AS A child on day trips to stately homes, Bess Sturman would admire the opulently furnished rooms and imagine the lives of their inhabitants.

“When my parents took my brother, sister and me around country houses such as Castle Howard, I loved to stand in the furnished rooms,” she says, “They seemed to tell stories of their own that had me transfixed.”

Little did Bess know at the time, but that early interest in the décor of historic homes paved the way to a career designing exquisitely arranged interiors.

Seven years ago, at her Ilkley home, Bess established her own company, Sturman & Co. Since then demand for her talents has soared, with commissions to style houses, rooms and commercial properties across the Yorkshire region and beyond.

From imposing Victorian villas to modern townhouses and country cottages, the multi-award-winning designer creates striking interiors, making imaginative use of space, colour and light.

“At present I have a Grade II listed country house, a contemporary new build and a barn conversion on my desk, plus a number of detached family homes,” she says. “I’m helping clients in Hertfordshire and Cheshire too.”

One feather in her creative cap came when she worked on the award-winning interior of Ilkley Cinema, designing a boutique-style auditorium “It remains one of my favourite projects,” she says. “It was fun to work with the team there and create something in my home town that people would feel proud of.”

It was not a cut-and-dried process that led Bess towards the profession. After studying English literature at university she followed a career in law, starting out as a discrimination lawyer before moving to a role within the health sector.

Yet thoughts of a career in interior design were never far away. After having her second child she decided to leave the corporate world and follow her dream, retraining at the London-based Interior Design Institute.

“I loved my fast-paced corporate role. When I had my first child I was commuting from Leeds to work in London, but with two children it was not sustainable,” she explains. “I decided that it was time to take a break, which gave me the chance to retrain and follow my creative passion.”

Bess, who has since had a third child, started out doing unpaid projects for friends, before tacking her first commission - an office in a Grade ll listed Regency terrace, for a firm of solicitors.

When she walks into a room she mentally flattens the 3D image to find focus points.

“I dissect the way the layout works, and watch my client’s response to the room. Are they proud and comfortable, at a loss, or even embarrassed? I need to understand their starting point and what they want to achieve.”

Tuning each home to suit its owners’ lifestyle is, she says, vital. “I’m lucky to work with a range of interesting clients who lead busy lives. As I get to know them, I learn whether it will suit them to have calm, neutral homes, a riot of colour or something in between.

“Because we mainly work on ‘forever homes’, I try to help them to fall deeper in love with their home. Whether I help to create a place to read peacefully next to a beautiful view, to hold parties or just relax in style and comfort, I think what ‘home’ means is different for everyone.”

The simplest things, such as repositioning furniture, can make a difference, says Bess.

Existing furniture can be used as an anchor point in a mixed-era scheme to create something individual. “I love it when my clients have furniture that is characterful and important to them,” comments Bess. “It’s also brilliant - but relatively rare - to have a blank canvas.”

“Changing cushions, throws and accessories every so often is a great, simple way of refreshing a room if you fancy a change.”

“Sometimes having the critical eye of a stranger is needed to make effective changes. If engaging a designer is outside your budget, I recommend taking a photo of your room if you are struggling to see it as others do. It’s amazing what people don’t ‘see’ any more in their own homes.”

With more major schemes, Bess and her team are nowadays most often approached by clients wanting to create a kitchen/dining/family room opening onto an outside space. “I don’t think this is a trend that will go away - it’s the way people want to live together nowadays,” she says.

A fully accredited member of the British Institute of Interior Designers, Bess sources pieces for clients from both the high street, local craftspeople and from reputable trade suppliers. “eBay is still good for certain items too. We can often save people money, as well as giving them the confidence to make the right investments.”

Light and colour work hand in hand, says Bess. “There’s no point in painting a room if the lighting is wrong. Lighting is so important - a good lighting scheme is one of the most transformative and subtle parts of our design work.”

She adds: “The pride in each project is leaving my clients happier in their home, with a sense of surprise about how good we made it look together. I love the variety of styles that we work with - I am currently working with my third pair of neighbours and it’s a fun challenge for me to create something totally different from the same room.”

The ‘if rooms could talk’ stories she imagined in stately homes as a young girl still resonate through her work.

“My work is a lot about the stories that interiors can tell us about their occupants. I achieve this in my own home is by combining items that I grew up with, like a cane Peacock chair, with antiques and things found on eBay or at markets on our travels. This pieces together a story of our lives that can be told in every room.”

*W:; follow Bess on Instagram @bess_designs