The art of making luxurious chairs: Meet Katherine Sparshatt
Katherine knows how to live by the oft-quoted adage “follow your passion”. Parallel to her work in the Content Marketing department at trivago, Katherine runs her own business creating luxurious accent chairs. Life at trivago met up with her to find out more about what drives her and what exciting projects for the future she has in store.
Life at trivago: Where does your passion for chairs derive from? How did you come up with the idea of making chairs and where did you learn how to make them?
Katherine Sparshatt: Well, first of all, I know it’s kind of a strange thing to be passionate about! But my mother is a set dresser for the theatre and my sister owned her own furniture store in London. I grew up scouting antique stores for specific pieces for my mum’s set, or holding on to wardrobes that were hanging out the back of my sister’s tiny car.
When I was at University I was studying Literature and Marketing and wanted to build a skill that used my hands (I’m always really interested in doing stuff that grows different areas of my brain but that’s a story for another day). So, in the evenings I attended an upholstery class. When I moved to Germany, I could afford to have a spacious apartment but needed furniture, so I started buying mid-century chairs off eBay and re-upholstering them. It was also a way of remaining close to my family, sharing pictures of my finds with them and ideas about what kind of fabrics to use, etc, just as I would if I was at home in England.
Lat: When was the flashpoint to start the business? Was there a moment when you knew “I will put this idea into practice, I will start my own business NOW”?
KS: I found a chair on the street, that was completely abandoned but I saw its potential. I persuaded my skeptical boyfriend to carry it home for me, bought some expensive fabric and completely transformed it. After that I couldn’t sleep for weeks, it was like having a fever. I wondered around like a zombie completely caught up in picturing the marketing, the website, the stores, fabrics, everything. Then I made a TV show in Hong Kong and whilst I was there they told me all about how people in China and Hong Kong want to buy products made in the West and how interior design is really taking off there. It seemed like a huge opportunity, so I decided to go for it.
Lat: You said all your chairs are handmade, are you planning to roll out production on a bigger scale as well?
KS: My dream is to convert an old factory, have a handful of employees and make as many chairs, ottomans, pouffes and stools as people want to buy. Obviously, elements of the production will be automated, bases can be laser cut, the legs can be 3D printed, etc, but the actual finishing of putting the fabric on the chair can only be done by hand. The difference between having the chairs made in a small factory in Germany versus outsourcing to Taiwan, India or South America, is not necessarily quality, but the fact that in Germany I can be completely assured that my chairs were made by people who have fair wages, holiday, sick pay, maternity leave and safe working conditions. When you buy a product that says Made in Germany on it, it is likely to be more expensive, but remember that what you are paying for is a supply chain that you can be proud of, as well as a product that will last well into the lifetimes of your grandchildren.
Lat: In how far does trivago support you with your business?
KS: I have only been in business for about nine months at this point and I certainly would not have got this far without trivago. Flexible hours means that I can pop to see my carpenter, tax man or fabric supplier without having to excuse myself, as long as I get all of my work for trivago done. Of all the benefits trivago offers that is my favourite and the one I really can’t live without. Next is the unlimited holiday, of course I use it for stretching out on a beach as often as possible but I have also had days when I need to get an order finished and have to take a few days off of work to do so. As long as my work is done no one even flutters an eyelid. I am also super lucky to have an incredibly supportive team at trivago who champion me at every opportunity, who help to proof read the texts on my website, do my product photography for me, model the chairs for me, give me advice and ideas, help me using CAD and so much more. They see my entrepreneurial passion as a great asset to the company.
I am super excited that my chairs will be appearing in the new trivago campus. To be in one of Germany’s first major tech campuses in the heart of the Medienhafen is an amazing feat and the design team have been so supportive. They really took a chance on me because when I first pitched myself to them I had nothing but a photograph to show them.
Lat: Is there something you learned at trivago you can use for your business? Do the jobs relate to each other in any way?
KS: I have a Masters in Marketing and worked for a while in London before I came to Germany but no one has taught me about marketing like trivago has. I am competent at using data now, I understand how to strategise based on the numbers, when I do a facebook or instagram promotion I am doing audience segmentation, A, B and C testing and going super granular on the data to get insights. When I put together my website I felt comfortable going into the nitty gritty of SEO and although my numbers are obviously a lot smaller, I can still see clear opportunities. I am using a lot I learn at trivago and applying it to my own business, and I have so much to learn about design, supply chain management, trademarking, fabric, trade laws, taxes, the list is endless, but I don’t lose any sleep worrying how I will market my products when they are all ready, and that’s half the battle won.
Lat: What’s next?
KS: Well currently I am working on a line of pouffes and ottomans that will be released over the summer. They are in fun shapes and designs with high quality fabric and are super luxurious but at a more accessible price point. I want everyone to be able to have something unique and hand made in their home that they can pass down to their children.
Lat: Thank you so much for the interview!
If you want to know more about Katherine’s creations, visit her website at: www.lyndasparshatt.com or check out this video about her work, produced as a part of the series “Passion Projects” by Life at trivago:
All photos by Sabina Woller