Stewart Interiors
Quality, Style & Finesse
Interior Design News
Material Girl

Since she was a child, Thelma Hughes has been fascinated by fabrics. Now head of a booming interiors and soft-furnishings business, she tells Rebecca Keegan of her mission to make our homes more beautiful.

An eight-year-old Thelma Hughes sat shocked as her father dismantled her Christmas present in front of her eyes. When she saw her new sewing machine laid out in front of her in lots of tiny pieces, the tears came. “I remember like it was yesterday,” the interior designer tells Highlife. “I was so excited to open my present - then dad took it apart.” Far from an act of cruelty though, it was quite the opposite. Thelma’s father turned to her and said: “You know how to use a sewing machine, but I want you to put it back together piece-by-piece. This way you will always know how it works and how to fix it if there is a problem.” It was from this day that Thelma’s journey as one of the most sought-after designers in the north west began.

Encouraged by her big sister, Val. Thelma started to sew all the time. “Val worked in a factory sewing underwear and was such an inspiration,” she says. “When I got my sewing machine I started to make clothes. I sewed for people in school, friends and family. We would be having our dinner and someone would knock on the door wanting bib and braces. “As I grew up I did a course in tailoring and kept on making clothes, but it started to become a pain because everyone was asking. “One day I decided to make a pair of curtains. It was so easy, all straight lines. I really enjoyed it and knew I wanted to learn more.” After going on another course, Thelma and her sister opened a business called Swags and Tales in Birkdale village, on the site of the current Spar store.

When Val retired, Thelma set up Stewart Interiors at new premises, round the corner on Alma Road. “Me and Val worked together for 15 years - it was fantastic. We made beautiful curtains. Then she retired and I started on my own and created Stewart Interiors. “I love my job and the girls I work with, Cassy and Claire are both fab. We are a great team and I wouldn’t change anything. But it is my ambition to get more tables and a few more women working here, as we are very, very busy. “One thing I love about my job is that I laugh every day. If you can’t be happy at work then you can’t give 100%. “The best part is meeting people. I can tell what new clients will like by their personalities. A home should reflect the personality of the people living there. A lot of customers become good friends.”

The main styles of design are contemporary, minimalist, classical and traditional. Thelma is sure about which camp she prefers. “I love the classical look,” Thelma says, “It’s timeless and will never date. A lot of people are going for the minimalist look - but it won’t last. “One of the most popular design features right now is a curtain pole. These can be modern or classic, so it’s great to experiment with different ways of designing a room around one feature.” “Having a beautiful home is cost effective. It needs to be a place you love. Val gave me such inspiration and not a month goes by that I don’t ask for her advice. “We did disagree on one thing though. Val would ‘make do’ but I say never, ever make do. If you can’t afford exactly what you want, then save up and buy it later.”


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