Drama Class

There is definitely a trend for darker colours in decoration which takes me back to my roots in interior design. Recent years have seen a vogue for a sleeker look with varying shades of pale grey dominating – and there certainly remains a place for this, but my heart has always been in bolder, warmer schemes.

You can engage with stronger colour palettes either by leaping in, going the whole way and immersing yourself in a wrap-around of rich colours to create a luxurious cocoon; or you can mix a strong main colour with a second lighter colour, or pops of brighter colours, elsewhere in the scheme.

Approach your project by creating a strong backdrop to your room, try painting the walls with one of the fabulous paint colours currently available. Two of my own current favourites are Ink from Zoffany (a rich, warm grey) and Squid Ink from Paint & Paper Library (a charcoal-blue – conjuring up a squirt of ink from a beautiful old fountain pen).  A bedroom with Squid Ink walls and matching rich velvet curtains would create the perfect canvas for a selection of jewel coloured accessories – perhaps a bold red geometric headboard with co-ordinating cushions and throw. The dark walls really encourage the brighter colours to sing and it is no co-incidence that some of the more opulent galleries paint their walls in deep dark colours that allow the brilliance of their art to hold centre stage. This creates a real sense of drama in a space allowing individual elements to stand out but without jarring.

Alternatively why not pick out the woodwork in a strong colour. It is hard to be enthusiastic about white woodwork which can drain a room of warmth and personality and I am a huge fan of dark woodwork in any room – for example charcoal looks fabulous and accentuates architectural features. But you can choose any colour by selecting a paint a few shades darker than the tone of your walls or the background colour of your wallpaper. To totally transform your room go the whole hog and also take the wall colour up and over the ceiling.

If this sounds a little overwhelming then take the plunge with deep-coloured walls but perhaps lighten the scheme with paler woodwork (a soft white or one of the 95 graduated shades of Paint & Paper Libraries wonderful Architectural Colours). Combined with a light, painted floor, white ceramic lamps and shot through with some bright cushions and throws for oomph you will still have created a warm, characterful room.

Even if your preference is for a more neutral scheme you can still combine this with darker colours. That fabulous ink shade I mentioned will work just as well with natural fabrics such as raw linens, tan leathers, rattan and sisal giving you a more urban but no less rich environment.

The vital point is not to be scared of colour but to embrace it – strong colours will not make your room dark if you ensure you have appropriate lighting. After all, if all the world is a stage then a dash of theatre is just what you need to add some vibrancy and character to your home.


A New Leaf

There is a real botanical trend running through interiors at the moment. It shouldn’t be a surprise, “bringing the outside inside” has long been an architectural motif in contemporary builds and most of us find the outdoors – earth, plants, water, sky – soothing and nourishing. It’s one of the reasons we so love the calming atmosphere of Victorian Palm Houses.

So how do you incorporate something of this botanical environment into your own home without building an extension or moving into the Royal Botanic Gardens?  Well, nowhere was this theme more apparent than at this Spring’s Maison & Objet / Deco Off design exhibitions in Paris. From wallpapers to fabrics, lampshades to ceramics it was easy to get happily lost in the jungle. Lush blues and greens abounded, with exotic plant life often intertwined with richly painted or embroidered birds and butterflies. Of course, real flower displays are fabulous, but for those “blessed” with black fingers like me, here are a few of my exhibition highlights that can easily be used in your own home.

Wallpapers are a classic way, with a long pedigree, to introduce a sometimes theatrically botanical note into a room. The wonderful De Gournay made full use of their new Rousseau design in their Paris showroom. Like most of their wallcoverings it is more art than wallpaper, and made a magical backdrop to a champagne breakfast amongst parrots, armadillos and banana trees.  We also loved French fabric house Nobilis’ new botanical wallpapers from their Cosmopolitan 1 and 2 collections. They decked out their showroom windows with a birds of paradise wallpaper – birds resplendent against a dark blue background – and accessorised with jewel coloured cushions trimmed with feathers. Or if you want a truly tropical feel introduce the rain forest into your bathroom by surrounding yourself with Timorous BeastiesMeridian Palm.   

Alternatively there are many ways to simply accessorise a room in a botanical style. We discovered gold palm tree floor lamps, pineapple wall lights, ceramic pineapple dishes and vases, butterfly displays, coral and agate slices. Many had more than a nod to Art Deco and they can be a great way to add an element of fun into a more classic interior. We even sourced the most stunningly realistic silk flowers for those who want to stick to floral displays – but without the watering!

Whether you want to go wild in the country or just tiptoe through the tulips there is an abundance of choice.

First published in: Premier Living Spring/Summer


We are Recruiting…

We are currently looking for a highly organised and self-motivated Designer.

Ampersand is a very busy interiors company with a design studio, showroom and a first class team of designers and interior architects. We are looking for an experienced interior designer to work on a large variety of exciting projects, large and small, residential and commercial.       

Applicants must be able to clearly demonstrate:

  • a detailed knowledge of all aspects of high end interiors;
  • a genuine talent for design;
  • expertise in Vectorworks to produce quality CAD combined with an eye for detail and matching presentation skills;
  • a proven aptitude for all aspects of project administration such as estimating, ordering, and scheduling;
  • excellent communication skills – both written and verbal.

If you possess these skills, you are highly professional and presentable as well as being adept with the usual office computer programs, then send us your cv along with a covering letter explaining why you are the ideal person to fill this position. (Applications without a covering letter will not be considered).

This is a full time role.

Send your application to Callum Fisken


Homes & Interiors Scotland

We are delighted to see the spread on one of our projects in the latest edition of Homes & Interiors Scotland. It was a wonderful project to work on with lovely clients and it is always good to have the opportunity to illustrate the thinking and expertise that goes into a successful design.

We were engaged to design and supply comprehensive decorative schemes, soft furnishings and furniture as well as specialist advice on flooring, hardware and architectural detailing such as ironmongery, panelling details, and fireplaces. Carley and Susanne worked wonders to create a calm, modern, pared back and sophisticated space, while also retaining the relaxing atmosphere of a family home.

Both designers articulate perfectly the range of our skills and the importance we attach in getting to know the clients across interior design and architecture. The aim being to build a relationship that allows us to design specifically for our client, but also to push just beyond the comfort zone with the end result being a unique design that is also fresh and interesting. 


Getting the Best from an Interior Designer

With over 25 years of experience in interior design Jackie and her team have worked on an enormous number of projects. Each project is different and every client comes with their own personality, lifestyle and priorities.

However, whether you are working with a new interior designer,  or you have never used an interior designer before, or you are simply starting a new project, there are key pieces of advice that Jackie has accumulated over the years on how to get the best from the professional expertise you have chosen to engage. Here she has distilled these insights into a brief guide.

  1. Start by thinking how you want your home to feel and work when everything is complete and this should guide all your decisions. This is also why you should engage your designer as early in the process as possible so that they can work with you to achieve this. There can be multiple parties working on your project including architects, contractors as well as multiple trades and it is easy to assume that everyone has a shared agenda which isn’t always the case.  Having a clear idea of the end design prevents expensive mistakes from being made in construction and selections being made in a piecemeal way where things won’t flow beautifully or relate meaningfully.
  2. The relationship between designer and client is hugely personal. Make sure you engage someone that you can relate to and who listens – and having done so trust them and trust the process.  While a good designer will design specifically for you, they should not simply facilitate what you already think you want. If you trust your designer to push you just beyond your comfort zone the end result will be truly unique to you but also fresh and interesting.
  3. Following on from this, keep an open mind. If you are hiring a professional to help with your interiors then allow them bring ideas that you may not otherwise have thought of. You can always say no to something you really don’t want, but you will not know what you may be missing if you set out too many parameters to work within.
  4. It is obviously best if everyone starts a project on the same page. I always recommend a client spend some time going through interiors books and magazines selecting images that appeal. Don’t be overly specific – don’t work out why you like the room or restrict yourself to preconceived colour palettes or styles – a good designer will be able to identify a common thread running through your choices and use this to design a beautiful scheme that reflects your lifestyle and your personality.
  5. Remember that designing a home isn’t just about creating pretty rooms that look great in photos. It is about function, comfort, character and personality as well. A successful design will be made up of thousands of details, the result of hundreds of decisions – a good designer will combine these efficiently but with a dash of inspirational alchemy too!
  6. As with any major project, it is worth undertaking a bit of research to understand your budget! Have an initial idea of the size, scope, and budget you will be comfortable with and be open about this with your designer. There are a huge number of variables in interior design which can come together in multiple ways, resulting in large variations in cost. Being open about budgets will allow your designer to design specifically for you and your project without spending valuable time heading up blind alleys.

And remember to enjoy the process! This should be an inspiring and creative experience with a beautiful home at the end of it.


Decorex International & Focus

September saw us scouring the annual launches for the best fabrics and products at Decorex at Syon Park & Focus at Chelsea Design Centre in London. While we are convinced of our “design alchemy” (what we ourselves create alongside our ingenuity in adapting and using the beautiful materials we source), we do love hunting down the pieces that keep our designs fresh, vibrant and – vitally –  individual.

Here are some of our favourites – we hope you like them as much as we do!

Here are Carley and Susanne exercising their artistic talents – and with Anna looking for a bit of rest on the beautiful de Gournay stand after a long day!

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Our “Best Collection” went to GP&J Baker’s Royal Gardens and Mulberry’s Festival. Baker’s collaboration with Historic Royal Palaces, including The Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace and Kensington Palace, has provided a wealth of inspiration for this collection.  Elements of their architecture, gardens and interiors create the dazzling designs in ‘Royal Gardens’, ‘Royal Weaves’ and ‘King’s Velvet’. Mulberry’s Festival  inspires fabulous interiors. The designs can make the perfect statement or work in harmony with the other stunning fabrics in the collection as well as many other collections.

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Patterned rugs and carpets are big news with some terrific designs from Alternative Flooring such as Qurky B Felix Raison Classic axminster carpet designed in conjunction with Liberty Prints (and beautifully modelled by ourselves!), and Tim Page Carpets whose extensive stock collection and one off custom designs provide an exciting range including some of these wonderfully colourful options that we saw. While Stark Carpets large scale designs (bottom right) were stunning.

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There was also a distinct animal theme to many of the collections this year. From Thibaut’s zebra and leopard-inspired fabrics and Clarke & Clark’s Monkey Business wallpaper, to Vaughan’s elegant faux shagreen Capri table and the fantastically quirky Textile Taxidermy of Carola van Dyke.

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In the showrooms away from the exhibition Ochre and William Yeoward continue to produce fabulously designed furniture. Ochre’s elegantly curved sofa was perfectly lit by their equally elegant Arctic Pear chandelier. Meanwhile William Yeoward’s almost signature chair designs looked as uplifting as ever in their vibrant yet classic upholstery. His new range of retro-inspired chests was a clear favourite with us.

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If you are want to find out about anything we have featured, or even if it has triggered an interest in any element of interiors, just get in touch.

 

 


Trending with Susanne – Making a Splash

In my Interior Architecture role I spend a good deal of time on bathroom design.

One of the things I am frequently amazed at is just how sterile and impersonal many bathrooms are. Even with the involvement of architects and bathroom designers the “look” is often one of generic blandness at best and a rather cell-like bleakness at worst! Each room in your home should be a meaningful space in its own right. Obviously the practicalities should always be expertly attended to and this is particularly vital in rooms such as bathrooms and kitchens – but all too often that appears to be the end of the brief rather than just the beginning of the design.

There are many ways to inject some character into a bathroom whatever the look you are after. One of the most important is lighting which, for some reason, is often little more than an after-thought. However, even in an existing bathroom you can introduce colour, warmth, and atmosphere through the decoration which should receive just as much attention as any other room.

A favourite technique is the use of artwork in bathrooms whether through bespoke wallpaper or specialist decoration. Here are three very different examples.

A blossom wallpaper set behind a free standing bath produces an almost ethereally gilded effect which is just beautiful. With sympathetic lighting even this relatively cool and simple bathroom would be transformed into an enchanted clearing for an indulgent soak.

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Commercial washrooms can provide the chance to make a big bold statement. Here a giant pelican certainly takes no prisoners! But a similar effect can be made in your own bathroom – do not be afraid of scale and certainly do not be afraid to be different.

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A more subtle effect may appeal in which case take a look at the graceful elegance of this plaster relief on a curved wall above a sunken bath. Far more understated but just as lavish in its own way – you can quite imagine bathing in milk to preserve your youth!

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Whatever is right for you, remember that bathroom design does not end at the choice of brassware. Look to create a space that you will positively enjoy being in.


French Style

There is no doubt that the French love a bit of grandeur. In Paris the imposing architecture of the Louvre and Versailles and Haussmann’s splendid boulevards encapsulated by the Rue de Rivoli ooze majesty. But the French also have the confidence to be irreverent: they may adore the regal but they are not averse to the guillotine!

It is in this spirit – while thoroughly enjoying any consequential controversy – that they will happily plonk I. M. Pei’s glass pyramid in the courtyard of the Louvre, and Jean-Michel Othoniel’s bejewelled glass and steel crown at the Palais Royal metro entrance amidst the stately surroundings.

Of course there is a time and a place for the “shabby chic” of the rural France of our imaginations – lime washed furniture and bleached linens can certainly conjure up memories of les grandes vacances. But it is in this confidence to embrace the creative tension between the grand and the provocative that French style really takes off.

And there is a real sense that creativity and design truly matters. In Paris for the recent Maison et Objet exhibition I was struck by just how beautifully presented and laid out almost every shop or showroom was.  If good design is the ordinary thing done extraordinarily well then it is evident in spades. Whether it is a shop selling nothing but white China (quite literally) or a humble grocer, the displays were every bit as important as the product itself.

You can easily inject some of this revolutionary spirit into your own home. You should certainly have good foundations to your scheme – a well thought-out layout, luxurious furnishings, excellent lighting – but it is the shocking pop of colour from, say, some beautiful cushions that will set the scheme off. It is giving pride of place to your slightly eccentric but much-loved heirloom or collection that will provide the iconoclasm that gives a room personality.

You shouldn’t have a room that is so relentlessly tasteful that it is instantly forgettable. Remember the guillotine in your scheme!

The Palais Royal metro entrance

The Palais Royal metro entrance


Maison & Objet

Maison & Objet in Paris is always a wonderfully uplifting way to start the year. It was particularly inspiring to be there in January and to see that traditional Parisian style, irreverence and panache have not been cowed by the tragic events of 2015.

The showrooms of St Germain were as creative as ever with flamboyant displays spilling out into boulevards lit with giant, colourful lampshades. Over-size textile flowers jostled with fabric-clad forests and tribal tents projected into the streets. The colours, textures and sheer imagination on show was a joy.

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As usual the showrooms taking part in Deco Off were profiling the current industry trends with each company choosing to interpret them in their own idiosyncratic way. Last year’s Nomade launch from Pierre Frey has clearly kick-started a wave of “ethnic” (in the broadest sense) collections. We particularly liked the Gaston y Daniela (especially their Roma book) and Kravet launches. There was an expansive  range of both large and small-scale geometric designs in blacks and whites which were most striking and eminently usable to bring structure and interest to a more pared back scheme. Both Manuel Canovas and Jim Thompson also included geometrics but infused with a more colourful palette.

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Maison itself was almost overwhelming in terms of its impact. The stands were glorious in their invention and sheer scale, and showcased distinct trends in 50s-inspired furniture, retro lamps, gilt wire lighting and lots and lots of fur.

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We made lots of lovely new contacts and sourced beautiful pieces including Ottoman cushions, fabulous Portuguese throws and stunning French ceramics. It is all due imminently to ensure the Ampersand showroom is a gorgeous as ever!

 


The Art of the Bespoke

We are delighted to be hosting an evening of design inspiration alongside de Gournay, the leading specialists in exquisite hand painted wallpaper on Thursday 25th February.

Dominic Evans-Freke, Director of de Gournay, will be providing an expert insight into this world-renowned company and its history, with a focus on their exquisite hand-painted wallpapers.

Since 1986 de Gournay have revived and continued techniques that began in the 18th century by employing a highly skilled team of artists to paint traditional Chinoiserie, Japanese, Korean and 19th century French Papiers Peints Panoramiques wallpapers.Their ability to customise their designs, however complicated the brief, truly sets de Gournay apart.

With showrooms in London, Paris, New York, Shanghai, Beijing and Moscow founder Claud Cecil Gurney’s aim of “bringing happiness into people’s lives by creating for them light, bright, vibrant and happy interiors” certainly has a global reach.

Jackie Fisken will be discussing how to combine creativity and individuality to produce truly personal interior design – whether for furnishings or bespoke cabinetry.

As Ampersand’s co-owner and Design Director Jackie is an enthusiastic advocate of eclectic design with real character. Whether imaginatively re-configuring space, making up beautiful furnishings or installing a hand-crafted study, she is a great believer that interiors should be designed for their owners not for the designer – and certainly not simply to conform to the vagaries of fashion! Interiors with soul in other words.

Join us for a glass of prosecco from 6.30pm with canapés kindly provided by Victor & Carina Contini.

Spaces are strictly limited and will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis so please book early!

RSVP to enquiries@ampersandinteriors.co.uk or telephone 0131 557 6634