Jo Samson: Interior Designer

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Stylist Team
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Jo Samson, 36, is an interior designer. She lives in Dulwich, London with her husband and business partner Tim Mutton and their daughters, Evie, 3 and Gracie, 10 months.

My husband Tim and I started our interior design company Blacksheep eight years ago. We always say I’m the front end of the sheep and he’s the back end - I’m the creative thinker, while he manages the business side. People sometimes question our ability to work so closely together, but when you share the same passions and goals it’s easy.

We specialize in hotels, nightclubs and restaurants, so one of the perks of the job is eating out as ‘research’. We designed The Cuckoo Club and Whiskey Mist, and we’re currently working on Jamie Oliver’s new restaurant at Westfield shopping mall in west London.

My mornings are not calm! Often Evie will jump into Gracie’s cot, then the screaming starts and I’ll be running around before 7. I usually just grab some fruit for breakfast.

I’m a bit of a style chameleon, depending on which client I’m working with. For a corporate hotel like Hilton I’ll wear a dress, but for nightclubs I like to look more glamorous so it’s bigger jewellery and a pencil skirt.

Tim and I drop the girls at nursery, then we take the train to Farringdon. We use the commute to catch up on the day ahead, and once at the office I put on my lipstick in the lift and I’m in full work mode.

Our team has grown from 2 to 19, and it’s a fantastic atmosphere. I’m rarely at my desk, we’re always round the ‘kitchen table’, nailing down design concepts or realizing plans in 3D. I worked at some big design practices before starting Blacksheep, but I’ve always had a gut feeling for interiors. I’ll know immediately when I walk into a space whether a client’s idea will work.

Interior design isn’t just: ‘What colour?’ So many people are involved, from engineers to lighting experts, and they all feed into the end result. You have to think logistically and commercially: ‘Will it be easy to serve drinks here?’ ‘What are customers’ dining habits now?’ Then I consider how I want people to feel in the space, and how the ambience will shift from day to night.

One of the projects I’m most proud of is The Cuckoo Club. We wanted to create the feeling of a private residence, but not any old house party, more like Mick Jagger’s country retreat for the night of your life. We came up with this Rock/Regal concept that involved extending the doors to 4 metres high, and hanging massive drapes to add drama. Mario Testino used it in a shoot for Vogue about Young London and it’s been featured in Wallpaper Guide to London.

Lunch will be whatever someone can grab me. Sometimes we’ll go out with clients though, we had lunch at Jamie Oliver’s restaurant Fifteen recently and I love Pulpo restaurant.

People question how we work together as husband and wife but if you share the same goals, it's easy

Often our clients won’t realise Tim and I are married, because we don’t think it’s relevant and I use my maiden name. It’s only when we speak to each other in a way you wouldn’t with a colleague, that they clock. But we’ve done entire projects with nobody guessing, and at the end someone will ask Tim about his wife in front of me.

Another large part of my job is being on top of trends nationally and internationally. I get inspiration from fashion, politics, and literature. I read a lot of newspapers and journals, always looking for new concepts and how the current economy is affecting people’s dining or drinking habits. Right now people aren’t spending money at Michelin star restaurants; it’s all about value for money in stylish surroundings.

Whoever is picking up the children will leave work at 4.45. Once I’ve left, I just want to be with my girls. We have lots of playtime, then dinner, bath and story in bed around 7.

I found designing our house really hard because I love so many things. We always pick up stuff from travelling; artwork, maps, memorabilia - my favourite is a vintage globe in our living room. We also have a gorgeous dining room with hand drawn skyline of Venice on one side and on the opposite side we’ve got postcards from all of our travels, and then there’s a huge cupboard with a pull down bed in the middle.

Tim and I are both very healthy so we’ll eat fish and salad for dinner if he’s not our at a client dinner. At the moment I usually have Friday’s off because although my business is priority, so are my girls.