The pandemic brought with it an explosion of online learning and information Claudia Baillie takes a look at how people have been taking opportunities to find out about everything from interior design to flowers.
Over the past year, our new stay-at-home lifestyle has opened us up to opportunities we may never previously have explored. Yet even if our enthusiasm for sourdough, banana bread and family quizzes has waned, the desire to learn new skills and spruce up our surroundings is stronger than ever.
The Inchbald School of Design recently reported a 200% year-on-year increase in enquiries for interior-design courses and, although we may not yet be able to return to a physical classroom, there are a host of online classes that can be taken from the comfort of your kitchen table.
‘Twelve months under one roof results in a lot of wear and tear and once affectionately familiar rooms now look tired,’ says Alan Hughes, principal at the prestigious Pimlico establishment.
‘What we need from our homes has changed dramatically as a result of the pandemic, so it’s not surprising that people are looking to educate themselves about interior design.
‘Interestingly, we saw a peak in career changers in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crash, which provoked some people to adopt a more creative approach to their working lives. With that in mind, it could also be a conduit to an exciting new career.’
Hot on the heels of a flurry of new courses from Create Academy that features a wide range of inspirational figures, including the floral designer Willow Crossley and interior designer Rita Konig, is a course from block-printing expert Molly Mahon. ‘Our lives are usually so transient, with our home as a hub to sleep and eat. Now, we’re really living in our spaces, so we need them to be inspiring and uplifting, as well as comfortable,’ she says.
‘We wanted to show not only the printing process, but how you can make something you’re really proud of and that you want to use in your home. Soon, we’ll have guests around our table again and something that’s an expression of yourself can make a room feel special.’
With lino-printed wallpaper, napkins stamped with a trusty carved potato, and even larger fabric projects all part of the online offering, everything, says Miss Mahon, is achievable, even for a beginner. ‘The course is accessible to all, from people who simply want to have a go, to bigger ideas for those who really want to embrace things and print their own curtains.’ All that’s needed are some emulsion tester pots and an old sheet from the bottom of the linen cupboard. ‘It’s all doable without needing to go to art shops and you don’t need to be artistic, merely interested,’ she explains. ‘Most people get hooked and want to do more.’
Even better news is that, beyond aesthetics, there are wider benefits. ‘Block printing has an amazing rhythm,’ reveals Miss Mahon. ‘A bit like yoga, it can help to clear your mind, especially during these testing times, and people say they feel the tension in their shoulders drop. It’s an incredibly calming thing to do.’
TV presenter and podcast host Sophie Robinson is another interiors expert whose online courses have peaked over the past 12 months and she, too, recognises how a creative outlet has been a saving grace for many of her students. ‘There’s a huge appetite for doing something uplifting,’ she says.
‘My courses don’t give you a certificate that says you’re an interior designer, but they are about celebrating your hobby and getting better at it. They’re useful, but also inspirational and, if your job isn’t creative, your home can be a wonderful place to explore that.’
Access to a private Facebook group has proved a hit, as has the fact that the work can be done in your own time. ‘We’ve all been missing friends and the group offers a way to connect with people who share the same passion,’ she says.
‘Plus, there’s no pressure to finish, and you don’t have to submit work on a certain date or log on for live broadcast. There’s lifetime access, too, so you can revisit the lessons as many times as you wish.’
Spilling all her design secrets, internationally renowned expert Rita Konig has seen the popularity of her courses soar. ‘A lot of people don’t actually want to employ a designer,’ she explains. ‘Sometimes it’s because they don’t have the budget, but others want to do things themselves. What I’m trying to give people is the confidence to find their own taste — here are the tools you need, but your house has got to be your own.
‘A sense of order was also something I focused on in lockdown; I immediately wanted my home to be organised. If we’re able to control what’s within our four walls at a time when we can’t control anything else, that feels really good too.’
Five online courses to consider
Sophie Robinson: Be Your Own Interior Designer
Drawing on more than 20 years as an interior designer, Sophie Robinson shares know-how that will help you create a room so that it reflects your personal taste and works on a practical level, too. This course removes feelings of being overwhelmed and allows you to focus on considered decisions (£295; courses.sophierobinson.co.uk)
Create your Perfect Home: Rita Konig’s Ultimate Guide to Interior Design
Interior designer Rita Konig reveals her techniques, suppliers and materials, so you can apply the ideas to your own projects, developing confidence and your design skills (£127; www.createacademy.com)
Lucy Gough: How To Style Your Home
Lucy Gough is a leading interior stylist who has created imagery and spaces for an impressive list of magazines, brands and residential homes. You’ll learn how to find your style, create moodboards and decorate your own home, as well as hearing from experts, such as art curators and even colour psychologists (£149; courses.lucygoughstylist.com)
Inchbald Online: Design Your Living Space
This 12-week flexible course offered by the famous Inchbald school shows you how to design a domestic room or living space successfully, from the ergonomics and pro- portions of the space to the use of colour, texture, lighting, materials, furnishings and fabrics. This is a great option for those who wish to pursue a career in interior design further (£1,260; www.inchbald.co.uk)
Molly Mahon’s Guide to Pattern and Block Printing
Pattern designer and printmaker Molly Mahon demonstrates how to use pattern and block printing and shows how to achieve her signature look, as well as encouraging you to develop your own approach to pattern and colour (£127; www.createacademy.com)