The C&TH pick of the 50 best interior designers: this is the only A-Z you’ll ever need, putting the best UK-based creatives at your fingertips, whether you want to commission bespoke cabinetry or an in-home cinema, restore a Roman palazzo or redesign an avant-garde apartment. By Emma Love Listen & Subscribe to the House Guest Podcast with Interiors Editor Carole Annett
Best Interior Designers UK 2020
Since he founded Andrew Martin more than 40 years ago, Martin Waller has garnered a reputation for translating his far-flung travels into interiors. ‘Homes should be the backdrop to life, full of memories and things that have been collected,’ says Martin, who considers art and artefacts the key to individuality.
His design projects run the gamut from James Bond movie sets to a global bank. ‘The bank has strong links with Asia, so we reconstructed a Thai sala in the entrance hall, complete with its original wooden stilts and an antique Buddha on a plinth under the beams.’ He has also recently completed a home in London where he hung a yellow submarine on the red brick wall of an internal courtyard (‘that was pretty dramatic,’ he admits), and collaborated with Kit Kemp on a fabric and wallpaper collection.
Since the 1960s, famed Belgian art and antiques dealer turned decorator Axel Vervoordt has been creating harmonious interiors that eschew the overly decorative in favour of authentic materials. Today, Axel’s eldest son Boris heads up the interior design division as well as the Home Collection and Axel Vervoordt Gallery at Kanaal, a multi-use real-estate development in a former gin distillery on the outskirts of Antwerp.
‘Art has always been integral to our work,’ says Boris. “I’m drawn to the idea of the contemporary ‘kunstkammer’ – a classic art room – and living with artefacts from different cultures.’ Past studio highlights include the penthouse at The Greenwich Hotel in New York which was inspired by the Tribeca neighbourhood’s industrial heritage fused with the Japanese aesthetic of Wabi Sabi (the notion of seeing beauty in the imperfect). ‘Building a future that respects the past is a central philosophy in all our work,’ he concludes.
‘Playful and irreverent’ – that’s how Beata Heuman describes her style. Since setting up her studio in 2013, the Swedish interior designer has quickly become known for her simple palettes embellished with bespoke furniture, colourful pattern and surreal details. ‘I’ve been using a lot of tonal blues and I’m getting excited about a particular shade of raspberry red,’ says Beata, who always starts with the furniture layout first. ‘When we produce a scheme we tend to not leave anything out, even in an initial presentation. It’s about the whole room and every item contributes to the overall feel.’
She only takes on projects that are a good fit for the studio, which means she is thrilled about all her ongoing work, from designing the interiors of a waterfront new build in Hamburg to refurbishing a 20th-century townhouse in Rotterdam and adding the finishes to a 19th-century, Greek revival, white-clapboard building in Nantucket. ‘It is our first big project in America. The house was absolutely stunning even before we began but I think we have managed to help make it a proper home.’
Influenced by historical interiors of all periods, Ben Pentreath’s architectural and interior design studio has been championing English country style for the last 15 years, for a roster of A-list clients that includes Liv Tyler and Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge (whose Kensington Palace apartment he revamped). Alongside stand-alone residences, such as a Regency country house in Hampshire and a townhouse in London, he is working on a new development in Truro for the Duchy of Cornwall that features a Royal Crescent (‘to bring an architectural edge to the city’).
He is also master planning and designing Tornagrain, a new town in the Scottish Highlands with 5,000 homes and an enormous park at its heart, for the Earl of Moray. At the end of last year he celebrated ten years of Pentreath & Hall, the Lambs Conduit Street furniture, lighting and homeware shop he set up in London’s Bloomsbury with decorative artist Bridie Hall.
Co-founded by Shayne Brady and Emily Williams in 2013 (who previously worked at David Collins Studio and Louise Bradley respectively), Brady Williams specialises in timeless elegant schemes. ‘Our work reflects what we both value in design, which is acute attention to detail, pared-back style and a love for combining materials influenced by nature and art,’ says Emily,who names French interior designer Jean-Louis Deniot as an inspiring contemporary.
They are especially drawn to using interesting wall finishes, whether linen panels or hand-painted high-gloss. ‘We also like to mix periods of furniture and vary our colour palettes from very calm and neutral to rich and punchy, depending on the space and brief,’ says Shayne. Past commercial spaces include Cafe Wolseley in Bicester Village and the beauty and fragrance departments in Fenwick; more recently they have completed two apartments for the Floral Court Collection in Covent Garden and a Regency house in central London. Last year, the duo also launched the London Collection, their first furniture edit.
Duncan Campbell and Charlotte Rey met more than a decade ago while editing Acne Studios’ bi-annual in-house publication, Acne Paper. They set up Campbell-Rey in 2014, first as creative directors and brand consultants before branching out into interior design to create spaces that are playful, almost fantastical. ‘The way a room makes you feel is the most important thing,’ says Duncan, listing a house in Kent and a cinema, bar and entertaining space in the south of France as two of their ongoing commitments.
Their decorating schemes often feature an element of surprise, such as a hidden bar or a piece of furniture that rotates to perform a second function, as well as plenty of colour and texture. ‘Trompe l’oeil is something we return to and greenery is always fun. We love materials like coloured marble, rattan and beautifully veined rosewood, and have been working with Murano craftsmen for a number of years so handmade glass is also integral to our practice.’ One to watch.
A chance meeting at an antiques fair led Audrey Carden and Eleanora Cunietti to join forces in 1996, opening an interiors shop together in Notting Hill. For the past 12 years they have focused only on interior design, working with clients ‘to transform houses into homes’. Rattan, leather, woven textiles, and ceramics by Willer are all on their mood board right now, along with shades of Hermès orange and forest green.
‘We love working with colour, even if it’s just a pop in a neutral scheme, and wood and metal feature a lot in our custom cabinetry,’ says Audrey, who nominates Italian architect Carlo Scarpa as the ultimate design genius. The pair also like to introduce the unexpected, such as a Georgian piece in a modern interior, ‘to bring a room to life’. Current projects include a country house in the Cotswolds, a villa in Tunbridge Wells and a penthouse in Los Angeles.
Former aviation finance lawyer-turned-interior designer Noor Charchafchi currently splits her work time between show homes for a major UK developer, a penthouse for a private client in Kensington and a mansion in Surrey. Opulent yet understated, her flawlessly-finished spaces are the result of ‘implementing hundreds of details’, from bespoke furniture and hand-painted wallpapers (‘the hours of creativity and dedication that go into them is inspirational’) to metalwork set off against soft, stained timbers and fabrics.
‘There’s something about the irony of a cold, hard metal inserted very delicately into an interior that always seems to add depth and interest. We are using more metals in our joinery,’ she elaborates. Also in the pipeline are projects in the Emirates, Jordan and Qatar, as well as a family home in Knightsbridge.
A stalwart of the British interior design scene, Chester Jones was an architect and managing director of Sibyl Colefax & John Fowler before setting up his own studio in 1990. Today his two sons Ben and Toby are at the helm and take the same low-key approach for which their father is renowned. (Chester still occasionally designs interiors for close friends.)
‘We are interested in the identity of a building’s personality and the lifestyle of our clients,’ says Toby. ‘The pleasure is in finding a marriage between the two – or the degree to which a building may be changed to serve the owner while retaining its character.’ Signature touches include hand-polished furniture and materials such as cracked ebony and patinated, blackened steel. ‘Our interiors often resonate with the influence of French architects and designers Paul Dupré-Lafon and Pierre Chareau.’
Order and symmetry are primary principles in pulling a room together for Anthony Collett and Andrzej Zarzycki. The Zambian-born, London-based designers began their interior and architectural design practice in 1988 and are recognised for their classic and contemporary aesthetic, which is applied whether the client has a villa in Zürich or a safari lodge in South Africa.
‘Having been born in Zambia, it was special to build something from scratch in Africa, it felt a bit like coming home,’ says Andrzej of the lodge. ‘The emphasis was on connecting inside-outside spaces.’ The duo are inspired by classical architecture and Arts and Crafts ideals, using natural materials such as wood, stone, linen and wool. For the last two decades the studio has collaborated with Christopher Farr on bespoke rugs for residences, releasing a capsule collection this year for the first time.
DAVID COLLINS STUDIO
Led by creative director Simon Rawlings, the prolific David Collins Studio is behind some of the most prestigious hotel, restaurant and retail spaces across the globe. Last year, in the UK alone, this included designing Roux at the Landau, Kerridge’s Bar & Grill at the Corinthia London, Harrods’ Fresh Market Hall and Men’s Superbrands fashion space, plus the Carriage House restaurant at Adare Manor in Ireland.
‘Practicality is the common thread,’ says Simon, speaking of their separate commercial and residential workloads. ‘Spaces must function like a well-oiled machine,’ he explains. Fabrics are often used in interesting ways, such as tapestry and embroidered velvets, pleating and embossed leather. This year sees the launch of the David Collins collection for Baker.
‘It’s a continual balance of pattern vs plain, starting from the rug upwards,’ says Douglas Mackie, who always uses textiles to create a cohesive scheme. ‘We will typically feature antique fabrics, often as accents on sofas and chairs, and, particularly in country houses, larger panels mounted or framed.’
He continually strives to get the balance right between modern and old, sourcing furniture from different eras as backdrop for a client’s collection of artwork and sculpture. Plenty of colour is also key – earlier this year he visited the Mantegna and Bellini exhibition at the National Gallery and was wowed by the vividness of the paintings; he is ‘in the middle of a love affair with burnt orange’. Whether he’s working on a large estate in Switzerland or a London townhouse, expect rich layers of texture, the most comfortable upholstery possible and an original palette.
Trained architect Charu Gandhi – who worked as an interior designer for Candy & Candy before setting up her own practice in 2014 – takes a spatial to interiors that focuses on the flow of a room and the interplay of light. She and her team have worked on a range of properties ranging from a One Hyde Park residence that featured marble sculptures by Helaine Blumenfeld, bespoke joinery and straw marquetry to a show apartment for the developer Omniyat at One Palm in Dubai, as well as small-scale commissions such as creating a jewel-like cabinet for a whisky collector.
Charu only takes on assignments where the studio can give 100 percent – whether that means scouring the globe for exactly the right type of stone, working with the world’s leading glass makers or transporting a piece of embroidery back and forth between India and France as stitches are added. It’s important to ‘have an understanding of the ultimate balance between luxury and artisan techniques,’ she says.
FIONA BARRATT INTERIORS
‘My designs predominantly have a neutral palette so I add contrast through experimenting with materials, perhaps pairing marble and bronze with a lighter material such as glass,’ explains Fiona Barratt-Campbell who, since setting up her practice 13 years ago, has worked on commissions as diverse as a villa in Sardinia and a lodge in Verbier. Select pieces from her FBC London collection (which includes furniture, lighting and wall coverings) are often threaded through an interior tempered with bespoke items, antiques and colourful art or ceramics.
‘Navy with gold, ochre and olive are all on my design boards now,’ says Fiona. ‘For me, inspiration should be project-based, so the Far East – Oriental furniture, carpets and textiles – is a focus at present due to a Chinese client.’ In a similar way, for a recent apartment in Rome, her design referenced Italian culture, including traditional art and frescoes, and the warm hues of the local landscape.
‘I’m very bored of pink and brass,’ says interior designer Fran Hickman. It’s no wonder: her colour and material choices are far more imaginative than that. From the White City Television Centre show apartment which featured animal prints and an aubergine hued living room to the Richard Meier-designed East Hampton home of stylist Elizabeth Saltzman, where she restored the interiors to their 1960s maximalist glory, she encourages clients to be adventurous and experimental (to this end she is looking at joining the Institute of Making, a materials library).
Fran, who set up her Notting Hill practice in 2014, describes her elegant design style as ‘purposeful and restrained’ and cites photographers Robert Polidori and Candida Hofer as inspiration. Her roster of ongoing work includes Locket’s wine bar in St James, a shopping salon for FarFetch in Tokyo and a country house in Gloucestershire.
HARDING & READ
Nicola Harding and Orla Read (the practice was set up by Nicola in 2008; Orla joined three years later) are celebrated for eclectic spaces combining bespoke items with fabulous flea market finds. ‘We favour soulful, well-made pieces that tell a story, combined with unusual colours and compelling textiles to generate interiors rich in atmosphere,’ says Nicola.
Case in point: transforming a tired working men’s pub in Kent into a charming seaside hotel, The Rose, which opened to much fanfare last year. The pair are currently completing a hotel in a Regency building overlooking the cathedral in Hereford, a Victorian family home on the River Thames, a timber-framed eco-build in Surrey and a penthouse apartment in Fitzrovia, owned by a film director.
HELEN GREEN DESIGN
‘Elegant, considered and beautifully created,’ says creative director Tim Murray summing up the Helen Green Design philosophy. The studio, which was founded by the late Helen Green in 2002, is also noted for its gentle colour palettes and collaborations with specialist suppliers that mean ‘clients can enjoy the uniqueness of the bespoke worlds we commission for them.’
Fine wools consistently appear in both upholstery and architectural elements (as a cashmere sheer curtain say), joinery detailing is exemplary and Tim is currently looking to various shades of green, particularly sage which was prevalent on the men’s catwalks (‘amalachite stone veneer crossed my desk from one of our artisan makers and I’m thinking of incorporating it into the design for a client’s drinks cabinet,’ he says). Most recently, the studio completed the interiors of a new-build family home in Melbourne, putting open-air living at the centre of the scheme.
A confident use of colour – often soft, powdery tones used together – is one of Jo Hamilton’s calling cards. This textural interior designer, who set up her studio nearly 25 years ago, also likes to experiment with warm metals and velvets, wood and stone. ‘I can’t get enough of reeded glass at the moment, we’re using it as a curved divider for a lobby,’ she enthuses. ‘I steer clear of anything too matchy-matchy and like a space to feel tranquil, with a lovely honest edge.’
Jo has just finished a home in north London that involved creating a red-velvet-lined cinema, with vintage lights on individual tables by each seat. While she doesn’t follow design rules, she always invests in curtains and rugs. ‘They are like a good pair of shoes: they will make or break the rest of the room.’
JOANNA PLANT INTERIORS
Whether working on a Georgian house in Kew or a finca-style new build in the Ibizan countryside, Joanna Plant prioritises ‘comfort first, closely followed by beauty but always with an eye on practicality’. It’s an approach that has won her a legion of fans, including Poppy Delevingne.
Antiques are essential to any scheme and, together with her husband Nick, she scours the internet and flea markets for pieces that give age to a room. ‘Patina is a much-used word in our office,’ she says. ‘Old things give a room so much personality from the off.’ Other recurring themes are cosy rugs, simple lighting and archival prints and pattern. Her style is rooted in traditional English decorating and she often visits historic houses and gardens for inspiration. Ultimately, though, her primary aim is ‘to design houses that look like you could have a good time in them’.
Everyone from Janet Jackson, a prominent F1 figure, and a Middle Eastern Queen has sought out Katharine Pooley’s impeccably chic design eye. She has a truly global design presence with projects and clients worldwide. Current commissions include a cliff top Villa in Cannes, a palatial family home in Kuwait and projects in Hong Kong, Washington & London. A glance at her portfolio of recently completed work reflects her diverse and flexible design style: A historic private estate in the Surrey countryside, an Island beach Villa in the Persian Gulf and Hotel projects in Europe and Asia, are some examples from the last year alone.
Assouline recently published Katharine’s book,
, which features some of her most striking interiors from the last 15 years and links them to her international outlook. ‘All of my inspiration comes from my extensive travels, most notably, from the wonders of the natural world and all of the varied detailing and colours one can find there.’ The contents of Katharine’s book are mesmerisingly wide-ranging and artfully illustrate the lightness of touch, impeccable detailing and use of luxurious finishes that her style has become synonymous with. Journey by Design katharinepooley.com
One of the best-known names in the British interior design industry, Kelly Hoppen OBE is renowned for her love of taupe. ‘Neutral palettes are timeless and luxurious: they will always provide the foundation of my designs, with colour added through accessories and soft furnishings,’ says Kelly. ‘I love matte black too, especially metals – in taps and grid style, framed windows and interior panels. Accents of black add drama to the home, and matte black in particular helps to add depth and modernity, while being much softer and warmer than gloss black.’
Her time is evenly split between the commercial (she designed the Celebrity Edge ship for Celebrity Cruises, which launched last year) and residential. For the latter, she says, it’s important to find out what makes someone tick. ‘People often find it difficult to articulate exactly what they want, so I sometimes ask them what song they would choose to describe how they want the room to feel, which can be met with surprise!’
A family home in Hammersmith, a period property in Cambridge and an apartment within Battersea Power Station are all current Kitesgrove projects. Texture and colour combine with art, antiques and bespoke pieces ‘in narratives that capture the spirit of the client and the essence of a space’. The six-year-old studio, headed up by creative director Sophie Elborne, lists ‘quality, comfort, liveability and authenticity’ as its cornerstones of good design.
‘We want to ensure longevity, so that homes evolve and improve over time,’ says Sophie, who has been working on products themed around slow living. ‘Naturally this is filtering down to our interiors and raising questions about how the spaces we live in influence our daily habits and define us.’
The big change at Linley is that last year Keech Green became part of the interior design division of the brand. Creative directors Michael Keech and Graham Green – who were part of the team at Ralph Lauren Home before branching out on their own in 2002 – made a name for themselves with their unobtrusive aesthetic that puts architecture first. ‘Our approach is quite simple: it’s important not to impose a style on clients,’ says Graham, who cites a superyacht as their most memorable design.
‘Some clients want to radically change an entire house, others simply add a staircase and reorganise a space; in each case we start with the building itself.’ They are working on ‘three vast classical country houses, dotted around the English landscape’ – a 48,000 sqft new build, Baroque-style country house in Yorkshire, an Edwardian house in Berkshire and a Georgian mansion in Hampshire, with a medieval core.
MARTIN HULBERT DESIGN
Martin Hulbert and Jay Grierson create award-winning interiors for hotels such as Barnsley House, Chewton Glen and the Grove in Narbeth, where they have just returned to complete public spaces such as the drawing room, bar and restaurant. The pair have worked together for the last 19 years and specialise in ‘tailored design with an air of relaxed spontaneity’.
Continuing projects include a private estate in Italy, a holiday home in Corfu and a new, still-under-wraps, country house hotel in the UK. ‘We tend to use natural pigment-type colours across the spectrum, depending on the aspect of a room. If a colour is too intense it can be tiring,’ says Jay. ‘We often mix linen with antiques, perspex and glass, and particularly like handmade things that add personality and a sense of place.’
MARTIN KEMP DESIGN
Whether designing a polo club in Saint-Tropez, a sensational ski chalet or a private jet, former Candy & Candy director Martin Kemp takes a discrete approach to design – which is just one of the many reasons he has been a go-to for the super-prime market since setting up his own company seven years ago.
He cites one of his stand-out designs as Clarges Mayfair, a development overlooking Green Park consisting of luxury residences, a spa and cinema, which completed last year. ‘It was one of our largest multi-units to date and it embodies a spirit we love to embrace: elegant and individual,’ reflects Martin who is working on two homes in the Bahamas, an apartment in New York and a couple of superyachts. ‘Our objective is always to achieve a sense of comfort, whether the style is dynamic and modern or timeless.’
‘Materiality is at the heart of my design style,’ says former Miami-based architect Natalia Miyar who was design director at Helen Green Design before setting up on her own in 2016. ‘We use layered finishes to soften a space: rich cut-velvets for upholstery, deeply grained woods, hammered metallics, vintage mirroring, coloured marble, lustrous gemstones. We just finished a ceiling with ripped and hand-painted tea paper and the walls had a contrasting gesso finish.’
Weaving colour and pattern together with a glamorous sensibility in well-thought out tactile spaces, she prides herself on helping clients to find their own design identity – whether working on a refinedvilla in St John’s Wood with grand architectural proportions, a family house in Holland Park with a dramatic pool or an apartment in Knightsbridge with earthy tones and striking fabrics that complement the client’s art collection. Current inspiration? ‘Mexican design from the 1970s for colours: ochre, burnt orange, avocado green.’
From a royal residence in Jordan to a palazzo in Rome, a chalet in Gstaad to a country house in the UK, Nina Campbell’s extraordinary portfolio reflects almost 50 years’ experience in the business. Whatever the property, she deems the floor plan to be the most important factor.
‘I ask questions about the way people live, how they entertain and what happens in the room, then try to find little ways of drawing everyone in and making sure that they are comfortable,’ says Nina, who is busy decorating extra rooms for members’ club The Brook in New York and a private hunting lodge in Savannah. Influences at the moment include the subtle pinks, purples and greens favoured by the Scottish School of artists. ‘One is always inspired by seeing things; I’m waiting for a revival of Queen Anne furniture, having watched the film The Favourite’.
PAOLO MOSCHINO FOR NICHOLAS HASLAM
Since he took over Nicholas Haslam nearly 25 years ago, Paolo Moschino has steadily grown the business, which consists of a fabric and furniture collection and an interior design studio (the latter is overseen by Philip Vergeylen, who joined him in 2008). Expect ‘classic with a twist’ schemes that involve natural materials (reclaimed floors, bronze, linens) and eye-catching elements.
Take one of their latest projects, a hunting lodge in Scotland. ‘We were tasked to create warm interiors that hug people. For the library/bar, we featured oak panelling treated by a world-class Belgian company, a dove-blue painted ceiling with antique brass detailing, and deep red and tan leather chairs. For contrast, there is also a burnt orange contemporary rug made of sari silk,’ says Paolo, whose influences range from French antique dealer and designer Madeleine Castaing to American interior designer Albert Hadley. Slated for this year are chalets in Courchevel and Gstaad, several houses in the Dominican Republic and, in Portofino, working with a client whose ambition is ‘to have one of the best gardens in the Mediterranean’.
South African interior designer Penny Morrison’s trademark style is comfortable living: elegant yet relaxed interiors compiled from a deliberate jumble of the old and new, resulting in a congenial, welcoming atmosphere. ‘I think all spaces should be adaptable and have a little surprise,’ says Penny, whose career in the industry spans 35 years. Large pictures and paintings, lots of lamps and vintage textiles usually all appear somewhere; also key to her style is her range of ‘floppy linen’ fabrics and bespoke wallpapers, printed to order in her studio on the Welsh Borders.
‘I tend to start with the furniture and rugs as these are the hardest things to find, get the layout working and then build up with decorative accessories,’ she continues. A fan of lacquered walls in dark rooms, to reflect the light, she also likes to mix colours without worrying too much about them matching. Ongoing projects are a partial rebuild in Sussex and a house in Berkshire.
Since former fashion designer Peter Mikic switched to interiors in 2006, the Australian has shown a natural flair for playful yet luxurious spaces filled with intriguing pieces. ‘The transition was smooth because both require the same level of dedication,’ says Peter, whose first solo commission was a yacht called Elisabeth F that went on to win awards at the Monaco Yacht Show. ‘I like to start afresh with every client and aim for the almighty: no copy, no paste, no guide book.’
He has a flair for making period houses feel positively fresh (he has just completed a townhouse in Notting Hill, where he combined the client’s Victorian and Georgian pieces with colour blocking and mid-century furniture). As well as sourcing antiques from all eras, he designs his own range of bespoke furniture and collaborates with forgers and glass-blowers to produce beautifully-crafted pieces. Quality and harmony are especially important: ‘a room should be comfortable and opulent, whether minimal or maximal,’ he concludes.
Beirut-born architect, designer and chartered RIBA member, Rabih Hage is a passionate believer in ‘quiet architecture’ – the philosophy of creatively repurposing existing structures where possible rather than bulldozing and rebuilding. This thoughtful and considered approach, which looks at architecture, interiors and furniture design as a holistic entity, can be seen in his book of the same name, published at the end of last year, which features 16 case studies split into country and town houses, pied-à-terres and hotels.
‘There is no need to wipe out an existing building to start anew just for the sake of it. Respecting the past is modernity,’ says Rabih in the introduction. What all his interiors share is a feeling of ‘wit and warmth, integrating a contemporary design edge with functional and sculptural objects’. A hotel in Finland is in the pipeline and he has built a self-initiated prototype for a social housing development that can be constructed across the world.
Up-and-coming interior designer Rachel Chudley may only have set up her eponymous practice four years ago but already she is making a name for herself with her artsy, imaginative spaces that have a real sense of fun. ‘I believe quality of life is improved with art; every project we have worked on has had art as a focus in some way. Whether it’s a client’s painting that has provided inspiration for a scheme or a bespoke item we have procured, art is at the centre of our interiors,’ says Rachel who studied history of art at the Courtauld Institute and employs artists as well as designers at her east London studio.
Clients (who include her friend playwright Polly Stenham) continually push her to think out-of-the-box and she counts American colour consultant Donald Kaufman as a collaborator and mentor. ‘The joy of decorating for me is experimenting and exploring new colour combinations,’ she says.
This January, to mark eleven years of working together, New York-based interior designer Miles Redd officially made David Kaihoi a partner (and re-named his studio accordingly). The pair met when David was as an art installer and Miles was well on his way to establishing his trademark ‘glamorous but cosy interiors’ and bold, colourful style. Influenced by fashion and the movies (he has studied both subjects), Miles did an apprenticeship with luminary decorator Bunny Williams before spending ten years juggling being the creative director of Oscar de la Renta Home with his own clients.
‘I am a magpie so anything mirrored tends to pop up, as well as choinoiserie walls, patterned floors and, if I get my way, a little bit of pale blue in almost every room,’ he says. For David, balancing the mix of materials is integral: ‘lacquer paired with crumbly terracotta, for example, or jewel tones on top of a neutral background.’ The pair has just completed a ranch near Houston, partly inspired by a Wes Anderson film set.
Driven by the notion that good materials and well-made things are precious and therefore worth saving, Retrouvius was set up in 1993 by Adam Hills and Maria Speake. Today it’s a destination salvage warehouse and design studio (Adam looks after the former, Maria the latter), with a contemporary style that always nods to the past. ‘Our work is reflective of what a material has the potential to be,’ says Maria, who only takes on a few select clients each year. ‘It is about the continuation of the life of an object; the past and how we work with it.’
Whether planning a modern penthouse or a medieval priory, a superyacht or a boutique, salvaged materials always feature in some form. Regular collaborators include artist Blott Kerr Wilson who ‘turns a shell into a masterpiece’ and Kirsten Hecktermann whose ‘magical textiles’ combine antique and hand-dyed fabrics.
‘If you walk into somewhere and want to sit down – that’s a good room,’ says Rita Konig, who specialises in effortlessly pretty spaces. ‘I love mixing old things with more contemporary pieces, it helps to make a room feel lived-in and personal.’ Decorating is in the genes – her mother is Nina Campbell and she started out working in the family shop – but Rita’s style is firmly her own, honed during a stint living in New York before she moved back to London eight years ago.
She juggles work on both sides of the Atlantic, including Jeff Klein’s new Hotel 850 in LA (‘American horticulturalist Bunny Mellon influenced how I wanted it to feel’), and a family home in the north of England, where the colour scheme ranges from a Plain English kitchen in Army Green to a bedroom painted in Edward Bulmer’s pale-pink ‘Cuisse de Nymphe Emue’.
An antique dealer, interior decorator and fabric designer, Robert Kime is best known for his relaxed, homely style that stems from combining cosy textiles. ‘Antique carpets are my favourite place to start in a room, it’s the essential visual base for a scheme,’ he explains. ‘We strive to layer textiles which we feel add variety and embellish colour, tying in lampshades and cushions.’
It’s this vision that has won him countless fans, including the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Beaufort. He launches an annual collection of prints and weaves (last year’s featured ‘Vendome’, a design inspired by a 17th-century Indian textile) and favours fabrics such as wool and linen. Currently he is splitting his time between clients in Switzerland, France, the Cotswolds, Somerset and London.
SIBYL COLEFAX & JOHN FOWLER
Established by its namesakes in the 1930s, Sibyl Colefax & John Fowler was a major influence in evolving English decorating style. Today, there are eight design teams, each overseen by an experienced director (Roger Jones, Emma Burns and Philp Hooper, to name several) who take on homes around the world, from a chalet in Switzerland to a period stone country house in America.
‘We have a deep and informed interest in, and knowledge of, furniture and works of art, added to a thorough grounding in the technical aspects of our work,’ says Wendy Nicholls, managing director whose top tip for adding a feeling of luxury to a space is upholstered walls, whether printed, velvet or linen. ‘The most important thing is letting a client’s individuality come across. It’s a very emotional thing. Half the fun of being an interior designer is helping extract from people their view of themselves and bringing it to life in their environment.’
Quiet colours and natural materials are paired to form ‘classic interiors that stand the test of time,’ says Emma Sims-Hilditch, who launched her Cotswolds-based design studio a decade ago. ‘We specialise in a style that is calm and understated but with depth and authenticity.’ Warm ochre and rich spice shades are a paint palette favourite, and she often sources antiques and fine art to add personality. ‘We like to play with scale, so a small print from Fermoie might be used with a larger pattern from Christopher Farr or Mark Alexander.’
She is finishing a full refurbishment of a Grade I-listed townhouse in Bath, ‘full of original architectural detailing, character and soul,’ while at the other end of the country she has completed the interior of a large, timber-framed barn in Norfolk. ‘I like to think that good design can truly transform lives, so success is all about making our clients’ home work for their lifestyle.’
SOPHIE PATERSON INTERIORS
To say that Sophie Paterson is going to be busy this year is an understatement: the studio is working on 14 buildings, including a handful of Grade II-listed period properties. ‘We seem to have found a niche working on listed properties across London,’ says Sophie, who set up her studio in 2008. ‘One is a family apartment that spans the entire length of a building neighbouring the Royal Albert Hall. It’s particularly exciting because the rooms have ballroom-like proportions and such beautiful moulding and panelling.’
Typical characteristics of her design style include a mostly-neutral colour palette (pepped up with soft shades such as celadon green), embossed linens and wallpaper. ‘We rarely paint walls. I love using wallpaper, whether it’s a hand-painted chinoiserie, such as those I launched with Fromental last year, a vinyl or a specialist plaster. I feel that every room benefits from something special on the walls.’ Other exciting collaborations include linens for VIS-A-VIS and a capsule furniture collection for The Sofa & Chair Company.
A former creative director at Candy & Candy who set up on her own a decade ago, Italian-Greek interior designer Spinocchia Freund always centres a space around a specially commissioned installation or art piece – whether it’s a large-scale suspended sculpture by Eve Menz or a lighting feature by Richard Long. ‘I work very closely with the artist and client to develop a piece as it is integral to the complete look; these are the kind of touches that make somewhere unique,’ says Spinocchia, who is an avid art collector herself.
‘I am passionate about supporting and sourcing conscious luxury pieces from emerging and established designers that are not only bold and eccentric but have an incredible DNA for sustainability.’ Her style has evolved over the years: at the beginning she was heavily influenced by Art Deco but now she takes a more eclectic approach to interiors, whether it’s a palace in Asia or a villa in the Balearic Islands.
Husband and wife interior designers Monique and Staffan Tollgård admit to being staunchly functionalist when making design decisions. ‘We ensure that our clients’ homes are fit for purpose, using every square inch we can carveout,’ says Monique, head of the design studio. ‘We believe in longevity of materials, the joy of colour and the importance of drawing the outside world in.’ Their diverse current projects include a heritage apartment in Copenhagen, the headquarters for a fast-growing tech company in London and a villa in Jordan.
Yet Monique’s seminal experience was working on a Grade II-listed building just off the King’s Road. ‘It was a crooked house with a perfectionist owner who wanted to square every inexact corner. Over the course of two years it taught me everything I needed to know about the workings of a period property and how to squeeze every modern convenience under the skin of a traditional home without losing its charm.’
‘The only way I know how to design is to imagine something as my own,’ says Studio Ashby’s creative director, Sophie Ashby, who studied interior design at Parsons School of Design in New York before setting up the practice five years ago. Her impressive roll call of commissions includes One Crown Place, the penthouse at South Bank Tower and the interiors of the new Casely-Hayford flagship store on Chiltern Street (in collaboration with her menswear designer husband, Charlie).
‘I think good design has meaning: the things we surround ourselves with every day should move us. It is these qualities that I seek to bring out in our interiors – ultimately it is a soulfulness that connects people to the spaces they inhabit,’ she says. Sophie usually designs a room around works of art and meaningful objects, incorporating vintage furniture to make ‘a real and authentic sense of home’.
Beaverbrook in Surrey, Babington House, Soho House Berlin… Susie Atkinson’s cv is a veritable who’s who of fashionable hotels and private members’ clubs. Clients – both commercial and residential – come flocking for her inviting decorating schemes, which start with considering the direction of natural light in a room ‘as this affects every decision.’ Working off her instincts, she always aims to enhance the architecture of a space, whether she is designing a 1930s motor yacht, a cottage in Scotland or a beach house in the Caribbean.
Her biggest source of inspiration, she says, is British craftsmanship. ‘I am inspired by excellence in craftsmanship and bespoke or handmade things, so The New Craftsmen showroom in Mayfair is somewhere I go regularly. We have a wealth of talented makers in this country and it is so exciting to find someone new – whether it be a ceramicist, weaver, furniture maker, leather worker, or lamp designer.’
One of Suzy Hoodless’ most hotly anticipated launches is the second women’s only private members club AllBright in Mayfair, which opens in May. ‘As an all-woman design studio, we were delighted by the idea of creating a space that would resonate with contemporary women without being overly girly,’ says Susie, who took her design cues from Savile Row. ‘We’ve incorporated traditional suit fabrics such as fine wools, houndstooth checks and tweeds but given them a feminine twist.’ She describesher aesthetic as ‘an alchemy; I am not hung up on a particular period but I am interested in the best of design across the board.’
For Susie, her work is always a collaborative process, whether creating a private home or an identity for a brand. ‘We spend a lot of time space planning. There are often similar things to consider in certain rooms, for example, when designing a sitting room we set out lots of different areas: a card table, handsome fireside, firm seating for reading, soft low seating for socialising, chairs next to windows with amazing views…. there’s definitely a handwriting with my interiors.’
Internationally famed for her handsome style with an industrial edge, Tara Bernerd is often influenced by modern architecture. ‘I am working on the Equinox Hotel in LA with the incredible Frank Gehry who has always been a great source of inspiration to me so it’s a real honour to be working with such a design icon,’ she says. ‘Many of the interior design elements draw upon the organic form and energy of the landmark that will house them.’
It’s perhaps no surprise to learn that 75 per cent of her time is taken up with the hospitality industry (this currently includes the Four Seasons in Fort Lauderdale, The Hari hotel in Hong Kong and creating the design DNA for a new hotel brand in Japan); the rest is devoted to residential and yachts. ‘For me, the most important aspect of design is seeking components that are authentic and will stand true in time. It is essential to perfect the layout of a space – something which often gets overlooked.’
2018 was a big year for Taylor Howes. Not only did it mark 25 years since Karen Howes co-founded the company (she took over as sole director in 2011), it was also the launch of the studio’s first furniture collection, Love at Dusk (for which specialist artisans developed handcrafted finishes such as gold thread ombré and hand- dyed parchment), plus a membership platform that offers events throughout the year, from experiential dining to ‘in conversation’ talks.
‘These are projects I was heavily invested in and will take Taylor Howes to the next level,’ says Karen, whose roster of 30 commissions ranges from a new build home in the Cotswolds – it will have the largest thatched roof in Europe – to a palace in Kuwait. She’s also ‘putting the traditional heart back into a mansion on the edge of Epping Forest’. The studio is known for its detail, glamour and carefree approach to colour. ‘I am into semi-precious hues at the moment, from blue topaz to citrine, which we’re introducing into our designs via
objets and soft furnishings.’ taylorhowes.co.uk
A diffusion arm of Taylor Howes, launched by Gail Taylor and Karen Howes 14 years ago, th2designs focuses on furnishing homes with an understated style (think soft palettes and materials such as timber and stone). ‘Our relaxed interiors prioritise comfort and quality alongside value and speed,’ says Gail, neatly summing up the studio’s ethos. In addition to private commissions, th2designs completed more than 100 luxury rental apartments in 2018, for residential developments in Soho and Westminster.
This year looks set to be just as busy, with a Grade II-listed development near Regent’s Park and a Cornish beach house in the pipeline. ‘We have just been asked by a returning client to furnish their much-loved family retreat which overlooks a beach in Cornwall; we have a great relationship and understand their needs, so it is wonderful to be working with them again.’
The one thing Tim Gosling doesn’t do at the start of the design process is ask clients to send him pictures of things they like. ‘I think it’s wrong to start with images of someone else’s home: we want to create something unique. We look over the plans of the house and let the architecture have the opening dialogue. It then becomes very clear if you’re playing with the period of the building or against it,’ explains Tim of his clean-cut, sophisticated interiors.
He has just finished a house in north London, for which he designed many pieces of bespoke furniture, including a 1930s-inspired walnut library. He is as interested in working with new materials as he is in preserving the heritage of antique furniture. ‘We must fly the flag for antiques because, without them, how will we create the interiors of the future? You need to understand how to draw on history in order to break the rules.’
Based between London and Geneva, Bunny Turner and Emma Pocock have made a name for themselves with their love of colour and pattern. ‘Green-blue is a hue we cannot escape; although we ban it from our studio, it often creeps back in,’ says Emma. ‘Colours come in waves – at the moment we are surrounded by ochre and rust.’ The pair always start with ‘a linchpin’: a fabric, rug or painting. ‘It needs to have more than three colours because we use this item to pull hues for the rest of the scheme.’
This approach is currently being applied to chalets in Val d’Isère and Morzine, an estate in Berkshire and two mega- houses in London. ‘One is in the east American style and the other is a chic Kensington home for clients who are moving back to the capital after 20 years of living in Kent.’
Selling furniture, porcelain and decorative objects from a stall on Portobello Road proved to be an excellent grounding for Veere Grenney, who went on to train under Mary Fox Linton and David Hicks before later becoming a director at Sibyl Colefax & John Fowler. Now one of the most esteemed names on the British interior design scene, he is renowned for creating cohesive, calm spaces with a feeling of tranquillity.
‘Our style is classical: there is always an element of contemporary but never forgetting the importance of comfort and practicality,’ says New Zealand-born Veere, who zigzags across the globe for far-flung clients, from Mustique to Monaco and Long Island to Tel Aviv. Any design rules we should follow? ‘An element of order and balance will always give the eye a sense of harmony.’
There’s no doubt that a spell working at Sotheby’s influenced Inchbald-educated Henriette von Stockhausen’s style, which she describes as ‘classic country house with modern vibrant touches’. Together with business partner Jane Petti, she set up the small but excellent Dorset-based practice nearly 20 years ago, and often dedicates around two years to designing a home, whether it’s an old farmhouse or a contemporary London apartment.
Antiques are essential (‘I can’t imagine designing a room, let alone a house, without antiques in it; I love sourcing pieces and giving them a new lease of life’), as is collaborating closely with British artisans. ‘Handmade pieces make all the difference and distinguish our interiors from others. I love working with antique textiles and trimmings and using fabric wallcoverings.’ Current undertakings include a Georgian house in Oxfordshire, with a landscaped garden by Bunny Guinness, and a 1920s home in Dorset with de Gournay wallpaper and custom finishes.
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