“I was a doctor, but I quit to become an interior designer”

Part of the problem, according to Stevenson, is that young doctors are uninformed of the potential mental cost the job can have. “At university, she explains, you acquire the professional knowledge necessary to be a doctor, what is expected of you in certain situations, the drugs to be used and the measures to be taken”, says Stevenson, “but they don’t.” I won’t teach you anything about your mental well-being or how to cope with the fact that it’s a very difficult career.

“It’s no secret that many medical students and young doctors end up dropping out,” she adds. Frustration with the rotation system is one of the potential reasons why so many people leave, she believes. “Anyone who has a little more ambition or likes to think outside the box or is a little more creative tends to get frustrated and leave for better, more exciting jobs.”

Those who decide to leave are not retained. “Nobody calls you. Nobody tries to find out why you’re leaving. No one is trying to convince you to stay. I mean, they just gave you seven years of financial support and training to become a doctor for the NHS and you can basically leave without anyone registering.

Such support might have persuaded her to stay. “But because you can just walk out the door without anyone holding you back, I was like, ‘OK, well, I’m out of here then’.”

Stevenson planned to take a year without medicine. She and her brother climbed Kilimanjaro to scatter their father’s ashes. Stevenson spent six weeks in India. Next on her to-do list was a trip to South America, where she would cross Patagonia on horseback. This leg of the trip was canceled, however, as she found out she was pregnant.

She returned to London, where she lived with her partner. After giving birth to her firstborn, Oscar, in 2011, she decided to reapply for medicine. “At that time, I really missed work,” she recalls.

But while she was filling out her application, she got pregnant again, along with her daughter Georgia. “It was a bit of a battle between babies and career for a few years,” she says.

With two young children and another on the way, she and her partner bought a house in Notting Hill, which she decorated herself. “I got into the design business,” says Stevenson.

“I didn’t really like it at first,” she adds. “I didn’t really know what I was doing, I made mistakes and found the work very hard.”

But the final product received a lot of attention. Her bathroom was featured in House & Garden, other rooms were popular on Pinterest. Stevenson thinks his unique use of materials sparked interest, such as the use of plywood in his kitchen.

This success came at a time when Stevenson was “trying to find [her] path,” so it seemed like fate. “Sometimes you just have to follow the signs and not try to make things more complicated than they are,” she says.

In 2016, aged 33 and following the birth of her fourth child, she enrolled in a part-time course at the KLC School of Design, aged 33. “It was pretty daunting to start from scratch,” she says.

It was even more intimidating after his career break. “For career-changing moms, it’s often quite difficult to get out of their little bubble again,” she says, adding that she struggled to leave her kids behind for the first time.

Nevertheless, she graduated in 2019. At that time, she separated from her partner, so she took some time off before starting work in 2020. She started small, advising friends on schemes decorative, designing the odd bathroom. “At first, I didn’t even dare to charge people,” she laughs.

But after a few months, her confidence grew and she started charging clients. His portfolio has also grown. “Covid hit – and I just had a lot more work,” she says.

She opened her own business in February 2021 and reached her five-year goal in six months. Today, she supports between four and six private clients at a time, ranging from the redesign of a few rooms to a complete renovation. She also owns a studio and has hired an assistant and a junior designer.

Stevenson also does consulting work and buys and converts properties for sale. She also designs furniture and ceramics. “It really lets me use my creative brain and use it freely – finally,” she says of her work now. She particularly enjoys collaborating with artisans, meeting new clients and adapting her work to their needs.

In addition to creativity, interior design also requires logical thinking – for land use planning, for example – and that’s where his scientific background comes in handy. “It’s finally being able to combine two aspects of my skills and I find that very satisfying,” she says.

The main challenge so far has been managing his workload. “It’s been a little difficult making sure I don’t end up at square one,” Stevenson says, “that’s where my job completely takes over my life.”

However, she says she is “learning to carve [time from] my job and make it work around my family life. Being her own boss means she can spend more time with her four children: Oscar, 10, Georgia, nine, Errol, six, and Teddy, four.

Looking back, she has “no regrets,” she says. “I feel like I’m really at the start of my journey with this career, so I’m mostly excited to see where it leads.”

Comments are closed.