«When West Elm invited me to create a room set at their only European store, I was rather pleased. Here, after all was a perfect opportunity to show what a professional interior designer could do using some of the best furniture and accessories available on the high street. What could go wrong? However it wasn’t going to be as easy as I thought.»
Brands are popular around the world as they manage good taste for you, but the British public just don’t buy into a totally branded look, they are less conformist. As the nation that invented Punk, the Brits often look down on good taste but look up to style. Style is about the individual and having the confidence to stand out from the crowd.
That’s it, that what’s I will give to West Elm, a room with style, I thought. After all that’s what I do every day, working with my clients to define their style but there lies another problem, this time there isn’t a client just a store full of great furniture and homeware.
Thankfully, walking around the store I discovered a pair of cushions, that just had to be used. They reminded me of a wonderfully creative period in the late sixties and early seventies when furniture from the 1900’s and 1920’s was mixed with modern furniture. A whole new look was created with what was accessible and championed by Barbara Hulanicki and her BIBA shop. These decadent cushions could have been on sale there. I had to use them.
I wanted to create a room set that is glamorous, engaging and fun. Something that could not be just bought as it is an amalgamation of disparate objects that have been put together to create a strong cohesive look.
I mixed West elm furniture and accessories with a pair of French 19th century gilded chairs, a vintage drawing board used as a TV stand together with a whole load of bits and pieces that I found on Ebay.
The challenge was how to turn all that into the strong look that I wanted.
Colour – early on I decided on a colour scheme inspired by those cushions with gold, pink and black. Such a bold scheme stands out and holds everything together. It is said that every room should have a little black. Probably as it is a non-colour and yet defining and it allows other colours to glow.
Symmetry – dividing the room with the centre panel supporting the mirror and then reflecting on either side with pairs such as the chairs. I loosened this up by placing some objects such as the key cushions to one side
Over scaling – I’ve framed the room with a pair of enormous pot lights. I’ve also used two coffee tables put together, by over sizing the scheme looks more assertive.
Pattern – it has to be bold in order to work. Here, I’ve taken a psychedelic pattern from Timorous Beasties and hung it from the ceiling. There it doesn’t fight with the furniture and yet set the tone of daring glamour, it doesn’t clash as it is in line with the colour scheme.
Linking – certain items talk to each other showing that their selection is deliberate rather than random. For example the African mask relates to the ethnic pattern on the bar seen at the rear to the right and to the raw carved sofa table between the chairs. The French gold chairs a grouped with gold French porcelain on the table. The links should be subtle to keep the scheme feeling uncontrived.
Grouping – I bought a number of small items that I wanted to reflect the person who might live there. We all have cherished thing that we want to display but they need to be grouped so they don’t look chaotic. Here I’ve placed most items on the coffee table, where they can be seen and tell a story. I’ve also grouped a handful of item on the console table behind the sofa as they can be easily seen and set the tone.
Multiples – using multiples of the same item, be it cascades of just one type of fruit in a bowl or in this case piles of books all black on the table. It is an old stylist’s trick to make a room stand out on the page of magazine.
The eye has to travel – as the famous Vogue editor Diana Vreeland said. Just an artist does in painting a room needs to encourage the eye to follow a course through the room. I’ve achieved this by attracting the eye initially to the strong ceiling pattern then down the rear mirror panel, over to the gold chairs, on to the coffee table and then finally to the heroes in the room, that pair of cushions.
There you go, there is method to my madness.