Rachel Keff

INTERVIEW : Rachel the Commerical Interior Designer

This post is part of a brand new series of posts where you get to meet the inspirational women in our area.  Working mums share how they juggle parenting and working life.

Our first interview is with Rachel, a freelance commercial interior designer and mum of one boy.


Rachel Keff

Tell us a little bit about yourself…

I’m a Yorkshire girl originally. I came down to the big city after university, met and married a south Londoner and now we live south of the river in Kenley, in the south most part of Croydon. We have a 3 year old boy and a cat who keeps us up all night!

What’s your trade?

I’ve worked for design companies all my career and after having a child I wanted to take a longer break, then start working independently so I could fit it in around being a mum.  I set up keff&co so I could freelance. The type of interior designer I am isn’t in the home sector it’s in the commercial world, I design shops, bars, restaurants, hotels and leisure spaces.
Keff & Co Logo

What made you choose your career?

I stumbled upon my career. When I was at school, I didn’t know retail interior designers existed. I just studied what I liked – art, graphics – and somehow I saw interior design as a choice at university, which seemed the right direction to go in next.

While I was at university studying I was working part time as a figure skating coach. Something I found I was good at as a child. Once I got old in ice skating terms (which is like 17!), I decided to qualify as a coach and start teaching people. I loved skating but I always knew design was my passion and there was so much more to discover and experience.

I have worked for leading interior design companies for over 16 years and created unique and engaging interiors that connect customers to the client’s brands.  I’ve worked with large brands like M&S and House of Fraser revitalising their stores and smaller brands like Blacks Burgers in Purley, Lets Race and Chip + Fish along with start ups. I prefer working with smaller brands I can make a considerable difference to their brand with my expertise and experience.

How your attitude towards work changed since having kids?

I don’t think it has changed. However, work is not right at the top of my list anymore, keeping a toddler alive is! I do feel working makes me feel like me, maybe that’s because design to me isn’t totally work – its life. It exists everywhere in my everyday life and the boundaries are pretty vague.

What’s your morning routine look like?

I normally get woken up pretty early by my son screaming “I want to get up now Mummy!” We all eat breakfast together, I do a bit of Instagram surfing and posting in-between clearing up and getting my son ready.  Then I drop everyone off at the station and nursery, come home, grab a shower and then head to my office (spare room) with a cup of tea and open up my laptop to start work around 9am.

How do you balance childcare and working?

My son goes to nursery a couple of times a week so I try to keep those days for design work, site visits, client meetings, networking events and design shows. If I need to do more work because of a deadline say I can fit this in whenever is good for me, like nap time or after bedtime.

In 10 years… where do you see yourself?

I really find it inspiring when I hear about how the future of work is changing, how there is a shift from thinking about jobs and careers to thinking about challenges and problems, more people in the future will be freelancing moving around from project to project and the agency or company will not exist.

There are new companies out there already that provide services to businesses by hand picking a team of specialists from around the world specifically for your brief, bringing together only the finest talent, only when you need it. I see keff&co working very much like this. The ‘&co’ relates to ‘and company’ – an association of people working together, collaborating to create a holistic solution for the client.  This includes the best interior designers, graphic designers, branding specialists or visual brand consultants for the project. So in 10 years time I don’t imagine having a huge design team in house at keff&co, I imagine just being around great company and creating great solutions to fit the client’s needs.

Best piece of business advice…

“I don’t have any business cards with me can I take your contact details and I’ll send you an email so we can stay in contact.” Instead of giving out business cards, take them and commit to following up, if you give out a card it may end up stuffed into a purse or wallet and never see the light of day!

Also keep talking to people about what your doing you never know who knows who !

Tips on managing the juggling act…

Don’t work in your main living space, like on the kitchen table, try and dedicate an area where you can just go when you get some free time that’s already set up. Otherwise you will see things that need doing and either do them or keep thinking about them and what else needs to be done. You just have to think and accept that the washing and cleaning will never be done, so just leaving it like you would of normally done when going out to work in an office is ok.

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