Tired of manicured monochrome? Colour and character are back. Here is our pick of decorators who dare to be different
Ever thought of getting in a professional interior designer but worried the result would be like living in a showhome? You are probably right. In the boom years, many decorators aspired to work for luxury developers, and more recently have targeted the influx of foreign investors in London’s super-prime postcodes, so the trade has gained a reputation for the type of intercontinental, manicured monochrome that these clients, who have multiple homes, love.
Giles Kime, deputy editor of Homes & Gardens and deep thinker on the subject of decor, says: “The seamless join between interior design and property development has spawned a polite, homogenous style that is more about investment than inventiveness.” But that, Kime adds, is only half the story. While it’s still possible to commission a domestic interior that resembles a hotel lobby in Dubai, the design of easygoing family spaces, full of colour and individuality, is flourishing again. “There’s a new generation of designers — as well as stalwarts who have stuck to their guns — injecting schemes with a spirit that focuses more on the tastes of their clients and issues such as craftsmanship and sustainability.” So, in honour of this revival, Home has identified the top 30 designers who are doing inspiring work in real homes.
Let’s say some of the pictures on these pages tickle your aesthetic fancy. The rooms look casual, effortlessly pulled together, artfully cluttered. Why would you pay a decorator for something that looks simple enough to do yourself? Sue Timney, designer of interiors and textiles and president of the British Institute of Interior Design (BIID), the decorators’ professional body, says: “We are incredibly creative as a nation, but being creative isn’t the same as getting a good interior-design job done. People start a project and find they get stuck and give up, or call in a professional, because an amazing amount of the job is technical or boring. The average homeowner might not want to work with the builders consolidating health and safety issues.”
She adds that there are safeguards for those using a BIID designer: “Our members are professionally qualified, have years of experience and high levels of insurance. If a client isn’t happy, they abide by our complaints procedure.”
Money is the real issue for most of us. An interior designer is only an option if you have a job in mind, and a sum of money reserved to carry it out. Apart from the folk in our Best on a Budget section, few decorators will work on projects with a value below £25,000. But if you have a substantial makeover or alteration to achieve, a good designer will anticipate and avoid the common but costly pitfalls and squeeze out the last drops of value from your cash, through canny sourcing and use of trade discounts. “Even with a low budget, a designer can save you money and a lot of heartache,” says Timney.
1 Ashley Hicks
The pitch “Modern eccentric, historically inspired.”
Our take Detail divo and king of the contemporary country- house look.
Projects Hicks designs everything down to cupboard handles and wallpapers, makes carved furniture, and works on projects including rebuilds and new houses.
Clients Friends or friends of friends.
Contact 020 7581 4336, ashleyhicks.com
2 Max Rollitt
The pitch “Joyful homes that are comfortable, elegant and interesting.”
Our take As a furniture designer and antiques dealer, Rollitt’s trademark is gorgeously patinated timber.
Projects Currently working on a country estate in Connecticut (with landscape designer Dan Pearson) and a Queen Anne country house in Sussex.
Clients Art and antiques dealers, and fashion folk.
Budget £400,000 upwards.
Location Based in Hampshire, but works mainly in London.
Contact 01962 738800, maxrollitt.com
3 Martin Waller
The pitch “Easy-going, feet-up-on-the-table comfort.”
Our take Nobody does man deco better.
Projects As well as private clients, he creates unique hotels, and has just completed El Lodge in the Sierra Nevada mountains, in Spain
Clients Prime ministers, presidents, royals, movie stars and footballers.
Contact 020 7225 5104, andrewmartin.co.uk
4 Emma Sims-Hilditch
The pitch “Classic contemporary interiors in cool fresh English colours with a palpable tranquillity.”
Our take Go-to girl for historic buildings; creates airy interiors with real character, including beautiful painted wood kitchens.
Projects Current schemes include a 16th-century listed manor house in Dorset and a Lutyens family home outside Edinburgh.
Clients Film producers, pop stars and ordinary folk.
Location Based 10 miles from Bath, travels across Britain.
Contact 01249 783087, simshilditch.com
5 Louise Jones
The pitch “Sensitive, timeless and unique.”
Our take Subtle palette and crisp, fresh forms; perfect for low-key period interiors.
Projects Typically full-scale refurbishments, but she will take on smaller jobs, if they offer a challenge. Service includes commissioning artworks.
Clients Busy professionals who make time to get involved in the design process.
Location UK, town and country.
Contact 020 7351 6858, louisejonesinteriors.com
6 Abigail Ahern
The pitch “Glamorous, eclectic and a little tongue-in-cheek.”
Our take Ahern’s quirky, colourful style is unmistakeable. Learn her deco secrets at her own design school.
Projects From full-on refurbishments, with structural elements, to decorative makeovers of large homes (2000 sq ft plus), Ahern’s work is mainly focused on city properties in New York, Miami, London and Paris.
Clients Celebrities including Emma Watson, Robbie Williams and Jeremy Paxman.
Location Based in London, but travels the world.
Contact 020 7354 8181, abigailahern.com
7 Robert and Josyane Young
The pitch “Classically informed, incorporating contemporary elements with traditional and antique accents. Confidently understated.”
Our take Fantastic paint finishes and tactile surfaces strewn with curiosities, from Swedish clocks to folk art.
Projects “From residential houses worldwide to freshening up some rooms in a home we did years before.”
Clients Entrepreneurs, financiers, barristers and fine-art specialists.
Budget Typically £80,000- £250,000, but will go lower.
Contact 020 7228 7847, robertyoungantiques.com
8 Turner Pocock
The pitch “Bold use of colour and pattern, combined with textured, natural materials to create expressive, luxurious interiors.”
Our take True taupe dodgers. Bunny Turner and Emma Pocock are best at urban, contemporary family homes.
Projects Bunny Turner and Emma Pocock work with architects on refurbishments. Large London homes are their bread and butter.
Clients British families and the more aesthetically courageous non-doms.
Location TP has studios in London and Geneva and will travel in Britain and abroad.
Contact 020 3463 2390, turnerpocock.co.uk
9 Suzy Hoodless
The pitch “Modern, classic, design-led and comfortable.”
Our take Inspiring and original, but deeply relaxed.
Projects “We work both alongside architects on major projects, but also consulting on simple decorative projects it could be specifying furniture only.”
Clients Lovers of good design from all walks; Erin O’Connor and Jacquetta Wheeler.
Budget £25,000-£4m, or can do hourly consultancy.
Contact 020 7221 8844, suzyhoodless.com
10 Harriet Anstruther
The pitch “Old meets new, whimsy meets practicality. Anti-formulaic.”
Our take Quirky, charismatic, considered interiors, highly decorative but no frills.
Projects From architectural and landscaping projects to pure decorative makeovers, her work is mostly residential, with some hotel and gallery projects.
Clients From the worlds of art and design.
Budget £300,000 upwards.
Location Based in South Kensington, but often works in the home counties.
Contact 020 7584 4776, harrietanstruther.com
The pitch “Incorporating salvaged material into an interior to add a warmth and depth.”
Our take The interiors arm of super-stylish salvage shop Retrouvius, headed by Maria Speake, proves using reclaimed pieces is an aesthetic choice as much as an environmental one.
Projects Full-scale rebuilds, carried out over several years, to eight-week interior finishes. Buildings range from flats in London’s Barbican to medieval priories in Suffolk.
Clients From Bella Freud to eco-aware north London locals.
Budget Typically over £25,000, but any project is considered.
Location London and UK.
Contact 020 8960 6060, retrouvius.com
The pitch “A contemporary environmental design style, featuring low-energy technology, natural and non-toxic materials and vintage elements.”
Our take Heath coined the term “eco-chic” and still leads the way with his healthy, happy interiors.
Projects Home refurbishments including basement, ground-floor and loft extensions, from developing the brief to completion.
Clients Intelligent, thoughtful types.
Budget £150,000 upwards.
Contact 01273 326031, oliverheathdesign.com
The pitch “Thoughtful application of sustainable principles to sensitively create and configure spaces.”
Our take Gentle, calm interiors in a subdued palette.
Projects A wide range of work, from managing building projects to decorative refreshes, and from gallery flats to large family homes in the British countryside.
Clients High-profile philanthropists and fashion industry luminaries.
Budget Refurbishments over £200,000; also consults on sustainable decoration.
Location Within walking distance of her Chelsea studio.
Contact 020 7373 9103, victoriamealedesign.com
The arty party
Les Trois Garçons
The pitch “Memorable, witty, localised and customised.”
Our take A uniquely rich mix of taxidermy and chandeliers, artworks and reclaimed architectural elements.
Projects The Garçons will do simple room makeovers and full-scale refurbs on properties from pieds-à-terre in the City to large statelies in the sticks. Most ambitious project so far has been their own Château de la Goujeonnerie in southern France (see video tour, above).
Clients Singers, actors, bankers, doctors.
Budget £100,000 upwards.
Location London and the surrounding counties; abroad.
Contact 020 3150 0187, lestroisgarcons.com
The pitch “Contemporary elegant, I like the fusion of 20th-century and contemporary classics mixed with strong art.”
Our take The look is pure “international art world” without feeling like a white-wall gallery.
Projects The whole range, from decorative makeovers to full refurbs on main homes or summer residences for clients in London, New York, the south of France, Monaco, the Greek islands, and Tel Aviv.
Clients Art collectors.
Location Based in Chelsea, but always on planes.
Contact 020 7589 5946, francissultana.com
The pitch “Classic with a contemporary twist. Emphasis on comfort and practicality.”
Our take Queen of botanical motifs and pretty colours —sophisticated homey interiors.
Clients Royalty, Rod Stewart and the Royal Albert Hall.
Budget From £100,000.
Location Mainly Britain, but will travel internationally.
Contact 020 7591 5770, ninacampbell.com
The pitch “Timeless, glamorous, but at the same time practical.”
Our take Subtle palette, soft textiles and luxurious finishes add up to smart interiors.
Projects TH work on full-scale refurbishments of mainly London properties, including, currently, the largest house in London, second in size only to Buckingham Palace.
Clients Businesspeople of all nationalities who own multiple properties.
Budget On the furnishing side, £150,000 upwards; on building projects, from £400,000.
Contact 020 7349 9017, taylorhowes.co.uk
The pitch “Impeccable attention to detail; luxurious and innovative materials.”
Our take Jenny Weiss and Helen Bygraves tolerate nothing less than a five-star finish.
Projects Private commissions include modern mansions in Surrey and apartments in central London, vast villas in the south of France and beachside homes in the Middle East.
Clients Have yachts. Often international businesspeople with young families.
Location Head office is in Weybridge, Surrey. Work is in the capital, all over Britain, and overseas from the south of France to Central Asia.
Contact 01932 858900, www.hillhouseinteriors.com
The pitch “To capture classical contemporary living and a feeling of understated elegance.”
Our take Quiet interiors, full of interest created by finds Pooley picks up on her travels.
Projects Large family homes in London; country estates; a castle in the Scottish Highlands; villas and palaces in the Middle East. The majority involve full-scale refurbishment, including structural changes and space planning.
Clients International jeterati.
Contact 020 7584 3223, katharinepooley.com
Clean and modern
Peter Tyler and Gordana Mandic
The pitch “Clean and modern: Le Corbusier, Frank Lloyd Wright and Jacobsen.”
Our take Tyler and Mandic create contemporary living spaces with energy and flair, inside traditional buildings.
Projects T&M’s in-house construction and interiors teams can take on the whole of any property project, start to finish. Refurbishments of large Grade II-listed properties a speciality.
Clients Bankers, entrepreneurs and businesspeople from overseas: European, American, Russian, African.
Budget From £400,000 for one of their large London refurbs.
Location Central London, usually, but will travel for £1m-plus projects.
Contact 020 7352 5250, tylermandic.co.uk
Staffan Tollgard Design Group
The pitch “Always respectful of each architectural setting, we create bold, contemporary interiors.”
Our take Imaginative and original interiors with classical bones, including bespoke joinery and inspiring lighting.
Projects High-end residential refurbishments and new builds, as well as more traditional interiors projects, providing contemporary furniture, art and accessories.
Clients Entrepreneurs, young professionals and design-conscious families.
Budget Decorative projects start at £50,000, refurbishments from £100,000.
Location London and the Algarve.
Contact 020 7575 3185, tollgard.co.uk
The pitch “Modern-classical, seeking symmetry, balance and longevity while using strong, true and organic materials.”
Our take Hot on fierce design and a master of cool tech.
Projects Typically full-scale refurbishments. From good-sized city pads to substantial country escapes. Most recently, a penthouse apartment in St Pancras railway station.
Clients Entrepreneurs in finance, retail and property.
Budget Refurbs from £250,000; decorative projects from £50,000.
Location London, Bristol, Ibiza, Nice, New York and Hong Kong.
Contact 020 7636 3838, tg-studio.co.uk
Atlantic Interior Design
The pitch “Comfortable contemporary living spaces with classic balance and symmetry.”
Our take Louisa Keating and Georgia Bulmer have perfected a sophisticated mix of pared- back forms and pattern.
Projects The team take on commissions from furnishings to complete building refurbishment, from two-bedroom apartments to six-bedroom homes.
Clients Entrepreneurs, media or financial folk, all with a passion for design.
Budget From £60,000.
Location London and the southeast.
Contact 020 7243 6364, atlanticinteriordesign.com
Colour and pattern
The pitch “Boldly scaled and relaxed. We create deeply comfortable and atmospheric interiors.”
Our take Blend of witty Britishness, featuring animal motifs, handcrafted furniture and richly coloured textiles.
Projects From small city apartments to rambling country houses, Soane Britain’s design service can supply individual furnishings, or rework every interior.
Clients Understated, with a very individual sense of style.
Contact 020 7730 6400, soane.com
The pitch “Mix of traditional with contemporary to provide a beautiful and functional home that is also timeless.”
Our take Specialises in colour and bold pattern, and her warm, harmonious rooms are ideal for practical family living.
Projects Restructuring and refurbishment or decoration of large family houses. “I will only take on a certain amount of work at a time so that each project can be done without distraction due to an overload of work.”
Clients Musicians, actors and artists, business set.Budget £500,000-£3m.
Location London and counties including Sussex, Hampshire, Norfolk, Kent, Gloucestershire, Surrey and Cornwall.
Contact 020 8960 9442, charlottecrosland.com
The pitch “Statement interiors that are luxurious and elegant while being practical and comfortable.”
Our take A little bit country house, a dash of grand hotel, but cosy and individual.
Projects “From a one-bed bachelor penthouse in Knightsbridge, a country house in Cambridge, to an international brand headquarters in Geneva. We always love a challenge — I’d like to do a train.”
Clients Have included David Frost, Nigel Havers and the Hinduja brothers.
Budget £25,000-£12m. Or you can buy a candle in her shop for £29.50.
Location London and the southeast, Cambridge, Paris, New York and the Middle East.
Contact 020 7730 0693, joannatrading.com
The pitch “Mixing contemporary style with antique pieces.”
Our take Combines old with new, and redisplays her clients’ artworks to create interiors full of character and colour.
Projects From Moscow apartments to Georgian manors; simple makeovers to full turnkey projects, “where the client can walk in, with every thing in place, clothes hung and food in the fridge”.
Clients Diplomats, media types, lawyers and doctors.
Budget Total refurbishment, starting at £250,000.
Contact 020 7723 5521, eliskadesign.com
Best on a budget
Jude Tugman, Interior Your Home
The pitch “We deliver an intelligent design solution that reflects our customer’s home and personality.”
Our take Ideal for homeowners who want limited expert input with a specific project such as redesigning a staircase, or creating an office space.
Projects The service is pay-as-you-go, designed to allow clients to access the services of an interior designer as and when they need advice, regardless of the size of their project.
Clients People who understand the value of professional expertise, but don’t necessarily want help for the full project.
Budget £10,000-£500,000; initial three-hour design and planning consultation from £399 plus VAT.
Location From offices in Richmond and Wimbledon, IYH covers most of London and the southeast.
Contact 0800 849 8506, interior-yourhome.com
The pitch “Passionate about colour, texture and pattern, especially Indian hand-block prints, the fabrics of Robert Kime, Penny Morrison and Kathryn Ireland.”
Our take Elworthy’s mix of handcrafted, vintage and contemporary furnishings with her beloved textiles results in serene and stylish interiors.
Projects Specialises in second family homes, and country houses. Projects range from advising on paint colour and upholstery to sourcing all furnishings to fill a second home, as well as complete refurbs.
Clients The down-from-town set. CEOs and company owners, corporate investors and management consultants.
Budget From £5,000 to £500,000, or can charge an hourly sum or a fixed fee.
Location Wiltshire, Oxfordshire, Devon, Hampshire and London.
Contact 07957 693246, lucyelworthy.co.uk
The pitch “Every interior is different but always has my hallmark: one-off, beautiful conversation pieces.”
Our take An expert in deliciously textured French rustic antiques.
Projects An urban studio apartment, a 17th-century French manor house, a thatched Irish cottage. Ryan does entire refurbs, or can simply give advice or find a specific treasure.
Clients Fashion gurus, academics, musicians and thespians.
Budget Starting at less than £5,000, for sourcing, supplying and styling.
Location London and France.
Contact 020 7352 5618, josephineryanantiques.co.uk