I’m Victoria Tretis, and this is the Remote Working podcast.

Today I’m joined by Jen and Mar from Interior Fox. 

These two awesome ladies offer affordable interior design, and I was keen to invite them on the show after they totally transformed areas of my own home thanks to their design services.

In today’s show, Jen and Mar talk about how having an office environment and colour scheme that suits your personality is the key to creating a perfect home working environment, how their own personalities and approaches to social media tuned out to be entirely complementary, and how showing up consistently on Instagram over several years led to building trust clients they have never met, as well as an awesome collaboration with H&M Home (although I say Stores in the show – sorry!).

What I think you’re going to really enjoy hearing, is how much they differ when it comes to work/life balance, and they’ve found their own ways to set themselves up for success when they wake up each day.

All of the social media links are in the show notes, so please do check out Interior Fox on Instagram if you’d like to see some beautiful interior design and to learn more about what we’re talking about today.

More about Jen and Mar:
We are Interior Fox, a synced duo, from different parts of the world, thriving in LONDON. Jenna being from the West (NYC) loves big warehouse conversions, clean lines, and modern materials, while Mariana from the East (Philippines) loves worn wood, antiques, mixed with traditional textiles.

We can both appreciate that a space really needs a balance of everything: old world meets new world, modern space planning and yet comfortable finishing touches, which is why we aim to create the perfect balance for you.

New design service in collaboration with H&M Home offering exclusive prices: £99 mood-boards, £199 in-home appointments!

Twitter: @theinteriorfox

www.interiorfox.co.uk

 

Show Notes:

Victoria
Today I am joined by the Interior Fox. Ladies, thank you so much for joining me. Would you like to introduce yourselves?

Jenna
Hello, I’m Jenna from Interior Fox

Mariana
And I’m Mariana.

Jenna
Jen and Mar. We usually go by those, they’re our little nicknames in our email signatures as well.

Victoria
So, what is the Interior Fox?

Jenna
Our brand is all about affordable interior design. So we do a lot of bespoke, detailed design work, but at an affordable flat fee price.

Mariana
I think our business grew and changed a lot from the beginning when I first started thinking, “Hey, we’re going to be really affordable and it’s going to be a flat fee”. And now we’re doing more bespoke projects, larger projects, even smaller projects and collaborations. So it’s definitely changing.

Victoria
I’ve worked with you girls myself, so for the listeners, the Interior Fox did a fantastic collaboration with H&M home which I jumped on immediately, and they did some work on our living room and our kitchen. When I started thinking about the whole podcast idea, I was so keen to get both of you on the show. Because I know that so many remote workers are based at home, but maybe not making the most of their homeworking space. For instance, some people might be working from the kitchen table or on the sofa.

So I wondered, what are the benefits in having a dedicated office space in terms of productivity and motivation?

Jenna
I think it’s always important because we had an office space that we adored and it was great to have a neutral zone that we could both travel into and work from. But actually in the past month or so, we’ve really enjoyed working from home and creating our own little work environment.

Mariana
I almost enjoy working from home a little bit more and we see each other at least twice a week anyway. And we’re always on the phone together or just FaceTiming and we just know we’re there. But it’s really nice to wake up and you’re like, “Okay, I’m going to take shower, get dressed, I’m going to go to my little office”.

Jenna
And it’s right there. I feel like you can work faster and you cut out travel time, you cut out expenses. So having a home office is beneficial. I think one important thing, maybe it’s my own mental purpose, is having a really clear desk. Whenever I finish, I always make sure my desk is clean and I don’t know if that’s an old fashion thing, maybe it’s something my mum told me.

Victoria
It’s like a self-imposed clear desk policy.

Jenna
Definitely.

Mariana
And I think it’s really good to know how you work as well, because for me, I hate drawers. If I have a drawer, I’m going to stick everything in it.

Victoria
Are you a drawer hoarder?

Mariana
I need to see everything that I have to make sure like, “Okay, I threw away everything and everything’s clean and everything’s clear”.

Jenna

Minimal.

Mariana
Yeah. Minimal. And also, it doesn’t matter how big your office space is, if it is a separate room. So right now we’re in Jenna’s office space.

Victoria
Which is beautiful, by the way listeners. It is absolutely gorgeous.

Jenna
It still has so much to be done. So I’ll share you my after photos when I do the actual space.

Victoria
Please do.

Mariana
And mine’s a little smaller. Mine’s like with a second bedroom. So there’s a bed and my desk. So it’s a little bit smaller, but I think it’s good to establish where you can work and make it an office. Then at least you know that’s where you’re going to work. I find working in the kitchen really hard.

Jenna
And distracting too. So I like to find somewhere that I’m not distracted. So from bed, I would easily feel tempted to put Netflix on or something in the background.

Victoria
I agree. I could not work from the bedroom. And when I did work from home, I did see a huge benefit in having that dedicated office space. And a bit like you Mar, it was a spare room with a bed – half bedroom, half office. But actually, the fact that it was a dedicated office space, and that I could close the door on that room after I’d left for the day really helped me separate that whole work-life time, if you like.

Because otherwise, I feel like when you’re working from home, sometimes you can feel switched on to the world of work all the time, particularly with smartphones and email notifications. So even just having that separate, dedicated space that you can walk away from physically, I think can really help.

The other thing I’d really love your brains on is in terms of working at home, would you recommend any particular colour for that dedicated office space? Because I know nothing about how colour affects moods, but I’ve heard a bit of a rumour that it’s true. What are your thoughts on this?

Jenna
I think it depends on the person because it depends how you work. So if you need somewhere that’s calming, then yes, I would do calming colours. I love white. So I think white is my blank canvas, and then I might layer in textures and other materials. But we do know another designer whose office is leopard, pink, brass. It’s nuts. But that’s what excites her. And I guess it brings her spark. So it depends.

Mariana
It’s kind of different. Because my bedroom is all white. My walls are white. I have one dark wall but then the rest is white and that’s where I just calm down. I sleep and it’s really just relaxing. But my office space has a green wall and more patterned cushions. And I like that it’s different, that it feels different. That I’m going into a different room. So I think having a bit of colour there really separates that mentally for me as well. I think it depends on the person.

Jenna
And I guess the type of work that you’re doing as well. So we’re in creative interior design, a creative field. So we thrive off of interiors that look great. So maybe someone who is more mathematical or something with a type A brain, maybe something really minimal is what works for their head space. So I guess it depends what you’re doing too.

Victoria
So it’s a case of thinking about how you work best as an individual in terms of productivity and motivation, and then finding a style and space that that works for you.

Mariana
Definitely.

Victoria
This podcast is also about building trust with people that you may never meet. And I’ve been following you guys on Instagram for a while and I’ve noticed that you’ve done such a fantastic job of building a following and being really consistent with your message. Also you have such wonderful tone of voice and language that you use in your posts.

So how do you build trust and credibility for your brand with people who sometimes you never meet, because you offer these online services as well as in-person?

Jenna
I think it’s really about being yourself and it shocks me how many people are looking at our posts. Because sometimes we’ll post something and I’ll see my neighbour and they’re like, “Oh my gosh, that was so great, I saw that post” and I was like, “Oh my God, that’s so weird”. They’re reading everything and know so much about me.

Mariana
People are actually taking it in.

Jenna
People are reading it. And it’s really what we’re talking about, it’s who we are. It’s what we’re saying.

We’re not being fake or trying to be somebody else.

So I think that shows through in the posts as well.

Mariana
We try to keep really informal and also true to our personalities. So the language is one thing. And the brand awareness.

It definitely takes time to build your brand. It didn’t happen overnight. It’s been a few years on Instagram and I think the more people that look at your posts, engage, talk to you in your messages, refer a friend and then their family members.

Jenna
You’re also gaining more confidence when people reply to you or they message you. They ask you a question and you’re like, “This is really nice”. People are actually talking to you. And we love getting messages from people and saying, “I love your Instagram, what do you think of this of my room?”. Sometimes we get pictures of people’s houses and we’re like, “Oh yeah, that’s great, do this”. We’ll always help and reply and message, and it’s really nice.

Mariana
Also just an old fashioned phone call. So I think a lot of clients perceived us to be purely online. I think the times that someone felt unsure or wasn’t understanding the process, we’re like, “Well, hey, here’s my phone number. Just give us a call or we’ll call you”. And then once we had that engagement, they’re like, “It’s so nice and refreshing to talk to you, so I feel great. Let’s do this”. So just genuine contact.

Victoria
You mentioned before we came on the show that you were doing some Instagram Lives as well. How have they been going for you?

Jenna
Sometimes we film each other, film ourselves taking a selfie. We’re still starting that and it’s still uncomfortable for me, but I think it’s something we should get used to. So I was thinking, “Oh my God, how many people are going to watch this and what am I saying? Should I practice or should I just go for it?”.

Mariana
I guess you have that little bit of self-doubt like, “Who do I think I am?” or “They’re not going to listen”. But just over time and building your confidence and seeing, even if it’s those five people and maybe they’re just your family, they really love you and support you. They’re watching and listening.

Jenna
But it’s definitely something we’re going to try to do more of.

Victoria
I find that really interesting because from what you’ve said so far and what I know of you as a brand, it sounds like the whole Instagram side of it – the photos, the artistry, the creativity and the captions that you’re adding – that sounds like it’s come really easily to you. So you’re coming up with a little bit more resistance against those because if I compare it to say, my stuff, I couldn’t do it. A live or something like that. That is an absolute no for me.

I found it really hard to find my tone of voice when I started working and doing social media. Because coming from a very corporate background where you were quite formal all the time, I found it really hard to work out what my tone of voice needed to be when I was on social media.

I remember reading something along the lines of how you word things on social media should be a true representation of how you are in person. And of course it should be. That makes so much sense. So why are my social media posts so stiff and corporate? Whereas if you meet me, I’m a lot more normal and human. So it took me quite a lot of work to get those both on the same playing field. I love the way that you were just like, “Yeah, I’ve done it, it’s fine. Yeah, we were really comfortable at that.”

Jenna
I think I personally feel really comfortable writing because I write like I speak, and so I do feel comfortable doing the post, but I actually like it when Mariana does the Stories. I think it’s a good balance. Because it’s free and easy.

Victoria
Just while we’re thinking about Instagram, on one of the other episodes with Amy Purser, I’ve been talking about mental well-being and social media. So how sometimes social media can be such a double-edged sword. Because on one hand, you’re being more connected than ever with people and the world and all of that. But on the other hand, we can get caught up in these vanity metrics and we can feel more alone than ever.

Do you have any experience of this and how do you cope with handling vanity metrics?

Mariana
Do you know what’s really strange? Once we started having Interior Fox on Instagram and we were using that as a business platform as well. I weirdly stopped looking at my normal Instagram. I hardly look at my own Instagram anymore and every time I look at Instagram, I always look at my work and my normal profile. But I try not to look at it as much because I know it’s associated with work.

Whereas for example, my husband or my friends are always like, “I’m going to look on Instagram” or we’re talking and they’re always looking at Instagram, I’m like, “No, no, I’m not going to look at Instagram right now because that’s related to work.”. So on weekends, I’m never on Instagram unless there’s an event or a party. But it’s weird. I really separated that and now it’s towards business.

Jenna
I do the same. Though I am on Instagram a lot. I’m constantly looking at stuff for inspiration.

I would say if there’s anything, it goes back to flying your freak flag. I’m happy to be exactly who I am. So I feel confident in that way.

But as far as going live or saying too much or posting too many photos or selfies, I start to feel self-conscious because I don’t want them to think that I’m this way.

So I guess that isolates your own behaviour or puts you in a weird kind of self-doubt. I think sometimes I’m hesitant to share too much, thinking that they’ll think I’m a weirdo.

Victoria
But we love being a weirdo!

Mar, you said something really interesting about setting yourself a self-imposed boundary. So you’re not checking social media at weekends.

Mariana
Yeah, not much.

Victoria
What other kind of boundaries do you have to have in place to protect your mental well-being or to protect your home balance between social media, online clients, calls out of hours?

Mariana
I’m weirdly really good at this. I don’t know why. I never check my phone when I’m at home and it’s seven o’clock, I’ll charge it and then I’ll leave it on do not disturb and then I won’t check it.

Jen calls my husband and she’s like, “Is she sleeping? It’s 07:30pm”. I just don’t check my phone at night.

Victoria
Have you always been like that?

Mariana
No, it’s only been since Interior Fox. I feel like if I don’t, I’ll always think of work. And I feel like I need to switch off. It’s like my meditation.

Victoria
Is it like, phone goes on charge, do not disturb, in a different room? Can’t see it, completely out of sight. Out of mind.

Mariana
I used to put it in a different room, but now I keep it in my own room. And when I wake up in the morning, the first thing I do is NOT check my email.

Victoria
You’re like the poster child for all of this, that’s amazing.

Mariana
I usually wake up really early, so I don’t check my email right away. I have some coffee. I have a good mindset and then I’ll check and have my notebook and see what I have to do. But it used to stress me out, and when I feel a little stressed, I feel like my whole day won’t be so good. I don’t want to stress myself out looking at emails. Like, “Oh my God, I have so many things to do”.

Victoria
You’re saying you don’t check emails first thing in the morning, you get your coffee and do stuff for you. And then in the evening, pop your phone on charge, put it on do not disturb, don’t check emails. And that helps protect your mental well-being.

Mariana
Yeah. Jenna’s the opposite.

Jenna
I’m the complete opposite. I’m unhealthy, I can’t help it. At night, I feel like it’s my own little world of creativity. I’m definitely a night owl. So when everyone else is sleeping, I feel like I can get quiet and really look at stuff and feel creative.

Obviously that goes into the zone of, “Well, I saw this email come through and I guess I feel like if I know what’s going on, I feel less stressed”. So the next day when I wake up, I know I have had those five random emails come in. In a sense I like to control it. Like a constant control, which I know is unhealthy and it’s probably not the right thing. But whatever works.

Victoria
It sounds like you’d rather be prepared for the day ahead by knowing roughly what’s come in and what’s going to be on your schedule for the following day. I think there’s pros and cons of both, I’m sure. With any of this there’s not a one size fits all approach, it really is about finding what’s best for you.

Mariana

Definitely.

Victoria
Talk to me a little bit about H&M. How did you come to collaborate with them quite recently?

Mariana
It’s a funny story. Everyone’s like, “Oh my gosh, how did that happen?”.

We had a client and we wanted to look for a shop that we can buy everything in and then style their whole house. Like a top up service. Because we’d go into people’s homes that we’d already completed their projects. So we wanted to come in and do photos. We needed a really great shop that has accessories and stylish bits. So we were going there and buying loads of stuff, taking it to the client’s house. They would end up saying, “I love all of this. I want to buy everything”. That happened two or three times. And so we were like, “Actually there’s something to this”.

Jenna
I just found emails online. I was like, “Okay, I’m going to look for someone in H&M home and see if they have trade discounts”. That’s all I wanted. I was like, “Maybe they do something for interior designers and then we can get a kick back or help our clients out and give them 10%”. So we emailed random emails in the business. We looked through LinkedIn at who was working there and then we got an email back saying, “We don’t do trade discounts. But we saw your Instagram. It looks really interesting”. And we had some dialogue going on and they were like, “Do you want to meet in our office? We’d love to talk to you more about it”.

Mariana
“We have an idea or pitch for you.” So of course.

Victoria
They ended up pitching you? Because of the solid foundation you’d put into Instagram.

Jenna
We did. We did show them the before and after of a client’s house who spent £700 in H&M products.

Victoria
That wasn’t me, if my other half is listening. It wasn’t me. It was close, but not quite that much.

Mariana
I was thinking it happened serendipitously. It was the right time, the right place, the right time in our career and it all happened really harmoniously. And I think we are a perfect fit for H&M and vice versa only because they have so many great stylish, affordable products. We genuinely love their products, so we’re so happy to be a part of the brand.

Jenna
The pitch was “Actually guys, we’re looking for an interior design service in our store because a lot of other big brands have this in-store design service”. I think we fulfilled a need for them and also they fulfil the huge need for us because we had already been working with affordable design, flat fee. It was a perfect fit.

We agreed to the terms. So we had this nice launch. It was an entire week of a launch event and then an ongoing relationship. So we’ve already had at least 10 or 15 new clients. So it’s been really exciting and hopefully doing some events with H&M later this year.

Mariana
In November.

Jenna
Maybe in November we’ll do some in-store, fun, seasonal events. So look out for that.

Victoria
To close out, if you ladies weren’t doing interior design, what would you be doing?

Jenna
I feel like I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be and that sounds like a cop out. Because I have a fine art background. I was always an artist in a really pure way, but there wasn’t a hunger for something else. I think all of my paths led me here. If I had to take it away from work, if it was purely pleasure, I would be on a beach in California, surfing, tacos, sunshine. Unemployed on the beach. Unemployed and just living life.

Victoria
What about you, Mar?

Mariana
I think I would do furniture design. Try to apply to different companies that do furniture design. That’s what I originally studied in university and I always want to tap into that, maybe later on in my life. I was just telling Jenna that I still would love to explore that with Interior Fox, so maybe in the future.

Victoria
Really?

Mariana
That’s kind of the dream so far.

Victoria
Did you see that Sarah Akwisombe’s done some lighting designs and stuff? Some lamps. If she can productise her brand, then you girls definitely can as well, for sure.

Mariana
I’ll check it out.

Victoria
Thank you so much for joining me today. It’s been an absolute pleasure. I appreciate you taking the time.

Jenna
Thanks for having us.

Series One of the Remote Working Podcast

This was the last guest episode before our series conclusion next week. I hope have enjoyed it. It would be super useful if you could give me any feedback on how we can look ahead to Series Two. Would you like to be on the show yourself? Is there anything we should cover to help you as a remote worker? As always, if you have any questions, drop me an email. It’s podcast@victoriatretis.co.uk