How interior designer Beth Dadswell transformed her derelict Dulwich dairy into a Grand Designs home
East Dulwich interior designer Beth Dadswell of Imperfect Interiors was a fashion stylist before taking a leap into the world of interior design. And it paid off. Her own home – a crumbling industrial Victorian dairy that was ‘a bit of a project’, was picked up by Kevin McClouds ever popular TV transformation show, Grand Designs.
‘I started out as a fashion stylist on various different magazines and newspapers, which I did for about 15 years, but I sort of grew out of love with it,’ says Dadswell. ‘My main passion was more interiors, so once I had my son I decided it was time to make the change. My partner and I had been buying and doing up houses for a few years too.’
One of Dadswell’s friends was renovating her flat and asked for her help in designing the space, which worked perfectly to kickstart Dadswell’s portfolio. She also credits social media for helping her to get off the ground in the first place.
She’s certainly feisty and looks for a challenge, something that strikes me as something of a valuable trait in an interior designer – especially if you want to push your property outside of the ordinary.
Dadswell isn’t afraid to make drastic changes, but she is mindful of what’s already there and likes to mix the old with the modern.
‘It’s never been an interest of mine to take on blank, white boxes and to just fill them with generic, matching furniture,’ she says.
‘There’s a big market for that out there, but I would much rather work for a client who has got an interest in restoring period features if there are any and injecting character into a property.’
Her skill, she tells me, is in making a project look like it hasn’t been interior designed. She focuses on finding quirky things to make a house look like a beautiful home, but not show home.
Mixing stuff up and making something feel lived in is important. I’m trying to create comfortable, but elegant atmospheres
‘Mixing stuff up and making something feel lived in is important,’ Dadswell tells me. ‘I’m trying to create comfortable, but elegant atmospheres.
‘Mostly, I work with people who have just bought a house and are renovating it from top to bottom, but who have art and belongings to incorporate into the space. It’s definitely a collaboration,’ says Dadswell.
So, how did Dadswell find herself on Grand Designs? Having stumbled across an old Victorian dairy that was being used as a workshop, Dadswell and her partner leapt at the opportunity to buy something a bit different.
‘It’s in a brilliant spot, just off Lordship Lane,’ she smiles. ‘It gave us the opportunity to add something to a building that already had an amazing atmosphere. It was a total dump, but I could see that it was really perfect, and I could mix the industrial vibe with the modern.’
Dadswell contacted Grand Designs as she thought it would be lovely for the family to have a record of the build and it was accepted onto the programme, which naturally meant great publicity for her brand.
Grand Designs put the pressure on to make sure it came in on budget and on time!
‘[Grand Designs] put the pressure on to make sure it came in on budget and on time! I wanted to work with the wonkiness of the beams and the crumbliness of the walls,’ she says. And as always with Dadswell, ‘it was about working with what was there already’.
She is obsessed with the courtyard, which she says almost feels like a painting: ‘I’m always looking out and looking at the view.’
Dadswell is excited to be branching out from south London into areas such as Notting Hill and Primrose Hill. She’s also recently worked on a Swiss chalet, and is interior designing some weekend homes on the south coast.
‘I love working around south east London though and it’s nice to be able to manage them when you’re close by,’ says Dadswell.
‘I get really excited when I walk into a house that still has the original cornicing and frilly Victorian details. A lot of my work is emphasising those details. There’s something about an old house that you just can’t recreate.’