Meet Helen Baker, a former primary school teacher who pursued her creative passion and retrained as a fabric and soft furnishings designer after becoming a mother. We asked Helen to share her story of career reinvention and her tips on how to style your home office space.
I’ve always been a creative person and I grew up making things on my mum’s sewing machine, playing around with any left over fabrics we had at home. Over the years I learned from my grandmother and mum, who would often be running up a pair of curtains or creating cushion covers, constantly making home improvements. My home has always been important to me and became even more so when I was on maternity leave, nearly 10 years ago. I wanted my surroundings to look as good as I could whilst I was spending so much time at home with a baby. After my second child, I found returning to work as a primary school teacher increasingly difficult – trying to balance work and family life, having no time left to be creative. I decided to leave my teaching career of nearly 10 years to be with my two sons, then aged two and four years. I went on to set up a small sewing business that I could work around the children but soon came to realise I enjoyed the designing more than the making.
In 2015 a change in my husband’s job meant a move from Cornwall to Wiltshire. Whilst renovating our new home I was searching for fabrics that weren’t too feminine, floral or fussy (I’m the only female in our household) and wanted something that suited all ages and genders. Frustrated that I couldn’t find what I wanted, I looked into how fabrics are designed. I took an online surface pattern courses, taught myself digital illustration and read as many books on fabric design as I could. Throughout this learning process I was constantly refining my design principles which I narrowed down to being nature inspired silhouette designs, shapes that everyone can recognise and relate to. I sent off my initial designs to be printed onto fabric which I then made into roman blinds, cushions and lampshades for our home. I was so pleased with the results that I wanted to take the fabric design further and create my first collection.
Growing up and living in Cornwall has always been a big influence in my life so I was drawn to create a contemporary coastal inspired collection – a far cry from the clichéd nautical knots and anchors that we so often see. I wanted the designs to reflect modern-day Cornish life. Designs include ‘Cornish Clouds’ and ‘Surfboard Scallop’ in colours such as Atlantic blue and Saffron yellow. From talking to people I heard how so many people have connections with the coast and how it evokes many happy memories. I wanted people to have these positive feelings everyday within their homes through a subtle nod to the coast, whether they lived by the sea or not. This is my debut collection titled ‘You can take the girl out of Cornwall…’, my story in a nutshell. It is family friendly and gender neutral to fit with how modern families live today, increasingly in open plan spaces. My aim is to create fabrics and home furnishings that fit the needs of everyone.
STYLING TIPS FOR YOUR HOME OFFICE SPACE
We live so much of our lives online, whether it’s working from home or online banking, we all need a comfortable space that allows us to concentrate on the task in hand. With so many distractions at home it’s crucial to create the right working environment. So here’s a handy guide on how to style your home office.
- THE RIGHT SPACE: To create an effective home office it has to be somewhere you actually want to be, ideally with lots of natural light. This could be a separate room or just an area within another room but a designated area is preferable to the kitchen table otherwise you will be constantly moving your work to make room for meal times at the table.
- DESK: Any sort of surface can work. From small desks to large worktops, as long as you can fit all the items you need, you can make any space work. The key is to keep things organised and keeping extra items to a minimum to avoid unnecessary clutter, wall mounted shelves are perfect for home offices.
- CHAIR: Is it comfortable and at the right height? Two important factors that can really effect how long you are able to sit comfortably at your home office. I also recommend having an easy chair nearby for times when you don’t need to be at your desk but nearby, taking a phone call for example, or enjoying a drink away from a screen.
- ACCESSORIES: Cushions are my go-to home office accessory. They not only look good and show your personality but they provide comfort and can boost your sitting height if needed. Keep everything you need for your home office nearby so it can be easily accessible and tidied away.
- INSPIRATION: Keep whatever inspires you nearby. This could be books, photos of your loved ones or an inspirational quote, but think about where they can be displayed, on a wall instead of taking up room on your desk, perhaps? Peg boards and picture shelves are an easy way to restyle items that inspire you.
- PLANTS: They create fresh air and are soothing to look at, perfect for a home office. I would suggest a small plant for a small desk or again you could think about having it on a shelf or nearby rather than on your actual workspace.
- GET CREATIVE: It’s your space so make it work for you! By using colours, accessories and items that you love, your home office will reflect your personality and will become a space that you love spending time in.
Helen is following…
Phillips Kay @recipeforflowers: sells the most beautiful wild and seasonal flowers from St Agnes in Cornwall, the village where I grew up. Her bouquets often include foraged snippets from hedgerows and she can send these blooms anywhere in the UK. Her Instagram feed is a floral feast.
Alison Bick @alisonbickdesigns: a friend, inspiring business woman, talented designer illustrator and creator of generally lovely stuff. I love seeing how her business and design style has grown from strength to strength over the last few years.
Mari Andrew @bymariandrew: an amazingly perceptive illustrator. Her work captures modern life and how we cope with everything that’s thrown at us. She is authentic, inspiring and has a great sense of humour.