Interview: meet the two designers behind a stunning St Andrews holiday home refurbishment

The living area of a Bernards Interiors' St Andrews makeover.The living area of a Bernards Interiors' St Andrews makeover.
The living area of a Bernards Interiors' St Andrews makeover. | 3rd party
Job titles: Jen Bernard (JB) is the founder and owner of Bernard Interiors. Lizzie Clarke (LC) is lead designer with the company.

What is the background of the business? JB: I studied interior architecture at Edinburgh College of Art and first worked in an architectural practice, before working in sales and design consultancy for an international wallcovering company.

I started Bernard Interiors in 2008 from the kitchen table, and we now have a team of 18, from senior management, an in-house procurement team, interior architectural designers, and the interior specialists who deal with artwork, furniture and accessories.

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Jen Bernard and Lizzie Clarke of Bernard InteriorsJen Bernard and Lizzie Clarke of Bernard Interiors
Jen Bernard and Lizzie Clarke of Bernard Interiors | 3rd party

​What kind of projects do you take on? JB: We offer a full turn-key service from pre-planning to fitting out for both commercial developers and private clients.

Some of our commercial projects will be £120 million-builds which we can work on for years, [including] everything from planning to a marketing package, and putting pictures on the walls.

Our smallest private residential projects come in at about half a million pounds and the clients are high-net-worth individuals, mainly in affluent areas.

We are based in Newcastle, with an office in London and work all over the UK and abroad.

Describe the process of taking on a project? JB: A key part of the job is about connecting with people, and really communicating and understanding them. Because of that we feel that we can tap into each project and what their aspirations are, whether that is to add value or just create a much more comfortable space.

LC: Our clients tend to be UK-based, and many are repeat clients who acquire additional properties.

After an initial consultation we will produce mood boards and illustrations of the proposed elevations. Once that is agreed we will go into the specifications, which will include every item that will be used.

Clients will have a figure in mind, but very often we aren’t given a budget – their cost is driven by what they like, and that will decide the spend.

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Sometimes clients will come to us with ideas of their own, others will just ask us to come up with a concept.

We will produce a presentation to the client, but the basis of that will come from our own research of a particular property, the architectural details, period features, and the area. And really, specifically, that can influence the outcome of the design – right down to the colour palette and materials used.

The bedroom in the St Andrews apartment.The bedroom in the St Andrews apartment.
The bedroom in the St Andrews apartment. | 3rd party

What is your St Andrews project? LC: We were commissioned to refurbish a 731sq ft two-bedroom apartment set in a Victorian townhouse on a classic curved crescent within walking distance of the coast, cathedral and castle. It was a complete refurbishment, including bespoke, custom-designed furniture.

Before the project, [the property] hadn’t been touched in years, and our brief was to make it contemporary, with a coastal twist and glamorous finish.

The layout was untouched, but everything inside was stripped back and redone. The floors were replaced, the windows were refurbished, as were the period features.

We designed all the joinery elements and panelling, and everything that went back into the apartment.

Who was the client? JB: He is a friend as well as a long-standing client. We refurbished a whole townhouse for him in Park Terrace, Glasgow, which won an SBID [Society of British and International Interior Design] award in 2017.

The style of the St Andrews apartment is sophisticated, elegant and masculine.

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LC: He is a single male, which is different for us, as a lot of projects are led by the female member of a couple.

The apartment was inherited, which is typical for St Andrews as many properties never come up for sale. The client has a son and wanted to put his own spin on it, to be fun for his son to visit, and that all came into the brief.

And the finishes? LC: There are textured elements – the lounge features warm white tongue-and-groove panels, geometric blue wallpaper from Phillip Jeffries, and soft furnishings in mustard, maroon and ocean blue.

The master bedroom includes shiplap-style panelling and a large bespoke headboard upholstered in timeless ticking stripe.

The lighting is really effective with brass popping against the dark-blue in the dining area. It adds a subtle richness and was put in horizontally, to keep it contemporary, rather than vertically.

JB: The artwork by photographer Slim Aarons – who is a favourite of the apartment owner – is showcased throughout, adding a sense of fun and contemporary style.

Artwork can make or break a project and we will work with curators who can find collector’s items for clients to invest in.

What are you working on next? JB: We have about 16 live projects at the moment, including a Grade-2 listed building, Headley Court in Surrey; an Arts and Crafts house for a private client; a Victorian mansion with pool and vintage car garage, and new projects in Marbella and the Caribbean.

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