Linda Barker: a day in the life of the star interior designer

Linda Barker

Linda Barker is a top interior designer and TV star. She’s presented every design show from Changing Rooms to 60-Minute Makeover. She also reached the final of I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! And she’s just launched a new range of fabrics for home furnishings retailer Terrys.

Linda Barker Home is the name of the range. When I was invited to speak to Linda about it, naturally I jumped at the chance. She was very friendly and likeable, and told me all about a day in her life.

Linda Barker Yarrows Bedding Set in Hedgerow, from £59, Terrys.

Linda Barker interview

Hi Linda Barker. What time do you wake up in the morning? And what’s your morning routine?

Linda Barker: I usually wake up just before 7am. I would try to squeeze a coffee in before I go for a walk. During the week I do a speed walk at 7.30am, so I always try to squeeze a little coffee in before a speed walk. That’s a quick half-hour walk.

That all sounds very healthy. 

Linda Barker: It’s a good way to start the day. And then twice a week, I’ll do a yoga session usually straight after that. 

And then do you have breakfast? 

Linda Barker: Yeah, then I’ll usually eat, so I’m eating probably about 9.30am. On the whole, I’m pretty healthy. So occasionally I’ll do a juice or rye bread with avocado, tomatoes, something like that. Or porridge with fruit and nuts. Or yoghurt. And then something like maple syrup, or honey. I’m not vegan or vegetarian, but I do really prefer those kinds of foods. 

So what might a typical work day look like in the life of Linda Barker?

Linda Barker: Usually, in the morning, I would get most of my work done online. So a good few hours in the morning at the computer, sorting things out doing design work. Building mood boards and getting presentations ready. 

Then, in the afternoon, I often do practical things. So if I’m working on a television programme, that’s the time where I would prep things for TV. At the minute, I’m renovating my own house. So I’ll be making curtains or  talking to decorators, or having face to face meetings or doing more design work. So I’m definitely not spending all day at the computer. It’s a nice way of shifting things in my brain.

That sounds really balanced. So do you still work with clients and renovate their houses?

Linda Barker: I do from time to time, but not all the time. I have design clients but I work a lot with companies like Terrys – I’ve designed a bed linen collection for them. I have a few companies like that. I’ve also worked with a company called Multipanel. They do a lot of bathrooms and shower rooms, so that kind of work is really important to what I do as well.

So I have meetings: either face to face or on the telephone. I also do filming. And usually there’s an element of crafting or making or stitching or make you’re creating for that programme. I love it.

Linda Barker Yarrows Made to Measure curtains, from £56.73, Terrys.

So, when you meet a client who wants you to work with them for the first time, what kind of things do you ask them? Do you go and take a look at their space? 

Linda Barker: Yeah, that would be a meet at their property, wherever that would be. It would be really finding out what makes them tick. I would take along magazines, books, we’ve looked at Pinterest or designers that I really rate to find out how they resonate with ideas. So I use visual tools. And I would take along certain fabrics, maybe I’d take them to a supplier showroom, or I’d meet them at a trade fair. It depends on what space I was working with them on. But essentially, yeah, you need a very good kind of handle on their aesthetic.

When you say you talk about designers that you rate, could you give us the names of the designers?

Linda Barker: I really love a global designer called Axel Vervoordt. I love his work. I love Kit Kemp. She works with Firmdale Hotels. I love Rita Konig. She writes very well. Paolo Moschino. So there’s a few.

So is designing for clients a collaborative process? Or do they tend to leave the decisions up to you?

Linda Barker: It’s always collaborative. 

So do you have suppliers or brands that you particularly like to use when you’re working on renovations?

Linda Barker: I have a big library of people who I adore to use. It would depend on budget as well, and what people wanted, but essentially, people know me for really taking care of a tight budget. So I’m very careful about that. And if for example, I use John England – they’re in Ireland – for natural linen, for curtains for upholstery, all that kind of stuff… if there’s a tight budget, I might decorate that fabric myself. I may paint on it directly or dip dye it to create an ombre effect. But there’s always something I would do to make it less expensive. I mean, John England are not cheap by any stretch of the imagination.

But I would always try to do something to make it very uniquely somebody else’s because I think that’s what sets me apart from other people. I would paint furniture or I would decorate walls myself by hand. That’s something that I’ve always done and I think it brings a really unique touch to my work. And obviously I’ve got the collection with Terrys.

Linda Barker Octavias Tangle Bedding Set in Ochre Blue, from £59, Terrys.

That’s so interesting…

So you know my my fabrics are very much my look, my style. So that would naturally kind of lend itself to how I decorated the walls and the floors. And then I have a stable of suppliers that I usually use, like for flooring. I really like The Unnatural Flooring Company. I love them because they’re using eco tech to produce the most amazing soft fibres for their flooring. The fibres feel like silk, but they’re made out of recycled plastic bottles. And they’re basically bulletproof carpets, they look really soft and tactile and gentle, but actually they’re bulletproof. And they’re bleachable.

So I find all that high tech technology that’s got very strong eco credentials really, really empowering to use. Strong, aesthetic and affordable. And things that do not need replacing every 10 years or so, I mean, it’s just not acceptable these days to have to throw things away. And I now use a lot of antiques or salvage. I’m quite well known for using a lot of salvage materials. So, you know, that’s a very bespoke way of putting an interior together. Even in a bathroom, I look for salvage furniture or fix things that I can use. That’s very much the way I like to work.

That sounds like it’s all very sustainable.

Linda Barker: Yeah, it has to be. I’m not into interiors that need replacing or refreshing in five years’ time. I have longevity in mind. The planet is definitely something we all need to consider as designers.

Absolutely. So congratulations on your new range for Terrys. How did that come about?

Linda Barker: I’ve been working with Terrys for a few years now. I think they first approached me to work on their app. They have an app that people can use to get the window measurements accurate for when they order curtains and blinds. I really liked working on it, and we’ve had conversations ever since really. I think I met them about four or five years ago.

Linda Barker Wisteria Made to Measure Curtains in Grey Black, from £56.73, Terrys.

I’ve looked at the range and the patterns are all really beautiful. So how did you come up with them? What was the process?

Linda Barker: When I was asked if I wanted to work with them on a collection, they asked what would most interest me? What is my pattern? What’s my colour? What’s my vibe, really? The wild flowers are very much my thing – I love botanicals. And I really love the look of wild flowers.

And again, it’s something not everybody is doing. So it’s very important that my collection stands on its own, but isn’t like anybody else’s. I mean, it’s floral, and it’s quite pretty and sometimes romantic. And of course, a lot of people are working with botanicals and flowers and foliage and all of that kind of material.

But the wildflowers aren’t. My new home in Yorkshire is very much about being in the countryside, and I walk a lot in the countryside, and I’m very much aware of the beauty of wildflowers and the nature that surrounds me. I grow a lot of plants and I’m getting more and more into my gardening. I think that was a natural kind of source book for all the new designs in this collection – and the previous collection, to be honest.

Oh lovely. So do you have a favourite of the products in the Linda Barker Home range?

Linda Barker: I really love the Wisteria one with the bird. That’s a very beautiful duvet. It’s not monochrome – it’s got soft colours in it but greens and greys. So it’s a monochrome-ish duvet. And the fabric as well for curtains – that is my favourite. It’s the one I wanted on my bed when the collection was was put together.

Wonderful. Do you have three interior design rules that you live by?

Linda Barker: Firstly, be truthful with yourself how you like to live. Rather than trying to live like a magazine, or being prescriptive, be honest about how you live. Who lives in your house? And what is practical? As a design rule, the way to sum it up is Be Your Own Boss. Basically be your own boss of your own house.

Secondly, I use a lot of natural materials and a natural palette. Lots of greens, lots of stone, lots of mossy colours I love. So it’s about finding your own palette that suits you.

And thirdly, stepping out of your comfort zone. Always with the other two steps nibbling away at the back of your brain, you want to step out of your comfort zone. But you still want to be truthful about how you use your house and the colours that support you in your own home.

Definitely in terms of pattern and colour these days, a lot of people think it’s very easy to live with white or cream or off-white. And actually, you know, I think our homes need to work much harder than that. They will always look nice, but they will never be outstandingly beautiful in my mind. Far better that you you have a gentle pattern, even if you think you don’t like pattern or colour. Go for gentle green colours and a softer pattern, but always step out of your comfort zone a little.

Linda Barker Wisteria Made to Measure Curtains in Hedgerow, from £56.73, Terrys.

That sounds great to me. So what do your evenings involve? Who do you spend time with?

Linda Barker: My husband and dog are always in tow. So I would be doing a dog walk or we would go to the cinema quite a bit or the theatre. We’re always meeting up with people – not as a day-to-day thing, but I love to cook. I like to eat outside. And this summer has been amazing. So we’re often outside cooking and eating and tinkering around. I’m a big outdoor wild swimmer. So often at the end of a day, I would have a swim in a river or usually a lake here, but I’m by the sea as well. But it’s usually a lake. That’s very close. So that kind of thing.

That sounds idyllic. So lastly, what’s your bedtime routine? And what time do you sleep?

Linda Barker: I sleep really well. I’m in bed by 11pm – not always, but 10.30pm is a great time for me to go to bed. I have a stack of books by my bedside. I sleep well, I’m not awake a lot in the night time. So I just read a little bit and try and keep my phone downstairs. I have a lot of design books stacked up by my bed as well as a few novels or nonfiction. I think that’s pretty much as routine as it gets.

Linda Barker with her Terrys curtains.

And with that, the lovely Linda Barker is off to continue her beautiful day. You can buy her range from Terrys here.

Want to read another Day in the Life feature? Then you’ll love our interview with TV star and interior designer Micaela Sharp, the first black Changing Rooms presenter.

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