Designer outlet: Edinburgh's Robertson Lindsay Interiors

In terms of interior design, Edinburgh company Robertson Lindsay Interiors offers a very bespoke service. Not only does the firm, set up by Sally Homan, work on just a few high-end private client projects each year, but most of the pieces of furniture and accessories will be individually designed and made to order, with custom cabinetry, fabrics and wall coverings.

A sitting room in an Edinburgh West End townhouse
A sitting room in an Edinburgh West End townhouse

As Sally says: “This is for people who really want to invest in their homes, and want it to be personal.

“We have carved out a niche for ourselves, showcasing the work of expert small design companies, incorporating them in our interior looks and bringing them to clients.”

Design started as a hobby for Sally, as she recalls: “I bought my first house when I was 25 and really enjoyed doing it up. I developed four or five of my own properties while I was working in a corporate job in London – I’ve done a lot of tiling, sanding floors and painting, and that really is the best way to learn the basic skills.”

Sally Homan

In her mid-30s, Sally decided to take a career break and took on an interiors course at the renowned KLC School of Design in Chelsea, but so loved the experience that she decided to change career.

After graduating, Sally worked for a design company in London but set up her own business 11 years ago when the call to return to Scotland became too great.

She says: “I started by making great contacts with suppliers – I would ask people if I could come and look round their wallpaper factory, or their weaving unit, so I could really understand the process behind the products.

“In Edinburgh, I got my first client through a friend of a friend, who’d heard about what I was trying to do. That first project was picked up by a magazine and since then there has always been work.

A twin bedroom in an Argyll country home

“We get most through word of mouth, or returning to do second and third projects for former clients. Scotland is quite small, so your reputation is everything.”

Her firm is called Robertson Lindsay after her two grandfathers and to start it was just Sally, working from home. It has grown to employ two other designers, Carris Richardson and Beatrice Lualdi, and now has a studio on Dundonald Street in Edinburgh’s New Town.

Sally says: “We tend to take on the whole property, whether that is a townhouse in London, a manor house in France or a castle in Scotland.”

They are larger projects at the upper end of both space and budget. “Our suppliers tend to be small businesses that are really skillful and we can learn from them. Design is all about detail, and the difference between a good project and a great project is taking the time to get that detail right – whether that’s a wallcovering or the fretwork on a custom-built wardrobe.”

Asked about a signature style, Sally says she would describe it as classic contemporary. “But we take a lot of direction from the client, getting to know them and their tastes, looking at the house, the architecture and then influences from travel or nature all come together to get to the essence.

“Some clients might want us to start from a blank canvas, others have antique furniture which may need restoration. Then it is a question of how you use those existing pieces, make them look relevant in an interior today, by blending it with modern fabrics or lighting to get the balance right.”

The design team aren’t particularly swayed by trends, the key is that the finished house will still look good in ten years time.

She admits: “We have worked with some very famous people –but I’m sworn to secrecy and although we work with high-net-worth individuals, all our clients want value for money and everyone will have a budget.

“At the end, we want them to walk into their house and know it is theirs, rather than an interior design showroom.”