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Interior designer to the stars, Susan White

PUBLISHED: 13:54 21 July 2009 | UPDATED: 16:08 20 February 2013

Susan White, owner of Ockley-based Phoenix Interior Design

Susan White, owner of Ockley-based Phoenix Interior Design

With a host of stars among her clients, Susan White knows exactly what is on-trend for our houses this year. Here, she talks to JANET DONIN about how she puts the wow factor into the homes of Girls Aloud, among other celebrities

Originally published in Surrey Life magazine May 2009

With a host of stars among her clients, Susan White knows exactly what is on-trend for our houses this year. Here, she talks to JANET DONIN about how she puts the wow factor into the homes of Girls Aloud, among other celebrities

Name: Susan White
Company: Phoenix Interior Design
Location: Ockley
Tel: 01306 712262

A converted milk parlour deep in the heart of Surrey
is probably the last place you would expect to meet an international interior designer. But it's here in rural Ockley that you'll find the hub of Susan White's highly successful business, Phoenix Interior Design. The rustic beams give the place character, but an enormous turquoise Murano glass chandelier hanging from the roof is the glamorous touch that defines her style.

Susan began her career with a degree in interior architecture at Leicester University. "It was an intensive learning curve," says the 40-year-old, "but one that has certainly worked to my advantage!" Indeed, it's a skill that has opened doors for Susan around the world and into the homes of our favourite celebrities - from EastEnders actress Patsy Palmer to snooker player Ronnie O'Sullivan and restaurateur Aldo Zilli.

The 'ooooh' factor

Among her most famous clients, however, are Girls Aloud stars Nicola Roberts and Sarah Harding. Nicola lives in Dartford in Kent and Sarah in Kentish Town, North London, and both wanted to have their homes transformed with that special 'ooooh' factor.

"As Nicola knew what she wanted already, the work was actually very quick," says Susan, who oversees a team of five designers. "She loves her home comforts so feather-filled sofas and an enormous bed were important. We also added drama to the master bedroom with chandeliers and a huge rose wall panel above the bed.

"The house, together with a large dressing room and a gym, was completed in four short weeks."

Meanwhile, Sarah's converted school home took a little longer as she wanted a new kitchen, too.

"We had the German kitchen designed, made and installed in three weeks, which was a bit of a triumph," says Susan. "Sarah loves her gadgets so the kitchen doors open when you wave at them and in the bathroom there's a plasma TV and some clever lighting."

When she first meets a client, Susan begins by taking a detailed brief, which is translated into a montage of ideas and a 3D drawing of the space. Then it's off on a shopping trip to a host of trade outlets to look at fabrics, furniture and accessories. In addition, Susan and her stylist Fiona Longmuir will scour exhibitions and shops from London to Dubai searching for what she calls 'unusual and specialist pieces' to give her room schemes a bit of an edge.

What's hot in design

As you'd expect, when it comes to design trends, Susan really has her finger on the pulse. She says we'll soon be seeing lots of metallics and unusual veneers, like tigerwood with its rich honey coloured hue, as well as textures in the shape of sculptured wall panels that look like intricate works of art. There's also a retro revival in furniture.

"Deep button Chesterfields are part of the on-trend retro look," adds Susan, whose own furniture designs will be on sale in John Lewis this year. "However, they'll have the bling factor with diamante studs instead of buttons."
Despite revamping the homes of some of the country's best-known celebrities, Susan says one of her favourite makeovers was closer to home. Last year, she and her landscape designer husband James MacCallum redesigned their seven-and-a-half acre garden.

"It has a bluebell wood and a beautiful lake and it's just the best place to escape to!" she says. "Interior design is not as glamorous as it sounds. It's a lot of hard work but the secret of success is to be extremely organised. I always love whatever we do and like to think a little piece of me is in everything we achieve."

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