People in design: Emma Mann, design manager for Sainsbury’s homeware

The design manager for Sainsbury’s homeware talks about creating trends, travel and supporting new talent

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What’s a typical work day like for you?

Usually it involves lots of meetings to discuss design trends, including analysing colours and materials to see what works; I like to mix things up to create new colour and texture combinations. The office in Coventry also has a development centre so we can test new bedlinen, ceramics and glassware. I’m currently looking at ideas for Spring/Summer 2015; I try to make time to gather inspiration, whether that’s on Pinterest, which I am obsessed with, or going to shops, fairs and antiques markets – Newark Antiques Centre is my favourite.

Do you get the opportunity to travel?

Besides visiting Sainsbury’s stores across the UK, I often go to Paris and Barcelona with the design team, and to New York at Christmas to find inspiration for festive ranges. I like to go off the beaten track in Brooklyn to visit one-off antiques shops and independent stores, and I always take my camera and notepad to record anything unusual. Last year I went to San Francisco for the first time on my honeymoon, and I would love to go back to explore.

Barcelona view

The design team at Sainsbury’s and I often travel to cities such as Barcelona to gather new ideas

What’s the big trend this autumn?

Indigo is the colour to look out for, and the Verona sofa is a key piece in Sainsbury’s Autumn/Winter 2014 collection. I first spotted the colour on the fashion catwalks, where it was used with traditional dying techniques, such as batik and tie-dye. My favourite trend, though, is Folk Tales, which has lots of eclectic pieces, such as ceramic ornaments and beautiful patterned cushions in warm reds and oranges. It is about mixing and matching from different cultures and places.

How did you become a design manager?

I have always felt that design should be for the masses – not about exclusive, expensive products. After studying ceramics at university I worked at Wade Ceramics, which gave me experience of a mass production environment, and from there I went to Next Home before joining Sainsbury’s. I still have a soft spot for ceramics and enjoy designing products for the store.

Left, Dash jug, right, indigo nibble bowls, sainsburys

The Dash jug (left), £15, and Indigo Nibble bowls (right), £10 for three, feature in the Sainsbury’s AW14 collections

Who is your design hero?

I have always looked up to Alessi designer Stefano Giovannoni. I love kitsch things, and the idea of making something fun as well as functional. For my own home, I now prefer handmade items, whether knitted by family or from a craft shop. I suppose it’s an antidote to the mass production element of my working life. 

What is your home like?

My style is eclectic. We rent at the moment, in Leicester, so I am limited to what I can do, but we have many lovely prints, which I’ve started putting up in a montage in the living room. My favourite is called Voyages Over Edinburgh by David Fleck, which shows hot air balloons over a beautiful cityscape. I also have my grandmother’s flying ducks on the wall; I really believe in having the pieces that you love out on display, curating your own items that mean something to you.

David Fleck print, left, ducks, right

Above left: My husband Trevor and I bought this print by David Fleck on a trip to Edinburgh

How do you like to relax?

Reading is a bit of a treat, and I have read a lot by Philippa Gregory recently. I also like to crochet, because I can do it anywhere; I am currently busy making blankets for all my friends having babies.

What would you still like to achieve?

There’s so much more for me to do at Sainsbury’s – I want to make the customer experience for homeware a one-stop shop. I also feel strongly about supporting emerging talent; I was a judge for the design awards at the Business Design Centre, which is where I exhibited when I was a graduate. Personally, I want to travel more, especially around India. It’s such a romantic country – I just need to persuade my husband!