At the time I was in the process of setting up my blog, designing it and getting the hosting sorted out. I clearly remember thinking to myself “I would love to know more about the designer” so I started following her on Instagram. Luckily ZziniHome came back to the pop up shop at the end of October. This time the whole shop was full of her products and designs! I had already launched my blog and went to see her. She had the shop for a week, we chatted and asked her for an interview. She gladly said yes and it made my day!
I invite you to read the interview with Francesca at ZziniHome. She is a very passionate home product designer and her passion can be seen in her colourful designs. Ahhh and she loves her dogs!!
Thanks a lot Francesca for your time and for opening ZziniHome’s doors to me!
How did you become a home product designer? When and why did you start Zzinihome? What did you do before?
Where do you start! I moved over from Italy to London to study a degree in art history. My career was in museums. Then I had children and that changed everything.
I had a year off after having my second child and I realised that I had to do something else so I set up an interior design business. I spent 14 years doing interior design and I met lovely people and lovely customers.
After, I worked in retail for 5 years and got into making more and that’s when I started Zzinihome in March 2018.
I have always been a hands on person. I have restructured a few of my homes, laid wooden floors, tiles, etc. However, I was not allowed to knock walls down which I would have loved!
I love getting my hands dirty and doing things with my hands. I have a design background and I work with designers.
How would you describe what you do?
I am a maker, I make everything. I also restyle and bring the look together. I tend to produce a product range rather than a one of piece.
Where do you work?
I work from home. The front hall is my painting room and upholstery room. If I need to spray units I sometimes do it in my utility room but the dogs live there, so most of the time I end up spraying paint in the garden. My garden has patches of spray paint in quite a few places!
My family and children are very understanding. They have always been very careful on how they move in the house but, now that all the children have moved away, I have plenty of space.
My home is not pretty but functional. I have thought about getting a workshop but I love having my dogs around when I work. I have two dogs, Chase and Lilli and I adore them!
Your designs are very colourful and current. Where does your inspiration come from? Tell us a bit about your products.
I have always been drawn to colours. I always liked using colours in interiors.
We are surrounded by grey skies most of the time so I feel the need to bring joy and colour into our homes. I photograph my colourful products against grey. I find grey a very useful background and colours come out stunning against it. Also, you can find designer fabrics using a lot more colour now.
I am also inspired in nature. Nature has got so much colour! I don’t see why we shouldn’t have colour in our homes. I have been trying to add this in my Instagram feed as I find nature and home work so beautifully together.
What materials do you use in your work?
With regards to materials I always use designer fabrics. I work with well known designer brands like Harlequin or emerging designers. I go to lot of trade shows where I will look out for people that I can work with.
The designers are great for seeing what the trends ahead are. It would be pointless to bring out a range of products that you can’t easily accessorise. It needs to work in people’s homes and people can complement a bright cushion with accessories.
I also tend to buy interesting pieces of furniture. I then sit on them until I find the right fabric or I want to bring a range together. Because of this, my garage and garden room are a mess!
Does your work have an upcycling element to it?
One of the big questions as a maker was that I would be generating waste. I try to keep waste to a minimum. A lot of my designs happen of thinking how I could use pieces of timber left from other projects. I end up using the left over pieces of timber to make a screen or to reinforce a stool.
Equally, I use different size of fabrics and that’s why I have different sizes of cushions and lampshades. I also use the left over fabric to create buttons, piping or the side of a stool. It is also a reason why I am doing the stools!
So, yes I think that my work has an upcycling element to it.
How is the process of creating a product? Do you start with an idea, a sketch, finding a piece of furniture or fabric?
I don’t have a process in particular. The process of creating a product can start in lots of different ways. Sometimes and idea comes to me and I have to deconstruct it and see how I can get to the end result!
A product can also start by having a piece of timber wood. I think of ways of how to use it and not waste it. Equally, just the fabrics can lend themselves to a particular shape.
I get excited when I bring ranges together and can’t stop thinking of it. I find myself sketching everywhere, write notes… it is very exciting!
Do you have a favourite product you really enjoy working on from start to finish? What it is you like doing the most?
I like making benches because they take shape really quickly but, believe it or not, I like sanding! Specially when trying to take the grey of a Danish wood surface. Lampshades are lovely to make as well.
I don’t particularly enjoy the making of upholstery. I enjoy the result but not the making. There is a lot of thinking involved in upholstery and sometimes it hurts my brain. However, with all hard work there are challenges and I enjoy problem solving. If there is a problem I like finding solutions!
The thing that I dislike the most is stripping down a piece of furniture such a chair. I cut myself all the time with the staples!
Although not part of the making process, I don’t like lifting furniture. I do many pop ups and sometimes I take one of in the morning and set one up in the evening. It can take 4 to 5 hours to set up a pop up so there is a lot of lifting involved.
Which one of your products is more popular?
It really varies from area to area. In Barnet cushions are very popular, in Henley the benches, in Harpenden the lampshades and benches. In St Albans I sell a lot of furniture such as Ercol sofas and armchairs. It is funny how it varies from place to place!
Do you have any designers you particularly admire?
I admire the people that I use in my designs. I particularly like Jen Rowland and I just discovered ad new designer called Petronella Hall.
I meet a lot designers locally. That’s the beauty of the pop up shop! You meet customers but also designers, makers, etc.
What is the best thing of being a home product designer?
The best thing for me is working for yourself and having the total freedom of choosing what you make out of lovely fabrics.
Being a home product designer allows you to explore a lot of your creativity. However, it has to be done within reason, as you need to make sure people would like it. With pop ups you can understand what people really like. If something doesn’t sell I won’t use the fabric anymore. I don’t tend to use the same things or use the same fabrics because I love making ranges!
Where do you sell your products?
My main way of selling the products I make has been pop ups so far. I do them in the South East, Hertfordshire, St Albans, Henley, Richmond and Barnet. I love the village feel but at the same time you are not isolated. People are not rushing and happy to engage in conversation. It is all about community engagement.
The relaunch of ZziniHome Etsy is imminent and will be announced on social media. Also, I might be able to launch a website in the future.
I also try to be very active on Instagram. It is such as lovely visual platform!
On Facebook I tend to put more processes such as a video of making a lampshade or a piece being upholstered.
What are your plans for the future? What is next for you?
My next plan is putting everything online on Etsy. That’s the question I get asked the most when doing pop ups. It is hard work because I am not making but my passion is on making.
I am trying to work which direction to go next, if to do more pop ups, focus on online or do both. I am also looking out for collaborations with designers.
Finally, what advice would you give to someone who is starting out as a product designer?
Just plunge for it! Don’t do too much planning, just go for it. There are so many ways you can test your products with real people. You can test them on fairs, makers markets, pop ups, upload them on social media. There are so many ways you can get feedback but you have to get out there!
I hope you have enjoyed the interview with ZziniHome and know a bit more about Francesca’s work. There are so many questions I could have also asked! Thanks a lot Francesca for your time and for letting me interview you. I had a great time and it was a tremendous pleasure knowing more about your work and inspiration.
Till the next post!