In conversation with Vanessa Brady, founder of SBID

By Elspeth Pridham
June 4, 2020

The founder of SBID, Vanessa Brady OBE, shares her admiration for Jane Fonder and her ambitions for the interior design industry

When was the SBID founded, and why?
April 2009 – I had proposed creating a more structured destination for interior designers through a form of accreditation to an existing body, but it was rejected. I thought that my idea was still a better one than the variety of options available at the time, so I decided to do it anyway. This caused a bit of industry rivalry in efforts to damage its success and we found ourselves in a ‘tribe war’. I continued with my pursuit for achieving industry structure and regulation nevertheless, as I have always been passionate about the practice of professional interior design and in turn, paving the way for industry growth.

How many staff do you employ?
Our team at SBID is 12 strong. Our editor of eSociety works from home for the peace she requires. Some of our team work flexible hours to fit around those with children, travel and lifestyles. It’s a very friendly office – I won’t spend 8 hours a day of my life in an unhappy environment. I run a FIFO system (fit in or)

Where is the SBID based?
We have a three-storey purpose-built office building on a business development park by the river front in Battersea. It’s a great setting. We are next to Plantation Wharf pier which has the river taxi to the city and also, not that we use it, a nearby helicopter pad. We started off in the office of my basement in Belgravia with one employee. Within six months we were two and by the second year we became six. We moved into this building and love it. Last year we thought we might need to grow into larger premises but luckily, technology stepped up. We adapted and moved many things online so we can all fit in perfectly. It’s our home. It’s minutes from Clapham Junction and the power station is just a few stops along the river with new restaurants and bars – it’s the perfect place for us. It’s fun, different, vibrant and growing – everything that SBID represents.

What is your most significant achievement?
Well, of course I’d have to say being a mother first. It’s my most important role and ranks above everything else. Although, now my time in that role is (mostly) redundant, it’s more about getting the UK government and Queens Council to recognise interior design as a standalone profession with its own governance and regulation to protect the public. To achieve that, I have worked at setting out measurements for designers to be qualified for the task and promoted areas of skill and knowledge requirement which SBID defined by specialism.

What is your favourite possession?
This is a difficult one because it changes as life changes. I’m not particularly interested in jewellery. I love clothes because they make you feel great – but I dress and choose to wear heels for myself, not for others. I love certain pieces of furniture for different reasons. I’d say my forever favourite is probably a black lacquer baby grand piano which plays itself through a CD cassette below the keys. It has been in the entrance hall of my Dorset home for over twenty years.

I’ve just discovered…
Daytime TV. Working from home during the virus has got me re-watching Columbo, Charlie’s Angels and, my schoolgirl favourite, Hart to Hart. After watching that programme I always wanted a Mercedes Sports! Although I never got one of my own, I have driven a few over the years. It’s such a fabulous car, but in those days we just didn’t have the weather for convertibles in the UK.

Who inspires me…
I’m often asked this question and I think about various aspects of my life; campaigning for change, business development, creativity and taking care of yourself. The woman I think epitomises my passions with stunning results is Jane Fonda. She is still out there, working and taking care of herself mentally, physically, professionally and financially – I look at her and think ‘wow’!

I’ve always been a fan of…
Fashion. I like simple, tailored, unfussy, non-patterned designs. I find it feels orderly and think I am like that as an interior designer also. I have always spent my attention on the purpose and how things work, then made it look pretty. I think many designers start with pattern and I find that difficult. I think I’m just wired like that. My mother studied fashion and my father was an engineer and somewhere in there I think I have a mixed up ‘reshuffle title’ – I’m in the business of design, not a designer in business – it’s very different.

My highlight of the last 12 months…
I completed the three-year process which we submitted back in 2016 for SBID’s application to the Privy Council for SBID to become a Chartered body, bringing interior design under government control. I wrote to every design body last August to inform them of our submission. This will change the industry for better and for good. It will separate professional designers for public protection from everyone else who do make-overs for friends and blur the criteria that SBID set for the profession.

My next design trip is to…
Well, this is a debatable question due to the virus. My last was to Cairo from the British Embassy. I spoke at the British Ambassador’s Residence at a party held for 700 guests in the interior design industry. It was an amazing event. My next annual trip was due to be at the British Ambassador’s Residence in Kyiv, Ukraine but was cancelled due to the virus. In March I closed my office and cancelled every event until October. The team now work remotely while converting our focus and efforts online. It’s been slightly slower than other industries because design is so visual and designers don’t like change in their systems – they are the creators of change and resist upset to their own routine. However, the new generations love it, so the engagement of young designers has been huge.

• The SBID International Design Awards are now open. Final deadline for entries is 12th June. For more details click here