Meet the Maker: FLOCK Interiors

We can all identify with problems associated with decision-making: overseas holiday or staycation; healthy stir fry or fish and chips; HIIT workout or yoga; wallpaper or paint. The struggle is real, and never more so than when we are making decisions around the rooms in our homes. Our interior décor is so personal and so emotive that we are terrified of making an awful mistake that time and budget will inevitably see us living with for quite a while. The trick is getting it right first time!

Stunning colour palette

What we could all do with, if we are not blessed with a magic wand-waving interior design fairy Godmother, is a guiding hand; an experienced and sensible voice of reason to teach us how to make those all-important design decisions to create the 'look' and 'feel' we can live with and love for the forseeable future. One such saviour of our creative sanity is Nikki Hemstock, founder of FLOCK Interiors.

Nikki has very kindly given us a wonderful insight into her journey and the creation of FLOCK and we're sure you'll be completely smitten with her ethos, her ideology, and her passion for helping others to achieve the homes they desire. Get comfy and read on...

Can you tell us a little about yourself?  

My early education was spent at an all-girls convent school in Torquay, which had very limited art facilities and not much scope for developing a creative career and so after passing my O-levels, I decided to further my interest in the arts by registering at the local college. I enrolled on a pre-degree art course which enabled me to explore all types of art from sculpture, fine art, and ceramics, to jewellery, woodwork, graphics and interiors, alongside studying for A-levels in Design, Art History and Photography. Having the freedom in learning (I found the convent to be very restrictive) and with so much creativity to be found, art college was like a breath of fresh air and I soaked up all the buzz, learning and inspiration like a sponge. 

I decided to base my final year's A-level Design project on a residential interior space planning concept, I always had a love of the home and all its rituals, lifestyle, gardening and landscape and, after successfully obtaining my A levels, I decided to progress my love of interiors by enrolling on a three-year interior design degree course in London. I lived in London for eight years whilst studying interior design at North London university. It was a scary yet exhilarating experience. 
I loved London in the eighties, it was culture-rich, alive, full of colourful inspiration and very exciting. After graduating I worked for some of the city's major design companies specialising in retail and brand design. I had an insatiable love for retail, fashion and shopping and nearly all of my free time was spent scouring flea markets for glad rags and pieces of vintage tat in the hope of turning them into something unique and fabulous! 

I made the most of my years in London, albeit always making the time to return home for holidays, Christmas, birthdays etc., but my heart never truly left Devon. After eight years of living life in the fast lane, I was struck with a deep desire to return home, drawn to a quieter pace of life, family and the coast and countryside I grew up with. On my return, I was brought onboard to co-direct a locally-based design and build company, which secured an impressive high-street client list but, after 25 years in the business, I became disgruntled with commercial interiors and it was time to turn the page and begin a new chapter.
Brand Flock est. 2016

I was now fuelled with a desire to give something back and pass on my wealth of knowledge and so I set about working on a design idea to help others sort out their own home design challenges. I began working on a concept where I could teach students how they could learn and achieve the confidence to design their own homes themselves. For far too long residential Interior Design had only been available to the wealthy and I wanted to demystify the subject, demonstrating by way of courses, how authentic style has little to do with money and that you can learn to create the most tantalising interiors YOURSELF with a little bit of savvy, inspiration and good teaching. 

Brand FLOCK was born in 2016 with the aim of teaching, inspiring and sharing residential interior design with everyone that shared the same passion.
The home of FLOCK

What is it you love most about interior design (and teaching)? 

I am inspired by all the elements that make up good design, colour, shape, texture etc. and I'm also intrigued with how these elements can transform a space and how they affect how you feel in a space. I love the attention to detail, and I put this down to having a very good teacher (my father) as he could just about turn his hands to make or repair anything. I think a bit of his “do it yourself” spirit rubbed off on me and made me aware of how things are put together. 

I got my eye for colour and enthusiasm for fashion and putting an outfit together by my mother, who had an eye, loved fashion too and in no uncertain terms would tell you if you weren’t dressed appropriately! I also spent twenty years or so working in design and build and you had to have a thorough understanding of how the retail fixtures were put together to enable them to be manufactured. 

I travelled quite a bit with my parents when I was young; we would visit many beautiful cities rich in grand squares and fine architecture like Athens, Barcelona, and Madrid. I would take my sketchbooks and camera and totally immerse myself in the antiquity and beauty of the artefacts. So, from an early age, I was seeing, reading and being stimulated by some of the greatest architecture, sculpture and art from artists such as Gaudi, Picasso, and Miro. 

I think what I also love about interior design is that it never stops evolving there’s always a new trend to learn about, new artists emerging, and new materials. I never want to stop learning, or stop being curious for that matter! Inspiration can be found everywhere and it makes life so much more fun and alive. I find it great to share this energy which is one of the main reasons behind my love for teaching. One of my greatest thrills is watching my Interior students grow in confidence and empowerment to make their own design choices and decisions. 

What can you tell us about your teaching environment?

The onsite courses are run from my home which is a converted threshing barn dating from the 1800s in the heart of Cockington Country park. When I bought it, it needed an upgrade to banish several layers of varnishing painted onto the stonework over the years, and the acres of artex! It had deterred many a prospective buyer, but I could see the potential. I've created a home that is deeply personal and, I think, invites you to sink into it. Importantly, I didn't have a great deal to spend on it but I didn't need to; many of the creative touches have been achieved on a shoestring budget. The end result has provided me with a comfortable home and a spacious studio area where I can pass on my knowledge to my students.

What do students learn on your courses?

My students learn how to design a home that they love, one that fulfils their needs and is authentic and personal to them. They do this on each of the courses by choosing a room in their home they would like to redesign, and we work together on the remodelling whilst they learn the rudiments of interior décor. 

I find many people lack confidence when designing their homes. They either go down the safe route or buy into trends which don’t match their personalities or needs, and then wonder why they’re not happy with the end results. Even if you have great ideas, the shopping and sourcing of materials and fixtures can be overwhelming and take a great deal of decision-making, time and effort. Sometimes these challenges can result in overspending and spaces which don’t come together correctly. 

All of these problems and decisions are thoroughly brought to light, analysed and sorted on FLOCK's courses. 

Do you work alone or do you have a team to support you?

I carry out the interior design courses and workshops myself although my mad Springer spaniel does like to sneak in on the act for a cuddle or two at the end of a teaching session, and he can sniff out a dog lover like a piece of cake! 

Now and again I provide other well-being and lifestyle-related one-day and half-day workshops, and tutors are brought in to deliver these classes and/or support.
Jack ready for cuddles!

You teach online as well as face-to-face. Could you talk about the pros and cons of each teaching format?

I wrote FLOCKS online interior course during the first lockdown as I wanted to create something that would help to fill a void for home lovers and those interested in learning interior design. It worked very well and I recall so many lovely learning consultations over zoom and the telephone. At the end of our learning session, conversations would veer off onto more personal chit-chat where we’d support and cheer ourselves along; it was extremely beneficial and very therapeutic at a time that was quite lonely and scary for many. 

Many could be mistaken in thinking the online course is like one of many, but if you read the reviews or take the course you’ll be the first to say it’s very good and provides a very unique and personal level of teaching. Before I began designing the course I spent a considerable amount of time researching existing online course material and what I found was that most offer pre-recorded learning modules where you teach yourself based on static materials. In some cases, you have the opportunity to have a brief online consultation with a course tutor, but most of the time will be spent alone, working through pre-set modules. I also found that the course content varied significantly from learning the history of interior design to theory to making up mood boards. So students must check all course content carefully. 

FLOCKS is a 5-week comprehensive online interior design course, made up of 12 teaching modules with weekly 1:1 telephone and or video consultations at the end of each of the 5 weeks. This personal and live interactive tuition is what makes FLOCK's course different from the rest. The format is based very closely on my 5-week onsite course and is designed to take students through a full redesign of a room of their choice from start to completion, all without the need for expensive computer software or any experience in interior design.
I share all my experience using techniques I've practised in my commercial and residential interior commissions. Each week students receive an email containing the modules they’ll be studying and, although this course is designed to work remotely, I am in touch during the design journey and at the end of each week, follow up with a phone consultation where we discuss progress and sort out any queries which may have come out of the week's tasks and assignments. Students share their design work with me over Pinterest, which makes for a truly inspirational way of teaching. On our end-of-week (up to one hour) consultation call, I provide personalised and professional feedback. 

The 5-week onsite course is based on the same learning material, however, because the teaching is carried out in my home, we can do more practical exercises such as learning how to measure a space and draw to scale as well as other more hands-on practical activities.  This course is much more experiential, as students are free to have refreshments with me; often in the summer months we will take our learning materials outside in the sunshine. The barn is also a great environment for inspiration and demonstrating live and onsite examples of what can be achieved with a relatively small budget. As with the online course, it can be as personal and flexible as a student wishes. And we mustn’t forget the hound! So if you’re a dog lover you get to meet Jack!

I also have a selection of Live Online courses including a 40-minute overview of the online interior design course; a 40-minute interior decor colour consultation; and a 5-week 'Design a room in your home with weekly consultations' course.
The learning process


What arts and/or crafts do you love (even if you don’t practise them) and why?  

I love photography because it gets me outside usually with my iPhone and the hound! I can completely lose myself when I’m walking and often drift into another world. You usually find designers and Photographers naturally notice things in more detail: the textures, colour, light and feel of their surroundings. I like to use photography of nature as a springboard for creating colour palettes… we’re surrounded by inspiration, especially where we live…nature is so wonderful it gives so much to everyone and with no charge! 
I also love fashion design and will very often use an outfit as inspiration for an interior scheme. Fashion and your wardrobe, nature, and travel can all be wonderful sources of inspiration when starting a project.

Landscape design is also a love of mine as I adore gardening: being at one with nature and the physical side gives you such a workout! 

Who/what is your biggest source of inspiration professionally? 

I have many, but Sir Paul Smith and his fashion brand would top the list. I love his commitment to eccentricity, and love of uniqueness. Throughout his long career in fashion, he’s managed to successfully create great British designs with a cracking customer experience. His store in Covent Garden, London was one of the first shops I visited and everything about it oozed fun, creativity, attention to detail, and style. All his stores are different in style so you get a different experience in each one that you visit. 

I believe Paul is a leader and his signature style of stripes and mixing traditional with contemporary was always a recipe for success for me, far before the idea became an established trend.

I am also interested in and inspired by health and wellness and wellbeing interior design. The links between art, aesthetics, the environment, health, and wellbeing are nothing new, however applying them to our home is now gathering more appeal. People have a better understanding of how residential and commercial spaces can greatly influence their physical health, as well as their emotional state of mind. The colours we choose, the materials, the scents, light and the planning of our spaces are just some of the design elements that can affect our mood.
If the pandemic has taught me anything it has shown me the importance of home, cherishing and living in the now, good connections, family and friends, and respecting our environment. 

I love this quote by Helen Keller as it sums up beautifully my wishes and aims for my teachings 

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much”. 

During my time teaching, I have met many students and nearly all have remained good friends. 


What advice would you give to other people looking to teach their art? 

Eat, sleep and love what you do! 

Don’t look at it as a job but more as a passion…for passion creates positive energy and that’s contagious!
Never stop learning…attend the exhibitions, and do the courses that will improve your teaching, so that you can always be your best self. 

Go to conferences, workshops or exhibitions...share your work and your student's successes. 

Put the hours in and learn to be flexible…in today’s climate, you have to move with the current, don’t be stuck in your ways. 

Reflect continually and consider quick modifications to your teaching and marketing if things aren’t working. 

Personalise as much as you can...every student is special. 

Get savvy on social media and promote yourself and your brand. 

Get your course listed on an amazingly good and helpful site like Craft Courses

Plan new courses, be curious and always be one step ahead of the game!
Thank you Nikki for a fascinating foray into your life, work and gorgeous home. We wish you and your lucky students every success in your interior design adventures and look forward to flourishing times ahead.

Check out FLOCK Interiors and Nikki's inspirational courses here.

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