Celia Sawyer on life at home with the family in Sandbanks
PUBLISHED: 09:02 13 July 2015 | UPDATED: 15:21 03 November 2017
Entrepreneur, interior designer to the stars and TV presenter, Celia Sawyer loves nothing better than spending time with her family at their beautiful Sandbanks home
As we chat affably about finding your own style and sticking with it, Celia is on her way home. Home is Sandbanks where she lives with husband Nick, and their two children, and to say she’s looking forward to getting there is an understatement.
“I love living in Sandbanks,” she tells me. I can almost hear her put her foot down at the thought of getting home. “There’s a lot of commuting to London, but Sandbanks has a beautiful beach and it’s great for the kids. We are very lucky.”
Hearing Celia’s story – it’s not so much about luck as sheer hard work. Her inspirational story is one of dogged determination. “I didn’t start where I am now,” admits the self-made multi-millionaire who left school at 15 with few qualifications. After stints as a dental nurse and a model, Celia became a photographer’s agent before she turned to property investments. Today she is best known for her interior design thanks to her company Celia Sawyer Luxury Interiors which she set up in Knightsbridge in 2006. Clients who enjoy her luxury interior design services include pop stars, politicians and wealthy high profile business people.
Though most of us probably couldn’t afford her interior design services, she is a familiar face to many thanks to television. She first hit our screens in 2011 in Channel 4’s Four Rooms where members of the public attempt to sell collectible and often bizarre items in exchange for cash offers from one of the four dealers. Celia was one of the dealers and she says there is talk of a fifth series.
“Four Rooms is a very male environment, but while the other dealers are being all macho, I just get on with it!” she laughs. “TV work takes up a lot of time when you have a business to run. But it’s really enjoyable – and it gives you the opportunity to get involved in something different.”
Celia’s zest for life is a key element of her success, as is her seemingly endless energy and willingness to try new things. She joined BBC’s Your Home in Their Hands in September 2014, which returned to our screens earlier this year. The programme features amateur designers who are invited to take over people’s homes across the UK for a make-over. The last series was enjoyed by over three million viewers a week. The beauty of this show is that it pits DIY-lovers who consider themselves modern-day Dorothy Drapers (or Frank Lloyd Wrights depending on their personal style) with the hard reality of interior design projects.
“Everybody thinks they are an expert; they think interior design is easy, but it isn’t,” Celia tells me. “The amateur designers think they know it all. Then they come on the show and have a shock. Sometimes I see people that I think have got talent – but it doesn’t happen very often,” she admits.
Perhaps part of the secret of Celia’s success is that she clearly loves what she is doing. “Everything changes all the time, that’s why it’s such an exciting business.” But sometimes the change isn’t so good. Not long after Celia began her interiors business the property bubble burst. “Some of the firms I worked with aren’t around any more,” she says. But she – and her company – has gone from strength to strength. “It’s a case of getting up early every morning and trying to be well organised. And that’s not easy when you’re also a working mum.”
Asking her about trends for the coming year, and she is adamant: “Trends don’t matter as much as personal style.” For Celia, her personal style – which she describes as “unashamedly glamorous” - is reflected in her design projects and her immaculate appearance. This has helped her carve out a career beyond interiors with a jewellery range soon to be launched. She also has her COOL10 online furniture collection, as well as continuing to run her interior design business.
“I’m not really a typical designer,” she confesses. “I go to a lot of trade shows but I don’t follow the masses – I think people like me for that reason.” She particularly loves the elegant glamour of art deco, luxurious fabrics and materials which you see echoed in her COOL10 collection.
Sawyer is proud to be a working mum – and her love of family life is reflected in how she spends her leisure time. Each year she is involved in the British Beach Polo Championships which take place in her hometown Sandbanks this month. For the last few years she has donated a holiday in her beautiful, beachfront home on the west coast of Barbados as one of the top prizes. She has also recently become involved with the British Heart Foundation’s furniture and electrical stores. Celia will be lending her expert advice on styling and pricing as well as donating some of her unwanted goods to their shops.
Thanks to her involvement in these – and many other charities – Sawyer won the Inspiration Award for Women in 2013, which celebrate the achievements of remarkable women who inspire those around them either through the media or through their astounding achievements in their everyday lives. “It’s really nice to be involved,” she tells me. She also lends her time and expertise closer to home, from inspiring local school children with sessions chatting about how she became successful, to supporting individuals through her patronage. Two lucky young men who are benefitting from her support and mentoring at the moment are Jay Olenicz, 19 and Ross MacLeod, 20.
The dynamic Dorset duo, who took up rowing when they were both at Canford School, plan to become the youngest pair ever to row the Atlantic Ocean. When they take up their Oarsome Odyssey this December they will also raise money for, among others, the Dorset children’s hospice Julia’s House. And Celia is supporting them every step of the way.
As Celia and I say goodbye, she is a little closer to home, and it is clear that her mind has switched from work mode to the luxury of a family weekend in Sandbanks. “When you come down that road and see the harbour waters sparkling ahead – all the stress disappears. It’s lovely.”
Find out more about Celia at celiasawyer.com. For more about Jay and Ross’ Atlantic rowing challenge visit oarsomeodyssey.com.