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Hiring an interior designer – the lure of innovative design

By Ben Weaver - Editor in chief at The London List. @the_london_list


Over the past decade the idea of interior design, and ergo, hiring an interior designer, has become much more of a “norm”. People are design savvy and aware of their surroundings. The sort of stylish furniture that was once the preserve of luxury city interiors stores can now be purchased cheaply online. This, in my opinion, is a good thing. “Design for the masses” is a concept that has been pushed by architects since the 1960’s and now, more than ever, it’s far easier to create an incredibly stylish interior. Indeed there’s a certain cache in finding a bargain. I’ve even heard a renowned New York socialite boast of the Ikea dining tables in the “guest penthouse” below her own palatial apartment.

The combination of these factors has had an impact on high end interior design. The bland luxury of the noughties, marble floors, shades of taupe, fur accents and chandeliers no longer excite people. As a result, hoteliers and restaurateurs are approaching designers that have a far more individual aesthetic. For example, global interiors firm Wilson Associates have partnered with designer par excellence Tristan Auer, creating what they call an “atelier haute couture of design”. Essentially, Wilson knew that they wanted more boutique, interesting work and that they couldn’t get it as a big name. With Auer on board, high net worth clients have been lured by his signature elegance and French style.

Similarly, Inge Moore and Nathan Hutchins, former heads of London design behemoth HBA, left last year to form Muza Lab, a boutique design firm focusing on a more personal, hands-on approach, designing “projects that veer away from the mainstream”. This, I think, is a sign of things to come. 

Image by NordWood Themes

Even Rose Uniacke, doyenne of modern English elegance, was recently commissioned to design the observation and dining cars for Belmond’s Royal Scotsman train. Those in the design world will appreciate, this is not the norm, and more traditional firms that have relied on bland stayed luxury must surely be worried. Even on the high street, Flemish architect  has been appointed creative director of Italian furniture company Molteni&C and Spanish architect Patricia Urquiola, art director at Cassina.

Personally I welcome this shift in attitude. For too long we’ve seen gaudy interiors with lazy detailing, churning out tired copies of chairs and tables from Pinterest (with the obligatory nine points of difference…) showing no real understanding of their historical significance. People want more authenticity and a pure vision. In the sphere of luxury hotels, designers like Phillippe Starck and Patrick Jouin don’t necessarily comply with an operator’s standard sheet and may very well go over budget; but they offer a destination, something that people will really remember, and that’s a commodity worth paying for. When you call a “star” designer, clients are more inclined to engage with their vision, and to coin a somewhat tired cliché, that’s when the magic happens. Like it or loathe it, we’re living in the age of the selfie, and everyone wants an instagramable interior.

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