Directorio Deco by Gloria Gonzalez

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.

January Favourites

Scala Regia Issue 4 – Leisure & Pleasure  Scala Regia magazine never disappoints. Every issue is a celebration of life and beauty. Wonderful articles on Arts, culture, talents, personalities, interiors, fashion and the stories within history.

A dispute with disquiet. A Dior exclusive for this issue's cover story.
A dispute with disquiet. A Dior exclusive for this issue’s cover story.
Behind the scenes captured by Editor in Chief Diogo Mayo
Behind the scenes captured by Editor in Chief  Diogo Mayo
Luxury of Leisure – The rise of Informal dress in the age of enlightenment
Quilting the past – In Conversation with Jean-Charles de Ravenel
Alluring Arlesians. Antoine Raspal and the birth of the portrayal of fashion in Arles.
Seeing as an exercise – The photography of Francis Hammond.

 

Jemma Lewis Marbling: Jemma is a producer of fine hand marbled papers with a mesmerizing Instagram account!

 

Valentino Spring 2018 Couture: If I have to sum up this collection in one word it would be Sublime.

Images: Vogue

La Oficial Cerámica: A wonderful store in Madrid selling Portuguese crockery by weight.

 

Gina LangfordI love Gina’s fresh take on custom heraldry and monograms. Everything she does is Oh so pretty!

Robin Verrier photography

 

 

The Embroideries of Lagartera

The commission to decorate the library of the Hispanic Society of America decisively marked the life of Sorolla, not only because of the commitment to transmit to the American public an image of the country that reflected the national identity but also because it prevented him from dedicating valuable time to other artistic endeavours.

The process of creating the panels obliged Sorolla to travel throughout Spain taking notes and studies of nature, both large monuments and scenes, which he then composed in a laborious puzzle whose final result is an accurate mirror of life in Spain.

Lagartera Bride , Joaquin Sorolla , 1912

He began his journey in Lagartera. This canvas painted in the spring of 1912 was a preparatory study for the panel dedicated to Castilla, ‘The bread festival’. On this painting, a ‘Lagartera bride’ is surrounded by ‘Lagarteranos’, all dressed in the traditional intricate costume from Lagartera.

A girl from Lagartera wearing a traditional costume in 1914. Photography by Jules Gervais-Courtellemont for National Geographic
A girl from Lagartera wearing a traditional costume in 1914. Photography by Jules Gervais-Courtellemont for National Geographic

Since the 16th century, the small Spanish village of Lagartera (Toledo) has been famous for its exquisite embroidery which, in my opinion, is one of the most exquisite examples of Spanish craftsmanship. These embroideries are traditionally worked on hand-woven linen, using lively colours and the satin stitch and double running stitch techniques

Antique Lagartera Embroidery

 

The origin of these embroideries started with the Coptic Culture that developed in Egyptian territory between the years 313-641. During this period,  Coptic art was flourishing with advanced technology which was developed in the looms and weaves, creating some beautiful embroideries of Byzantine influence, but also mixed with a perfect classical order by Hellenic influence.

Coptic Embroidery
Coptic embroidery motifs

When the Arabs dominated Egypt, they welcomed their culture, especially in their sumptuary arts and in particular their embroideries, which spread throughout their areas of influence: Syria, the Caucasus, Maghreb and Al-Andalus (Muslim Spain).

Coptic Embroidery , Ana Abascal Antiques
Fragments of Coptic embroideries at Ana Abascal Antiques store

The Mozarabs (Christians who lived in an area governed by Arabs, but maintaining their Christian religion and their Spanish laws), took much influence from the Arab culture, especially in the language, gastronomy, weddings as well as in the sumptuary arts especially in dress, fabrics and decoration or embroidery thereof.

The existence of Mozarabic populations in Lagartera is demonstrated in the document of 1281 published by Ángel Barrios in his work “Documents of the Cathedral of Ávila” . These Mozarabs would be the ones who adapted the  Coptic-Arab embroideries among their natives and have remained to this day.

Lagartera Embroidery

For more than eight centuries, the Lagartera embroideries have been shaped by different styles and influences. Renaissance designs can be seen in some religious scenes embodied in bedding. Also, we can see eighteenth-century influence taken from the designs of the Royal Silk Factories at Ávila, Talavera de la Reina and Oropesa, as well as some ornamental motifs from the nearby ceramics of Puente del Arzobispo and Talavera de la Reina.

Lagartera Embroidery

These embroideries were traditionally used for clothing as well as for home furnishing. Below you can see some stunning pictures that my friend Miriam took a couple of years ago during the Corpus Christi. For this celebration, the facades of Largatera are decorated with different textiles pieces, altars are placed on the doors of the homes and the people from Lagartera dresses with the traditional costumes.

Corpus Christi in Lagartera. Popular Costume

Corpus Christi in Lagartera. Popular Costume Corpus Christi in Lagartera. Popular Costume

Corpus Christi in Lagartera Corpus Christi in Lagartera

Information about the origin of the Lagartera embroidery –  Ciudad de las Tres Culturas Blog