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Creative Holiday Home Design from Willerby


Willerby makes 23 holiday homes and lodges, all with different interior designs. We find out how they create those designs.

Words by Val Chapman

There’s a lot more than inspiration and creativity happening in her work orbit, as I discovered.

How it all started

Sue Bodie joined Willerby five years ago. She’d studied exhibition and museum design in Hull, then moved to London to do a degree in interior design. She stayed in the capital for 25 years. Then Sue, husband and three children returned to their home city of Hull. And the new Willerby creative began…

Sue was no stranger to the holiday home environment. Sue had many family holidays in rented statics in France and Italy.  It’s so easy to get to the continent by ferry from Hull. Her trips ensured a passion for this specific leisure environment was already in her DNA.

What influences Sue’s choices?

Billy and Sue at Willerby

“All the top high street names; John Lewis, Next, Marks and Spencer and various interior design websites. They all have inspirational schemes. I’m always looking to see what’s coming up. And Pinterest.”

Well, it does call itself the world’s catalogue of ideas.

“I download inspirational images we may want to achieve, then make cards of them.”

Sue shows me a stack of these A5 cards, which she calls ‘concept design images’. It's a kaleidoscope of furniture types and styles, fabrics, shelving units and colours.

“Then I start to look at specific shapes and styles of furniture. Then more at the detail, such which handles work best, or fluting on end panels. I look at products that all go to creating the total look of a holiday home. That includes the small details, the framework surround of a fireplace, for example. And the idea of inserting shelves around a fireplace.”

I spot a stunning image on one of the cards. It’s a prominently-grained texture, in mid-grey and it provokes discussion about cabinetry shades.

“‘Heritage’ colours are all the trend right now,” says Sue. “Matt finishes, for example, on Portland stone; natural shades – greys, cashmere colours, mussel and soft muted greens.”

And the next stage…

Sketching out designs at Willerby

Sue then sketches out the look she wants to create. She shows me a sketch of a cashmere-shade fire surround, painted in cream. It has a hint of the palest pink, with a circular big clock, shelving integrated with a fireplace. “And this is finished piece.” She shows me an image of a pale grey fireplace with a multitude of shelves.

Now we are looking at Sue’s sketches of a kitchen. There are shades of grey and terracotta with lots of detail. Then a bedroom, with shelving again and three pictures above the bed. Small prints in big white frames. Thhe effect is simple but stunning.

And from Sue’s drawing board…

A chain of work processes begins.

“The design goes to the next team in the design department – six people who draw everything up with measurements.

“Then the design goes to another team. They ‘productionise’ it,  which means they design the fine construction details, right down to deciding where they position the screws.

“Then the guys in the prototype department will make a prototype following the design; after that, it goes onto the production line.

“Many people look at the design between those stages, too; a team of staff, including what Willerby calls ‘Star Chamber’ – that’s all the directors. Dealers come and have a look too. And then another team looks at every design from a production perspective, to consider the practicalities of putting it all together.”

Next, the ‘Optimisation team’ takes on the design. “They take all the sheet material and optimise how going to cut out the panels for the furniture to avoid significant waste. And to make sure the wood grain direction all matches and works with the design of the furniture.”

“We want to be following the trends. This industry used to be 10 years behind. Then people began to see holiday homes more as homes than static caravans. And the whole industry came on , upping its game as competition increased,” says Sue.

“That included a movement away from neutral shades to on-trend combinations.”


Sue Bodie and a designer at Willerby

I wanted to find out, in particular, what inspires Sue when she’s creating the area of a holiday home that is the hub of the family holiday lifestyle.

“Pinterest, again – and Ideal Homes-type magazines and Grand Designs TV programmes.

“Recently I came across a thing called the breakfast cupboard,” says Sue.

“It’s all the things you would need to make breakfast, all in one cabinet. Although it is still a concept idea, we have done a pantry project. And the breakfast cupboard may be a development from that.

“Pantries are an on-trend feature of domestic homes right now so we have included them in two of our lodges. The Pinehurst and the Portland.”

The pantry concept is all about multi shelves and drawers hidden behind double doors.

“Racks on doors, pull-out baskets, a wine rack – so all foodstuffs go in one place.”

“Our kitchen designs are about trying to give people a nicer kitchen than they would have at home – or at least as good as.”

And looking ahead…

“We’re now working on our 2018 ranges. And yearly I do a Trend Report, about our direction and the trends we wish to follow.”

I ask what’s on-trend right now: “Shaker furniture. And heritage colours. They’ve been around for a while. And now that trend includes unusual shades like dark teal, green – and grey is strong this year.

Recently, all greys have been warm. This year they have cooled – the latest grey trend has a hint of blue, a sort of smoke grey.”

“Stone and marble influence is high-fashion right now. And we have developed our own traditional style –a modern country style. It’s all about contemporary influences on traditional themes. For example, you can have traditional cabinetry and put a modern handle on it.  That’s a mix that’s becoming accepted and looks good.”

Sue is keen to keep pushing the boundaries: “We have a look at new designs if we don’t like them at mock up stage we don’t progress.”

Fabric designs

fabric designs at Willerby

Fabric design companies send computer prints to Sue, from which she selects patterns that might be of interest. We are talking in Sue’s design studio. Swatches, swathes of fabric, flooring samples, a couple of enormous Thomas Kent-style clocks, prints of designs surround us.  A shoal of fish on a bathroom wall, curtain fabric ‘made of’ pebbles, a sea and sand scene. Worktop surfaces that mimic rock, or distressed wood, and something called ‘cognac’ which is, yes, the rich, warm colour of brandy.

The Willerby portfolio

Willerby fabrics

We’ve been talking for over two hours and we could go on for two more, such is the size of the whole holiday home interior design subject. But Sue must leave Willerby’s office beside Hull docks to drive to mid Wales, to look at new materials for wall-boarding. We agree to talk again when more trends spring up to inspire her designs.

Before I leave, she gives me a quick guided tour of the vast department. There are two more rooms full of fabrics, carpeting, flooring. Then we reach taps, kitchen units, lighting. We chatter as we walk.

“There are a multitude of influences on design trends. Global travel, ethnic designs, traditional looks, geometric shapes, Scandinavian designs.”

With so many influences, how does Sue pin down designs to specific models in Willerby’s portfolio?

“We try to keep the DNA of a particular model. For example, the Sheraton has an unusual bedroom design with a dressing room at one end and an ensuite at the other. We use the bed-head as a partition to divide the room. This unique layout will stay, whilst the model may get a colour change for a new product year…”

“We also try to spread colour palettes across the models , so that we have a portfolio that appeals to all tastes.”

Creating that wide appeal, of course, is fundamental to Sue’s department’s processes and designs. The aim is there is to have a Willerby holiday home to appeal to all buyers.

Visit willerby.com to check out the latest designs and discover your perfect holiday home!

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