How one designer leapt from buzzy Soho to the tranquil Swedish countryside

Meet Kerry, she lives in a little wooden house on the edge of a forest in Sweden. Short of having blue-birds brush her hair in the morning she is essentially living in a Disney film. She is also a designer and loves nothing more than getting creative on her Mac overlooking the wood.

*Warning* this post may induce serious life envy.

work pic.jpg

A coaching guru recently told me ‘It’s all about having a vision’. This vision can change but if you are embarking on a new chapter it helps to envisage where you want to be this time next year etc. Interestingly Kerry Owens, founder of KOHQ never really envisaged the life she now has until she had her first child and something had to shift. This gal is an amazing example of how where you live should never stand in the way of working for yourself. If anything her new tranquil surroundings have enhanced her creativity and work/life balance.

Here is a little peep into life in the forest…

Who you are you and what do you do?

I am Kerry Owens – the KO part of KOHQ. Buckinghamshire born and bred. Lover of all things colourful and creative. Mum of two. Honorary Swede residing in, and renovating, the old school-house of Säljesta, Järvsö – otherwise known as the (very beautiful) arse end of nowhere.

house in snow

“I conjured up my own “head quarters” – a place where I could work on a variety of different things that I love, as a freelancer.”

How did KOHQ come about? Is your background in design? 

My education background is actually fine art. After graduating from Goldsmiths University, I landed a job with a big London publisher and worked my way from events to design. After five amazing years, working on lots of different magazines and websites, I became a full-time mum and moved out to the Swedish countryside. Finding myself in need of a creative outlet and a way to earn money from a remote location, I conjured up my own “head quarters” – a place where I could work on a variety of different things that I love, as a freelancer.

What inspired you to make the move from the steaming metropolis that is London to the wilds of Sweden?

Johan, my Swedish partner, spent many years trying to persuade me that Järvsö was the place to be. I wasn’t buying it. Even though I agreed that it is beautiful, and we spent many happy holidays here, it wasn’t until our first child turned one and I was faced with redundancy from work, that I began warming to the idea of country life and a slower pace (as slow as life can be with small children!) 

k&p&d beach2.jpg

“When we first moved here the silence was deafening, but I appreciate the peace here now. My mind is less cluttered. I’m more contented and I can really focus.”

What are your experiences so far of working for yourself? Things you love and dislike?

Great experiences so far. I love to sit at the computer and draw, so when I’m getting paid to do just that I feel like a total winner. It’s been quite a slow process business wise, because I’m really still a full-time mum, although I now have a precious 15 nursery hours each week to spend working without interruption. But I have been lucky enough to work with some really talented individuals and small companies who have inspired me to go for it.

Oddly, I think many of the things I love and dislike end up being one and the same. Like I love being able to work curled up on my sofa, with a beautiful view of the forest outside the window. But I can miss the buzz of going out to work in the city. I love that it’s so peaceful here and I can think clearly, but I can miss the busyness of an office and a team to bounce ideas off. The one thing I dislike the most is the lack of dedicated tech support! 

What effect do your surroundings have on your working life and life in general? 

I did find London so inspirational. I loved the galleries, the architecture, the mix of cultures. I was in awe of the people around me when I lived there: amazing artists, designers and stylists. But now that I’m living much closer to nature and in a more isolated environment, I actually feel more personally creative.

When we first moved here the silence was deafening, but I appreciate the peace here now. My mind is less cluttered. I’m more contented and I can really focus.

What inspires you when you design?

It depends on the project, but inspiration comes from all over. I love searching for beautiful fonts and colour palettes online and I am often drawn to anything playful – from clothing prints or wallpapers, to classic picture books or childhood toys that I’m revisiting with my own kids now. And the kids themselves are a daily inspiration to be fearless and just go for it. I also love listening to successful creative people talking about their approach. Ilse Crawford is great, to give just one example.

I spent many holidays in the Swedish sun and snow before we actually moved here and I think it really helps to ‘try before you buy’.”

What do you think is the biggest challenge to working on the edge of a forest? (Squirrels?)

Lol 🙂 It’s not so much the squirrels as the ants taking over every summer. Keeping them at bay is not easy. But the heaving ant hills in the forest are mesmerizing and observing the little creatures in their relentless pursuits across great distances is awe-inspiring. 

What advice would you give someone considering a similar move in both location and free-lance design?

I spent many holidays in the Swedish sun and snow before we actually moved here and I think it really helps to “try before you buy”. If you’re moving somewhere remote, learn to drive first and try to avoid being pregnant while you do it: the morning sickness doesn’t help at all! With the freelancing, it’s comforting if you can create a support network around yourself. Befriend like-minded individuals, and seek out people who excel in the areas that you don’t, so that you have a team of sorts to turn to. Failing that, never underestimate the power of a YouTube tutorial when you feel a bit stuck.

What 3 things can you not function without at work?

  • Builder’s tea (on tap). 
  • Adobe Illustrator.
  • My idol RuPaul playing on the stereo – “cause if you can’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?”

What’s next for KOHQ? What are your plans?

This is just the beginning and there’s so much more to do. The HQ is buzzing right now on a project I’m loving, creating branding for an amazing yoga teacher. This year I need to overcome my aversion to social media, get connected and become more visible. I’m working with my daughter on a book of poetry for kids, which I hope to finish soon and share. The dream both Johan and I share is to build an uber-modern treehouse as an office. Fast forward a year and maybe we have a shed, but you have to start somewhere, right?

Kerry xx


Tree houses, social media and a poetry book for children written with her daughter, busy times in Järvsö! Can’t wait to see all this unfold. If you want to follow the further adventures of Kerry or commission her contact her here: KOHQ . AndSoSheDid will be keeping a beady eye on this one and will update you as and when we hear more of her adventures.

Just goes to show that you really can set up something special anywhere, city or country alike as long as you embrace the positives that each environment gives you and learn to see beauty and inspiration regardless (see Ant hill reference!)



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