Chloe Hannay is well-known for her elegant flair with colour, pattern and bespoke soft furnishings and this year she celebrates a decade of founding Kent-based Willow & Bert Interiors.

Chloe and her team love working with all of their clients and no project is too big or too small… sharing their knowledge and expertise in order to create beautiful bespoke homes is simply a delight.

Chloe shares how the business came about, working with Sophie Robinson and Kate Watson-Smyth, and her helpful tips for getting the best from your home.

Chloe said: 'I live in Edenbridge, Kent's most westerly town, in a late Georgian/early Victorian Grade II listed house with my husband and our blended family of five kids and dogs.

Great British Life: A pink and red colour scheme complement the green walls A pink and red colour scheme complement the green walls (Image: Mikey Reed)

'Interior design is something I've always been really interested in. My parents spent a lot of time doing up houses and I was always quite interested in the process, there were always a few books lying around which I remember poring over quite a lot and also catalogues, particularly the huge Laura Ashley catalogues. I was forever redesigning my bedroom!

'My love of upholstery started when just after my daughter was born. I started adult education classes in Tunbridge Wells; which was a great creative outlet and nice to do something away from home for me once a week. That interest grew and I completed a City & Guilds qualification before deciding to then broaden my knowledge base with a curtain and blind making course. By the end of the week-long course, I knew I wanted to develop my passion further, hence Willow & Bert Interiors was born.

'We initially undertook the making and design of curtains, blinds and soft furnishings before demand grew and the business developed into a thriving interior design studio. Astonishingly W&B will be ten this year.'

Having received Houzz awards over several years, which focus on client service, Chloe says these are “key to the success” of the business.

'Then alongside awards for design too, which makes my heart sing, as it’s obviously at the forefront of everything we do.

Great British Life: Dating back to the 16th century, Willow and Bert were involved in the redesign Dating back to the 16th century, Willow and Bert were involved in the redesign (Image: Mikey Reed)

'In terms of people who've inspired me I suppose it would probably be someone like Kit Kemp in terms of the way she combines colour, scale and texture. I admire how hard she works to champion new artists and include such a broad range of crafts within her schemes.

'I have been quite lucky with commissions. We did some work a few years ago for Sophie Robinson, the Queen of Colour, well known for her very bold maximalist interiors. It was brilliant fun visiting and working with her in such a striking and inspirational home.

'Then as a result of working with Sophie I was able to reach out to her partner in crime, design guru…Kate Watson-Smyth, and again we did a little bit of work for her a few years ago, too, which was really rewarding and daunting. Approaching both took a big leap of faith, but I’m so pleased I did.'

Where favourite projects are concerned, these are always the one driven by “exceptional clients”, says Chloe. 'I feel really lucky that time and time again we are asked back by existing clients to help with the next stage of their home renovation. Lockdown proved a challenging time to be designing homes, I am not a fan of E-design, I definitely feel you need to be in the room to get a sense of it, the proportions, light and orientation…it all blends together to help plan for a better room.

Great British Life: Sleeping in style with this room designed by Willow and Bert Sleeping in style with this room designed by Willow and Bert (Image: Mikey Reed)

'We’ve been working for a while on a Wealden farmhouse, it has a stunning garden, but the house has needed refreshing. No more gold, red and black swags. The clients have been so relaxed and easy going, incorporating all our ideas. We have been able to include so many fabulous colours and fabrics, all with an underlying thread of blues and greens running throughout the rooms and echoing the fabulous garden design.'

With more of a movement towards sustainability in home interiors than ever before, does she think it’s important for the future? 'One hundred per cent, we are big fans. There are many reasons why sustainability in home interiors is crucial. The choice to use sustainable materials and practices all has a positive effect and can help reduce your environmental footprint, be that through choice of reclaimed materials such as woods, or nowadays even fabrics made from recycled plastics – or old yarns, it’s all little things that help. The choice of energy efficient appliances helps too, reducing energy consumption and decreasing gas emissions.

'We are big fans also of using sustainable non-toxic natural paints, finishes and furnishings, anything to avoid filling homes with invisible chemicals and toxins.'

When it comes to inspiration, Chloe says it’s easy to say “inspiration is everywhere”, but she has come to realise that finding that space to see the inspiration is just as important as what you’re looking at.

Great British Life: Playroom envy to suit children of all agesPlayroom envy to suit children of all ages (Image: Mikey Reed)

'Obviously, I spend time reading all the lovely glossy magazines that come through the door; I’ll always make the effort to attend trade shows, these are always a good opportunity to listen to other professionals speak, view new collections and escape the office.

'It's hard to ignore social media as a source of inspiration, but I do think it's really important to stay in your own lane so I try to use it sparingly and only as a source of ideas.

'I try not to spend too much time looking at what others are doing, beyond admiring their work, and networking. Social media is a great way to talk to peers, ask questions and understand their challenges or to even have the odd grumble with!'

With Chloe’s lifelong passion for interior design and decorating, there’s two particular parts of her work she loves.

'Firstly, designing schemes for client spaces. I spend a great deal of time going through our extensive library of fabric books, rummaging through samples and even looking online for new ideas, usually making the most enormous mess!

Great British Life: Bold but cosy - Chloe described the project as a delight Bold but cosy - Chloe described the project as a delight (Image: Mikey Reed)

'In my mind every scheme starts with a hero fabric; one which I feel is going to work really well in the room and capture the imagination of the client. I usually present three schemes to a client for any given room, but often that will expand into maybe four, possibly five, just because I find it terribly hard to rationalise and can get a bit over-excited and carried away!

'Secondly, I have to say I love presenting my ideas back to clients. That moment when their eyes light up and you can start to tell that *maybe, just maybe* you're heading in the right direction. That some of these concepts have captured the imagination and you know you can start to be hopeful that the client might want to develop them further.'

Great British Life: Chloe Hannay, founder of Willow and Bert Chloe Hannay, founder of Willow and Bert (Image: Jade Tinkler Photography)


Her home…

'We moved into our current home nearly three years ago putting together a blended family at the end of lockdown. We needed a house that was going to give us plenty of space for the seven of us. We’ve undertaken a bit of structural work, removing walls and opening up the space. Key was a new kitchen at the centre of the home and this has been intrinsic in bringing everyone together in a warm and bright environment. Plus, installing and modernising bathrooms, multiple teenagers = multiple bathrooms!

'The rooms are all quite colourful, incorporating lots of patterned fabrics and textures. It was really important to me that the kids were all involved in the look and feel of the rooms, so I created concept boards for each of them so that we could work together and create their dream bedrooms.

'My favourite room is our kitchen, it’s so colourful, every time I walk in I pinch myself that it’s mine. We’ve had lots of lovely feedback from friends and family, which is always reassuring! In terms of a favourite item, both my husband and I are suckers for a picture, invariably there’s always something at the framers. One of my favourite items though is the first item we bought for our new house together, an original linocut picture of a bear in crazy headdress by Millie McCallum.'

She’d take a peek around…

'Gosh just the one famous home – there are SO many I’d love to have a nosy round. It would have to be the home of Claudia Winkleman, I’d love to see how her kooky personal style of dressing might translate into the style of her home.'


'I must confess I’m often short on time for hobbies, but I love to exercise several times a week including running and online barre classes. I spend a lot of time in the car, so I’m a sucker for an audiobook. I love cooking – though with such a houseful it does become a bit of a chore sometimes.'

For me the key thing is don’t forget this is your home, yes, we can be influenced by the media but stay true to your likes and dislikes.

1. It’s so obvious, but really consider how you use the space. There’s no point having a big open plan living area if what you really crave is order and tidiness. This is near impossible to achieve with family life in a big space. Instead break down the space and the different areas that you need within your home.

2. Sockets – always add more and ensure that those on display aren’t the basic, boring white functional ones. Small things like a smart metal socket cover does add joy!

3. No room is ever finished – keep on adding and tweaking so that the space continues to relate to your life. I’m forever adding things that catch my eye and ringing the changes.

4. I have to add an extra! Ask an expert – we can’t all expect to know how to plan our perfect home, so don’t think that asking for professional advice is a failure, or something you should know. After all, few of us have the skillset to service our own cars, we go to the experts.