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Ten years ago, I moved to the UAE from Scotland – following my now husband, who had moved out there for work a year before I did. I would never have though I’d be here for ten years, let alone start a business in the design industry.
I’ve always had a strong desire to create. I love having a job where I’m constantly challenging myself in a creative environment and feel so grateful that I have been able to build something where I wake up every morning with a genuine excitement about what I do. Before starting Custom No.9 I worked in the various parts of the marketing and comms industry, mostly within creative agencies where I learnt about fabrication and managing physical experience spaces for global brands.
The idea for Custom No.9 happened when I started furnishing my first apartment in Dubai. I couldn’t find what I was looking for and so harnessed the network I’d built to design and bring some pieces together, including our dining table, coffee table and some of the accessories.
I loved the process so much I started posting on Instagram, and Custom No.9 was born. I felt there was a demand for a more creative and hands-on approach to furnishing your home. Back then, there was little in the way of a customer-focused, design-led approach. This was the gap our brand filled when it launched.
I love finding interior stores that are a little bit off the beaten track when I travel – whether it’s vintage pieces or a collection of local artisanal crafts. Some of my favourite finds are World By Hand in Tulum and Paradise Road in Sri Lanka. I also remember finding a beautiful store in the Mar Michael area of Beirut, where I purchased some vintage bangles.
My favourite colour tends to evolve with the season. That then translates through my personality, from my fashion down to the fabrics I choose for the business. For a few years it was beige, and right now I’m drawn to deeper, warmer colours. I also love sage greens and deep pinks with interesting patterns.
I love to collect art and anything that has a story behind it. Some of my favourite pieces in the house are a woven and pleated sheepskins on the wall by Lebanese artist Adrian Pepe, and several vases and candles from Dubai-born Cole and Cinder. We also have a giant print of Salvador Dali jumping with a bird that always makes me smile.
Sri Lanka is one of my favourite places to travel. I love its culture and people, but my heart will always be in Scotland. The beauty is unmatched. I have yet to find a place in the world that takes my breath away like some of my favourite places on the west coast. You can go days without seeing another person, just basking in nature in its purest form. The unpredictable weather keeps you on your toes, but it gives everything more depth and personality.
My favourite book is Where the Crawdads Sing. It is a bittersweet, raw and pure story, and takes you into a world far away from busy modern life. I recently read Educated by Tara Westover, which was also beautiful.
As for films, I am a sucker for anything based on bands or music – from A Star is Born to Les Miserables and the classic The Sound of Music. I’m looking forward to putting it on for my daughter, Bonnie when she’s old enough. I recently watched Daisy Jones and The Six, too, which I think is my favourite series from the last few years. I still listen to the music in the car regularly, and the fashion and interiors inspired our new collection, launching at the end of the month.
I love music. I play piano, guitar and love to sing. My taste isn’t genre-specific – if music moves me, it moves me. From Oasis to The Stone Roses and Paulo Nutini, my taste is widespread – I also love traditional Scottish music and having a good dance to the likes of Purple Disco Machine. My favourite DJ, Gallivanter, also knows how to take you on a total journey with his sets.
I’m a terrible cook. I get too creative; I don’t follow recipes and try out weird concoctions and eight out of ten times, it ends in disaster. I do, however, make a mean ‘mac ‘n’ cheese’ and am due to ice a carrot cake I baked for my daughters first birthday.
There are a couple of pieces in the new collection I’m very proud of. One is a steel outdoor dining chair and the other is an indoor bar/cocktail lounge chair. Both are going to be launched in different shades of olive/sage green, and I’ve never seen anything like them in the market before. I think people will love them.
If my house was burning down, the one thing I’d save is my family. It’s been a year since having my daughter, Bonnie, and I don’t think I’ll ever figure out ‘balance’ as a working mother. Even if I get really excited about Custom No.9 and put in some long days, I still feel guilty. Then, if I have some real quality time with her, I feel bad for not paying enough attention to the business. I’m trying every day to find the perfect equilibrium, but I’m hoping Bonnie will eventually tell me she’s proud of what I’ve achieved.
Follow @CustomNo9 on Instagram.