Updated: Aug 14
Issy Tidmarsh of Little Gecko Interiors talks to us about her past, present and future hopes for her business and what she’s learned along the way.
She tells us the importance of building a unique brand and image, developing a style that’s inspired by what you love, the huge value of commissions to her business and what she loves doing in her downtime.
Extremely talented, stylish, unique and elegant, Issy’s work is stunning, and we hope you enjoy reading her story.
Why and how did you get into furniture upcycling?
I fell in love with upcycling in my teens, funnily enough, after a girl's trip backpacking around Egypt.
I was so inspired by the culture, the colours and the friendly people that I felt compelled to paint some of the scenes on my furniture. I just wish I still had the pieces now to look back at.
Most recently, during the lockdown, the spark re-ignited, and I fell in love with updating some of my well-made, teak wooden furniture that just needed a bit of love and imagination to bring it back to life. The rest, as they say, is history…. and so my journey into full-time upcycling began!
How long has your business been live, and what is the most important lesson/s you've learned during the whole process?
My business has been live since 2020, and the biggest lesson I've learnt along the way is most definitely 'piano, piano'. In other words, take things slowly and gently too! You most definitely need to take those baby steps in the beginning and realise that not everything will get done at once.
It can be incredibly overwhelming at times, but that's ok. Just do what you can, when you can, even if it's only a little few tweaks once or twice a week.
I still have many things I'd love to set up, but I know I'll achieve them at the right time for me and my business.
You have a very distinctive style for your non-commission pieces – where do you get your inspiration?
I'm very inspired by flora and fauna, botanicals, nature, landscapes and the animal kingdom, but slightly more vivid and brighter versions than real life! So if you look at some of the prints and designs I've used, you're sure to find a cheetah, perhaps some elephants, some exotic birds, the jungle, and some swaying palm leaves along the way.
In business and with customers, what are your core values?
I think it's so important to get to know your customer, what they're looking for and to give them a fabulous customer experience along the way. It's not just about refinishing a piece of furniture and shipping it out to them.
The piece needs to complement and enhance their interior, so I like to see their home décor first, find out about their lifestyle and then deliver a design and finished piece that meets and hopefully exceeds their expectations.
What are your favourite methods and materials to use?
I love decoupaging furniture using prints and unusual designer wallpaper that complements the furniture in some way. It's wonderful as well to try and keep the original handles and fittings that make the furniture so unique in the first place. Equally important to me is to use high-quality eco-friendly paint and wallpaper made with the environment in mind.
What was the first non-commission piece you sold?
It was a really pretty French-style table with 6 chairs which I also upholstered myself. It was painted in a shade called country grey by Annie Sloan. Quite a big job for me at the time, but I did feel a great sense of achievement as I'd never upholstered Queen Anne chairs before. It's amazing what you can learn online if you really want to take on some new skills!
How important are commissions and repeat customers to your business?
I would say 95% of my business right now is commissions based, which is wonderful as it means that I can proactively plan accordingly, as well as knowing that I have a regular income coming in, fundamental if you are running any business. I'm also able to incorporate some 'spot' orders that come my way, and it's always wonderful when a returning customer comes back asking for a new bespoke piece.
How important is it for you to connect with your audience?
It's really important, my market is very local to where I live, and if I didn't connect with my audience, I'm sure some of the valuable recommendations to friends and family just wouldn't come my way.
What do you think makes Little Gecko unique?
I like to offer my customers a bespoke service that's right for them and encourage them to push the boundaries just a little if they are up for it! After all, if you're commissioning a bespoke and unique piece of furniture, you might as well get just that! Something perfect for you and your home, with that little bit of magic and sense of individuality thrown in.
I like to think I bring out my client's colour and extrovert personality that they didn't know they possessed!
What about the future for Little Gecko Interiors?
I would like to get into coaching in some way, perhaps offering some workshops or an online course to teach students how to transform a gem in the making into something wonderful.
As well as that, perhaps set up my own YouTube Channel where I can offer short videos and tips. If only there were enough hours in the day!
When you're not running the business, what do you enjoy?
I'm a massive fan of my local gym and try and go around 4 to 5 times a week! Excessive as it sounds, it's actually a great way of connecting with my friends I've made there, which is especially important to me as furniture refinishing can be a very isolating job. I also love taking a yoga, body balance or Zumba class which gets me set up for the morning before I start painting, designing or having a zoom call with clients.
Any other words of wisdom?
Pace yourself, and believe in your own sense of style! Take the occasional day off, find time to enjoy the good things in life and have fun with it! If you're enjoying yourself along the way, your audience will too.
If you'd like to know more about Issy and her beautiful work, you can reach her via the following links.
Many thanks to Issy for sharing her story with us.
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