Sturman & Co.

Designer in Profile: Bess Sturman, Creative Director of Sturman & Co. Interior Design Studio

Sturman & Co. have been shortlisted for Interior Design Scheme – UK Award in The International Design & Architecture Awards 2020. Read more about Creative Director, Bess Sturman, below:

Name:Bess SturmanSturman & Co.

Company: Sturman & Co. Interior Design Studio

Position within company: Creative Director


Tell us a little about your background in design
I’m Bess Sturman and I established Sturman & Co. Interior Design Studio in 2011 to offer a contemporary design service underpinned by the unique professional skills I had honed in my  previous corporate and legal careers.  The business has since grown from the one-woman-home-based practice (me!) that designed the award-winning Ilkley Cinema in 2015, to a multi-disciplinary team of six based in our Yorkshire studio today.

How would you describe your personal design style?
We work mostly with residential clients, usually on whole house projects.  My aesthetic is influenced by a lifetime spent on my own travels and visiting art galleries whenever possible, together with a love of the historic English home.   I love the challenge of creating something different each time and using original bespoke or antique pieces, with strong artwork and always some colour.  Warmth is the single most important ingredient for a family home to me, which can be found in the use of wood, wool, and other naturalistic textures in my schemes.

Where does your design inspiration come from?
I sometimes find that I’m at my most creative when I’m out of the studio. On holiday, at a gallery or whilst running in our beautiful Yorkshire countryside, are usually the times that a scheme comes together in my mind. I also work with some incredible suppliers who regularly pop into the studio to show us their latest collections. When I’m flicking through a fabric book or examining a new range of flooring, I always have our current projects in mind.

In what direction do you feel that design is moving towards in a general sense?
We are so bombarded with images that it can sometimes feel that design is becoming more homogenised and same-y, but this doesn’t need to be the case.  Sustainability and a push back against disposable consumerism are becoming increasingly important. We need to design for longer time periods at home and for the longer term.  As we learn to place greater value on the freedoms we have taken for granted, designs inspired by our travels and history will be grounding and comforting.

Name five key themes to consider when approaching design in 2020 and beyond.

1).  Family is now more important than ever and co-generational living needs spaces for separation as well as togetherness.  Creating resting spots in hallways, landings and on staircases can give a home a series of new ‘rooms’ for reading or working.

2). Work spaces are now a requirement of every stage of life, but we don’t all need large screens – the right lighting and furniture made for good posture, are the essentials for working from home.

3). Recent events will drive a shift towards hygiene and health benefits through design. Wood and metal are more hygienic than plastic so I think we’ll see more of these materials being used in the future. Air filtration and water purification systems as well as breathable plaster and eco friendly paint, will become increasingly important.

4). I see a move away from cheap, throwaway design and an increased demand for local craftmanship.  We need to know who we’re buying from, so the knowledge of an expert will become more valuable and our habits of buying from people we’ve never even met, with no real life experience will be challenged.

5). In the North of England, our access to beautiful outdoor spaces and big gardens has shown its worth during the recent lockdown, but the winter months here are long, so this space needs to be adapted where possible to come indoors and be heated in winter.

If you could offer one piece of advice when it comes to design schemes, what would it be?
Start with a clear vision for the space.  How will it be used and by whom? What do those people want to be able to do in that space? Once you have clarity on this, you can start to build your design accordingly.   Oh, and perhaps come off Instagram for a while when it comes to selecting furniture and finishes.  Their home is not your home and you will create something much more enduring and memorable with your home design if you can develop your own tastes and interests.

How important are The International Design & Architecture Awards?
These awards highlight more so than any others, the benefits of Interior Designers and Architects working closely together, something that can often be underestimated. Our best work comes about when we work closely with Architects from the outset of a project. Working collaboratively in this way ensures that no decision is made, without considering the way that individuals will use the space once the last picture has been hung. By taking responsibility for the final outcome of the project, clients are reassured that our expertise means that everything from avoiding the sun reflecting on TV to preventing kids trampling muddy boots through the house will have already been considered.

What projects are you currently working on?
Sturman & Co. current residential projects include a Georgian Country Manor House and another converted barn project – our client got in touch having seen the work we did on the barn for which we have been shortlisted! Each property has its own unique character, much like the owners, which means we get to work on a great range of designs.

Sturman & Co. currently have another cinema project in the pipeline, which is really exciting as I get to create a space that will be enjoyed daily by hundreds of people (hopefully post-COVID!). Knowing that you can positively enhance someone’s experience through the design of the space that they are using is a great honour.

What are your aims and goals for the next twelve months?
For the future, I’d really like to work on a boutique hotel or niche hospitality project in an historic building.  I’d love to bring that luxury of living in a well-designed space to a wider audience and to bring something of my aesthetic to a hotel in my beloved Yorkshire or beyond.  Whilst I love exploring other places, I sometimes find hotel design can be impersonal and cloying, which just makes me want to go back home.

Final thoughts; tell us a little more about yourself and your daily inspirations:

Your most treasured possession?
My great great grandmother’s antique bureau stands in my hallway.  Although it isn’t valuable, it’s very precious to me as it is layered with memories from my mother’s childhood, mine and now my children’s.

Your favourite holiday destination?
Skiing in the French Alps.   Every time.

Your favourite hotel, restaurant & bar?
A recent trip to Another Place, The Lake springs to mind.  It’s simple and comforting in the design, but unpretentious and they made our whole family feel so welcome and relaxed.  The pool and cedar tub with views onto the lake are incredible and I loved the way they make access to the outdoors so effortless.

One of my favourite restaurants was Dano’s Heuriger at a vineyard on the edge of Lake Seneca in New York State .  An Austrian New Yorker used to run it with such passion for food and wine that I’ve spent three of my birthdays there!  Sadly he passed away now.

My favourite bars are the tapas bars in San Sebastian, in the Basque region of Spain, where the energy for a late night is infectious.

Your favourite book, film & song?
My first degree was English Literature and I have a lifelong love of books – this is a very difficult question.  The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov is a special book to me, since it was my first introduction to Russian Literature when I met my husband Paddy.  It’s romantic, surreal and subversive.

I like indie films and live streamings at the cinema, but Netflix is brilliant at home.  I enjoyed Roma, Unorthodox and Sex Education.  I never get bored of older films such as It’s a Wonderful Life, Star Wars (IV) and Amelie.  I can’t pick one.

I can’t pick a favourite song either! Right now I’ll narrow it down to Being Boring by the Pet Shop Boys or Something Changed by Pulp.

Your favourite food and drink?
I love ‘Pukka Feel New’ tea and drink it all day long.  I wish they hadn’t changed the recipe from ‘Detox’, though.nI love eating fresh fish by the sea.

 Your favourite way to spend an afternoon?
A long lunch with family and friends and then a walk in the beautiful Yorkshire countryside, before continuing the conversations late into the evening in summer sun or by a log fire (depending on season).

If you weren’t a designer, what would you be?
Well before I was a designer, I was a lawyer for 10 years.  And I like being a designer so much more.

Sturman & Co. have been shortlisted for Interior Design Scheme – UK Award in The International Design & Architecture Awards 2020.

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