Directorio Deco by Gloria Gonzalez

In Conversation

In Conversation: Antonia Stewart

Antonia Stewart Ltd is an interior design practice specialising in high end private residential projects in London, the country and abroad.

With nearly 20 years of interior design experience, Antonia uses her creative flair to produce individual and elegant interiors whilst taking into account the architecture of the building and their surroundings.

In Conversation - Antonia Stewart

Discover Antonia’s inspiration, advice on starting your own interior design practice and more in today’s conversation.

 Dear Antonia, first of all, I would like to know when did your passion for interiors start.

My interest in interiors really has been there from the start…..when we were children, we lived in a lovely, warm, happy home in the (English) country that was always filled with fresh flowers for the garden; I always thought that that made the house feel alive.   In the interiors that I design now for my clients – without even thinking about it – I am always trying to recreate that feeling.

A Master bedroom in one country project by Antonia Stewart. The room was wrapped in a wallpaper that was especially coloured for this  room, taking it all the way up into the A-shaped ceiling space for the maximum effect.
A Master bedroom in one country project by Antonia Stewart. The room was wrapped in a wallpaper that was especially coloured for this  room, taking it all the way up into the A-shaped ceiling space for the maximum effect.

Later on, at school, I studied Art and History of Art and loved the combination of the two very different styles of discipline.  On one hand, there was the structure of history of art; an academic subject requiring research, reading and essay writing and on the other hand – art that required visualisation, hand to eye co-ordination, appreciation of materials, texture and colour as well as a great deal of imagination. At university, I then went onto study History of Art further – taking modules on domestic architecture along the way.  With a solid base under my belt, my first job was at a medium-sized architectural and interior design practice in London where I stayed for 7 years and learnt a lot about the practicalities of design.  I cut my teeth on some wonderful projects including undertaking the refurbishment of a private jet for a Russian oligarch!

The fabulous thing about interior design is that you are always learning and with every project, you research new areas that perhaps you didn’t know so much about before.

The hand-painted tiles in this London kitchen were commissioned especially for this room with a design that was worked up over months to meet with the client's brief.
The hand-painted tiles in this London kitchen were commissioned especially for this room with a design that was worked up over months to meet with the client’s brief.

 

What was the most difficult part when starting your own interior design practice.

I was never worried about starting my own business as I have plenty of get up and go and I had good contacts and great clients from the start.  However, I was most surprised by how much “back of house” administration there was to do; a lot of time can be taken up just doing things to make the business tick – such as VAT returns, insurance, marketing, social media – things that don’t necessarily make any money.  Now that I have been established for 13 years, my team picks up most of these jobs – enabling me to concentrate on the big picture and do what I enjoy most and am best at!

Study scheme for a recent project in Kensington by Antonia Stewart
Study scheme for a recent project in Kensington

 

Favourite British interior

I recently went to 7 Hammersmith Terrace, London – the Arts and Crafts home of Emery Walker. Walker and his friend William Morris were the first of the Arts and Crafts Movement and together set up the (shortlived) Kelmscott Press.  The house at 7 Hammersmith Terrace has recently been restored and has some of the original Morris & Co wallpapers (dating back to the 1920’s) some in rare designs and colourways. Combined with 17th and 18th century furniture, and fabrics and pottery from the Middle East and China the house is a fabulous mix of how a home would have been decorated in this period.

Emery Walker's House
Emery Walker’s House. http://www.emerywalker.org.uk/

 

What’s the best advice you could give to someone who is trying to start their career in the interior design field?

The world of interior design has changed dramatically over the last 20 years.  With many more people coming into the field, competition is now really hot.  Ideally, a newcomer would have a degree in interior design (in the UK the best courses are at the Inchbald or KLC in London) or something linked to the field – such as architecture, interior architecture, textile design or history of art for example and everyone must be fluent in CAD.  Every practice now demands people to have the ability to draw up furniture layouts, electrical layouts, joinery drawings in a CAD format.  In addition, you must be super organised and have good attention to detail – in running a job there are a huge number of ever-changing schedules that need to kept up to date and issued to keep the job on track and on budget.

I always think that an interior designer is like being the conductor of an orchestra; you are at the centre with the overall vision and it is your responsibility to organise and bring together the various elements, changing them if necessary to ensure that you always have the very best team around you.

Dual aspect windows in the sitting room of one of Antonia Stewart Ltd country projects. They chose a pink/green scheme for this room to keep it fresh and warm whatever the time of the day and used different textures to create a layered, evolved feeling.
Dual aspect windows in the sitting room of one of Antonia Stewart Ltd country projects. They chose a pink/green scheme for this room to keep it fresh and warm whatever the time of the day and used different textures to create a layered, evolved feeling.

 

Who are the past or present interior designers that inspire you the most?

Wow! That is a difficult question! Where to start!?! I love elements of lots of interior designers – but choosing 3 of my favourites….  Being a big colour fan, I find Kit Kemp a very refreshing face on the interior scene. I enjoy the eclectic build-up in her schemes and I particularly like the way she looks out specific artists and then incorporates their work into hers. As a result, her interiors feel cosy and not too formal – a bit like mine.  I also love the boldness and strength in the late David Hicks’s interiors. He was another great colour lover and combined this with the use of strong geometric carpets and fabrics for which he is well-known.  I also love the architectural work of Ben Pentreath – and feel so relieved that there is someone out there producing new but genuinely beautiful buildings (and streets!) that will be such a fabulous legacy for future generations.  He designs in such a classical way that if I was planning to do a new build – without doubt, he would be the person I would go to.

Ham Yard Hotel by Kit Kemp
Ham Yard Hotel (London) by Kit Kemp  Firmdale Hotels

Thank you so much, Antonia!

For more information visit: http://www.antoniastewart.com

Images: Antonia Stewart Ltd unless otherwise specifically stated.

In Conversation: Todhunter Earle

 Emily Todhunter founded her interior design business in 1988, with Kate Earle joining as her partner in 1998. Since then, the company has expanded rapidly both in size and scope. Projects range from English country houses to well-known restaurants, yachts, 5-star hotels and beautiful homes worldwide. 

Emily Todhunter, one half of this talented design duo, shares challenges, inspiration and more in today’s conversation.

Dear  Emily, first of all, I would like to know what are your biggest sources of inspiration.

I think I find inspiration in everything and anything that I am doing – all day long. Whether I am nosing through a coffee table book or Instagram, going for a walk on the downs, visiting an old English country house, in a museum, an art fair…wherever I am I am thinking about colour combinations and styles. If it had to be one source of inspiration, I suppose I would say that it was being brought up in lovely houses. I was very lucky.

Watercolor of a dining room in Scotland designed by Todhunter EarleWatercolor of a dining room in Scotland designed by Todhunter Earle

 

Over the years I’m sure that you have had many challenging projects, is there one that was particularly difficult?

I can’t think of any physical situation that has been too challenging. I am not at all fazed by the size or complexity of a project. What makes a project difficult is if there is an underlying family unhappiness that no amount of decorating can heal. We get so close to our clients and usually, we pride ourselves on our ability to lift and lighten everyone’s mood. We like to design happy houses and we usually do. But occasionally, (actually, only once I think!) the family dynamic was beyond repair. That was a real challenge!

A glamorous yet comfortable home in Belgravia by Todhunter EarleA glamorous yet comfortable home in Belgravia.

 

Favourite London interior

It’s probably very unimaginative but I do love the interior of the 5 Hertford Street. It’s so cosy and spoiling.

5 Hertford Street, London5 Hertford Street. Gloria González photography

 

  A colour you would never be tired of.

As a wall colour, I suppose I would never be tired of a Farrow and Ball’s ‘Downpipe’

Country home in Yorkshire by Todhunter Earle Countryhouse in Berkshire

 

Yachts, ski chalets, family homes…What’s your best advice to be able to do such diverse projects yet maintain a signature style in all of them?

I don’t think about it! I just follow my instinct and do whatever feels right at the time. I am not sure why I make the decisions I do. I just hurl it all together and hope for the best!

Swiss Chalet by Todhunter Earle                                                                      Swiss Chalet                                                                           

Any tips to adapt the English Country Style to modern times?

Yes – just simplify, reduce, lighten…but keep the character, keep the mementoes, don’t lose that evolved relaxed atmosphere, don’t be too precious. Reorganise the space so that the kitchen becomes the heart of the house. Gone are the days (sadly!) of having staff behind the green baize door. Open the house more to the garden, maximise the views through the windows. We used to need heavy curtains over the windows to keep out the draughts, but times have changed now, we have such good insulation so we ought to change our decorating accordingly and use lighter curtains and let the light flood in

Madresfield Court. Todhunter Earle Madresfield Court. Todhunter Earle
Madresfield Court
 

 Thank you so much, Emily!

For more information visit: http://www.todhunterearle.com

Images: Todhunter Earle unless otherwise specifically stated.

 

In Conversation: Molly Mahon

Molly Mahon’s bold and cheerful block printed fabrics, wallpapers and homewares are inspired by nature, her travels to India and her daily life in Sussex.

On today’s conversation, we get to know the work and life of a modern print maker.

In conversation: Molly Mahon
Molly Mahon

 

Dear Molly, first of all, I would like to know when did your love affair with block printing started?
Staring through the windows of an amazing fabric shop in Barnes, London where I was living and had my first child, so was often out pushing a pram. A feast for the eyes of fabrics all hand bock printed here in the UK. This led me to the shop owners block printing workshop set in the idyllic Sussex countryside and from that moment on I have been block printing obsessive.

I grew up in a very artistic environment where my mother was always making or doing something creative at the kitchen table. Therefore I feel very at home when I am at the table printing, in a nostalgic homely sort of way!

In Conversation: Molly Mahon

 

What did you find the most difficult part when starting your business? And the most rewarding?
My business has really grown organically so there isn’t a start date as such. At first it was my happy creative outlet which caught the eyes of friends. Slowly it grew to me printing for people outside of my circle, this was when I realised there was a business here.

Finding the people to work with and help me grow was hard, it took a lot of meetings and time and research. But, now I work with some wonderful people and have grown some very special relationships, in the UK and India. This is extremely rewarding as they also understand and want to make our products a thing of beauty.

The business is also my life, I am very passionate about what I do, so take everything personally! So if something goes wrong I really feel it, but when it goes right and when I see a pleased new client my heart sings and I realise that what I do is completely worth it.

In Convesation: Molly Mahon

 

Has Social Media changed your business model in any way?
YES – I think I have a lot to thank for Instagram. It’s the only social media channel that I use. I adore it, so simple and so visual – the perfect app for our product. It has enabled a very small kitchen table business with a small cash flow (so little expenditure on advertising/PR etc) to be seen all over the globe. I am certain that many of our orders have come off the back of my posts. I have also made many business connections through Instagram. It’s a really happy, positive, inspiring community.

In Conversation: Molly Mahon
Molly Mahon’s s Instagram @mollymahonblockprinting is full of inspiration

 

Favourite English interior.
The has to be Charleston farmhouse. Heavily embellished with colour, pattern and fabrics and set in the South Downs, down the road from us, Charleston has been a big influence on me and my designs. It concretes in my mind that ‘more is more’ and that colour and pattern makes for a very happy feeling home.

Charleston House (Sussex) Source: Charleston Trust. Penélope Fewster photography

 

A colour you would never be tired of.
Pink, in all its shades. Pink seems to be one of the hardest colours to mix, so we are delighted that we have some really lovely pinks in our collections.

In Conversation: Molly Mahon

 

Do you have any tips for mixing different prints in the same room?
Firstly, dont be scared to do it. If you like how it looks then thats good. A home should be made by very personal decisions, not by someone elses rule book. Start with one item, maybe a lampshade and add slowly…cushions, wallpaper then a new sofa cover perhaps…Mix up the scales, dont worry about colours, do what feels right to you.

In Conversation: Molly Mahon

 

When creating a new design, what part of the process do you enjoy the most?
I carry ideas around in my head, so I am in heaven when I find the time to sit down and pour them out on to paper. Once I have got the motif as I want it there is nothing more thrilling than carving the block and seeing how it looks in repeat. I am very impatient and work quite quickly. I can feel immediately if its going to work on fabric/wallpaper or whether it goes in the box of ‘needs more work’. Once I have the design I look at it and can imagine what sort of colours it should be printed in, its fascinating how colour can change the look of a design. I get very excited when I lift the block for the first time. A newly printed design that has been a success in my mind really is a thing of joy to me.

In Conversation: Molly Mahon

Thank you so much Molly!

For more information visit: http://www.mollymahon.com

Images courtesy of Molly Mahon unless otherwise stated.