INTERVIEW: One Third of Mail Order Interiors Company OKA Direct Founders, Sue Jones

In 1999, Annabel Astor, Sue Jones and Lucinda Waterhouse launched OKA Direct, a mail order interiors company that specialised in hand-crafted rattan accessories and storage, inspired by ancient designs from the Far East that had been adapted for modern life in the West.

Since then the OKA brand has evolved to offer everything needed to furnish your home. With 14 stores in some of the country’s prettiest market towns and most sophisticated city suburbs, the latest being Edgbaston, DLUXE caught up with one third of the founders, Sue Jones, to find out more.

How did the OKA story begin?

My sister in law, Annabel, was decorating a house in Florida and was struggling to find what she wanted in the UK market. In an effort to fill the ‘gap’, she and I, and our friend Lucinda Waterhouse, got together and came up with the concept of OKA. We launched in 1999, with the aim of designing and sourcing furniture and accessories of exceptional quality at affordable prices. When the first container of rattan arrived in the UK for a small private sale to friends and family, we never dreamt that 18 years later we would have an established brand with an extensive collection of everything you could need to furnish your home from top to bottom.

How did OKA get its name?

The name came from ochre the colour, but visually we felt that the phonetic letters as O-K-A worked really well – it was as simple as that really.

How would you sum up OKA’s style?

A furniture and home accessories collection sourced with an eye for beauty, comfort and unique style. OKA puts a modern, worldly spin on classic British style by borrowing inspiration from around the globe, where many of the pieces originate from.

What’s the concept behind the Edgbaston store?

Our store in Edgbaston is the first to open in the Midlands, where we have an existing loyal and growing customer base, as part of the new premium lifestyle destination Edgbaston Village.

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Set in a restored three-storey, red-brick Edwardian property on the bustling Harborne road, this beautiful location allowed us to create our signature inspiration roomsets. Our roomsets bring the homes from our seasonal lookbooks to life, giving inspiration in a lifestyle setting rather than displaying products on shelves.

What makes the brand, and the store, so different?

We’ve been designing and travelling the world to create our collections for over 18 years.  We are immensely proud of our collection of furniture and accessories that includes everything you need for your home.

In store our seasonally-styled roomsets provide an ever changing source of inspiration for home lovers and redecorators alike. In OKA Edgbaston you can see two distinct ‘apartments’ in contrasting styles, which truly sets the feeling of being in a real home.

We also have experienced interior designers based in-store, that can help you with one room or a whole house. Natasha Johnston is the dedicated Interior Design Consultant at OKA Edgbaston, and is on hand for projects both large and small.

What is it you love about interiors and design?

I love drama. Just by adding multiples of an accessory or including some statement cushions, you can create a whole new scheme that can be easily updated to follow the seasons. Linen in spring/summer and Velvets in winter.  If I’m having a dinner party, I will often use a colour theme to create drama – this helps set the tone of the party and often puts the focus on the room and not the food, which is a relief!

What do you think is the most challenging part of pulling a successful interior scheme together?

Using a clients existing furniture and adding new pieces is both the challenge and the excitement of working on projects. I love mixing ‘old’ and ‘new’ to create a room that is both stylish, practical and comfortable. At OKA we have worked really hard to create a collection that works incredibly well with antiques as well as more contemporary pieces.

I advise you not to go for trends – they go in and out so fast – instead opt for unique and timeless.

Looking ahead to 2018 we have an exciting new collection of hand-painted textiles including a unique range of card lampshades. We are also seeing a lot of greenery and pieces inspired by nature in the new collection. A particular favourite of mine are the new ceramics inspired by leaves and artichokes including tableware and candle holders.

OKA is at 20-22 Harborne Road, Edgbaston, Birmingham, B15 3AA

Tel. 0121 454 4912

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