From Blooms to Bedrooms: Powerhouse Design Duo Share Garden and Interior Tips


April 21, 2024

Kacey Perez

In the realm of design, where creativity meets functionality, the voices of Jojo Barr and Pollyanna Wilkinson resonate with profound insights and shared passion. As co-hosts of ‘The Ins & Outs Podcast’, they invite listeners into a world where interior and landscape design converge, offering a glimpse into the intricacies of crafting spaces that transcend the ordinary.

Barr, a luminary in the world of interior design, brings a wealth of experience honed through her illustrious career at House Nine Design. With a foundation rooted in authenticity and timelessness, her approach to design is as much about building relationships with clients as it is about creating stunning interiors. Her commitment to understanding the essence of each project ensures that no two spaces feel alike, a testament to her unwavering dedication to client satisfaction.

Wilkinson, a visionary in landscape design, breathes life into outdoor spaces with a blend of creativity and sustainability from Studio Pollyanna. Drawing from her background in marketing and a deep-seated love for gardening, Polly infuses her designs with eco-friendly practices while maintaining a keen eye for aesthetic appeal. Her award-winning gardens stand as testament to her ability to harmonize nature’s beauty with the practical needs of everyday homeowners.

Together, Barr and Wilkinson host The Ins & Outs, a podcast that transcends the boundaries of conventional design discourse. Through candid conversations and listener Q&A sessions, they dive into the nuances of their respective fields, offering insights into everything from the intricate details of interior decor to the grandeur of garden landscapes.

We sat down with Barr and Wilkinson to explore the depths of their expertise and uncover the inspiration behind their podcast. Here’s what they had to say:

Jojo, your approach to interior design emphasizes authenticity and timelessness. How do you ensure that each project reflects these values while still meeting the unique needs and tastes of your clients?

Our approach at House Nine is deeply collaborative, involving a team of trusted craftspeople and a diverse range of suppliers. This ensures that we can create interiors that are not only individual and timeless but also align with our client’s visions. We place great importance on warmth, honesty and informality throughout the process, building strong relationships with our clients and striving to exceed expectations at every turn. My hands-on approach, grounded in rigorous research and a profound understanding of both the client’s brief and the architectural character of the space, guarantees that no two projects are alike. Authentic, timeless design is the cornerstone of my practice, influencing every decision from spatial planning to the selection of soft furnishings. The satisfaction of bringing a client’s vision to life, surpassing their expectations, is immensely fulfilling.

Polly, coming from a background in marketing before transitioning to garden design, how has your previous experience influenced your approach to creating outdoor spaces?

Funnily enough it’s probably the skills that I learned through my counselling training that I find more helpful – if there is one thing that being a therapist teaches you, it’s how to listen and listen to what is unsaid as well as said. So much of being a good designer is hinged on understanding the client brief – and that means really taking the time to understand your client and the aspirations and motivations – not just creating what you feel like. The best gardens are those where I fully grasp what the client hopes to achieve, and then bring ideas to the table that they may not have even considered until it ends up being beyond their expectations. 

Jojo, you mentioned a hands-on approach to design. Could you elaborate on how this approach shapes the way you work with clients and your team at House Nine Design?

Our hands-on approach profoundly shapes our interactions with our clients and the dynamics within my team. By directly engaging in the design process, we foster deeper collaborations with clients through workshops, site meetings, and real-time feedback sessions. This involvement allows us to understand their needs and vision more comprehensively.

Internally, our hands-on activities promote team collaboration and creativity. Through tactile experiences and idea sharing, we spark innovation and arrive at unique solutions together. Additionally, our iterative design process, fueled by continuous experimentation and prototyping, ensures that we refine ideas rapidly, with clients actively participating in the evolution of their projects.

Overall, our hands-on approach cultivates a culture of collaboration, creativity, and client-centricity within our studio, enabling us to deliver impactful and successful projects consistently.

JoJo Barr, owner of House Nine Design and co-host of podcast 'The ins and Outs' sitting on a bed in a room she designed holding a cup of coffee wearing a black long-sleeved top with jeans.
Jojo Barr, Co-Host of “The Ins and Outs Podcast’.

Polly, with your passion for sustainability, how do you integrate eco-friendly practices into your garden designs while maintaining aesthetic appeal?

One of the privileges of working in garden design is that much of what we do is adding to the environment rather than taking away. We always add planting to gardens which are rich in nectar to support pollinators, whether it be in borders, wildflower meadows, orchards and more. We add wildlife friendly elements such as log piles, ponds, lakes, bat and bird boxes, insect hotels and native hedging to support invertebrates, and small mammals, the list is endless! Paired with that we are conscious of the materials we use – I love to source local materials which not only reflect the aesthetic of the locality, which always makes a design feel like it makes sense, but also keep the carbon footprint to a minimum. None of these interventions compromise a design in any way – in fact, they add to it. 

Both of you bring different expertise to ‘The Ins and Outs Podcast’, blending interior and landscape design. How do you find common ground between these two disciplines when discussing design concepts on air?

Despite working in different fields the parallels are uncanny. We both originally bonded over the shared challenges of running design businesses whilst juggling family life and striving to maintain an identity of our own at the same time! The terrain may differ but the challenges and design principles remain the same whether indoors or out, so finding common ground is effortless. 

Pollyanna Wilkinson, owner of Studio Pollyanna and co-host of podcast 'The ins and Outs' posing outdoors while leaning on a fence wearing a white, loose fitting button up shirt with kaki dress pants.
Pollyanna Wilkinson, Co-Host of The Ins and Outs Podcast.

Jojo, you’ve mentioned the importance of understanding the nature of a building and its surroundings in your design process. How do you balance preserving the architectural integrity of a space with implementing modern design elements?

Bringing architects, interior, and landscape designers together at the project’s inception is pivotal. Collaborating closely from the outset enables us to uphold the building’s architectural integrity while seamlessly integrating contemporary elements that align with our clients’ lifestyles. At House Nine, our team and I conduct thorough research for each project, ensuring that the space is contextualised within its surroundings. We strive to incorporate local elements wherever feasible, creating a harmonious connection between the design and its environment.

Polly, your work has been recognized with multiple RHS medals and People’s Choice awards. How do you approach the challenge of creating award-winning garden designs while ensuring they remain accessible and practical for everyday homeowners?

Ultimately my goal is to create the garden that my client wants. The worst thing a designer can do is disregard the needs and wants of the clients and make something that is beautiful but impractical. It’s just not fair on the client, even if it does make for a fabulous photo! That said, I am not afraid of challenging my clients – they are paying me to bring my expertise and eye to a project and they can trust me to gently steer them away from mistakes or lost opportunities. Oftentimes clients have a set idea in their head of what they want their garden to look, or are very married to their lawns and it’s my job to show them alternative solutions and explain the reason why handing a little more garden over to planting is going to be the difference between a standard garden and one that not only looks fabulous but brings enormous enjoyment and seasonal interest. 

Jojo, in your experience, how do you navigate the balance between staying true to your design vision and incorporating client feedback and preferences?

In my journey as a designer, I have learned to navigate the delicate balance between maintaining fidelity to my design vision and integrating client feedback by cultivating transparent communication, delving into the underlying objectives driving our clients brief and leveraging creativity. By maintaining open channels of communication throughout the project, I ensure that the clients feel heard and valued, facilitating a collaborative process where their input is thoughtfully considered alongside my design principles. Understanding the deeper motivations behind their feedback enables me to discern common ground and identify opportunities for synergy, allowing me to adapt and refine the design without compromising its integrity. Through creative exploration and innovative problem-solving, I strive to exceed client aspirations, ultimately leading to a mutually satisfying outcome.

Polly, as a visiting lecturer at the Yorkshire School of Garden Design, what key principles or lessons do you emphasize to your students when teaching about garden design and can anyone at home apply these principles in their own garden designs?

One of the main design principles I stand by is the principle of balance. This is the ultimate aim of any garden design. I want a garden to feel like it balances out both in terms of proportions and in terms of the mass with the void. In a garden a void is any flat surface, such as lawn, paving and pathways. Mass is planting, furniture, or structures. As a general rule I want about 60% of your garden to be planting, and 40% to be paved/lawn etc. This is usually where most people trip up and go too far in the other direction – lots of paving, not enough plants.

Both of you have mentioned the restorative benefits of design and gardening. How do you incorporate elements of wellness and mindfulness into your projects to enhance the overall experience for clients?

The number of studies that demonstrate the benefit of spending time in nature means simply creating a garden you want to spend time in is already an enormous benefit. But in terms of specifics, I make sure to include plenty of different seating spaces in a garden, preferably away from the house which draw you into the space and therefore further into nature. I love to include gentle water features, the sound of which allow for a moment of mindfulness. To me it’s the little things which bring that feeling of wellbeing – watching a bee gather nectar on your newly planted borders, or birds flitting in amongst new trees, that bring an enormous sense of satisfaction.

Polly, what are some plants you think every garden should have? 

Can I choose a favourite child instead? It’s going to sound cliche, but it really does depend on your garden and something that many underestimate is that every garden has different soil and light conditions meaning that there is no broad brush answer to this. Rather than giving specific plants, I would say all gardens need to be planted with seasonality at its core. A garden needs winter structure in the form of evergreens, whether formal topiary balls or looser evergreen shrubs, followed by oodles of spring bulbs, and then summer really needs to be treated as two seasons – early and late. Ignore late summer at your peril – your garden will look tired by July. And then autumn interest in the form of flaming oranges and reds is key. If I was forced to choose a plant I would include in every garden? Probably an ornamental grass such as Miscanthus. 

Jojo, if a reader is prepping to remodel a space or redesigning a room, what are some important things to consider before they dive into the project?

Start with a clear plan. Understand the floorplan, decide on finishes for floors, walls, and ceilings early to manage costs effectively. Planning electrical and lighting is crucial – give yourself ample time for this. Focus on hard ‘core’ finishes and longer lead-time items first, like radiators, before moving on to soft furnishings. Always visualise how you intend to use your space and plan backward from there. Go back to your mood board regularly to help with this, but make sure it’s not over-cluttered with soft finishings. Remember, planning is key; don’t rush into renovations without a well-considered strategy. 

How can readers submit their questions to The Ins and Outs Podcast if they are interested in submitting one?

We love hearing from our listeners! If you’ve got a question or a topic you’d like us to explore, head to our Instagram page @the_insandouts_ and message us with your questions! 

To submit your questions to Jojo and Pollyanna for their upcoming episodes, follow them on Instagram @the_insandouts_ and send them a message. Your curiosity could spark the next captivating conversation on The Ins & Outs Podcast.


Written by Kacey Perez | @studioblume_

Images courtesy of Jojo Barr and Pollyanna Wilkinson