Big Interview with Kate Rowe

Kate Rowe, co-founder at Spaceworks Interiors, shares an insight into her business, what she would change in the furnishings industry and how independent furniture retailers continue to amaze her.

Let’s start with you. Can you share a bit about yourself and your background?

I’m a married mum of two children, living and working in Somerset – it’s where my heart is and I’m hugely grateful to return to the lush green fields after each trip away. Don’t get me wrong, I like to visit other places and wonder at the variety of the British Isles – I’ve worked with chains and multiples across the UK and Ireland – on ground breaking new retail developments paper to build eight weeks, I’ve managed re-fits in challenging environments, I’ve sat on the design board to develop in-store solutions with the best in practice.

I set up Spaceworks to move away from the high street, channel my passion to deliver results to the Independents and make design and fit out affordable to them. I still get to travel – TICK, and meet interesting people – TICK – now, I can do all this and balance work and home life by finally at the age of 40 running my own successful business.

What is your current job role and key responsibilities?

Owner and Director at Spaceworks for seven years. My role includes client interface, design lead, marketing, and new business. I wear many hats, and as a small business, the job is varied, but keeps me on my toes!

What do you love about your job?

Our clients and meeting new retailers, understanding their journey, how I can help them and getting them results to be proud of.

What time is your alarm clock set for?

Three mornings a week the clock is set for 5:30 and I’m in the gym weight training for 6am – feeling alive and annoyingly chirpy, I’m ready with smiles and energy to help the kids get ready and get off to school. At the PC by 9am with coffee and list of the day!

Why did you choose to work in the furnishing industry?

Fell into my first job in shopfitting out of university looking for a business to grow with – I loved retail from the off, always inquisitive about each individual set up, set of circumstances and products / techniques – starting Spaceworks, I’ve focussed on independents and meeting clients through AIS was our first intro into the world of furniture.

Who do you most admire in the industry and why?

The independent furniture retailers – you know who you are – I’m amazed through the tough trading periods over the last three years, their abilities to flex, respond and change to trends. I’ve seen one retailer increase warehousing capacity as new online sales took off during the pandemic, another who has analysed shopfloor space and brought in well-known brands to boost return on sales, and another who can see the benefit of improving the shopping experience for their customers and is investing heavily in their infrastructure to compete directly with the national chains.

Have there been any special moments during your career?

Making it through the pandemic with a business intact and when a customer comes back and wants to work with you again and again.

What is your favourite item of furniture you own and why?

A bow fronted painted blue chest of drawers I keep in the hallway – I picked up when living in Italy. It has a renaissance feel about it, makes a bit of a statement. Its deep drawers take all the family table linen and provides an excellent hallway stand.

What do you think is trending within the industry at present?

Styles and colours that increase a sense of comfort and peacefulness – we’re all now so mindful of creating relaxing environments that improves our metal health.

What would you change in the industry?

Less reliance on foreign manufacture and a greater move back to British – it’s happening, but still more could be done to re-invest in our manufacturing base and realise the greater benefits it brings.

Can you share an insight into your future plans?

To be here for the foreseeable and work with more true established pillars of furniture retailing world.

What do you enjoy most outside of work / free time?

I love trail running (away from the kids (!) head space and time with friends), gardening, particularly my veg garden and consuming all the fruit of my labours – travelling (desperate to learn more about other places in the world), I tap dance, and love reading books that will open my mind to subjects I know little about.

If you had a different career, what would it be?

Historical Archaeologist – I’d love to dig around for proof of earlier civilisations, study objects and remains, photos and written literature and piece together parts of the puzzle – fascinating!

Finally, if you were an item of furniture, what would it be and why?

I normally steer away from these sorts of questions, as the responses are far to read into! But I will this time. I would be a kitchen table, as like a kitchen table that invites all sorts of activities at it – I like to do all sorts of activities too, from painting, crafting, cooking, gardening, running, walking, reading to name a few – and the kitchen table remains at the heart of the family interaction, and keeping my family together and talking is very important to me. 

Get in touch with Spaceworks here.

Five Fun qs:

1) If you could hack into any one computer, whose computer would you choose and why?

That’s totally illegal! Not my bag, I’m not tech enough… but hey, maybe if I could my bank???!!! …obvious reasons.

2) What fact amazes you every time you think of it?

It’s amazing and sad at the same time – 8 million tonnes of plastic enter the oceans each year! We learnt this at a recent Live with Steve Backshall (our children are huge Steve fans!) –  I’m constantly reminded of this fact when I open the fridge, use the bathroom, go shopping etc.… and I really hope our government can do more to ban plastics and their use in the future.

3) What’s the most spontaneous thing you’ve ever done?

I booked a sky dive when on holiday in New Zealand, there was no waiting list, I could go immediately – no time to think about it, just did it! The most exhilarating and adrenalin pumping thing I’ve ever done!

4) What is the most important object you own and why?

My Garlic Crusher – I moaned at my secret Santa this year being so ‘useful’ – a kitchen gadget and not luxury frivolity, but apparently it’s the best on the market, and now I’ve used it loads I can see why – no need to peel, effortless motion, no waste and cleans like a dream – it’s definitely my favourite object of the moment.

5) What did you think was cool when you were young but isn’t cool now?

I used to download my favourite song as a ring tone and make sure it would blast out when the calls came in – I thought that was so cool, breaking into song each time it rang! Not now though, just a simple traditional phone ringing tone is enough.

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