In this month’s cover feature, unLTD explores how a difficult lockdown experience inspired Kat Lewis to make the life-changing decision of moving from the corporate world to establishing a thriving interior design business.
“I love what I do!” is the first thing Kat Lewis proclaims when asked about her job over a brew in the unLTD office. You’re well inclined to believe her too, as the Huddersfield-based entrepreneur positively beams whenever speaking about the intricacies of running her interior design business.
Since setting up Katrina Lewis Interiors in 2021, Kat has carved a niche for herself in the world of high-end residential design. From concept to completion, she offers a comprehensive range of interior design services, sparing no detail to create stylish and innovative living spaces across Yorkshire and beyond.
“Essentially, my job is to take away all of the heavy lifting and stress away from a client and help to bring their vision to life,” she says. “It starts with getting that all-important brief, working through it and finding out exactly what the client wants; and then from the first layer of plaster to the final candle going into that property I’ll co-ordinate the rest.”
Kat’s journey into self-employment heralded a significant career transition. Before diving into the world of design, she spent years in corporate roles at companies like Bauer Media and AutoTrader, particularly relishing her role as a woman thriving in a traditionally male-dominated industry at the latter. However, difficult times were around the corner and she describes how a drastic change in working culture brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic began to take its toll.
“The job had gone from working in these fantastic offices in Manchester and supporting the team at customers meetings up and down the country, to sitting at home in what felt like an endless stream of video calls. At the beginning it felt okay to deal with, but as time went on, the isolation began to have a greater impact on me; roles were changed to fit within the new Covid rules, and it began to affect my confidence. I started having a full-blown identity crisis and questioning if I was good enough. I’ve always been my own harshest critic, which I think stems from an upbringing where I had to learn to stand on my own two feet at a young age.”
In past corporate leadership positions, she describes how vibrant office environments and in-person interactions served as daily catalysts for personal creativity and resilience. However, all of that began to erode, along with her sense of self, during the long periods of uncertainty enforced by lockdowns. This perfect storm whipped up by the pandemic started to have a significant strain on her mental health, and the tipping point came when realising how her mood was beginning to impact on her family.
“That’s where I drew the line,” she reflects. “I felt like I wasn’t being a role model for my children. I knew then that I had to pick myself up and try something different; it was the turning point for me.”
Through getting involved with some of her husband’s projects as a self-employed upholsterer, Kat began to recognise the absence of a creative spark in her work life. Prior to lockdown, she had indulged a long-standing passion by starting a diploma in interior design. While it was initially treated as more of a hobby, or a potential career path to fall back on in the future, the realisation that this could provide the life change needed ultimately drove her to take the leap.
“I just thought, ‘I’m going to do it. I’m going to set up a totally new business in a totally new industry.’ That’s very much my approach to most things – all or nothing. I knew I had the skills that I could apply to this sector and just went for it.”
Kat admits embarking on her entrepreneurial journey with a mixture of fear and excitement. She started by reaching out to friends and acquaintances, gradually building a steady client base. Her first projects were living room transformations in Leeds and Rotherham. While challenging, Katrina drew from her innate problem-solving abilities to navigate the complexities of interior design.
“Everything that I’d learned, I’d picked up from a textbook or on the course,” she says when reflecting on the early days of the business.
“At the beginning it felt okay to deal with, but as time went on, the isolation began to have a greater impact on me; roles were changed to fit within the new Covid rules, and it began to affect my confidence. I started having a full-blown identity crisis and questioning if I was good enough.”
“There was a lot to get my head around but having that enjoyment back in what I was doing gave me the motivation.
“I just broke it down and said to myself, ‘Right, what are three things that I want to be doing in my work?’ I love working with people, so I knew I wanted to work on the co-ordination side of projects. I’m a great problem-solver, so I knew there would be plenty of opportunities to apply those skills. Finally, I want to be doing something that’s totally creative, which is precisely what interior design allows me to do.”
Despite the initial difficulties and the irksome spectre of imposter syndrome making its presence felt at times, Kat quickly found herself feeling rewarded by her new line of work. “I love the reactions when clients see the finished results because that gives me that sense of knowing I’ve done a good job. I’ve fulfilled the brief. I’ve brought what they wanted to life. It’s great when you feel like you’ve worked hard and made a difference in people’s lives.”
Naturally, lessons have been learned in the process. When asked about some important realisations after two years in the sector, she replies, “I think a big one is having the understanding that you can plan things as thoroughly as possible and things could still catch you off guard on a project. So it’s all about having contingencies and backups in place, and also being able to think on your feet in certain situations. That’s been a learning curve.”
In the world of interior design, managing conflicting design styles can be another common challenge. Katrina explains amusedly, “Quite often when you’ve got couples, you can find conflicting styles. One partner might want something modern and contemporary, while the other is looking for a more maximalist or Art Deco aesthetic.”
To bridge these awkward gaps, she employs a method of collecting input from both parties that represent their preferences. “It’s sometimes a case of asking them about their one must-have in the space. Then, I blend these preferences together,” she says. However, when conflicts are irreconcilable, Katrina provides alternative suggestions to meet the project’s brief, a task that can be quite challenging.
Which links to another key skill in the interior design world: the ability to adapt designs and preferences to clients’ budgets. “Depending on the budget and the brief, I can work backwards to determine labour costs and material choices. It’s about knowing the options out there, focusing on the details and finding solutions,” she explains.
For Kat, the journey from corporate positions to interior design entrepreneur has been a rollercoaster ride. She acknowledges that her high expectations and the drive to push herself have been both a driving force and a source of self-doubt. Yet, she firmly believes that stepping out of her comfort zone is essential for growth in most walks of life.
Reflecting on the decision to throw caution to the wind and pursue her dreams, she says, “My view is if I’m not out of my comfort zone, then I’m not learning. You need to be like a sponge in this industry, constantly absorbing new bits of information and experiences. I’m constantly thinking about how my business allows me to develop as a person. That’s a key aspect of why I do what I do.”
KATRINA LEWIS INTERIORS: WHAT THEY DO
Katrina Lewis Interiors design bespoke, luxury interiors for homes across the Yorkshire region, bringing a commercial mind, a creative flair and a straight-talking approach to deliver breath-taking results for each project.
To book a free design consultation with Katrina Lewis Interiors, contact or email firstname.lastname@example.org