had at home (usually the Argos and Next catalogues) to choose all the furnishings. I'd add the page numbers to the items so that mum and dad knew where I wanted the new furniture from. I do laugh to myself when I think how serious I was, and how I genuinely believed my parents would implement my designs..
My parents were avid DIYers, my dad taught himself everything he needed to know about construction, and built our entire extension. Over the years, him and mum re-landscaped the garden into a gorgeous design, and my mum was the painting queen. However, I always remember our home being a bit mis-matched. Nothing ever seemed to flow, and nothing ever seemed fully finished - another project was always starting before another one had finished and it would drive me crazy.
The wrong decision, maybe?
Spring forward to finishing college, I was working my gap year in a full-time job that I hated. It was this job that gave me the desire and goal in life to one day run my own business. Something had to change, so I decided to take the leap and go to university and get a degree. I thought interior design was what I wanted to study, but a lack of knowledge and education in the industry back then meant that I thought I would spend 3-5 years+ sitting behind a computer and not actually doing any real design, and as a really active person, I wasn't sure that the academic route was for me. I did a 180 and auditioned for a dance course instead - something I knew I could do well and would give me the creative, active outlet that I missed in my 9-5. My course was ok, but after graduating, I didn't end up in the dance industry. Sometimes I wonder, did I make the wrong decision? Would I be further along in my career now, or would I have fallen out of love with interior design like I did dancing if I'd have taken a traditional route into interior design?
Fast forward again to my mid-twenties, I was saving with my partner to buy our first home. I always knew a renovation project would be my ideal first home, so I could get stuck in and do all the interior design and have that enjoyment from transforming a home that I would always feel watching those programmes as a little girl. We were really lucky to get the keys to a little gem - a small two-bedroom bungalow which needed a full-scale remodel. We spent 12 -15 months in total completely renovating whilst we lived at home with George's parents. Almost everything but the outside four walls came down. We rebuilt the lot, adding a bedroom, an en-suite, and an extension. It was a really long process, but for the most part, I loved every minute of it and I learnt so much about renovating a home, the process, how things work and how to make decisions under pressure.
Going full - circle
At this point, we'd been living in our home for two years, and I'd been designing and re-styling the house over and over. For a while, I had been thinking about how I wish I could design more homes and get paid to do it, and the niggling feeling started to get more frequent. I spent hours scrolling RightMove, finding houses that needed work and thinking about how I could bring them back to life. It gave me a lot of joy, and I realised that it was something I had always loved to do.
When lockdown 2020 hit, I was determined to not let it take over my entire life. I was lucky enough to keep my full-time job in web, which I really loved and it gave me a solid focus, but like everyone else, lockdown made me re-evaluate. What was missing from my life? When the world goes back to normal, what do I want my life to look like? I knew that my future had to involve designing homes somehow, and it felt like the perfect opportunity to combine the goal of running my own business too. I made a decision to find an intense short course that gave me the skills to run a business, gave me solid interior design knowledge and skills, and the support to launch my business on the side of my full-time job.
Introducing Allie Stephens Interiors.
After finding the perfect course for me, I took a big leap in an uncertain time and invested the money I'd saved into funding my dream business. In 2021, the course began just before my 29th birthday. I spent the next five months working a full-time job, and studying a full-time course in every other hour I had spare.
It's definitely been a rocky journey, I won't lie - perhaps rockier than I expected but I put that down to my Pisces-level optimism. Nevertheless, nothing worthwhile ever comes easy, right? I'm proud of what I've achieved so far, and I'm excited about the future of ASI.