Looking for the best interior designers in the UK? Look no further, we have rounded up the current top 50 interior designers in the UK, whatever your style. Revamping your home has never been easier. Here are the pros you need to know…
A Swedish-born, London-based interior designer who worked for Nicky Haslam at NH Design before setting up on her own in 2013, Beata Heuman is one to watch. Over the last five years, she has established her own distinct style, often using lots of linen and natural materials, and a simple palette interspersed with pops of bright colour and pattern (she also has a small product range, which includes gorgeous ‘Palm Drop’ print fabric and ‘Marbleized’ wallpaper). Interests include African tribal art (‘I fell in love with an antique Fante flag from the Kingdom of Dahomey at the Decorative Antiques & Textiles Fair in Battersea,’ she enthuses) and books on American pre mid-century decorating. ‘The balance of our designs exists in the marriage of quirky, traditional details paired with a Scandinavian sensibility,’ says Beata who has just completed the new Farm Girl Café restaurant in Chelsea, a full refurbishment of a listed cottage in Sussex and a pied àterre in West London. ‘It’s about creating spaces that people love being in.’
Inspired in equal measure by the English country style of the 1960s and 70s – and from historical interiors of every period – Ben Pentreath’s decorating schemes combine classical details with bold colour and contemporary fabrics. His background is in art history (he studied at the University of Edinburgh before attending the Prince of Wales’ Institute of Architecture) and he worked with the Prince’s Foundation before setting up his own architectural and interior design studio in 2004 (since then his royal connections have continued: the designer was enlisted to revamp Will and Kate’s Kensington Palace apartment); currently he is working on various private houses in the Cotswolds, a central London apartment and a family home in Notting Hill. He is also known for Pentreath & Hall, the Lamb’s Conduit Street shop he set up with designer and decorative artist Bridie Hall which sells furniture, lighting, glassware and home objects.
Growing up as a teenager in London, Iraqi-born Broosk Saib spent his spare time trawling Portobello Market for antiques. He studied interior design at the American College, before setting up his showroom in 1985; eight years later he decided that his home was a far better showcase for his interiors and since then, clients wanting his bespoke, consultancy service visit by appointment. ‘A room should be functional and practical, and there should be an element of theatre; a stage set designed around the client and their lives,’ he says. ‘I also think lighting can make or break a room.’ He is inspired by classic design and architecture, and often veers towards using ‘lots of reds and blues’ and ‘natural materials like wood, semi-precious stones and metals.’
Audrey Carden and Eleanora Cunietti met 25 years ago at a London antiques fair when they were both scouting for pieces for clients. Their first business venture together was the Carden Cunietti interiors shop in Notting Hill; since 2008 they have been concentrating solely on their interior design practice. ‘People probably think of our interiors as textured with splashes of colour and featuring furniture from different eras,’ reveals Audrey, of the duo’s defining factors. ‘We always emphasise comfort when it comes to sofas and dining chairs. And mixing light sources, including vintage pieces, is definitely part of our vision.’ Continuing projects range from a French chalet to a penthouse in Santa Monica but they have also recently completed their first major commercial commission: The Apartment at Bicester Village.
Charles Bateson cites nine years spent working for Ashley Hicks as his greatest design inspiration. Certainly it stood him in good stead when it came to starting his own practice more than two decades ago. Known for his ‘classic contemporary’ tone, Charles’ residential projects range from a turreted house on an estate overlooking Loch Ness in Scotland to a new build in Provence. Convex mirrors are a trademark touch (he has his own collection of mirrors and lamps), as are favourite materials such as Verre Eglomise and other deep-etched decorative glass panels, stone and marble marquetry (lately, he has also started incorporating more wrought-iron). Bespoke, built-in and freestanding furniture is mostly designed in-house. Bateson also goes to a huge effort to ensure that clients enjoy the process – surely one of the reasons why so many return.
Former Fox Linton design director Dennis Irvine set up on his own in 2015. Since then his studio has tackled numerous luxury hotels such as The Wellesley in Knightsbridge (think embossed leather wall panels, bespoke lighting and fashion photography from the Vogue archives) and Jumby Bay, a private island off the coast of Antigua where he recently designed the restaurant and private dining rooms. The rest of his time is spent on high-end, super prime residences. All his interiors are characterised by a tasteful tone (Dennis calls it ‘enduring elegance’), rich textures and one-off pieces of furniture. His current headline project is Langley House, a Grade II-listed Palladian mansion in Buckinghamshire which opens this summer as a country house hotel. ‘The overall design will encompass modern sensibilities and an understated feel,’ says Dennis.
Co-founded by couple Sarah Daniels and Jon O’Dwyer eight years ago (the pair were previously both directors at Richard Daniels Design), DO Design specialises in hotel interiors but takes on a few select residential commissions too. ‘It’s so important for a hotel to feel homely and equally our residential clients often want their homes to have that feeling of luxury you get in a hotel, so the two complement each other nicely,’ comments Sarah who avoids high fashion trends in favour of long-lasting, timeless designs. The pair work on the initial concepts together, then split roles: Jon focuses more on the interior architecture and master planning while Sarah concentrates on developing the furnishings. ‘We love to combine surfaces such as wood, metal, stone, linen and wool,’ she says. ‘We’re not ones for high shine and flamboyant luxe. The materials we use are clean and unobtrusive, in other words – easy on the eye.’
‘Textiles are the lifeblood of a project; the architecture and furniture are the structure,’ says Douglas Mackie whose striking interiors always feature plenty of colour and form. Custom-made fabrics from French textile atelier Toyine Sellers and American weaver Sam Kasten crop up in all projects (‘the glorious colours and extraordinary textures enhance our work every time,’ elaborates Douglas) and he sources furniture from different periods ‘with the purpose of creating a considered balance within each room’. The combination of artwork, sculpture and artefacts is also key, and an instinctive part of what he does is help clients curate their objects in unexpected ways. They also make a good starting point for a decorative scheme: ‘it varies with every situation but having two great items of furniture and artwork that a client loves, is a wonderful way of informing the direction of a space.’
London-based Swedish designer Ebba Thott is co-founder of Sigmar, a multidisciplinary company comprised of a shop that specialises in 20th-century design (run by her business partner, Danish furniture expert Nina Hertig) and a studio. As you’d expect, modern 20th-century design is a staple throughout her interiors but the real objective for Ebba is to always achieve cohesion. ‘I hope that I can help bring harmony to someone’s space, by creating balance for the senses; everything matters from light to touch,’ she says. By which she means making a home feel tied together, often by subtly weaving in echoing patterns in certain places for that hard-to-achieve lived-in feel. She also has her own collection of paints, Damo, based on a broad grey scale, which are often requested by clients (the hues work particularly well with dark woods). The result is schemes that are considered and ultra calming.
‘A fresh take on the English country house look’ is how Emma Sims Hilditch describes her design ethos which centres around creating beautifully calm, elegant homes. Paint palettes are often muted (the blue-grey tones of Farrow & Ball’s Pigeon and Neptune Moss are favourites), paired with fabrics by the likes of de Le Cuona and GP& J Baker. She loves Belgian design (in particular the work of Axel Vervoordt) and considers creating light and shade as one of the most important principles of her schemes. After a spell working in film production with Ridley Scott, she began making curtains and soft furnishings from home, before officially launching her business in 2009. Based in the Cotswolds, in a restored Grade II former inn, she is currently working on a private estate outside London which involves restoring a former school house, a woodman’s cottage, a bespoke gun room and an ice cream parlour.
Neutral palettes layered with texture to create interest: that’s Fiona Barratt-Campbell’s signature style in a nutshell. ‘I like to use a lot of different surfaces: rustic reclaimed wood, polished concrete, cast metals, woven leather… Then I add colour through accessories and antiques, particularly 20th century pieces,’ says Fiona, who launched Fiona Barratt Interiors in 2006 and snaggedRichard Branson’s luxury lodge in Verbier as her first commission. A recent full-scale residential redevelopment in Moscow, which involved turning a concrete shell into a family apartment, was kitted out with a bespoke contemporary FBC London kitchen and contrasting old-world silk rugs and a curated art collection. Right now, she has 16 projects on the go, from a Georgian terrace in Bath to a waterfront penthouse apartment.
With an art background and ten years as creative director of Talisman under her design belt, it’s no wonder that Flora Soames’ interiors are shaped by her ‘love of beautiful things’ and an ‘identifiable stamp of colour and pattern’. The great granddaughter of Winston Churchill who set up her design consultancy in 2009, Flora counts the whimsical nature of the Bloomsbury Group and the decorators such as Nancy Lancaster and John Fowler among her many influences. ‘A client’s furniture, art, textiles and accessories constantly inspire us,’ confirms Flora, who has just completed the renovation of an Oxfordshire farmhouse and the redesign of the private dining room at Wiltons restaurant in Mayfair. Her own growing collection of antique textiles can also drive a project and she is launching her own range of fabrics later this year. ‘Whether it is a weave, embroidered fabric, chintz or velvet, fabrics contribute to the vital patina that we are looking to achieve in our interiors.’
A diffusion arm of Taylor Howes, Th2 was launched by Gail Taylor, Sheila El Hadery and Karen Howes in 2005 as a more accessible design service, delivered in super quick time with an affordable price tag. A year ago, they took the concept one step further with the launch of th2Studio, an online venture offering fully designed rooms, furniture and accessories at the click of a button. In general, creative and managing director Gail favours natural timbers, warm wools and crisp linens to give a room an organic undertone, a soothing colour palette. From the company’s base at Design Centre Chelsea Harbour, the team has not long completed a family mews house and a sky-high apartment in a cutting-edge development, both in London. They have also converted an old office just off the King’s Road into a temporary home set furnished in new pieces from th2studio. ‘It’s great to show what we are doing to a wider market so we are using it as a pop-up for a limited period.’
A chance conversation at a dinner party with the owner of a Jacobean house in Suffolk who was looking to give it an update, led to this former art director turning to interior design (he had already done a stint at David Collins Studio). That was ten years ago and since then he has honed his English country style to a tee. ‘I love a room to be eclectic, with a slightly bohemian edge, so it feels as if it has grown over time,’ explains Gavin whose roll call of influences include the Bloomsbury Group and David Hicks. ‘I’m not interested in beige or metallics but I use a huge mix of fabrics. If I look around the studio now I’m working with stripes, vintage florals and silk damasks of every hue.’ He also loves the colour green (‘it always seems to appear somehow, whether in paint, fabrics or ceramics’) and counts a house in Oxford and a converted barn in Bordeaux among his ongoing projects.
Founded by friends Jenny Weiss and Helen Bygraves 20 years ago, Surrey-based Hill House Interiors was a natural extension of their work in the property sector, styling show houses for small, niche developers. These days, their signature look is elegant with an underlying hint of glamour: think a grey and cream palette with splashes of colour and dramatic finishing touches – anything from a crystal chandelier over a dining table in a Chelsea townhouse to Art Deco mirrored detailing in a home in Poole. ‘We are big advocators of bespoke cabinetry – investing extra into essential feature pieces does make all the difference to the overall aesthetic,’ comment the duo who are just wrapping up on a private residence in the Bahamas. ‘We’re experts at creating really tonal, understated interiors though we recently worked on a scheme where the client’s favourite colour was fuchsia, which we really made pop against shades of electric blue.’
‘An interior has to be comfortable and it has to be practical,’ sums up Joanna Wood of her design philosophy. The founder of one of the largest residential interior design companies in London who set up her own practice from her spare bedroom after a spell in the interiors department at Asprey, Joanna is as at ease working on a contemporary penthouse as a 17th-century stately home or Swiss chalet. ‘We learn as much about the client as possible, how they live, how they entertain, and then translate their ideas into reality,’ she continues. Joanna has done work for The Crown Estate, and for The All England Tennis Club at Wimbledon; runs a retail shop with a furniture showroom in Belgravia; and has three design companies to her name: Phillips & Wood bespoke lighting, Lewis & Wood fabrics and wallpapers, and Lawson Wood bespoke furniture.
Juliette Byrne’s Chelsea-based architectural interior design consultancy has established a reputation for creating classic contemporary interiors individually tailored to clients’ requirements. ‘We always try and work on each project in a holistic way: from the full refurbishment through to the final turnkey touches, everything is thought through and discussed with the clients to enable it to be personalised,’ says Juliette, who likes to blend existing pieces with new, antique and bespoke furniture. She often commissions artwork, specifically butterfly boxes. ‘The piece comprises of a perspex box with individually chosen feather butterflies in colours coordinated with the interior. It gives an ethereal quality to the design and clients love it.’ Juliette names one of her most memorable residences as a double basement new-build house in Chelsea which went on to win an International Property Award for best single unit in London.
This relatively young design studio is already becoming known for its exceptional, personalised level of attention to detail – whether it’s designing a bronze oak leaf chandelier with a clients’ initials tucked inside or having sofas made to the exact leg and back lengths of its owners. Co-founded three years ago by Katie Glaister, who has a background in the prime central London residential market, and Henry Miller-Robinson, who previously worked in commercial construction, theirs is an unusually broad design consultancy offering. ‘For some clients we start with an empty space, reconfigure it and fill it with everything that is new to them; for others we love to curate, sifting through past treasures, re-framing art, re-grouping accessories and combining old furniture items with new; for others we love to curate, sifting through past treasures, re-framing art, re-grouping accessories and combining old furniture items with new,’ says Katie. The pair work a lot with patinated mirrors to direct light around a space, and engage specialist artisans, such as straw marquetry experts, where possible. ‘You will notice that we tend to work with a small base palette: it can be tempting to apply a bit of this and bit of that, but usually less is more. There is so much choice but a designer’s skill is to narrow it down.’
It has been 25 years and more than a thousand completed projects since Karen Howes co-founded Taylor Howes (she took over as sole director in 2011). Her aim, whether working on a family office in Abu Dhabi or a thatch new build in the Cotswolds is always to ‘deliver interiors that don’t just look spectacular but which function brilliantly on a day-to-day level as well’. The studio has become synonymous for always injecting a dash of colour into rooms, especially sumptuous, jewel-like tones. ‘2017 was the year of emerald green, and we would say we’re now in a blue phase, using a cross section of shades,’ comments Karen whose opinion is so respected that artisans and design houses regularly ask for her feedback on their new collections. Several collaborations are in the pipeline this year, including a dining table with Davidson and a wallpaper with de Gournay. Her design rules? ‘Space planning is key and if you change one thing, it can change everything.’
Everyone from Mohamed Al Fayed to Alexandra Tolstoy has sought out Katharine Pooley’s impeccably chic design eye. Inspired by the East meets West aesthetic, her soft, tonal decorating schemes often mix warm metallics with shades such as ivory, coral blush and celadon.‘These colours are best used when combined with specialist plaster finishes, shells and skins, and textured natural fabrics,’ explains Katharine who oversees a design studio of 45 interior designers and architects. ‘My favourite finishes include gesso, agate, shagreen and mother of pearl.’ Last autumn she published a book, Journey by Design, which featured one of her most memorable houses to date: a large villa in Kuwait inspired by her client’s antiques and relics, which she complemented with one-off pieces sourced in Asia. She has a flagship showroom in Doha and a growing roster of clients based in North America and The Middle East.
Michael Keech and Graham Green met at Ralph Lauren, where they launched the Home Collection. They founded Keech Green in 2002. Their vibe – glamorous and restrained – is often described as nodding towards Art Deco but really they can adapt their vision to any brief, pairing traditional fabrics with modern artwork say, or branching out to the world of superyachts. The pair take a very hands-on approach, designing virtually all the furniture and lighting for their projects, and sourcing unusual finishes. Current projects include a new-build country house in Yorkshire, an apartment in Geneva and a Georgian-style house in Hampstead. They are shortly relocating to Lingley, Belgravia, for an exciting new collaboration.
‘My style is timeless, textural, and chic,’ says Kelly Hoppen of her trademark palette of soft neutral tones. ‘It has evolved over the years, but the fusion of East meets West will always be at the core of my design philosophy and underpins all of my work.’ This means clients (who include everyone from Gwyneth Paltrow to the Beckhams) can expect clean, precise lines layered with opulent materials. ‘Harmony has to be the keyword for an interior designer, and as our lives become increasingly hectic, we’ve never needed this more in our homes. It’s not necessary Eastern-style pieces or accessories that make a home “East meets West”, it is more creating that feeling of tranquility,’ continues Kelly, who was awarded an OBE for services to interior design in 2009. ‘For me, a room isn’t complete without an Eastern sense of balance. You should walk into a room and it should just feel right.’ Clients can choose between Kelly Hoppen Couture for a bespoke design (and access to her little black book of useful numbers for managing and maintaining your property), or the more accessible Studio Hoppen.
When Maria Speake and Adam Hills set up architectural salvage and design company Retrouvius 25 years ago, their sole purpose was to give new life to unwanted, discarded materials. These days the business is split into two: a Kensal Green warehouse where reclaimed stock (Persian rugs, oak plan chests, cast-iron marble-topped tables) is sold, and a sister design studio led by Maria which undertakes all kinds of projects, from the architecturally-led to the purely decorative (the studio has just completed the penthouse at the new Television Centre at White City, in collaboration with designer Bella Freud). What’s brilliant about Retrouvius interiors is that salvaged materials always feature in some form (even if it’s not immediately obvious), perhaps in a stone panel for the bathroom behind a roll-top bath, etched glass panels and antique floor tiles or sliding 1930s copper framed windows. Carefully considered and well-executed, the results are always spot-on.
From Dean Street Townhouse to Cecconi’s in West Hollywood, Swedish-born Martin Brudnizki is behind some of the glitziest restaurants, hotels and private members’ clubs, both in the capital and worldwide. He established his studio in 2000 and now oversees a team of more than 70 interior designers, architects, lighting designers, product designers and art consultants across London and New York. In 2015, he also set up And Objects, a separate product design studio through which he has collaborated with the likes of Porto Romana and George Smith. Pivotal career projects over the years have included Soho Beach House Miami (one of his first US commissions), The Academicians’ Room at The Royal Academy of Arts and, most recently, the new-look Annabel’s, which has an Oriental-inspired lounge, a Mexican bar and a Garden of Eden garden room and terrace. ‘The overall look is incredibly rich, vivid and over the top,’ says Martin who counts everything from ‘a sharp bead detailing in an historic house to the painterly clash of colours in a modernist painting’ as inspiration. He also takes on a very small percentage of residences, the latest of which is Madison Square Park Tower, an apartment development in New York’s Flat Iron district that completes this year.
The award-winning designer of hotels such as Coworth Park, Chewton Glen and The Grove, where he has just returned to refresh the Glasshouse restaurant and the drawing rooms, Martin Hulbert has more than 25 years’ experience in the interiors industry. For the last 13 he has worked with business partner Jay Grierson and between them, they take on projects of all budgets and sizes, across the residential and commercial sectors. He defines his interiors as ‘highly considered; not just about the visible but the invisible. Design that is authentic and contains an element of wit to humanise a space.’ Expect a curated mix of old and new: a contemporary leather dining chair paired with an antique dining table say, or placing a plexiglass console in a traditional Georgian house.
A former creative director for Candy & Candy who set up his own studio six years ago, Martin Kemp has worked on high-profile projects ranging from a grade I-listed mansion in Mayfair to a modern bachelor pad in Monaco, a polo club in Saint Tropez to a private jet. ‘Our DNA is probably to do with having an eye for detail and the level of finish,’ he says, recalling his childhood home as ‘memorable for its dramatic colour, eclectic furnishings and diverse artworks. The studio focuses mainly on the super-prime residential market and has just completed Clarges, a significant new development overlooking Green Park which comprises flats, a spa and a showstopper lobby. A home needs to be comfortable emotionally and psychologically, as well as physically,’ concludes Martin. ‘You need to walk into your home and feel instantly at ease’.
Inchbald-educated husband and wife team Monique and Staffan Tollgard met while working on a film set and now put their storytelling experience to good use in interiors. ‘We are telling the story of a client through their home, using the language of design,’ explains Monique. ‘What is the hero piece of each room? How do light and shade work to create atmosphere?’ Over the years the company has expanded so now she heads up the interior design side of things while Staffan focuses on product design and sourcing furniture and lighting for their store. The pair are always looking to identify the ‘Rödatråden’ (red thread) in a room design –meaning the core essence or creative DNA. ‘The spark can come from an architectural detail, a family heirloom, or a collection of art but each project holds a unique red thread,’ says Monique.
A former Miami-based architect who spent five years as design director at Helen Green Design before setting up her own London atelier in 2016, Natalia Miyar is known for her confident use of colour and texture, and creating a balance between practicality and beauty. ‘Materiality is at the heart of my designs and we use a lot of stone and metal in our projects,’ she confirms. Add to that cut-velvets for upholstery, deeply grained woods, vintage mirrors, lustrous gemstones and raffia wallcoverings and the result is effortlessly luxurious interiors. Miyar has an international client base –at the moment she is criss-crossing the globe between London, Manhattan, Ibiza and Kenya –and finds stimulation in travel. ‘The contrasting landscapes of the different places I’ve lived in resonate strongly with me and feed into my work.’
A doyenne of the interior design scene, Nina Campbell has been in business for more than 50 years so it’s no wonder that her vast portfolio of projects ranges from an apartment in Rome to a hotel in Germany that was built by Queen Victoria’s daughter, via an English country retreat. Some of the most interesting can soon be seen in her new book Nina Campbell Interior Design: Elegance and Ease (out in September), alongside case studies of her own properties. ‘The key thing is that a house has to be suitable for someone’s lifestyle. It’s got to be comfortable and welcoming,’ she explains of her schemes which often feature upholstery fabrics such as chenille, linens and velvets. ‘As American interior decorator Elsie de Wolfe used to say, suitability, practicality and proportion are the three abiding words to work through.’ Nina has just finished a huge house in Maine, complete with a pool house and party house. ‘We really let rip; there’s a super glamorous room, just with a bar in it, with violet lacquered walls and a silver ceiling.’
Former aviation finance lawyer Noor Charchafchi made the switch to interior design seven years ago after renovating several properties with her husband. Now she excels in opulent yet understated residences. Subtle inlays of brass, sumptuous fabrics and textured finishes tend to appear throughout her work. ‘We often find that clients prefer to use a neutral base and then play with colour in their accent pieces but I’m also a big lover of using bold hues on larger items of furniture and joinery,’ she explains, naming her mother’s cousin, the late Zaha Hadid as a design hero. When she and her team aren’t busy with private commissions, they work with on developments such as the Berkeley Group’s Chelsea Vista Bridge apartments and real estate investment management company Yara Capital’s student housing in Lewisham. A furniture collection is in the pipeline for next year.
Italian-born Paolo Moschino bought Nicholas Haslam in 1995 and immediately set about putting his own European ‘classic with a twist’ stamp on the business, which is comprised of an extensive fabrics and furniture collection and a design studio. The latter is headed up by Philip Vergeylen, and, under his guidance, elegant schemes often juxtapose modern and antique pieces across the eras to create interiors with bags of personality. ‘The maxim that good pieces will work together is also true for furniture; you can put an 18th-century commode alongside two 1950s armchairs and it will look great if each item has integrity,’ says Paolo. The pair champion natural fabrics, such as Belgian linens and items such as books and art that ‘make a house sing.’ No concept is ever repeated and every project –whether a home in the Caribbean or a refit of a superyacht –is built around the objectives of the client.
‘Get the architecture correct first; it’s pointless decorating something that is badly planned or badly proportioned,’ says interior designer Philip Hooper who has led a decorating team at Sibyl Colefax & John Fowler for the last 17 years. ‘As a trained architect I would never embark on a project where I had not had some element of control over the details and layouts.’ Philip, who has a team of five, works on around ten projects at once, all at various stages (at the moment these include a house in Philadelphia and a small estate in Norfolk). What unites them all is the ‘common thread of comfort’: ‘whether you’re working in an 18th-century idiom, a modernist home or on some place in the tropics, it’s always about having somewhere comfortable to sit. You need a light to read by, a place to put your feet up and a table to place a drink.’
It’s never easy following in a mother’s footsteps (especially not when the mother in question is Nina Campbell) but over the last 16 years Rita Konig has channelled her own style. This involves decorating by instinct, layering colours and textures together to create a pretty, relaxed look. ‘I love a wall crammed with pictures. I also love a good clash –I’m not a fan of matchy-matchy fabrics,’ says Rita who spent six years living in New York before moving back to London in 2012. ‘A room should make you want to come in, sit down and stay a while.’ When she’s not working on interiors –currently a home in Nashville with the architect Gil Schafer, a private members’ club and hotel in California and various residences in the UK –she runs one-day design workshops from her home and offers advice on ‘Rita Says’, part of her website, which covers everything from must-have products to tips on lighting.
A former creative director at David Collins Studio, Robert Angell set up his own practice eight years ago. Passionate about design history, he takes a ‘white box approach’ to each project, starting with a clean slate and then creating sketches and moodboards that build up colour, form and light (his design references are modernists such as Philip Johnson and Mies van der Rohe). He designs nearly every aspect himself, from the carpets to the upholstery fabrics, lighting and wall treatments. ‘This allows both scale and proportion to be exploited in harmony with their surroundings, creating a cohesive well thought through design,’ he says, describing his overall mood as ‘modern yet timeless’. Eighty per cent of his time is spent on commercial projects, the latest of which are a flagship restaurant in New York’s Hudson Yards, a new spa space for The Savoy and bedrooms at the Belmond Grand St Petersburg.
‘Carpets are my favourite place to start; when it comes to decorating a room, everything must start with a carpet,’ insists Robert Kime, an antiques dealer turned decorator who counts the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Beaufort among his most aristocratic clients. He outlines his design philosophy as combining a ‘relaxed mood with an elaborate mix of antique treasures’ and is equally passionate about textiles, wallpapers, lighting and furniture – all of which he designs and sells at his London showroom. This year, new fabrics include ‘Karsamba’ a woven design inspired by an early 19th-century Anatolian hanging and ‘Turin’, a print based on a 17th-century Piedmontese panel. One of his most memorable past commissions, he says, was Wraxall Manor because ‘the history of the house and the overall process was wonderful.’ He has recently completed new suites at The Gunton Arms, a traditional pub with rooms in Norfolk.
When Roger Jones’ joined Sibyl Colefax & John Fowler nearly 25 years ago he was head of the antiques department. That was until clients who came to rely on Roger for advice on the buying and placing of antiques started asking for his help decorating their homes too (he still has overall responsibility for the antiques department). Today, all his projects follow the same guiding principle: ‘to have regard for the architecture and a client’s way of life’. He works with three design assistants on commissions from houses in Connecticut to Kuwait, private members clubs to sailing yachts. His schemes are calm and unfussy (‘most of my projects seem to have a room with blue walls,’ he quips), but what he finds most rewarding is ‘working on houses that have some age, some history to them, and dealing with them in a sympathetic way but making them relevant to modern life’.
Trained furniture restorer, gilder and a specialist in paint and lacquer, Rose Uniacke sets out to design ‘uncluttered, rigorously edited spaces with a relaxed warmth and sense of serenity’. And it’s a pared-down, harmonious look she has perfected for her starry clients who include the screenwriter Peter Morgan and Jo Malone. ‘Every project is completely different but I always start with the architecture –the essence of the physical space is so important –and consider how to make the best of it. Details really make the design, be they complex or simple in nature,’ says Rose who has recently finished the restoration of an Aesthetic Movement Artist’s Studio by EW Godwin in Chelsea and the Belmond Royal Scotsman with carriages inspired by the Highlands landscape. She also has a collection of furniture, lighting and accessories, named RU Editions and has just launched her first fabric collection, RU Fabric.
Having met at university, friends Nicole Salvesen and Mary Graham teamed up in 2013 to set up their own practice (prior to that Salvesen worked at Nina Campbell and Graham was at Leveson Design) specialising in elegant interiors with a contemporary kick. The duo love colour (‘at the moment we are particularly enjoying decorating with pinks and greens; we use a lot of art and antiques and find that they are set off brilliantly by a green background,’ says Mary) and are so inspired by the ‘elegance of Georgian England’ that they have launched a range of upholstered furniture with David Seyfriend, that alludes to the simplicity of Georgian proportions. They go to great lengths to ensure that the interior design process is enjoyable for clients, whether its the owner of a chalet in the Alps or a private members’ club in Mayfair.
Core to Serena Williams Ellis’ approach to interior design is her penchant for mixing not matching, whether its high-gloss walls with a salvaged French limestone floor or pairing pretty and ‘ugly’ colours together –dusky pink and soft grey, say, or ochre and moss green. Since she began her career 25 years ago (she worked for Christie’s Fine Art Auctioneers), projects have swung the design spectrum from privately owned historic houses to yachts and contemporary chalets. ‘I always like a strong architectural element to build on –if it’s not there I create it,’ says Serena whose ‘old meets new, simple but quirky’ style is determined by everything from 18th-century English design to the Orient. She encourages clients to create their own lookbook with images from magazines so she can find out what they are attracted to, ‘and just as importantly, what they are not attracted to’. Commissions range from a single item of bespoke furniture to entire houses.
Creative director at David Collins Studio for more than a decade, Simon Rawlings and his team are behind some of the most high-profile hospitality and commercial spaces, both globally and in the UK, including the Corbin & King restaurants and, most recently, the first stage of Harrods two-year food hall transformation. The studio designs just a few private homes at a time, residential developments and show homes but, says Rawlings, creatively it’s ‘the heart and soul’ of the business. They also invest a huge amount of time into developing, prototyping, sourcing and creating unique finishes with specialist artisans. Rawlings specifies his style as ‘obsessively tailored eclecticism’, by which he means having a near-obsession with ‘texture, colour and pattern detail, while ensuring harmony is struck with the right balance and tonal variation’.
With creative director Sophie Elborne at the helm, Kitesgrove, a five-year-old studio that encompasses interior design and project management, is behind some of London’s smartest residences including an apartment within Battersea Power Station, and three homes in a renovated 7,000 sq/ft building in South Kensington –all of which sold within five months of launching to market. She describes her interiors as ‘inviting, comfortable and multi-layered. Our designs whisper rather than shout’. Great emphasis is placed on making spaces feel as good as they look: think materials such as reclaimed wood, un-dyed linens and raw metals (she cites Jacques Granges’ playful interiors as a source of inspiration) and a high level of attention to detail (such as considering how paintwork looks in different types of light). At the moment she is splitting her time between a lateral penthouse in Knightsbridge, designed with an art collector in mind, and the renovation of a Georgian family home in Chelsea.
An in-demand designer with almost 25 years’ experience who eschews the fashionable in favour of bringing a room to life with ‘exquisite colours, furniture or a favourite family heirloom.’ Susie Atkinson’s inviting decorating schemes are all about the balance: ‘I love hand-blocked wallpapers, and hand-gathered curtains and use these where I can. But perhaps most of all I like to combine mid-century lighting with antique furniture and a few quirky accessories to bring a bit of character and humour to a space,’ she says. Favoured materials include wool, silks, leather and antique mirroring or brass to add warmth, and as well as taking into account the architecture, she will always consider ‘the direction of light, which has a significant effect on the colour palette’. Her roll call of diverse, high-profile projects includes Babington House and Dean Street Townhouse, The Queen’s Club London, and the new Beaverbrook hotel in Surrey but right now, it’s a beach house in the Caribbean and a 1930s boat that she’s most excited about. ‘I have always wanted to do a beach house and a boat, so I’m thrilled.’
Suzy Hoodless is behind the communal spaces at one of this year’s most anticipated new developments in the capital: the Television Centre at White City. ‘The aim was to be inspired by the building and its history, but not slavishly driven by the 1950s roots; the look is mid-century with the best of European contemporary design,’ says Suzy. She explains her aesthetic as ‘discerning and design-led, an alchemy of styles and periods’ and has an instinct for which colours and materials are right for a space. Other recent projects include a converting an artist’s studio in Chelsea into a family home and a five-storey townhouse in Kensington where there are unexpected surprises such as a panelled dining room with parquet flooring that conceals a hidden bar.
An international powerhouse whose handsome style draws on modern architecture to lend an industrial edge to her designs. ‘There is always, I think, a sense of approachable luxury within what we do, whether that’s in a hotel in Hong Kong or a private chalet in Gstaad,’ she says. ‘For me, design is a layered process; starting first with the layouts and space planning before building up to the final touches, such as art and dressing.’ She cut her teeth working for Philippe Starck at his property company YOO before setting up on her own 16 years ago. A large part of her time is spent on commercial projects but she is finding increasing crossovers with residential commissions. ‘We are finding more and more that people want their homes to be like hotels and their hotels to be like homes,’ she continues. ‘Ultimately, as designers we want to create spaces that people embrace and enjoy.’
Before Tiffany Duggan set up her studio six years ago she did stints painting sets for the theatre and as an interior stylist – both of which feed into her eclectic decorating schemes, which she describes as fusing ‘a little old and new, a touch of the unexpected and a bit of drama.’ She gravitates towards a base of moody, muted tones, adding the odd pop of bright colour and punchy pattern. ‘I also think there should be just a little humour in any room,’ she says. Interests vary wildly from the Hollywood Regency movement to the romance of country houses, the boho ‘jungalow’ vibe to anything with a Moorish hook. She is currently working on a period property in Hampstead, a pied àterre in Marylebone and a holiday home in Ibiza. Her first homeware collection is in the works too, due out later this year.
‘I need to know why a building or house is the way it is, to understand the original intention of the architect,’ says interior and furniture designer Tim Gosling, whose portfolio is a mix of private and commercial commissions and includes the Goring Hotel and numerous superyachts. ‘My favourite periods are Art Deco and Regency. That may sound like an odd span, but it is 1830 and 1930 – a hundred years difference and a cultural explosion of ideas and design details.’ Tim founded his studio in 2005 after 18 years as director at Linley and has a reputation for clean-cut sophisticated interiors. He loves using vellum (‘such a remarkable material; you can dye it, stain it, print on it,’) and straw work for its refraction and luminosity. This autumn, he is organising an exhibition at Design Centre Chelsea Harbour with the Furniture Makers’ Company to showcase bespoke furniture.
Founded by the late Helen Green in 2002, it’s now headed up by creative director Tim Murray –a firm believer that the location, architecture and how the client wishes to use their property are the primary defining factors of an interior. Proportion is also key: ‘My team and Iall have a deeply ingrained, innate appreciation for proportion and as such it is the foundation of all good design. An empty room can feel right when well proportioned. It can equally feel uncomfortable if its proportions are wrong,’ says Tim, who is also passionate about joinery detailing. ‘For instance, a stunning study, library or bookshelves that are the statement pieces of an interior.’ The studio also is also renowned for luxury hotel design.
A contemporary architecture and design practice with an affection for heritage buildings, Tom Bartlett’s Clerkenwell-based Waldo Works is known for combining simple geometrics and a strong use of colour. ‘We like to be rigorous about what we do so we try and make sure every decision is linked back to an original design idea or story,’ says Tom of his sensibly academic approach. ‘It actually makes designing easier because it narrows your choice and you are not entirely dealing with decisions that are solely based on aesthetics –which can be very objective.’ Projects range from The Laslett hotel in Notting Hill to Cara Delevingne’s London pad and a set of rooms for a castle in Austria but whatever he’s working on, Tom’s intention is to create ‘spaces and places that are a little unexpected’.
Self-confessed ‘colourists who adore pattern, texture and warmth,’ Bunny Turner and Emma Pocock co-founded the Turner Pocock design studio in 2007. ‘These days a client is unlikely to come to us if they want all neutrals but we very much pride ourselves on making someone’s house their home,’ says Emma. ‘We love blues, greens and pops of yellow and coral but we try not to be complacent and push ourselves to move out of our comfort zone by experimenting with new palettes.’ The pair work between London and Geneva, meaning they are ideally placed for both their European and UK client base.
With a background as an art historian and experience working for Sotheby’s and the Guggenheim in Venice, it’s no wonder that art plays a central role in Virginia White’s interiors (she also worked for designer John Stefanidis before starting her own company 17 years ago). She likes to design a space as a whole, rather than room by room and has a tendency towards light walls (Farrow & Ball’s Slipper Satin is a favourite), natural floors and accent colours brought in with furniture or art. ‘Having not long ago finished a project in Finland, I find Scandinavian design is such an immense influence on creating modern and easy to live with interiors,’ reflects Virginia who also has her own collection of fabrics, wallpapers and furniture, and often advises on purchasing art. She works on three or four projects in parallel, often for longstanding clients.
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