Maria Myers, founder of London-based children’s furniture store, Chicshack, chats about the joys and challenges of combining a thriving business with being a mother to four lively boys.
Between furnishing the homes of the stars and jetting off around the world, notebook in hand, in search of inspiration, it’s amazing that Maria Myers manages to spend any time at all with her four sons, who range in age from eighteen months to twelve years. But Maria is a woman who knows where her priorities lie. “My motto is ‘she who loves, wins’, and another golden rule is ‘the more you give, the more you receive’.”
Although Maria and her husband Gary, who run Chicshack together, have full time help with childcare, the Putney couple are still keen to ensure that they play a big part in the lives of their children. “We do most of the school runs and clubs ourselves. Other parents will know how difficult it is, and we both live in a state of permanent guilt, but we do make a tremendous effort to get it right. Our house, shop and offices are all within a ten minute walk of each other – we’ve deliberately built our lives in close proximity, so that we can aim for a good work/life balance.”
Even when Maria is travelling, she ensures that she is back for all the important events. “I’m there for the boys’ special occasions – their assemblies, their first cricket matches, the teddy bears’ picnics – I wouldn’t miss them for the world. And if I’ve got a big deadline I’ll work late into the night so that I can be with my family in the morning when everyone’s together.”
When she was pregnant with her oldest son Maria, who worked in fashion and had studied interior and furniture design, was disappointed by the ranges of nursery furniture on offer – so she decided to do something about it. She designed her own collection of furniture and, together with Gary, who handles the business side, opened her first shop in 1997. Thirteen years on, business is thriving. “We’ve been a recognised brand over a decade now and we have clients all over the globe – including royalty, rock stars, footballers and supermodels!”
Maria’s ability to multitask extends to her furniture. The Chishack style is predominantly white, and while busy parents might be forgiven for wondering whether such a colour scheme, is, well, sensible, with young children around, Maria doesn’t see it as a problem. “People often ask us how we keep our own home so clean. It’s simple – sticky fingers can be wiped off! All our painted furniture has a protective varnish, and so do our walls. Our sofas have washable slipcovers, and our seats are covered in a wipeable white faux leather fabric.”
Maria is keen on practicality, as well as style in her designs.
“I like homes to feel homely – which is all about comfort. I also think that white interiors are peaceful and calming. We like to ensure that pieces remain useful, even after children have grown up. A chest of drawers or an armchair in the nursery could later be in a sitting room or bedroom. Classic style never dates.”
Maria’s passion for design and her enthusiasm for family life can really be combined to maximum fun effect when it’s time for the children’s parties. “We just love birthday parties! We blow up balloons, decorate fairy cakes and put out fabulous bunting in the back garden. We take our themes very seriously – whether it’s cowboy parties with real hay, or baby angels with everything white and fluffy, we all get very excited.”
Ultimately, it’s Maria’s experiences as a parent which inspire her work. “Parenthood has taught us about unconditional love, and all the joy and laughter that children bring us through the simplest things. I believe that a child’s space is a very important element of their growth. It makes me feel good to know that I help to create their special places, and that hopefully they will be happy ones.”
Looking to the future, Maria hopes one day to further improve family life with a base in her native Portugal. “Gary is South African, and we were both brought up near the sea. We have a plan for a dream house that would be a perfect connection between the ocean and nature. We’d like to get all our families and friends together and create laid back and carefree holidays – it would be pure chill-out time.”
“My favourite things are good food, sunshine, laughing with friends and, above all, my family – living with five boys! At home we celebrate life daily.”