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Net benefits bring home the goodies

After a fruitless search for a home in Horsforth, a frustrated Rachael Taylor did a random internet search for property in the Leeds suburbs.

Her future home popped up on screen and although she'd never heard of the location, she felt a strong attraction to the Pudsey semi.

"I didn't know anything about the area and the house was over our budget, but when I went to view I fell in love with it and I could see it had a lot of potential," says Rachael, who grew up on the Wirral.

The house was in need of work, but designer Rachael had no problem visualising how it could look with some re-plastering and a lick of paint.

"It felt quite dark inside and there was a lot of wood cladding. I could see it needed re-plastering and the bathroom was dated, but it didn't bother me. It had a nice feel," she says.

She and partner Matt started by planning the space and allocating one of the three bedrooms as her work space.

Rachael is a surface pattern designer whose career has soared since graduating from university in Leeds five years ago. She started as a print technician for a textile company and a designer at Hallmark Cards before going freelance.

Her work now features in a number of books including Print and Pattern by Bowie Style and she has an impressive array of clients including Marks and Spencer and wallpaper giants Graham and Brown. She recently branched out into creating her own label products. These include cards, fabrics, tea towels, aprons, mugs and canvases.

"About a year ago I thought my surface patterns could go on anything, so I did some research, realised it was do-able and got some test prints put onto cards and fabric. That worked well and I found some manufacturers. I did a trade fair in April and now the products are in shops," says Rachael.

"I can only manufacture and store small items, but what I'd really like is to design prints for sofas and bedding ranges for stores like Urban Outfitters, Anthropolgie and John Lewis."

The launch pad for her empire was the back bedroom, where she transfers her sketches and doodles on to computer and where she connects to the rest of the world via the internet.

Rachael, 27, has used social networking sites, blogging and Twitter to raise her profile and showcase her colourful graphic designs to great effect. She was recently named the happiest person on Twitter and it was her tweets that brought her Stateside success. "A company in California started following me on Twitter and got in touch and asked if I wanted to design some lamps for them," she says.

She signed a licensing agreement with Seascape Lamps to design a signature Rachael Taylor collection, which is already a best seller.

"I'm quite switched on to the possibilities of the internet and it's been brilliant for my business," says Rachael.

"I have quite a big following on Twitter, which is lovely. I try not to moan when I'm tweeting. I just talk about my work and about how excited I am at having sold something and people seem to like it."

Her work is featured all over the house and helps bring colour to the neutral backdrops. The canvases, either printed with her designs or covered with stretched fabric, and her cushions add interest to every room, but before the finishing touches there was a lot of hard work.

The couple started by replastering and painting everywhere. "I like painting, though the cladding on the dining room was a challenge," says Rachael who likes internet stores for homeware shopping. Her favourite sites include www.rockettstgeorge.co.uk, www.hunkydoryhome.co.uk and www.notonthehighstreet.com

Shopping around helped her revamp the upstairs bathroom on a budget. "We planned it out and with some reorganisation we managed to get a bath and a shower in there. To save money we sourced everything separately, so the bath and sink were from the B&Q sale, the travertine tiles were from a stone dealer and we had a fantastic joiner who made the panels and sink unit. Incredibly that was cheaper than buying them off the shelf."

Outside has been totally transformed after being re-rendered and treated to some new wooden gates to stop their pet husky Alfie from escaping.

"It's taken three years to do the house because it was top of our budget when we bought it, so we've had to save up and do jobs as we could afford them.

"We've also been quite hands on doing jobs ourselves including ripping the old bathroom out and doing all the painting," says Rachael, who has been ploughing most of her profit back into her business

"I've spent money on storage facilities in Pudsey, so now the house isn't full of stock and that's been a big help.

"In fact, moving here has turned out really well because the area is perfect for us and the business. It's not what I was originally looking for, but I'm really happy here and thanks to the internet I can connect with the rest of the world."

Rachael Taylor's work can be found at The Bowery, Headingley, Leeds; Fodder, Harrogate and The Butterfly Rooms, Saltaire and on www.rachaeltaylor designs.co.uk and www.notonthehigh street.com

A one-month exhibition of her textile and collage work is being staged at the Butterfly Rooms, Bingley Road, Saltaire until the end of August.

 
 
 

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