Once you know that you will be welcoming a new addition to your family, you think of the day of bringing home baby and you start to come up with ideas on how to create the perfect nursery for your new bundle of joy. On top of the list, would be a cot bed for baby to sleep, a changing area and a few baby nursery furniture to complement the room. Setting the mood and theme of the room is also important. Meet Nicola from BB Berkeley. BB-Berkeley specialises in hand-painted murals for children’s rooms. It is a London based company established by Nicola Bell following a 10 year career in fine art. She can produce a work of art, from the tiniest fairy to the most formidable of ogres.
Q1. Tell us a bit about BB-Berkeley it’s quite an unusual company name, is there a story behind it?
I really struggled to choose a name for the company and it took me a while to come up with BB-Berkeley. I wanted a name that meant something to me so definitely didn’t want anything as standard as Nicola Bell Murals or Murals for Kids.
In the end I chose Berkeley as a small tribute to my mother Penny Berkeley who is an artist and who encouraged me and my brother to draw and paint from a very young age. Whilst I say I am predominantly self taught any skill I have is completely down to her. I also chose Berkeley in memory of my grandfather Ballard Berkeley who was an actor (his most memorable role was Major Gowen in Fawlty Towers) but he was also an artist and painter and was keen to help us to draw when we were little, he even used to bring us back his old scripts to use as scrap paper! Both had a big influence on me as an artist.
BB is my nickname so I tied the two together and finally had a name that I thought was catchy, represented the company well and meant the world to me.
Q2. A mural perhaps isn’t the most obvious design choice, what can they add to a child’s bedroom?
Murals can really transform rooms and they don’t have to be on a large scale to achieve this; something small such as Humpty Dumpty sitting on a radiator or a few flower fairies dancing around a skirting board can be just as effective.
Murals also help release the full potential of children’s imaginations – a bedroom becoming a pirate ship or a castle in the middle of a forest isn’t that far fetched for a child but to have their walls come alive with a mural is a wonderful and very exciting thing. One of my favourite memories from a past project was a flower mural I painted for a little girl, who insisted on looking very carefully behind the radiator to make sure any fairies hadn’t got lost behind it!
Q3. With an extensive range of wall stickers available on the market why would someone choose to have a hand-painted mural?
Wall stickers are fantastic and there are some great ones on the market but they are mass produced and popular so you are guaranteed to come across them time and time again in other children’s bedrooms. A hand-painted mural is completely tailored to the child and the layout of the room; absolutely anything is possible, the choices are endless and any room shape no matter how quirky can be catered to. The end result is a unique, long lasting piece that really reflects the things your child loves, not to mention they are far more affordable than people may think!
Q4. I love London because…
I was born and grew up here so this is where most of my family and friends are based which makes it easy to love, but aside from that and aside from the many years I have lived here London never fails to surprise me. I go on long walks through the city and even if I stick to well trodden routes I will come across something new, from tiny hidden alleyways, to galleries and pubs there’s always something.
It is a city of contradictions; ancient and ever changing, it keeps me on my toes and I love it for that most of all.
Q5. What do you offer which other mural companies don’t?
Children have amazing imaginations and murals are a wonderful way of encouraging this but I think that the illusion can be spoilt if the mural isn’t perfect. I have a background in fine art which I know can make me a bit critical but I think there’s nothing worse than characters in a mural not being painted accurately…Winnie-the-Pooh with one leg too short or Nemo with wonky fins!
As such I do a lot of research into each mural (I’m an expert on most children’s books and cartoons now!) and work out exactly how the design will best fit into the room. For me a mural is not about plonking a Peter Rabbit here and a Gruffalo there, I assess the space available and balance this with the specifications of the client and their child, then ensure the finish is to a very high standard.
A BB-Berkeley mural is a service rather than a product which involves the parent and child every step of the way from the initial consultation and preliminary sketches right through to the final unveiling of the mural itself as well as offering future repair jobs and alterations.