In conversation with Carolyn Mitchell

There are few in the in the contract furnishing industry that don’t know Carolyn Mitchell. Early in her career she became the youngest ever chairman of the British Contract Furnishing Association and to this day is the only woman who has held the position. Carolyn still sits on the current BCFA Board, which today has a good representation of women from the across the contract interiors and design sector.

We caught up with Carolyn as she takes on her new role as Sales and Marketing Director at Hypnos Contracts Beds.

How did you get into contract interiors?
After studying fine art and textile design at Nottingham university I began my career at Sanderson as a design consultant in their prestigious West End Berners St showroom and it was a fabulous introduction to the commercial world of design and interiors. Over the subsequent years, I was fortunate to work with some of the best British interior brands and in 2005 was asked to establish an international contract division at Walker Greenbank PLC, the group had just acquired Sanderson into the portfolio, it was a fortuitous return to the brand, where I had started my career.

Fifteen years later, I am incredibly proud of what has been achieved, across all market sectors from hospitality and leisure to healthcare and new emerging markets. The key to establishing a highly respected contract division internationally, and the most rewarding part of the job, has been the opportunity of leading, developing and building a strong commercially astute team.

As a woman, how have you found this industry?
I’ve never really considered gender as limiting factor, or something that has restricted my career, although in the early years I was aware women were in a minority at senior level in the contract sales sector. I have always mentored, promoted and developed talent where I see it, whether it’s a man or woman the purpose and mission is always the same, to be the best we can be at what we do, and that takes integrity, passion, commitment and drive. That naturally happens when you love what you do.

I am pleased the workplace has become more family friendly than when I first started out. We are more open as a society and there are now more flexible choices to balance your home life and pursue a successful career in the sector. It was common to feel compromised about juggling both, and I definitely saw it affecting women primarily. The interiors sector is a creative industry, and there are lots of women who work in this sector. It’s true there are still fewer women in senior management roles, which I’m pleased to say is changing. It’s fabulous to see that many female clients and colleagues I have known for 30 years , are now senior leaders running very successful design businesses, often with their children following them into the industry.

What has been your main product focus?
I’ve mostly worked within the branded design and textile sector, venturing into other product categories including paint, wallpaper and furniture, most recently leading the relaunch of the Sanderson and Zoffany paint brands within Walker Greenbank.

My passion is good design and marketing, with brands that have integrity. Design led commercially viable product is a vital component in today’s commercial world, and should not be viewed as a mere luxury. The best values and principles in delivering this to the client remain the same, whatever the product category and that is exciting because the opportunities are endless.

Why Hypnos and why now?
The opportunity to work with a new product category was something I wanted to explore further, enabling the transfer of commercial and strategic skills to a new and related product area and sectors.

Hypnos is a fifth-generation family run business; I admire the brand integrity, history and craftmanship that is integral to the brand identity, whilst being a market leader, recently being awarded a second Queen’s Award for Enterprise, this time for Sustainable Development. This commitment to sustainable-design and product excellence is recognised internationally as Hypnos are the proud holders of a Royal Warrant, it’s a fascinating mix of tradition, values, forward thinking and design innovation

Meeting with Hypnos Group MD John Woolley at end of last year, and learning more about his ambitions for the brand, I was hooked, and was delighted to accept the position as Sales and Marketing Director for their contract bed division. As long-standing members of the BCFA, I am privileged to continue to represent them on the BCFA board. I am delighted to be joining the team at such an exciting time for the Hypnos brand and its future growth.

Contact Hypnos through BCFA Product Finder

The BCFA Product Finder is a unique search engine created especially for interior designers to source contract furnishing companies. Utilising this platform will support your findings for upcoming projects, with over 200 members profiles showcasing the latest product launches, new materials available, industry news and design trends.


About Rita Bancroft

A regular features writer on Design Insider, Rita has a passion for interiors. Having worked at a senior level for international brands for over 30 years, today she runs Bancmarketing, her own independent marketing consultancy business she set up in 2011.
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