Hilary Porter meets two local mums whose interior design business is proving a labour of love...

As a partnership they are relatively new to the UK’s Interior design scene, but New Forest-based Helena Impett and Suzy Maas are working wonders on properties across the region.

The pair joined forces 18 months ago after many years of training and interior design work and now have a waiting list of potential clients keen to snap up their talents.

First and foremost they are guided by their clients’ needs, tastes and requirements and whether it’s a 16th century barn conversion, family kitchen or smart London pied-a-terre, they confidently and gently guide customers to achieve the looks they desire.

Both Helena, 43, and Suzy, 44, have young children (five between them), which is partly why they focus their business in the New Forest area, choosing to limit their work to within an hour’s drive of Lymington, although they are sometimes swayed to work further afield, including London.

Numerous eclectic influences have shaped their dynamic, individual style, which uses a pleasing mix of rich colours and sumptuous textures to create liveable interiors with that all-important ‘wow’ factor. Immersed in design from a young age, Suzy grew up surrounded by a creative family and draws inspiration from her travels in the Far East, years of interior design work in London, and the stately homes and interiors she saw from childhood. She’s also a trained curtain-maker so has a practical, experienced insight into fabric, soft furnishings and their application.

Helena’s mother was an interior designer, and her passion for interiors inspired Helena from a young age. Her influences are drawn from working at Kensington Palace as an events manager, some time living in Hong Kong, and working in the superyacht industry. Helena also brings her skills as a trained upholsterer.

Between them, they bring a practical, professional, design-led and gentle approach to their work, priding themselves on client relationships. Key to clients is their commercial understanding and they will always aim to add value to property, whether it’s for future resale or rental.

The pair joined forces and formed Maas & Impett after Helena contacted Suzy on Facebook asking ifshe could ‘pick her brains’ and they just clicked. They admit the first year together was “a learning curve” but both agree their work fills them with joy and excitement each day.

Suzy says, “It’s good to have someone to bounce ideas off and to have a fresh pair of eyes too. We ask each other what do you think of this? It’s good to have a second opinion.”

Sometimes they work alone and build rapport with their individual clients, but when there is a massive job going on it is “all hands on deck”’ and then, they say, “you get two for the price of one.”

Suzy explains:”We charge by the hour so we try to be efficient and not always work together.”

For some it may seem like a bold move handing over the styling of your home to another woman – or women, but those who try it discover it’s a wise investment and Helena and Suzy won’t impose their style on you but work with you.

Helena says: “We do have certain styles but we are very adaptable types. We are good at understanding how much we can change the client’s style and know how much guidance they need.”

“Yes”, says Suzy, “We would never go in and say this is our style. We work with the client.”

Helena adds: “It’s understanding the client, understanding their lifestyle and understanding their house. Sometimes a client wants something, but you must be very careful. In the end the client is choosing what they wantso we must make sure they are satisfied with it. What they want and choose is often very different to what they started with.”

Suzy has also brought her ‘home staging ‘sister company to the partnership which she says is “quick fixes with everything on a budget to sell your property – which is very different to when you are not selling.”

Back in 1999, armed with a degree in the History of Art and after several years experience working with Italian company Massone, an interior design business in London, she founded The Final Touch, a successful ‘home-staging’service helping home sellers in Central London achieve the maximum price for their properties.

Most properties suffer from wear and tear such as leaking taps, cracked windowpanes, missing drawer handles, dusty curtains etc. While it is not hugely expensive to put these things right, it istime consuming and often tedious. So Suzy says forget organising the plumber, glazier, carpenter and curtain maker, as they can do it all for you. Simple things like cleaning the windows or hanging pictures contribute to that first impression and can make the difference between clinching a sale or not.

So what would they say is the unique selling point of the Maas & Impett?

“We don’t just offer project management. We do consultations and can offer advice on colour etc,” says Suzy.

“We are people’s people and interiors people. We get under the skin of our customers, in a good way and can read people really well,” says Helena.

“Adding or retaining character is vitally important. Clients might wish to modernise a property, but with old houses it is often important not to change it too much.

“We had a client recently whose intention was to strip everything out but we try to explain why it’s important to respect a house. It’s all about being able to see it from a different point of view. It also helps them not to make mistakes, and we pass on 50 per cent of our trade discounts, which can be huge. And all our suppliers are cherry picked by us.”

Summing up the joys and the benefits of working as a partnership with Helena, Suzy said: "Having worked solo for most of my life, I realise now how much more creativity I can offer from a partnership. Helena helps me push the boundaries and step out of my comfort zone, and yet tells me when she thinks I am having a moment of madness, so keeps me reined in at the same time.

“I also find work far more rewarding with a partner to share the ups and downs. She keeps me calm and on track, and we have many giggles during the day.’

Helena added: “Suzy is a great partner, her expertise in window dressings, clever colour scheme ideas and fun attitude, make Maas & Impett the best place to be. I have never been happier in a job. We respect each others ideas and the combination of this makes a great team. Our attitudes on interior design are very similar, where we work with the client to produce the ultimate result.”

What's hot and What's not in interior trends in 2018:

IN: Varied materials in one scheme – more eclectic and add a personal, characterful feel. The use of natural materials such as woods, rattan, metals, plants.... adding more texture & interest. Interesting shapes & collections – hand crafted, antiques, recycling. Warm, natural wood floorboards laid in an interesting way – e.g.herringbone/diagonal with framing detail.

OUT: Too much coordination and all-white rooms such as kitchens. Minimalism, clinical, show homes, perfection. Large, pristine, pale, shiny floor tiles.

IN: Statement art – one large artwork as opposed to lots of little pictures/gallery effect.

OUT: Lit up, gimmicky slogans and sayings. Accent walls, tropical prints, geometric.

IN: Glamorous, fun, quirky interiors

OUT: Mid century (vintage) and shabby chic – painted and distressed furniture.

IN: Warm, bright, strong, dark colours.

OUT: Cold, dull, muted colours (but can work well with interesting furniture and accessories).

IN: Gold (classic, timeless, glamorous).

OUT: Copper – over done to saturation point on the high street.

W: www.maasandimpett.co.uk