Living in a spacious, white-washed converted factory in Norwich, Fiona and Bobby Burrage let life inspire work and vice versa. We spoke to Fiona about her lifestyle brand Nor-Folk, mornings and the perfect weekend…
Fiona Burrage, 31, lives in Norwich with her husband Bobby, 35, and their three-year-old son Stanley. Bobby runs graphic design consultancy The Click, Fiona runs apparel, homewares and lifestyle brand Nor-Folk – but they share a workspace and often collaborate on projects.
What time are you up in the morning?
We haven’t set an alarm clock in three years (aside from a few early meetings we used an alarm as back up for) as Stanley is an early riser. Our mornings can start anywhere from 5.30 to 7am. If it’s later we consider it a gift and a lie-in.
What wakes you up?
Stanley, shouting “hey mummy”.
How do you feel?
Depends on what time I’ve gone to bed the night before. If it’s been a late one then I pray it’s nearer 7am than 5am when I look at the clock. Every now and then, Bobby and I might ask the other to get up with Stanley and claw back an extra half an hour before we start the day. However, we’ve recently decided, with the mornings getting lighter, that we’re going to take advantage of the early start and go for a run on alternate days (before work) and before Stanley gets collected by my mother-in-law.
What are your most productive working hours?
Sadly, when Stanley is in bed I am far more creative and decisive but I will always pay for it the next day.
Your home is an apartment in a converted factory. Can you describe the space?
An incredibly uplifting, happy and motivational space to live in. It was converted by London architects W3C almost 10 years ago and during its short life as a residential dwelling, it had become tired and a bit rough around the edges. So when we bought it almost three years ago we tried to re-instate the original vision, aesthetic and feel.
Where did you grow up and what was your childhood like?
In Essex, not far from Lakeside. I was an only child, so from an early age I got used to using my imagination for fun. My mum’s family lived in Suffolk, which felt like a million miles away from the grey built up metropolis I lived in. It was a magical place where I spent many a school holiday. My parents, although divorced, were incredibly supportive and continue to be very close to me. They are my best friends.
At what stage did you decide you’d like to work in the creative industries?
I think I’ve always been a mix between entrepreneurial and creative. Never really academic, I always felt more comfortable in art than maths. I don’t really remember making a decision just that my path was really already decided.
What training/work experience did you have before joining the graphic design consultancy the Bobby set up – The Click?
Bobby was several years into The Click before I joined. After graduating from Norwich School of Art (now Norwich University of the Arts) with an FdA in Graphic Design, I’d worked at a local agency and then a position opened with Bobby. We worked together for 18 months before we started officially dating.
How is it working together as well as living together?
I get asked that a lot, but we don’t know anything different. I think we’re different and similar enough to compliment each other and we both know when to compromise.
The beginning of Nor-Folk
You and Bobby co-founded lifestyle brand Nor-folk in 2015, why did you decide to launch a new company?
I’d stepped back from The Click after having Stanley and felt I needed a new challenge that would also accommodate our new lifestyle as a family. We very nearly bought a barn, which was going to be turned into a holiday let. We decided on the name The Nor–Folk Barn but something didn’t feel right so we pulled out of the sale and launched what you see today as a result.
What was your mission when you launched Nor-Folk, and in what ways has it evolved since then?
It is constantly evolving; refining as I’m exposed to new people, ideas, places and opportunities. My skill set is continually expanding and at times testing me but is incredibly rewarding. Whilst childrenswear continues to be a large part of my focus – due to my son and muse – the name, I hope, has enough elasticity to allow the brand to lead into many different directions. We’d like to launch a festival in a couple of years’ time: our mini/family latitude.
You talk about your brand being inextricably linked to your life; it’s about family, food, people, the home, life. Do you ever switch off from work?
Not really but I do love what I do, so for me at least, that’s not a problem. I am an incredibly passionate person and whatever I’m working on, I always want to do my best and be the best version of myself I can be.
How did you decide when to have a child?
I’d always thought I’d be around 30; my mum was 30 when she had me. In fact I was 28 and both Bobby and I just felt ready.
Is childcare/housework divided evenly between you?
Absolutely. It might sound corny but we’re a team.
The Nor-Folk workspace…
What hours do you each spend in ‘the office’ and what is your workspace like?
I work 9am to 4.45pm Monday to Thursday then Friday is 11am to 4.30pm. I work alongside Bobby on one long ply bench, in an eco build in the heart of Norwich. I am hoping to cut one of my days next month once we have launched our wholesale website, so I can have a whole day, just me and Stanley.
Where is Stanley when you’re working?
Monday to Thursday he is in the Norfolk Broads at Bobby’s mum and dad’s. Friday my dad and stepmum come and collect him and he goes to their place, towards Bury St Edmunds. He gets a great mix of city and country life.
Describe an ideal family weekend…
Just something simple. A strong coffee and breakfast at our local coffee shop, followed by a day with friends or family in the sunshine. You can’t beat an afternoon barbecue on our roof terrace to be honest. That’s pretty special. Then once Stanley is in bed, a few ciders around the fire pit to round off the evening is the ideal end to the day.
What’s your dream for Nor-Folk?
To continue to grow, meet new designers and work on exciting projects/ collaborations. I’d still like to convert or build an eco-barn as a holiday let.
And for your personal life?
Get a bit of a grip on my work/life balance. I’m always keen to take up new opportunities but that means I rarely have an evening or weekend off. I’m starting with a personal trainer, a joint session with Bobby or a Saturday morning at 8.30am. I’d like to start to feel a bit more fit, especially in the lead up to the summer. I am a strong advocate of a healthy mind and a healthy body. I’d also like to make more time to see friends in the evenings, that’s definitely a new year’s resolution.
If you could wake up anywhere tomorrow, where would it be?
I love my bed, but oh boy I am definitely after a break right now, it’s been an incredibly busy start to 2016. So I’d say I’d like to wake up in a detached house in the mountains and outskirts of Barcelona with both of my boys.