Personal projects

The shed reborn

27 Sep 2016

Earlier this year we moved the Design Room studio to new premises out on The Roseland. The move has been really positive, not only are we loving being so close to the coast, after 5 years in the shed at the bottom of the garden we are enjoying the novelty of having neighbours, especially the fabulous Da Bara Bakery cafe across the car park (although not visiting daily takes serious self-control!)


We had outgrown our little shed in Truro in terms of workspace but the space and location seemed perfect for creating a place to stay for holiday makers and business travellers. I have always been interested in interior design and love getting stuck into a new project - whether it’s at home or one of the shops Mr G and I have opened/ redeveloped over the years - so I thoroughly enjoyed creating ‘The Cabin’. 


It’s a funny thing, designing a new business for yourself rather than for a paying client - whilst you can ignore ‘the rules’ and be quite self-indulgent, it’s important not to lose sight of who your audience is and what kind of product/ service they are expecting. Thinking about your customers also helps focus your ideas, finding that balance between your own personal style and what works on a commercial level is sometimes tricky and can take time but if you want to create a unique, memorable business then doing your research and spending time fine-tuning your ideas is vital.


Creating a brand identity with a well-designed logo is a great way to ‘package' any type of business and so as well as having some ace professional photography done (thanks Sal!) I decided to use The Cabin as a new branding exercise, (I can’t help myself). Did we need a logo design to generate bookings? No. Does it help us stand out from the crowd. Yes, I believe so. Cornwall is not exactly short of holiday accommodation, so any hopes of getting on that first page of a Google search are pretty unrealistic for the likes of me with no marketing budget, and standing out on a platform like Airbnb - where many people are now opting for professional photography - is tough. A good logo can help you to look professional and target your business at the right audience, whilst a good name is memorable and more search engine friendly, whether you are Googling 'places to stay' or browsing properties on Airbnb. Setting yourself apart in a crowded market place is challenging - and I am not a marketing expert by any stretch - but I wholeheartedly believe that good design and photography are a huge asset to any business and a very worthwhile investment (I know, I know, of course I’m going to say that, it’s what I do!) However, I do genuinely believe that Sal’s fantastic photos of the cabin have directly impacted the number of bookings we’ve had - in a very positive way! Good photography not only shows the space off well but it conveys a feeling of what it is like to be there... what the light is like in the room... how comfy the bed looks… highlighting all of the little extra details… and so on.


Do people really care about design and photography when they are choosing a place to stay on holiday? That’s debatable I guess, and there are so many other influencing factors; location, value for money, customer feedback for instance, but I know that I, personally, am very  influenced by this kind of ‘packaging’ and I would be much more likely to book somewhere to stay based on beautiful photographs of well designed spaces. For me, if someone has gone to the effort of getting some professional photography/ design work done I expect good things from them in terms of service - it’s about sending the right message right from the off. Since the cabin has been up and running we’ve had some lovely feedback from guests and more often than not, it’s the little details that people pick up on. The attention to detail, that’s what will bring people back to stay again, that’s what people will tell their friends and family about, and that’s why I will always go the extra mile and focus on the finer details - because how you present your business to the rest of the world really does matter!


Have a look at the cabin on Airbnb, feel free to book a holiday or share with friends and family (promise I’ll leave you extra biscuits if you do!)


To see more of Sal’s awesome work have a peek at her portfolio site.


See also the work we did for Harbour to Horizon.


- Emma.





Posted in: Personal projects

A Boatbuilder's Story

26 Nov 2014

I never knew my grandfather Percy Mitchell, he died several years before I was born, leaving behind an amazing legacy of wooden boatbuilding and a paperback book called 'A Boatbuilder's Story'. It was published in 1968 as a small print run and has since become quite a sought after book. It tells of his life as a traditional wooden boatbuilder in Portmellon and Mevagissey on the south Cornish coast. Born in Mevagissey in 1901, he was something of a rugged character who endured setbacks and overcame obstacles to design and build an incredible array of fishing boats, yachts, tugs and passenger launches. He has been described as "One of the finest traditional boatbuilders in the world" by Commander W. B Luard and as an "artist in wood" by the eminent yacht designer, Dr Claud Worth.

Fast forward to April 2011 and my brother Mike Hayes began to sort through boxes of photographs from the old boatyard in Portmellon. He painstakingly scanned and restored these old photos with a view to getting 'A Boatbuilder's Story' back into print one day. 

Ever since then it's been a work in progress and a labour of love recreating the old book. I began setting the text and creating the new book design and layouts in January 2014 and worked on it over weekends and evenings. I will confess it was a larger task than I had first imagined and it often felt like an uphill struggle to get it finished. However, when I stood with my Dad in the loading bay of TJ International book printers on a chilly November afternoon and opened a box full of beautifully produced hardback editions, it was an incredible sense of achievement and suddenly felt like it had all been worth it. It's been a true family effort to bring it back to life.

Through working on this book, I feel like I've got to know a grandfather I never knew through his words and a whole heap of photos of his life. Not many people get the opportunity to do something like this so I do feel privileged in many ways. I guess it's been a bit like being on an episode of 'Who Do You Think You Are?' minus the emotive soundtrack and fake tears : )
~ Sal

A Boatbuilder's Story is out now and available via


A Boatbuilder's Story


A Boatbuilder's Story


A Boatbuilder's Story



Posted in: cool stuff, Personal projects

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