Conversations With… Des Earls

Running a business is an extremely rewarding and exciting thing to do. However, it comes with its own stresses and pressures day to day.

As the leader, it is extremely important to be able to deal with the issues that come about and to manage the growing KLD team and make sure that the best outcomes are achieved. 

I am definitely a self confessed workaholic, often taking work home with me. I am used to giving KLD 100% , never having ‘the time’ to allocate to exercise, however I have realised that in order to maintain that focus, I needed to have a more well rounded approach to my life. 

Exercise has always been something I have flitted in and out of, very much separate from my life as a whole. When times get busy, it used to be the first thing to go.

If I was to calculate the amount I have spent on gyms and exercise that has then been wasted, I would cry! I decided at the beginning of this year to make a change and stick to it and committed to working with personal trainer Des Earls 3 times a week.

Des is a professional who takes a very holistic approach to well being and fitness and looks at how it can genuinely fit into and enhance your life. 

It has proven to be time well spent. Aside from the health benefits and improved fitness, it genuinely sets me up more focused and energised each day. 

Des explains in more detail his philosophies and approaches below… making exercise all the more easy to add into your own life!

How can we make exercise a habit that becomes so important we cannot live without it?

Exercise should be like brushing your teeth – something you do automatically, it doesn’t take up too much time, the tools are readily available and you feel kind of icky if you don’t do it.

With that in mind, start an exercise regime that is extremely manageable:

– You don’t have to do and hour plus sweating in the gym. If done right 30-40 mins three or four times per week is enough to achieve most goals.

– Make sure you have a go-to work out that you can do almost anywhere. Running is the obvious example as all you need is some running shoes but body weight circuits and Pilates routines are also very manageable with little or no equipment.

– Don’t train so hard that you feel worse after training. If embarking on a new routine, some muscle soreness is common after the first couple of sessions but you shouldn’t be training so hard that you’re dreading your next workout.

How do you think our homes or the spaces we work in can help promote exercise behaviours?

Open spaces are great for encouraging us to stretch and move around in. With a growth in the popularity of regimes like Pilates, yoga and calisthenics it’s great to have room to practice a 15 min routine in. Open spaces with lots of natural light are great for this and if there’s some greenery peering in, even better. Research has shown that exercising in nature’s green spaces improves mood and self-esteem.

Standing burns approximately 33% more calories than sitting. We also have better posture when standing resulting in less hip, back and neck pain. Having work tops that are comfortable to make dinner at or standing desks in work are great ways to incorporate more standing.

Work place layouts can be very important to promoting exercise. In big offices having stairs that are highly visible and lifts that are hidden promotes using the stairs. With open plan offices seeing a route to walk across the room to ask your colleague something will make you more likely to get up and go rather than picking up the phone.


What advice would you give clients in terms of adapting/arranging their home or work space to help promote a healthy lifestyle?

We try to identify a space where the client can do a light workout or some yoga poses to de-stress. Some companies will install sit-to-stand desks which are great.

The main area we work on though is the kitchen. Have healthy snack options easily accessible and on show if possible, treats should be hidden and require a bit of effort to get at.

When we cook our own food it is invariably healthier than store bought meals. Having a space that you enjoy being in helps with this. Often people will decorate their living rooms and bedrooms with picture or art work they like, why not do the same with the kitchen? Encourage yourself to spend time in there.


What are your opinions on the role of technology within exercise? Does it hinder or help us to exercise more?

Technology can be great at encouraging you to exercise and be healthy. Set a goal of a number of steps to walk per day or track your food intake on your phone. Anything you do will be a positive help.

Activity trackers such as those that you wear like a watch are all the rage at the moment but it’s important to know that they are not always very accurate and can over or underestimate the amount of activity you’re doing.

Unfortunately technology has also lead to us being less active in our day-to-day activities. We do less manual work and generally sit more than we used to.

This has led to an increase in structured exercise classes and regimes which are great but remember a 1 hour workout is less than 5% of your day so try to be more active the rest of the time. Park your car a little further away, use the stairs, walk to work or even just dance to your favourite song any movement is good movement.


Are there any apps you would recommend for people looking to exercise more?

My Fitness Pal is an app for logging your daily food intake. It’s a laborious process of logging everything you eat throughout the day and to be really accurate you need to weigh your food. It’s not something I recommend long-term as it impacts on lifestyle too much and can lead to obsessive behaviours but short term it will help you understand what you eat and the percentage of carbs, fats and proteins you consume. Aim for roughly 30% of you daily caloric intake to come from each of carbs, fats and proteins. The other 10% is leeway on any of them.

There are a myriad of fitness tracker apps. Endomondo is an app that allows you to set goals and then gives you feedback on how you’re doing. For example if you want to run 5km in 25 mins it will tell you if you need to pick up the pace at certain points.

Goal setting apps like Incentive are another way of tracking progress. Our brains get a little kick of melatonin every time with tick an accomplishment off our goal list which then provides encouragement for tougher tasks.

For serious gym users, apps like Technique can be used to video your movements and then watch them back in slow motion to refine technique. Correct lifting technique is paramount with resistance training exercises, especially heavy ones.


What do you think are the main reasons we fall out of the habit of exercising or eating well?

We can all tolerate a finite amount of stress and when we become busy with work or life we will drop something that we feel takes up a lot of time and effort.

Exercising and eating well does take time and effort but it also helps us de-stress, so in busy or stressful times you should always try to keep your food in check and exercise part of your regime. You can cut back on these things but long term you will benefit from keeping the routine.

Conversations With: Dan Henson

Art is a key element to any interior space. It can dramatically transform even the simplest white room into something with depth, meaning and interest. It is a way for both the owner and artist to express themselves and to add personality to their home or business and can trigger emotive reactions in the people who view it.

There are endless amounts of talented artists but for me art is extremely personal and subjective. One artist, I continue to work with both personally and with KLD is Dan Henson. From the moment I saw Dan’s paintings, they captured my imagination and pulled me in. The abstract quality appeals to me. It means that the subject is open to interpretation and every person who looks at it will see something different.  

His strong use of bold colour and intricate understanding of colour and texture add vibrancy, power and depth to any space. For me his work is captivating and creates the perfect statement in the homes and commercial spaces that I design. I very proudly added my first Daniel Henson painting to my own collection recently and it is one that I will treasure. 

I spoke with Dan about his passion for art and his story so far…


1. What is your first memory of art?

I remember the smell of poster paint in infant school, along with the smell of Play Dough. I couldn’t tell you what I made back then, but the smell is intensely nostalgic. I was addicted to Tony Hart’s ‘Take Hart’ tv programme. He really inspired young creatives of my generation to experiment with all sorts of different media.

In terms of specific paintings, I remember my grandparents had a reproduction of John Constables’ Hay Wain over their mantelpiece and a very dodgy portrait of my mum that looked like a prop from a Hitchcock movie! I also remember I had the most amazing storybook with some fabulous watercolour illustrations of animals from all over the world.

2. When and why did you first start painting?

I was an only child so I used to spend many uninterrupted hours with felt tip pens and pencils, drawing animals or space ships and their adventures. I always found painting a much harder medium to work with but at about eight years old I won a couple of competitions in cub scouts and school, and my confidence grew very early. I remember my Dad bought me a ‘painting by numbers’ oil painting set to encourage me and that was my first experience with oils.

3. Which artists have impacted you and influenced your work?

I really have a broad appreciation of art but in terms of painters that I feel closest to I would say. JW Turner, Claude Monet, Mark Rothko, Howard Hodgkin, Jackson Pollock and Kyffin Williams. They would be my ‘go to’ in terms of masters and more contemporary painters who I admire would be the likes of  Conor Harrington, Mark Lovejoy, Aaron Westerberg, Kelly Reemtsen and James English a mix of figurative and abstract.

The Secret

4. Which personalities in the world of art do you admire most or draw inspiration from?

I don’t know if I look for a ‘personality’ per se when it comes to painting but I do take inspiration from work that has a dialogue or an edge to it, work like that of Banksy, Tracey Emin or the Chapman Brothers that has a wit to it and is brave enough to challenge convention.
Also I take inspiration from the courage and passion of others. I remember attending a talk by the surfer Easkey Britton. She talked about surfing in Iran to empower women, teaching them that knowing when to fight the wave and when to surrender to the power of the sea will make them a stronger surfer. I went home afterwards and didn’t leave my studio till this painting was complete. She really struck a nerve with me at the time.
The fall and rise of Easkey Britton

5. Talk me through the creative process for you. How do you get from blank canvas to finished piece?

My process is inconsistent. Sometimes I start with many canvases and apply one thick colour at a time to all of them. Other times I could work with individual canvases perhaps putting them on the floor and pouring liquid oil directly onto them. I use rags, brushes of all sizes and palette knives to vary the mark making. I never mix much colour on the canvas, as I try to keep the colours clean and vibrant. I also try to restrict the pigment I use to around three colours. Everything is mixed out of these base colours and I never use black.

I rotate the square canvases I use throughout the process, to change the balance of the composition. It can take from 12 months to three years to finish a painting.

6. What inspires you?

My family are a constant source of inspiration, my wife and two daughters are all extremely creative in their own individual ways.

I work as Head of Activation in the advertising company Boys and Girls. boysandgirls,The bar for creativity is high there and I manage to engage in many other mediums of creativity in a much more commercial context. In contrast to my ‘day job’ my painting work becomes a form of meditation that looks for balance and an original aesthetic, which will hopefully exist long after I’ve gone.


7. How much do you plan before painting? I sense the rich build-up of layers over dimensionality, do you improvise or rather carefully plan your paintings?

I don’t plan anything. I try and resist the temptation to ‘finish’ a painting and sometimes I bring it home and put it on the wall for few weeks to fully understand what needs to happen to it, but it would be very broad strokes and nothing ever goes according to plan. It’s all a bit like creating a puzzle.

8. Have you experimented with other art forms or are there any that you would be interested in trying?

I have done many other forms of art from figurative, illustration and portrait work, installations and sculpture. I love print making. I do a lot of digital work with photography, audio, video and new technology. Painting seems to be the medium that I can pick up and put down the most easily.

9. In your opinion what is the value of art to society?

Art in today’s society is hugely significant, as much if not more than it has always been. Our creativity defines who we are now as individuals as well as how we come together as a collective. More importantly we continue to express that creativity in increasingly different ways and disciplines.

Technological advances are creating an explosion of digital creativity. It’s a very exciting time as the accessibility of education and the portability of technology is creating a whole new wave of creative expression from a very young age.

10. If someone is interested in buying a piece where can they find your work?

My work is up on my website

They can email me directly to see what’s in the studio or I have three galleries that represent me, they are:


The Creativity Bug: Bluebellgray

In our work as Designers we come across so many talented and inspiring people. We believe that creativity is contageous, so in the interest of spreading the creative bug we feature inspiring design stories from some of the people who inspire us most.

Recently we collaborated with the vibrant, fun textile company Bluebellgray. We caught up with their founder Fi Douglas to discuss all things creative businesses and the Bluebellgray story. 


Fi, can you tell us the Bluebellgray story?

I have had a love of painting since I was very young and actually began my degree in the painting department at the Glasgow School of Art. During those first couple of years I had a best friend across the road in textiles and she kept saying to me, ‘Fi, you belong in textiles!’. She was absolutely right and when I switched to textiles I was able to bring my two loves, paint and design, together. I never looked back. After working in the industry for a couple of years I knew I really wanted to go out on my own – I had a real desire to create my own designs, to my own brief, and to keep that business in Scotland. In 2009 I set up bluebellgray, literally from my kitchen table, with a collection of just 6 cushions. I travelled on the train to London with my Mum for my first ever show and was lucky to get some great press from that show which was huge. Over the last 7 years, bluebellgray has grown into a design studio with a wonderful team of 14 and we now offer a full lifestyle collection including bedding, fabric, cushions, rugs, lampshades and tableware.


What inspires you or where do you source inspiration?

My inspiration mainly comes from nature, sometimes it’s hard to define it, it’s like a feeling I have inside, but when I see things like the beautiful cherry blossom trees around at the moment or a wood full of bluebells the colours just speak to my soul! I find lots of other things inspiring too and sometimes it’s little things, the decor in a great restaurant, traveling or a brilliant exhibition.


What is a typical day like in the Bluebellgray HQ?

Part of why I love my job so much is the variety, everyday is different! One day will be spent commenting on and approving samples, the next might involve planning our new season photo shoot, followed by a day of painting and drawing.


Who is on the Bluebellgray team?

I’m so lucky to have such a lovely team full of creative minds, coincidentally lots of them grew up in the highlands like me which is really nice. I have a design team who I work really closely with who develop my paintings in to products. We also have a PR and marketing team as well as an operations team who wrap and pack all customer and trade orders. Altogether we are a team of 14!


What is the process from concept to completion for your designs?

It always starts with the paint. I try not to spend too much time thinking about which product the final piece will sit on but just focus on the colour. I usually have a palette in mind for the season we are working towards and I just let that take over. From there I am lucky to have a really wonderful team who I work very closely with to manipulate the original painting and apply it to bedding, cushions, fabric and so on. It’s always an exciting day when those first samples arrive in the studio!



What have been your business highlights over the lifetime of Bluebellgray?

Being featured in Elle Decoration magazine back in the very early days was incredible and really helped get the brand name out there! More recently though on a trip to the states, it was a dream come true to see my designs available in Bloomingdales in New York city!


What advice would you give others who may be thinking about setting up a creative business?

Aside from working hard and all that is involved in the business side, what you really need above all is a passion for your design. There will always be some pressure to follow trends but when you stay true to your instincts you will always produce your most successful work.


How do you unwind and switch off from the demands of business life?

Spending time with my two young boys is often busy in itself so luckily it’s not too hard to switch off from business life when I’m with them, I especially love taking them up North, they absolutely love being outdoors! When I do have some spare time though I really enjoy reading Monocle and Kinfolk magazine for the beautiful imagery and design inspiration.



What’s ahead for Bluebellgray in 2016 and beyond?

I’m super excited to bring out a wallpaper collection in the very near future, it’s something I have always dreamed of and I can’t wait to decorate my home with the designs! I’d also love to do a kids collection, there’s just not enough gender neutral, interior bedroom options out there!



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