Gary and Kyle Ratcliffe and their gorgeous kids were my dream family to design for, for my first ever DIY SOS. After they found out that I had been appointed as their designer, they found me on facebook and messaged me to say “GO FOR IT!!!!!!!”. Like I said, my dream clients in every way.
When it came to breaking down their brief, the primary, actually only, details I was given were practical considerations to help the childrens disabilities and difficulties. The doors needed widening so wheelchairs could get through them. No steps into the front door or garden so Hayden could come and go as he wished without assistance. The means to get the children out of bed and washed. It was a long wish list, but at the same time it really struck me that they were all things that many of us never give a second thought. No surprise there was no mention of paint colours or favourite designers. That was going to be up to me to decipher. Because a big part of the reveal is the room schemes, I was careful not to reveal too much so they can fully enjoy the surprise.
I worked very closely with DIY SOS in house designer Gordon Whistance who is a man of dreams. Accutely charming, talented, well connected he put me at total ease considering we only had 2 weeks to come up with all the schemes and source all the donations. He’s also a master of designing spaces for disabled users which is not a feather I have in my hat. Like I say this is a Herculean team effort and I felt blessed to have such incredible support from the team at the BBC.
So as we were building a house from scratch, I had a complete carte blanche. As I was designing for a young family who seemed, despite adversity, to have such an incredulously sunny outlook on life, I really wanted to reflect that in the design. Crisp modern pieces, lots of colour, and going out of my way to try and reflect the personality of all the children in their own bedrooms. For most of them having their own bedroom was a novelty in it’s self, so I wanted each room to have a very strong identity and for it to feel incredibly special. Overall it was a very special experience, one that I don’t think could ever be repeated.
The best bit of all is that six months all the family wrote to me to tell me that little Curtis hasn’t been back in hospital with any more critical chest infections since we did the big build. The house is now fit for purpose and can allow this very special family to prosper and flourish.