Writing The Interior Design Masters Book with Joanna Thornhill : Episode 123

Joanna Thornhill Interior stylist and writer

Writing The Interior Design Masters Book with Joanna Thornhill 

I’ve had the pleasure of chatting to Jo about being an interior stylist and writer a few times but never with so many technical issues! We both tried to get on Instagram to do the live earlier this week and both times our sound was ZERO! But we prevailed and after removing the Instagram app and reinstalling it we finally got there.

In this episode, you’ll hear all about how Jo interviewed around 60 people who were part of the Interior Design Masters  TV show from contestants and guest judges to behind-the-scenes crew. The book is so much more than an ode to the show. It’s packed full of advice for creating the home of your dreams whether you’re a complete beginner or have been designing for years.

Enjoy the chat.


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Today’s guest is Joanna Thornhill 

Joanna Thornhill Interior stylist and writer

You can find her here –

Insta: @JoannaThornhillStylist

Website : JoannaThornhill.co.uk

A few things we covered in this episode :

Click on this affiliate link to buy Jo’s book




 Hello, . Okay. We are having technical difficulties. I’m really, really hoping that this works this time, so yes. Can you hear me? Am I here? Yes, I can. Woohoo. Oh my goodness.

Take Instagram off your phone and put it back on again. Hi Jo, how are you? ? Yeah, I’m uh, I’m alright. I could have done, I hate, oh my Gd, I hate technical stuff, so it’s always the ban because it’s like, I literally dunno what to do to make it, make it  and I’m sitting there talking, going, and here’s. Here’s the book and here’s the pages of the book.

And now what do I say? I’ve said everything. I, I could go on and on, but people don’t wanna hear from me. They wanna hear from you. So I’m delivered. You’re here. So, , originally we were gonna start at 12, so we might have to cut this short. If Sainsburys arrives,, that should have come on Saturday is now coming today, so we’ve got no food in the house, otherwise I’ve gotta cancel there.

So anyway, we have until they come or until you need to leave and we must eat. It’s obviously Jewish mother. What can I say? ? , are you in your She shed? No, I’ve, , I  temporarily, uh, moved out the, she shed during the depths of, uh, winter. And because it’s still somehow the depth of winter six months later, I’m, I’m in the spare room.

Uh, so, but I’m, I’m very much hoping to move back in there soon, but this, this is not bad . It looks really good. I was like, RA your room looks really great. When I couldn’t actually, when you couldn’t hear me . , yeah, it’s lovely in there. I’m, I’m gonna skip a bit about you being a stylist. If anyone wants to know Jo’s backstory on being a stylist, I will put in stories after today, , a link to the podcast when I interviewed her for your first book or your second book, I can’t remember, ages ago.

And you talk all about your, , your journey. Then we did two, didn’t we? We did a part one and a part two. Yeah, that’s both for my second book for, , my bedroom as an office. Yes. That was few. That’s 2019 now, I think. Yeah. Pre pandemic. Pre played. And this is book four. Yes. So, , do you wanna share what the book is about?

Yeah, so it’s, , well, so it’s about, I, I’m sure most of, well, I’m sure most people are listening, are interested in interiors. I know about interior, so this is the official. For the Interior Design Masters, , TV series, , that’s, , that’s just started airing series, uh, for on the bbc, on, on tonight. , if you’re watching today, I was gonna say today, say, I can’t remember what it is, but anyway, 14th.

14. 14, yes. Yeah. 14th of March. Yeah. And in between us trying to connect, , Sophie Robinson popped up talking with, , Michelle Ghe about tonight’s episode, which is the second episode, and she’s on tonight. Yeah, Sophie. Few features in the book, but yes. So anyway, so yeah, so the book is , so the book is about, , well, so it, it’s obviously based on, on the tv, , series.

So it covers, it covers everything that happened in series, well, a lot of the designs and things that happened in Series one to three. But there are also quotes in here from, , the people that are in series four as well. So it’s, it’s, it’s kind of relates to the whole, the series as a whole, not just to any specific, uh, season.

So to speak. , and so yeah, so the idea of the book, so the publishers, , contacted me. They wanted to create something that was obviously a tie-in with the series, but also would work as a kind of a standalone interiors tomb as well. So if you’re like a huge fan of the show, then hope, you know, hopefully will appeal to you.

But equally, If you’re someone that’s not necessarily watch the show or just kind of dips in casually, , it will hopefully still be a good, interesting, uh, read as well. And so it’s based on, , I’m go straight into it. Sorry, . , so it’s based on, there’s lots in here. It’s, it’s fully illustrated and it’s based on a lot of the designs that, , that featured in the show.

So kind of full, full designs as well as little kind of like, uh, project snippets and things. , which I can’t see an example for right now. Oh yeah. So like, , yeah, so like little kind of snippets as well as the whole room sets, just of kind of how to create like a wall mural and that, that kind of, , stuff.

And yeah, so there’s loads of tips in there from, from the design contestants, from the judges, and also from the kind of the casting, the, like the crew as well. So, so Wayne, one of the on-screen set, , carpenters, , a few of the set builders, people like that as well. Yeah, it’s action Pat. Yeah.  and Edward Robinson.

I was reading this morning. He’s Yeah, yeah, no, I had a really good chat with him at the, went quite early in the process and it was really interesting he was talking through, so when they, , when, when thes, when the contestants go out to film their spaces, they’ve, obviously, they’ve had their brief before they go there, but they’ve not.

they’ve obviously not seen the spaces when they’re walking in, like, oh wow. Like that’s genuinely the first time, , that they’ve seen it. So what Ed, who is the art director for the show does, and a few other of the art department team as well, is they, they go to the spaces in advance, essentially do like a rki, , and they pull together what they call a design plaque for the design contestants.

So they’re, they’re , they’re sort of taking measurements of the space. They’re taking kind of angle photos of each angle, , making any notes of like, this pipe can’t be moved. , there’s a broken bit skirting board here, or whatever. So that the designers have all that kind of practical information, so then they could be like, okay, right.

What, what do I need to bear in mind? How’s, how’s this gonna affect my designs? And I just thought that was one example of apri. Like, yeah, basically I sort of turned that principle into, uh, something that you could do if you are redecorating a room in your own home, because it’s really helpful to have all that kind of.

Written down, whether even if you’re just doing something, you know, even if you’re just doing it yourself, that’s useful to have for reference. But especially if you are working with trades, painters, decorators, if you’ve then got this little design pack that you are like, okay, you need to know, this is what you need to know.

Mm-hmm. , then yeah, that it’s a really useful starting point. Yeah. , I interviewed Ed for the podcast and he’s love, he’s so lovely. , and he was saying that he tear houses around the country looking at all these different venues and they have to see every single room and they have to do a, a pack for every single room that every contestant is going into.

And when you think how many rooms that is, that’s, that’s massive. It’s a massive job. So you were kind of speaking to the contestants. Did you like have a list of who you wanted to speak to? Or was it who was happy to talk to you? How did that work? Yeah. Sort of both really. I mean, I , I, yeah, I didn’t, I didn’t get to speak to absolutely everybody, but we tried, I tried, , you know, where, where possible we tried to involve everybody and try as they involve, , all of the sort of guest was, you know, some of the guest judges as well and some of the crew and behind the scenes art department people as, as well.

, and yeah, so I, I managed to, but, but, so, We, we’ve sort of pretty much included everybody from the show as well, because I also, I, I’d, I’d obviously watched this show any, I was genuinely a really big fan of the show. I’ve always loved property, , like TV makeover shows. , but then obviously when I got the commission, I.

Sort of almost turned into like a super fan of like, kind of, you know, watching every single episode, pausing and rewinding, like all these different bits. So I could probably, I feel like recite it all off by heart. . It’s like my mastermind specialist subject. So, , yeah, so, so the book is a, is basically, it’s a mixture of.

, quotes and advice that people gave me directly, , sort of in addition to what was on the show. And also some of the quotes are taken like from what people had said on, on the series, especially, you know, with the sort of where, where we’ve got illustrated, , like certain rooms we’ve put as a case study.

So then I’ve pulled in like what each judge and what Michelle said about them, sort of onto the page as well. So even if you’ve seen it, it’s still. You know, you’re not, unless you’re me, no one else . No one else is gonna remember every single word that was said. No, no. And also, it’s probably nice to hear other people’s thoughts on a design process or an I, the way they’ve implemented it and stuff.

It’s inspiring to someone else to go, okay, that’s what they thought. How can I interpret that in my home? So, . It works really well. Really well for that. Yeah. And it was really nice as well to get into cause , cause I’ve, I’ve met a few of the contestants now at a couple of, uh, events recently and it was really nice just talking to them about how often ob obviously on, on real on, yeah.

Well, it’s not reality show, but it, it’s kind of, it’s, it’s filming real life situations and so often like a design element that you are like, that we would be really interested in is kind of slightly skimmed over because they’re filming, like someone’s just spill all their paint. Crying . Yeah, so it’s, it’s, the book was a really nice opportunity to be like, actually, like there was a blink and you missed it.

Like really cool like deco wall plate in that. I’d like to know more about that. So then I’d go back to, ,  Abby, series three, episode two . Wow. And, uh, yeah, yeah, that’s my brain now. , and as her a bit, I could, so I could ask them a bit more about it and then, and then kind of bring, bring those little bits in.

Cause like, it was just these little things like that, that I saw and thought, oh, I wonder if that’s done like that. That’s actually really interesting. , so it was really nice to just kind of, cuz the contest from talking to them. , they, I mean, they obviously work really hard on the check, but at the, the, the level of sort of thought and detail that they went into for all of their schemes and, you know, it’s, it’s just one of those thi there’s obviously so much to get into each series, especially the early, early episodes when there’s like 8, 10, 10 of them at the start.

, it was just really nice to hear a bit more from them and be able to show a bit more of these sort of tiny details that would’ve otherwise gone unnoticed and like, give that page. Yeah. . Yeah, that’s really cool. They must love that. I bped into, I was at Design Center, Chelsea Harbor yesterday. I bped into Shivon Murphy.

Oh yes. I, I think it’s Interiors Curve. Yes. On, , on Instagram. And I said, oh, I’m talking to Jo tomorrow. And she was like, oh yeah, I, I’ve wrote pieces for that. And, and she was saying how she was really surprised that there weren’t gonna be photos in the book, but there’s illustrations all the way through.

And then she said when she saw it, she was like, oh my God, it worked so well. Was that a decision early on to have. Yeah, it was, , it, well, it, it’s basically, there was a, there was a nber of reasons why it came about. So firstly, , I think it’s, it’s fair to say that in, in the first series at least, , when they didn’t realize how sort of big the show was gonna be, uh, there wasn’t a huge emphasis put on photographing the spaces at the end.

So the, the photography certainly from series one, , it isn’t necessarily that great. , and then obviously after that, then, then it got a lot better. , but we wanted to. , we wanted to make sure that we weren’t choosing, , what rooms to feature purely based on, or we don’t have a nice photo of that, so it’s gonna have to be more of this person or, or more from series three or whatever.

, so we, we were kind of toying with the idea of, of doing a mixture of illustrations and photography and then in the end and once we’d sort of, , trialed out a few illustrators and chose our illustrator, , Charlotte, or we were just, we thought they, they’re so charming that the illustrations that, that they were really lovely that she was coming up with, and so we just thought, actually, I think it’s gonna work better to just go fully illustrated and, and like, as Shavon was, was saying, I know she sort of initially was like, well, I’m not sure about materials book with illustrations.

But actually I think it does suit it really well because it is quite a practical. Sort of manual. It’s, it’s not a, it’s not a coffee table book in the sense of, hey, here’s just a selection of inspirational shots. It’s, it’s very much how you, how do you panel a wall? Here’s a few examples, you know, how, how do you mix colors together?

How does it work? , and yeah, so going down this route, it almost makes it a little bit more timeless in a sense. , completely. Cause you’re not kind of super distracted by photo. And also hope, hopefully as well, people will then be like, oh, I’d love to see what that space look like in real life. And then they’ll go back and watch , some of the early episodes, cuz they’re all available either on series one is on Netflix, and then series two or three are on iPlay.

And I’m sure series four must be going on to iPlay as well. Once, yeah, after each one’s dead. Yeah. So yeah, I’m just gonna show, this is Nikki’s Scandy Sweet Twin Rim. I’m just gonna show, sorry. It’s an example. So you can really see. , what if you’ve seen the series, you remember that? It doesn’t, like you say, it doesn’t detract, but the book is really, , information packed and it’s almost like if you just really like interiors but wanna know a bit more about how to design a space like an interior designer would.

I’m not saying it’s gonna make you an interior designer, but it really does have all the information that you need from planning and how to use Canva or sketch up or, , putting mood boards and vision boards together, how to create your own style. It really does cover everything so, . I think it’s a really clever balance between being about the program, but also being about making it your own, in your own space and you will learn something.

I’ve, I’ve read loads of stuff in here that, that I hadn’t thought of it in that way. So it’s, it is absolutely jam-packed. , I’m just gonna check, check that I haven’t, , forgotten anything. , you’ve kind of answered half the questions I had and I haven’t even looked at these yet. What, what, what just popped into my.

From what, what you were saying is that, , that Yeah. I very much, I didn’t want it to just be a, Hey, here’s what Nikki did, here’s how you can, here’s how you can sort of, you know, wholesale recreate this. Look. I wanted to very much explain, so this is this design and, and this is why this works together and if you like this kind of style, here is some ways.

that you could go about it. , but trying to sort of make it so that it, you know, I’m, I’m trying to, I don’t ever like to just say, Hey, copy this, , thought this is, this is good and this is bad. I always try to encourage people to basically understand why it works so they can then think, oh, okay, then I could apply it in this way.

And, and you know, there’s quite a bit on this, obviously, Sophie Robinson, , for anyone that knows, Sophie knows she’s the color queen and she’s really. She’s got lots of insights into color psychology, and, and she gave us some really great, great, uh, quotes about that for in here as well. But even just trying to bring in those elements of explaining, okay, so this is a room and this is really, really, this is like a really bright, vibrant room.

, but if you like this style, but you want to create a space that feels a bit, uh, bit, you know, more calming maybe if, if you know for a bedroom or somewhere, then this is how you can sort of take elements of that. , but, you know, translate it into that different type of space. So yeah, I didn’t want it to just be like, here, here’s some rooms that you can copy.

It’s kind of, yeah. Hopefully delving a bit deeper. Yeah. , it’s, it’s, it works because of that. And, and you might find that like, I might like really bright colors or really dark colors and someone reading it might like the way that looks, but really only want boho or something. So they can literally take all that information.

I’m repeating everything you’ve just said. Yeah. , I remember talking to you and you saying, I can’t, , come to that event. I’ve got a book deadline and I remember that. I mean, it’s a big book there. I mean, how many page are there? Absolutely. 2 28. . Yeah. And some when you add in all the expert information.

Yeah, it’s, and we  it’s a lot of, , it’s a lot of copy to write. So how long did it take to do that? Because obviously if you’re just sitting down writing a book out of your head, you can just write it in your own time. But, , when you’ve got an interview, everyone, there’s other constraints involved. And was she doing this during lockdown?

N no, it was, so I got the commission, , we were sort of in, talked about it and I got the commission, , autn time, 2021. So it wasn’t, it was a bit Coty, but it wasn’t . Yeah. I think we were, no one knew what out of the like full lockdown E stages. , and yeah. And so I spent a few months, like I kind of, the writing, I kind of.

Sometimes, often to my detriment, kind of leave to the end . , cause I spend so long doing all the research and I  create, I get that’s a really clear idea. Does this mean you just start watching TV for work? Yeah. Basically start watching TV for work for three months, making copious notes and then like, ah, I’ve got to now turn this into a 30,000 word.

But yeah, . , but I, I kind of, yeah. I don’t tend to approach it in a particularly linear fashion. I sort of pull together all of the information and then just kind of refine it and reduce it down until it finally becomes like actual pages mm-hmm. Of , of text. So, so I think, so I was probably research doing the researching and note taking and the interviewing and stuff.

Cause there’s, , you know, there were 40. , there’s been 40 contestants across all four series and about, I think maybe like 15 or so different guest judges as well. And then, like I say, I spoke to some of the Caston crew, so I probably spoke to like at least 60 people. Mm-hmm.  like to try. So it, it was quite a lot of.

Work in that sense. And then gathering all the images from the production company and, and briefing the illustration and stuff sort. So there’s often, with books, I think people don’t necessarily, if you’ve not done a book, I think some of those people are surprised how much you do that isn’t like the writing, it’s kind of like styling really.

It’s like the actual being on a set going, oh, kitchen here, . Like, that’s kind of 1% of the job. Yeah. . Yeah. So there’s all these other elements. , but yeah, so I, so. So the final copy was finished two days before my wedding in, uh, July of last year. , well, my now husband had covid as well. So that was, uh, yeah, it was stressful.

It wasn’t the best time, but I was, I put, I was so focused that I don’t think I’ve ever been that as focused  as I was that week in my time. No, I’ve got so much done. Sure. , the stress. Just thinking about that, it must have been so incredibly stressful having a deadline and a wedding and with everything else that was going on.

Yeah, and a little side side salad of plague, . . So, but, It, it all worked out. It it was all fine. Yeah. So, yeah, so, so it was, yeah. So, but so the entire process, so obviously from getting the, initially getting the, the commission to it coming out is, is like 18 months really. It’s often quite, quite a long, lengthy process.

I was gonna say arduous then , lengthy and lengthy fun process. . Yeah. Because when we, when we do shoots, even if it’s a really. , project, we tend to get the brief, we do all the backwards and forths, getting everything okay and, and signed off, and then you do all the propping. But it’s never a huge, huge job.

It’s, it’s usually done within a month. Mm-hmm. And to have something that is such a long project, I mean, this is your fourth book. It’s, you know, this your, your own ex, your experience writer, you know what you’re doing, but it’s a really long time to be working on one thing. Mm-hmm. . So, , well done. Yeah.

Thanks. Obviously we sort of do I do other things all, all I’m sure all writers do. , well, unless you’re JK writing and you get paid millions to just do that . , yeah, so obviously I was doing other jobs as well throughout. Yeah. But yeah, it’s kind of a, yeah, a very ongoing, we have to, otherwise you go math.

Oh yeah. You can’t sit, I think stylist are, you can write for a little bit and then you have to go in style, and then you have to go prop and then you write just so that it doesn. Boring or that might just be a Yeah, I know. Well, the thing is, yeah, it’s just using slightly different bits of your brain and Yeah.

I think, yeah. Was, I was reading a quote from a, uh, going off piece slightly now, but I was reading a quote from a film director yesterday and he was saying that he, when he was working on a film, he just suddenly decided to write children’s books as a side, a side thing, . And then they ended up getting published as well.

And he was like, I wasn’t even doing that for work. I was just wanting to do something else for a bit. So, oh, yeah, , what were. Any quotes or, or, , things that people told you that you were like, oh, I’ve not heard that before. I really like that. I’m gonna use that in my own home, or just store it away for a future thing?

Yeah, I mean, there were, there were a lot, there’s nothing, nothing specifically is, , springing to mind, but just generally I did kind of feel really inspired, , just kind of hearing what they were all saying. Cuz I think when I, when I sort of first started,  in interiors. I was renting, I was very limited as to what I could do.

So I would, and I had like no money at all. So I would get super creative with, I’m gonna stick a bit of wallpaper on this side of this cupboard and then paint the handles and do all these things. And then I think as time goes on, you, I’ve, there’s something I’ve, I ought do, still do, but I, I think I’d sort of maybe become a bit less creative because, because I do own my house now, we, it’s kind of like, well, I can do what I want.

I’m not, I don’t have that restriction. Mm-hmm. . So hearing a lot of them, like, oh, you know, I got a bit of MDF and then I did this, and then I turned it upside down. And it’s like, oh, wow, God, that’s really, and like speaking to weighing the carpenter about how to do like panel balls and things, it’s like, mm, I’m gonna pan a wall.

myself, . , which I haven’t, I haven’t actually done, but I do still quite want to in my bed. I’m thinking about it for behind the bedhead. , , but yeah, so it, so it did really inspire me, , and sort of made me, yeah, did really make me hanker to get the paintbrushes out. Oh, that’s been brilliant. , I’m really sorry, but I can hear the, the doors crashing outside that I think the Saint Vans arrived.

Do you wanna quickly share where people can find the book? Yeah, sure. So yes, it’s available in all the, all the usual places out. At this current moment, it’s actually half price on Amazon and in Sainsbury as well. I think, , it’s gonna go up to full price again at some point. There’s, there’s Alan. , but it’s all on my website, so if anyone wants to find out more about me, , it’s Jo joanna thornhill.co uk.

I do, I am selling signed copies myself, , from directly from the website. , and then you can find out more about my other business branding, uh, creative services. Fabulous. I’m really sorry. I’m gonna have to go. I was like, they never come on time. Of course now they decide to come literally right now. So, Jo, thank you so much.

I’m gonna try and let him drop all the stuff while I download this so other people can watch. But thank you for being patient and getting through finally. It’s been really fun and good luck with the rest of the book’s promotion. It’s fabulous. Thank you very much. Bye bye.

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