The first thing Laura Jackson wants me to know is that she didn’t study interior design. “I’m not an interior designer, I’m just a very passionate interior obsessive,” she laughs. We’re speaking over the phone ahead of the launch of her new More4 show, The Great Big Tiny Design Challenge.
Presented by ex-The Great British Bake Off host Sandi Toksvig, Jackson is one of two judges on the show alongside world-record-holding micro-sculptor Dr Willard Wigan. The show delves into the world of “miniacs” – producers of miniatures – where crafters turn a derelict mini-mansion into the “ultimate fantasy house”.
“When I got approached about this role, even though I’ve never been a judge before, I was just really excited about it, because I love interiors,” Jackson says. “Even though I don’t make miniatures, I find the world of miniacs really fascinating, so it really puts together a lot of my passions and areas of excitement in one show.”
Jackson wears many hats. Besides being a broadcaster, she’s also a podcast host, a former supper-club pioneer, a magazine columnist, and a business owner. Yet it’s her interior design style that’s really taken off in recent years, with Jackson’s 154,000 Instagram followers lusting over the snaps she shares of her home. Jackson says it was buying her Victorian-era home in east London that truly sparked her passion for interiors.
“I’ve really thrown myself into all of the granular aspects of redesigning, and through doing construction to a home I’ve learnt so much,” she explains. Jackson has channelled some of this knowledge into her podcast, called So, How Do You…, where each episode looks at a different aspect of the design process, from finding a builder to using colour within the home. “It’s quite a niche podcast,” Jackson says, “but I just enjoy every aspect of [interior design]. It’s just all been passion-led.”
Besides buying her home, Jackson says her passion for interiors can be traced back to when she launched her supper club with radio DJ Alice Levine. “While I wasn’t the inventor of the supper club, I definitely was an early adapter in that movement in that it’s not just about the food that you’re eating but it’s about creating an amazing experience and an amazing atmosphere, and the tablescaping goes with that,” she says. “I think that’s when my love of bringing joy into my home through interiors and objects really started.”
Even before buying her home, Jackson said she would buy second-hand furniture from flea markets, upholster various pieces of furniture, and trawl eBay for bits and pieces. “I always set alerts for things that I want to find,” Jackson says of finding eBay gems. “You know something will pop into your head, like a Howard armchair or something as particular as that, and when you go and look online for it, it’s not there. So what you need to do is go and set up an alert.”
Yet when it comes to second-hand shopping, the presenter says she prefers to do it in person. “My friend just moved to St Leonards and there are some beautiful second-hand furniture shops down there, and as much as I love buying vintage pieces online, I think for bigger pieces like armchairs and sofas, I like to have some sort of tactile experience before making the purchase.”
Jackson describes her own interior style as being “all over the place”. “I’m very much drawn to things that bring me joy and make me happy, and that doesn’t really fit into any particular trend or theme,” she explains. “I do live in a Victorian house, so I’m not going to go too crazy on trends that don’t fit into what I’ve got now, but if it’s something I really like then I’m not going to think to myself, ‘Oh, this doesn’t go with everything so I’m not going to have it.’ If I love it, who cares?”
One of the biggest interior trends she’s seen through Glassette, her interiors website, is checkerboard. While it’s considered “cool” right now, Jackson thinks the trend also has longevity. “It isn’t too outrageous, it’s not fluorescent pink and fluffy, it can stand the test of time if you’re buying colours which are a bit more subdued. I don’t see this trend going anywhere.”
On the flip side, spotlights are a trend Jackson hopes to see the back of as soon as possible. She explains: “It’s just a stark overhead lighting option that just kind of feels like you’re at a dentist, it’s so bright.” Instead, she prefers moodier lighting offered by lamps and wall lights. “I think the different layers of lighting work nicely, as well… a floor lamp, a table lamp, a wall light. You’re kind of creating a bit of texture in there as well.”
When it comes to finding your own interior style, Jackson says you should buy things that bring you joy, and consider the feeling you want to create in your home. For example, if you want to create a happy space, she suggests pops of yellow or mustard. Or, for a more serene feeling, opt for warm whites and fewer bright patterns. “It’s about thinking how you want to live your life, and what you want your home to be like, and what emotion you want your home to be for you, and lead by that.”
Jackson says she doesn’t tend to seek out furniture that will fill a specific space in her home; rather, she likes to have “free moving” pieces that can go from one room to another. And while she says she doesn’t buy a lot, everything she does buy has an “emotional connection”. She speaks of two armchairs that she bought from eBay on a day she found out her friend had died. “Even though sometimes I think they don’t go in the house or whatever, I can’t get rid of them, because they remind me of so many different things that I think I’ll have them for all time. They were literally like £80 each, but they mean everything to me. It’s very much symbolic of that time in my life.”
A white souffle sofa is at the top of Jackson’s wishlist, but with two young children she says that’s “never going to happen”. “I think it’s just adapting your way of living,” she says of juggling your interior style with creating a child-friendly home. “There was a point in time where I thought I was only going to buy my kids wooden toys, but they just love stuff. People see pictures of your house and they think it looks like a showroom all the time, but it absolutely doesn’t, and nor do I want it to. I like the kids’ stuff around, it reminds me that we share everything and I think that’s really important. They’re part of who I am and they’re part of our life.”
One thing Jackson gleaned from judging the miniacs on The Great Big Tiny Design Challenge was about interior design through the ages. From Regency-era rooms to Art Deco, she says she learnt more about the technicalities of interior design and the nuances that went with each theme. “So much energy and so much passion and so much love went into making it, and I definitely think people can feel that. I’m hoping that comes across when people watch it.”