Monthly Archives: March 2012
She really needs no introduction. Abigail Ahern is one of the interior design world’s most exciting talents and one of our biggest inspirations. She’s known for challenging the traditional rules of interior design and tantalising with her magical, cosy and altogether beautiful spaces. Her blog is a regular read for us Colonistas and her shop is always on my weekend ‘must visit’ list. And tonight she becomes a television star.
Join us as we step into Abi’s world of dark walls and whimsical accessories - where no space is complete without a cheeky dog lamp or an oversized vase stuffed with brightly coloured flowers….
1. When did you first decide you wanted to be an interior designer?
Early 20’s I had been working for Terence Conran’s publishing house on the picture desk for a few years sourcing photos for his interior books and started to wish I had designed some of them.
2. We all know and love the Atelier Abigail Ahern we see today (dark walls, whimsical objects and lighting, tons of beautiful faux flowers) – how did you arrive at that signature look?
It’s strangely enough just evolved. I started out loving clean lines, white spaces a relatively minimal look. I was getting rather bored with it so started to experiment with colour and it all took off from there. I probably wouldn’t have gone down the whimisical route or the playing with scale route had I kept my interior white. Dark spaces challenge you, they tantalise you so its kind of fundamental that the stuff that goes into them does the very same thing.
3. How many people have you converted to ‘the dark side’?
In my dreams millions, no billions! Realistically a fair number I would say, from the comments on my blog, to the people who come to the masterclasses and visit the store. It’s so much easier to convert people if they can be in the space and experience it. I have a long way to go before it’s the norm but believe me I am working on it!
4. Do you think down pipe walls will be as ‘everywhere’, so to speak, in the future as magnolia is now?
I would like to think in the future rather than plumping for some beige haze of blandness people will start to experiment more. Its doesn’t have to be downpipe that’s purely my personal preference. The most incredible thing about colour is just how transformative it is and once you start experimenting there is no going back. Interesting enough I was listening to Radio 4 the other day and the MD of B&Q actually said that red paint outsells magnolia. Result!!
5. Where do you hope to see your brand in 5 years?
In 5 years time I would have liked to have designed a complete range for the home; bedding, paint, furniture, tableware etc etc. I would also like to take the brand overseas we have a fabulous following in both Australia and the States and would love to open stores there oh and a much bigger store in London with a garden centre, bookshop and café!
6. What advice would you give to someone interested in having a business set-up like yours (interior designer’s retail shop)?
Running your own business is the hardest thing on earth. It’s not 9 to 5, weekends in the early days are non existent especially if you have a retail store opening 7 days a week. The advice I would give is believe in your self, things don’t happen quickly over night but If you work hard and are confident with your brand then I truly believe you can shape your own destiny.
7. What’s been the most difficult project you’ve taken on?
The most difficult project was certainly the television series. It was fabulous fun but challenging at the same time. I tried to convert as many homeowners over to the dark side as possible, push boundaries with the design and took them out of their comfort zone. As a designer the biggest high is getting a fabulous endorsement from your client and I really couldn’t call it until they walked through the door at the end of each episode whether these homeowners would like my design or not. Nerve racking to say the least!
8. You’ve recently added another string to your bow: designing hand-thrown dinnerware and lighting. What inspires your product designs?
Generally I start designing stuff when I can’t get what I want in the market place. I see it my head but can never find so it all stems from there.
9. What is the most unusual object you have found inspiration from?
Some fibreglass old monsters foot off a film set. Love it its sitting on my fridge!
10. What is a day in the life of Abi like?
5.30 get up answer emails, write blog. 6.30 swim (if I can persuade myself). 7.30 in studio usually until 7 in the evening. During that time I could dash out for client meetings or research but at the moment its full on designing the next range so I am pretty studio based. We have two dogs so they need walking and then there is always a coffee at Violet the most fabulous cake shop on the planet.
11. What percentage of your time is devoted to the design element of your career? And to the retail side?
At the moment is probably about 60 design, 40% retail. The store pretty much runs itself (we have an amazing team). It’s a juggling act really from zooming all over the place finding p roducts to working on new ranges – luckily I am quite good at multi tasking.
12. What is your design motto?
Dare to be different.
13. Who is your design muse?
Kelly Wearstler for taking risks and following her heart.
14. Who is your design mentor?
My old boss in America Douglas McIntosh who owned and ran an architectural practice, McIntosh Poris. His passion and commitment inspire me to this day.
15. What are your favourite design resources (blogs, books, magazines)?
Blogs: saipuablogspot.com, theinteriorsaddict.com. Books all design related of course, The Selby, Sibella Court, Domino book of decorating. Mags Italian Elle Deco, Australian Vogue Living and Inside Out, Elle Dec and Livingetc, lonnymag.com
16. What are your favourite interiors shops?
ABC Carpet and Home NY, Rossana Orlandi in Milan, Labour & Wait, , Liberties, Petersham all London, Astier de Villatte and Merci both in Paris
17. If you were a classic chair, which would you be?
Vintage loop chair, Willy Guhl
18. Complete this sentence: Every great space should…
…. reflect its inhabitants, it’s a self portrait of how we live.
19. What are the five most essential items in your purse right now?
Phone, notepad, novel, camera, ipod.
20. How do you spend your free time?
Gardening, cooking, reading.
21. How do you like your coffee?
Strong with a good quality bean.
Abigail’s new show, “Get Your House in Order”, airs tonight on Channel 4 at 8pm.
Photos: The Selby, Abigail Ahern, Kelly Wearstler and TheBohmerian.com
I recently came across this image of The Hatch Cafe, which was a temporary installation-y type cafe in Portobello Dock in 2009. Old news, clearly, but the image still showcases a really cool, creative space.
Henry Miller on writing…
Image and quotation from Brainpickings.org
I get really excited about a good chair. Here’s a pair of Russell Woodard chairs that I feel I need – NEED – from The Peanut Vendor in London (props to Colonies founder Megan for discovering this great shop). They are constructed from a basket weave steel in a black coating and can be used outdoors.
Images from The Peanut Vendor.
Made a Mano creates lava stone, also known as basalt, tiles with patterns that are based on ancient templates and with colour that is applied by hand. They are absolutely stunning. In London, Made a Mano can be found at the Tom Dixon showroom. They also make equally beautiful countertops and sinks.
All images from Made a Mano
New items in our Etsy shop!
1) Vintage Match Strike or Match Holder, Silver and Glass; 2) Vintage Gourd Pottery Vase, Arts and Crafts Style; 3) Vintage Cast Iron Door Stop, Boston Terrier; 4) Vintage Brass Pineapple Ice Buckets, 9in and 7.5in; 5) Vintage Brass Perpetual Calendar; 6) Vintage Brass Door Knocker, Hand; 7) Vintage Brass Owl Tray or Pin Dish; 8) Vintage Ceramic Dalmatians, Dogs
Look who I collected from the framer yesterday!
This piece is called “The Disappearing Boy”. View more of Kai Samuels-Davis’ work here (you’ll thank me).
Word. From Austin Kleon‘s selection of prints for 20×200.