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Coffee with... Wallpaper Designer Elizabeth Ockford

19th November 2020

After many years of working for some of the biggest names in the interior design industry, Elizabeth Ockford has formed her very own interiors brand under her own name.

A creative talent with a passion for colour, pattern and form, Elizabeth designs and creates her distinctive range of printed wallpapers from her home in the charming village of Lindfield, right in the heart of West Sussex.

With a key focus on sustainability and a consideration of the environmental impact that her production has on our planet, Elizabeth Ockford wallpapers are printed using eco-friendly water-based inks onto high quality substrates from FSC-certified forests.

From coastal prints to dazzling geometrics, texturized plains to atypical stripes, it is difficult to pigeon hole Elizabeth's designs into a single style.

However her fondness for colour and how it plays on our feelings and emotions sees her create designs that aim to evoke joy, raise a smile and create a mood. From her vibrant Sussex studio, we caught up with Elizabeth to find out more about her inspirations, how she creates her quirky designs and what's next for this small yet highly creative team...

The brand Elizabeth Ockford officially launched in 2019, how long did it take you to set-up, where there any challenges you had to overcome?

It took over a year to lay the plans for the business, as I was working full time and had to do it in the evenings and at weekends. There were a lot of details and practical problems, such as shipping, warehousing, leases etc that all had to be negotiated.

But that was really the practical workings of the company. The brand itself, the look and the designs came naturally; they are simply what I like, find interesting and want to decorate with. So when it came to the designing that was the fun part and didn’t take more than two or three months to work out.

It was a challenging time, juggling setting up a new business with also being a Mum, and one of the biggest challenges has been all the little compromises that have to be made when starting a business - my mind is generally trying to be at work even when I‘m at home!

You’ve got an extensive background in the industry, previously working for brands such as Osborne & Little, what changes have you seen in the industry over the years?

The Internet and CAD design have transformed the Industry since I started work. Websites such as Fabric and Papers give consumers much easier access to interior products and its easy to source lovely items for your home from around the world; whereas before, you were reliant on either your Interior Designer to find them for you, or whatever your local interiors shop had to offer.

I think I’m giving away how long I’ve been working by saying that, but really, it has been a fantastic evolution in terms of shopping and finding products for your home is much more exciting these days. 

Digital technology has also transformed the manufacture of the products too. Initially there were improvements that made the process faster or more accurate, but now with digital print technology, it means I can offer bolder brighter more complex designs. Plus I can make them bigger scale and even bespoke for my clients too. Its definitely more fun designing right now.

Can you briefly tell us how a design typically develops from initial conception to the final product.

I always start with a sketch or painting. This is then scanned into Photoshop, and from there we may change its scale, add textures, alter colours etc.

We then use an Industry programme to put the design into true repeat and colour- and proof our colour ideas on our digital printer in the studio.

We have really huge pinboards in the studio and all our ideas and designs as work in progress, go up on the wall. I need to live with them for a few days or even weeks, to get used to the idea, and really process what I think about it.

The same goes for colours. We will often try out 10 or more colourings of a design before we whittle those down to the final three or so that go to production.

Once the choices are made the digital information gets sent off to the manufacturer and the product is printed.

We know it’s always hard to pick a favourite but is there a design that you are particularly fond of?

I think I like Bahama the most. It has such lot of lovely imagery in it, and it works well in both dark and light colourings. Its glamorous and also pretty, and I think it would work well in a living room, bedroom or of course, the smallest room in the house!

We can see sustainability is a key factor to your brand, why has this been so important for you?

I don’t think that anyone can ignore the environmental challenges that we are facing these days and just as I try at home to be as thoughtful about my choices as possible, I want to apply the same values to my business. Obviously we recycle, but we also make sure that all our printer inks are recyclable, and we are only using recyclable or recycled packaging for our latest wallpaper collection The Islands (and all collections going forward). We are using a recycled product called Glassine which looks and feels a bit like baking paper.

I am also sponsoring a charity called One Tree Planted. As a business we have pledged that for every roll of wallpaper we sell from The Islands Collection (and again all new collections going forward) we will donate £1 to One Tree Planted. This is used to plant trees and reforest around the world and although it is a small gesture, it feels like we are giving something back.

What can we expect next from the EO brand? Do you have any plans for a fabric range?

Next year I hope to pair up with a UK based Wildlife Charity and yes I will be launching fabrics… watch this space! By Autumn 2021 I will have some of my designs available on upholstery and drape fabrics which I am very excited about.

We’ve seen lots of people take up new hobbies this year from baking to learning a new language, I’m sure you are very busy with your wallpaper designs but, if you had the time is there a new skill you would like to learn?

It may sound odd but I’ve just started having singing lessons. I had a very musical childhood and sang a lot in a school choir and productions. It’s a real treat for me to spend time singing and it great for stress relief.

What was the last book you read?

Aptly I’ve just finished the Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman - a fellow Sussex citizen. I don’t think he lives here now, but he grew up in Haywards Heath. It’s funny, made me chuckle, and also has a good murder mystery at its heart. I’d thoroughly recommend it.

Being a fellow Sussex resident, we know how lucky you are to live in such a beautiful part of the country – where is your favourite place to visit?

Each day I count my blessing as I drive to work and take the dog out for a walk in the woods. I spent many years living and working in London and I’m so happy now to be in the Sussex Countryside.

At the weekends we go for family walks in Ashdown Forest to blow away the cobwebs, and allow both my son and the dog to have a good run and get very muddy usually! The scenery there is wonderful, and the heathers and trees offer an amazing colour range which changes beautifully with every season.

What is your favourite thing about F&P Interiors?

 I like the way that the website has a personal feel as if you can sense the people behind it. The Inspiration page is a riot of colour and pattern and must contain something to spark the interest of everyone!

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