Valued in their words - Meet Catherine Muir

We had the pleasure of speaking with Catherine Muir from Catherine Muir interior design last month. If you missed it don’t worry you can catch it here.

Catherine first developed a love for interior design when she was 8 years old. She was working towards a brownies badge where she had to design her dream bedroom. From there she knew that this was what she wanted to do. In her teenage years instead of buying fashion and music magazines like her friends, Catherine was buying interior design magazines. Inspiring and fuelling her passion throughout those years. 

Fast forward several years and Catherine was starting her own interior design business right here in the North East. 

We spoke to Catherine about her business and thought we would share her answers with you. 

Tell us a bit about yourself and your business?

Hi I’m Catherine an interior designer based in the North East of England. I have a fantastic office at Ushaw House which is truly a beautiful space. Most of my work is focused in Durham however, I often travel as far as Northumberland and Darlington.

I work with both residential and commercial clients offering a range of packages to suit a variety of budgets. 

When working on commercial projects I work really closely with a local furniture company who supply commercial furniture, bars and booth seating to name a few. I also collaborate with lighting and graphic designers so we can get a full picture of the brand, the image, and the potential clients that the company is aiming to attract.

For residential clients I try to keep things a lot more fun and light. I work with the client using inspiration and concepts to come up with a range of ideas, colours, textures and patterns. We have really good fun together and people really embrace the experience.

We would love to hear about some of the projects you've worked on. Are there any that really stand out for you?

One of my favourite and biggest projects that I’ve ever had the pleasure of doing was probably the Gala Theatre Cafe in Durham. In 2019 they got in touch so that project really saw me through the pandemic which was great. 

I personally use that space a lot with friends and family so I had experience with what it, I knew it and what people wanted from it. It was fantastic to be able to take such an iconic Durham space that was looking a bit tired and unloved and transform it into something people really enjoy. 

Working with the council they really wanted to give it more of a theatre feel, that “ooh” element when you walk through that door, that excitement you feel when you go to the theatre. That was something we really wanted to capture from the get go and I feel like we really achieved that.

The space itself is used really widely from being packed on a panto night to a quiet lunch on a Wednesday with friends. So I really enjoyed thinking about how we could use the space, use it well and inject design elements that reflected Durham. I used a lot of arches that can be seen around the city in things such as the viaduct and the cathedral, if you look really closely I incorporated those into the textiles that I used.

I was also really inspired by the original architect's plans, which I believe had a lot of Japanese influence so I tried to nod to that. We designed these panelled walls that I used the shape of the windows reflected in the panelling.

I’ve been back several times since and really feel proud of the space I’ve created. It was so nice to see it at Christmas time as the staff had chosen baubles to decorate the tree that complimented the design scheme. I had no input in that so it was really nice to see that they were embracing it.

What’s the biggest frustration that you’ve come across in your industry and how do you overcome that?

So that is a huge question and my answer is going to be huge as well. One of the things that I feel the interior design industry really needs to be pulling it’s socks up on is being more eco friendly. It’s a massive thing that is only going to get worse if we don’t do something about it and is something that I am personally quite passionate about. My own house is filled with antiques and upcycled items to try and embrace that but I am aware that isn’t everyone’s taste. 

The supplier industry need to focus on doing better with things such as fabric, paint, furniture. Some companies are doing better than others but it’s made rather difficult with the price difference between eco-friendly and something that isn’t is massive. We are talking two or three times the price, which if you’re doing a whole room or house is going to cost a lot of money and to many people, especially in the current financial climate, is unaffordable.

There are some fantastic places in the North East that you can go to source antiques or upcycle furniture and I do regularly but it’s all the other things that you can’t or don’t want to buy in that way that just get very very expensive. When you look at it, it’s only the high end designer stuff that really ticks all the boxes from an eco-friendly perspective. This can generally be unaffordable for the regular home owner so for me, that’s something the industry as a whole needs to work on.

With that in mind one of the things that I wanted to talk about is how I’m launching a furniture collection. Due to the challenges of sourcing those eco friendly products at the moment I cannot say that I’m going to be an eco friendly business however, what I will be saying is that I am trying my best to source the right materials and be transparent about where these are coming from to allow people to make up their own mind. 

There will be a custom furniture design option, where the customer can hand pick the fabrics that they want for their furniture, allowing them to opt for an eco-friendly fabric if they do want to.

I’m using a local manufacturing company to make the sofas, so they’re not mass produced, it’s made locally in Newton Aycliffe reducing the carbon footprint in terms of shipping and transportation. With other items I am looking at things made from materials such as recycled cotton, upcycled plastic bottles, and mango wood. 

It’s still early days for me but I am trying my best and I want to bring that out in my products. At present the collection will be focused on the lounge and is launching in September.

If you could go back to the beginning of your business what advice would you give yourself?

Well you’re going to like my answer to this one because I’m going to say get an accountant sooner. It’s an expense that you need to factor in and take into consideration of course but it’s about understanding your money, understanding your financial position and understanding what you’re looking at as well. So you can make the best decisions for your business, understand where to grow, what people are buying, what people want, and how you’re actually helping your clients.

Tell us your proudest moment as business owner?

We’ve actually already covered that, it has to be the Gala Theatre Cafe. I’ve also helped with Consett Empire Cafe and Bishop Auckland Town Hall too which were fun projects to be involved with.

What’s the one bit of advice you would give to a business owner who’s just starting out?

Go find a little community to join, a business community. I know that both you and I (Stephen) are involved with the MINT business club which is a lovely little community. They offer a lovely environment to allow you to meet other business owners and share your ideas, your journey, but also offer training and support to help you grow and develop your business. If you can surround yourself with other people who are doing what you’re doing or want to de then it really helps you feel more confident to develop those ideas.

I think my other point would be to not be afraid to ask for help, running a business is HARD. From a mental health point of view if you’re struggling then tell people, tell someone. If you’re constantly putting a message out that all is great when actually it is not then you are not going to get the help that you need.
Whereas, if you can ring someone and say this is not really going very well then you’re opening those doors to advice and development and helping you grow in the right direction.

What new products do you have coming out? Is there anything exciting happening?

So as I’ve already mentioned I’m launching a new furniture collection in September. To celebrate the launch I’m holding an event on 16th September 3pm-6pm. 

At this event you'll book a free 20 min slot with me to discuss your new lounge scheme. If you bring measurements, a layout sketch, photos, inspiration pictures, curtain, paint and wallpaper swatches you'll really make the most of the time together.

Then you can enjoy trying out the beautiful handmade sofas in the exclusive showroom. See all the gorgeous fabrics available. Ask questions from the helpful Meridian staff. And even peek into the factory to see where they are made!

If you'd like to book a slot for this event then you can do so here.

Follow Catherine on Social Meda

If you're looking for interior design advice or even just want to support a local business then go give Catherine a follow on social media.

Email - catherine@interiordesignerdurham.co.uk

Go check out her website too and find out more information on the packages she offers and see some of her stunning work.