10 Minutes With… Whinnie Williams
10 Minutes With… Whinnie Williams

10 Minutes With… Whinnie Williams

It’s hard to explain exactly what Whinnie Williams does in just one word. An interior designer, creative director, entrepreneur and fashion plate, she’s now one of the main cast members on the second series of revived 90s hit, Changing Rooms. Here, she shares her recommendations for all things interiors, fashion, food, travel and more…
By Harriet Russell

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The secret to good design is making sure things feel authentic to you. Following trends means you’ll never really feel at home in your surroundings. Instead, it’s about putting things together that you like – it’s the same approach I take to fashion. Wearing a good outfit makes me walk taller and interiors should make you just as happy. I tend to think of my schemes like movie sets for my clients’ lives. A good starting point is watching your favourite film or listening to your favourite song and trying to picture the lifestyle that goes with that. Once you have an idea, put a moodboard together and then you can set about putting it into practice.

Colour – and specifically paint – can really set the mood. There’s so much you can do with it. Want to make the room feel cosier? Paint the ceiling. I work with Dulux, which is great because the brand has the most incredible range. The Heritage range, for example, is designed to help you achieve a more considered, retro feel. But don’t forget your original source of inspiration – ask yourself, do the colours and textures go with that lifestyle? Don’t commit to anything until you’re sure.

My biggest interior design crush is Kelly Wearstler. It’s painful how cool she is – I want to be her when I’m older. She oozes class and confidence – she’s the ultimate babe and everything she works on turns into absolute gold. 

The secret to GOOD DESIGN is making sure things feel AUTHENTIC to you. Following trends means you’ll never really FEEL AT HOME in your surroundings.

I always find great furniture at L’Absurd Objet and Anemone Interiors. The former is run by a French friend who finds the most unique and surreal pieces, and the latter works with Matthew Williamson a lot – so you know it has to be good. It’s run by an Essex girl who speaks fluent Italian and goes on these insane sourcing trips to Italy. She comes back with amazing stuff. When I’m in London I always go to Les Coullies du Chien, too. It’s on Ladbroke Grove, but you can also find their stuff in Liberty. It has such a good antiques and vintage selection.

I also have to give a shout out to my own brand – especially when it comes to soft furnishings. I set up Poodle & Blonde mainly because I couldn’t find specific things I wanted to buy anywhere. Now, anything we want, we make it. It’s so much fun.

Fashion provides me with as much inspiration as interiors. The fashion design house I’m obsessed with at the moment is Schiaparelli – they just worked with Beyonce on the artwork for her new album and it’s all surrealist 1930s vibes. I’ve always been into Tim Walker and love how those people can play so freely between the intersection of interiors, fashion, film and music. 

While I dress with a vintage edge, I’m more of a high-street girl at heart. People are surprised to hear I don’t buy that much vintage (jackets are the only exception) but I’m a big fan of Zara  and Kitri. I have a lot from River Island and get so many compliments on the pieces. It does such good retro stuff. Right now, I can’t get enough of Annie’s Ibiza. She’s one the best curators of fashion out there. Two other favourites would be Shrimps and Charlotte Simone

My approach to beauty is quite simple. Anything that goes on my face comes from Haekels in Margate. Everything is so natural and sustainable. Their moisturisers are insane. For hair, it has to be Bumble and bumble. The primer keeps my hair in great condition. I don’t heat style it that much but when I do, it’s with a £20 wide barrel tong I bought from Argos about 15 years ago. It’s discontinued now, but it’s still going strong. I don’t think you need to spend a fortune on that stuff. 

My approach to beauty is quite simple – ANYTHING THAT GOES ON MY FACE COMES FROM HAEKELS IN MARGATE. Their moisturisers are insane.

One of the most inspirational places in the world is Colorado Springs. I’ve just come back from a trip where I stayed on a ranch – the company is called Ranchlands, and their Instagram is the most therapeutic thing to look at. They have 60 horses on the ranch that run free most of the year, but during the day they round them up and you can ride them through the most incredible landscape. It also helps that the resident chef used to cook for Drake… it's honestly the coolest place I’ve ever been.

The one country everyone should visit is America. At one time I’d been there a lot – especially to the two main coasts and cities – but after going to Colorado, I felt so much more inspired by and enamoured with the US. Nature is really doing things for me right now. I believe everyone needs to really connect with nature again to feel grounded. 

The book that changed my life is hard to narrow down. Often, there are different books which mean more to you depending what stage of life you’re at. For example, when I was 17 I read Reinventing Yourself  by Steve Chandler which would probably seem quite basic now, but it’s so good for young people. It’s all about being mindful and taking ownership of your situation – it makes you realise you have choices in life, which is a really important lesson. More recently, the book that’s stayed with me is Women Who Run With The Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes. It’s all about connecting with yourself on a deeper level. From about a third of the way in, I knew it was my book of the year.

The best gift I’ve ever been given came from my husband when I started my business. I’d long been a fan of Alex May Hughes and he bought me a sign she painted with the words Poodle & Blonde, which was very sweet and supportive. It felt like the beginning of my interior design journey. She does great bespoke gifts if you’ve got an event or party coming up.

The SHOW THAT GOT ME THROUGH LOCKDOWN WAS AB FAB – and weirdly, long before I got the call, I REWATCHED ALL THE OLD CHANGING ROOMS episodes.

My party drink of choice is always a pint of shandy. I know that’s so random, but it’s very Margate – which is where I live. In my opinion, there’s nothing more classic.

I don’t drink coffee, but I’ve heard great things about Forts in Margate. The only panic attack I’ve ever had was after a cup of coffee but his coffee has won awards, so it has to be good. He also does fun things with the milk and different designs, so it’s aesthetically pleasing, too.

My favourite night out is at The Hornecker Centre in East London. It’s a restaurant, combined with a drag night, and you’re always guaranteed a good time. The décor is pretty mad, but the food is really good. The roast dinner is worth the trip alone.

The TV programme that got me through lockdown was Ab Fab. I watched every single episode. And weirdly, long before I got the call to be on the show, I rewatched all the old Changing Rooms episodes. Nostalgia was a big comfort in lockdown, so I’m not surprised I went back to it, but it’s been a very full circle journey to now be a designer on the revived series. If you ask me, t’s iconic British television. 

The one piece of career advice I’d give anyone is collect the nos. You’re going to hear ‘no’ so many times – way more often than yes – but you only need one yes to make something happen, so try not to take the nos too personally. Just let them rack up and see if they teach you something along the way. Stay curious and look for the back door to get into the industry or project you want to be part of. Then, work really hard and never lose your grit. 

Follow @WhinnieWilliams on Instagram.

Changing Rooms – in partnership with the nation’s number one paint brand, Dulux – is back for its second series, with two new interior designers, Whinnie Williams and Micaela Sharp, who join Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen, Jordan Cluroe and Russell Whitehead of 2LG Studio. To learn more decorating tips and tricks, check out Dulux’s new ‘Let’s Chat Colour’ live segments on its Instagram, where Dulux’s Creative Director Marianne Shillingford answers your decorating dilemmas. For more information about Dulux’s partnership with the show, products used in the transformations and 'how to’ inspiration guides visit Dulux.co.uk. Changing Rooms episodes are available to Stream on C4 & All 4.

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