Secrets Of Successful Women: Suzy Hoodless

Secrets Of Successful Women: Suzy Hoodless

We’ve joined forces with The Outnet to bring you the stories behind some of London’s most stylish and successful entrepreneurs. The third in our series is legendary interior designer, Suzy Hoodless…

With years of experience as an interiors journalist, followed by nearly two decades as a designer, Suzy Hoodless is more than qualified to be the third in our series focusing on successful woman. Running a team of seven from her studio in London’s Holland Park, she’s renowned for her creative projects, spanning from sprawling homes in Inverness to the renaissance of the BBC Television Centre to Barbados beach houses. We met with her to chat mentors, big breaks and, of course, style…

All I Ever Wanted To Do Was Work

My career happened by sheer accident. I got a job at the furniture and fabric design brand, Designers Guild. I knew I wanted to assist a creative team, and they happened to do interiors, so that’s how it started. It was nothing more prescribed than that. I went to university for six weeks – I did an art foundation at Kingston and then endured a whole six weeks at Manchester which I hated. I just wanted to get on with it, I just wanted to work. When my contemporaries left university, I had been working for four years. I set up my own company aged 24.

Each Role Has Been A Stepping Stone To The Next

I went to House & Garden after Designers Guild, and lurched around different magazines trying to find my way, getting to know everyone in the industry. And then someone said to me ‘you’ve got to meet Tyler Brûlé, he’s setting up this magazine called Wallpaper.’ So I went to meet him in Radnor Walk, off the Kings Road, in 1996, and sat in his garden, and he showed me the dummy issue – pre issue 1 – and I looked at this magazine and thought ‘my god this is the magazine I’ve always wanted to work for.’ He asked if I could start tomorrow, and we got on with it. I was the fourth  or fifth employee, and I was there for five years.

I looked at this magazine and thought ‘my god this is the magazine I’ve always wanted to work for.’ He asked if I could start tomorrow, and we got on with it.

Becoming A Designer Happened Organically

The five years I spent at Wallpaper were like an extraordinary utopia – I left feeling like I’d come shooting out the bottom of a crazy slide. Someone asked me to help them with their house, and I did – I didn’t really know anything about interior design, but I knew where to find things and I knew all the designers, manufacturers and suppliers. We bought all sorts of contemporary Italian furniture and that was a success, and 19 years later people are still asking where the items are from.

Suzy wears: Amina Tiered Floral Maxi Dress, £319 (was £615) & Suede Pumps, £298 (were £425)

I’ve Been In The Right Place At The Right Time

I’ve had a lot of big breaks. Working for Trisha, Sue Crewe at House & Garden and then Tyler were all equally amazing experiences. That, I suppose, is the luckiest thing – when you work for somebody brilliant, that’s what sets you apart and gets you on your way. I’ve been in the right place at the right time, and met some amazing people, but I also think you create your own luck – there are no shortcuts.

My Style Is Incredibly Versatile

I have a variety of moods – sometimes it’s a dress, sometimes it’s a pair of jeans. I’m not prescriptive about what I wear to a big event – wide leg denim teamed with a crisp white shirt can be as impactful and professional for a big meeting as a dress.

I Love The Dress From Today

The colour is amazing, I love the ruffles, the pattern – Preen do some amazing pieces, and their dresses are always so flattering. As I said, I’m pretty versatile – I’d be just as likely to wear this on the school run as to a big dinner.

I’ve been in the right place at the right time, and met some amazing people, but I also think you create your own luck – there are no shortcuts.

I Don’t Adhere To Dress Codes

If I do manage to get to school to pick up the kids, I’m often looking really polished whilst others are in their gym kit, and then at night they’ll all be smart and I’m in my tracksuit bottoms. I just wear what I feel like on any given day. However, I’ve learnt that the hard way on projects – heels to a building site is never a good idea.

I’ve Worked On So Many Cool Projects

We primarily do high end residential – right now we’re working on a large family house up in Shropshire. We also did the old BBC television centre renovation, which was huge.  About five years ago they asked us to work on their show apartments and to develop their marketing building, and then we went on to design their communal areas and the actual building, which has meeting rooms, co-working spaces and a screening room. That all came down to our team of seven – they’ve been very busy! The building has so much history. Taking that brief and turning it into something completely different was really cool.

I Don’t Have A Signature Aesthetic

I really believe in working with my client, so three things dictate a brief for me – the client’s character and personality or their company’s brand and DNA, the architecture, and then of course the budget. I’m not a designer who says ‘this is what I do’ – I really want every interior to be different, because it would be so boring to always churn out the same thing. I love the initial stages of working with a client – they don’t necessarily know what they want, but you work it out for them. In the old days I would march into peoples’ bedrooms and open their wardrobes and you’d either see a wardrobe full of print of something very neutral, and that’s a useful starting point – it informs what we do. Colour is such a powerful, effective, emotionally evocative tool. It would be odd not to use colour.

Doing Your Own House Is The Hardest Of All

I’ve been in my house for seven years, and had three children right at the beginning, and then did quite a big building project when the youngest was about two months old. And seven years later I think we’re finally there. Actually, there’s a side table arriving this week – there’s always something. Every time I say we’re done everyone rolls their eyes and says they’ve heard it before.

Every Piece We Buy Has A Story And An Adventure

We buy a lot of vintage furniture. It’s not quite the same as the old days when I used to traipse around the shops with my camera, take my film to Boots, have it developed and look at the pictures and then finally show the client – it’s obviously a lot more streamline that that now. But with every piece we buy there’s a story and an adventure, and some crazy thing that’s happened. For me, that’s what makes it interesting – you’ve got this finished interior, but actually it’s the making of that that is fun.

Running A Business Means A Lifetime Of Obstacles

When you run your own business, every facet of the business is a challenge and always will be. You never get to the point where you think right, I’ve done it – I’ve cracked it – but that’s what makes it interesting, fun and a challenge. The hardest but the most fun bit is you never stop thinking about it. It’s not a job, it’s a life. It’s what keeps me awake at night, and it’s the first thing I think about in the morning. But the best bit is that every day is different – I’m here now, will be with a client this afternoon working through solutions and designs, and this morning I was designing bespoke furniture for an amazing house we’re doing. I’m very rarely in the same place twice.

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