Craft is at the heart of the work of these design studios
Interior designers play a vital role in placing craft at the heart of homes and public spaces, supporting the careers of makers and exposing the wider world to the power of the handmade. Here are some of the practices that have made craft central to their work – and some inspiration for your own home improvements during the lockdown.
‘When the might of the hand is combined with the might of the mind, magic is revealed,’ says Paris-based India Mahdavi, who has projects such as London restaurant Sketch and the Monte Carlo Beach hotel in Monaco under her belt. Her new gallery space at 29 Rue de Bellechasse is ‘a tribute to craftsmanship’, displaying objects she has created for such projects with artisans, including a hand-enameled stool, a blown-glass chandelier, a rattan screen and a table that uses straw marquetry. ‘I see these collaborations like an exchange between know-how and design, which result in the making of products that have a truthful identity,’ she adds.
‘The most enjoyable element of my job is the privilege of working with people who have incredible passion and knowledge of their craft,’ says Rachel Chudley. Her London-based studio employs artists as well as designers, putting together interiors characterised by colour, texture and informality – whether in a stylish warehouse conversion or a historic, listed property. She often specially commissions works for these spaces, including the custom-made art deco style walnut armoires pictured above.
Renowned for mixing vintage and contemporary design and craft to decadent and evocative effect, the Milan-based duo – Emiliano Salci and Britt Moran – design interiors, as well as their own furniture and objects. The studio's clients include fashion houses such as Hermès and skincare brand Aesop, as well as hotels and luxurious private residences. Its gallery showcases their own line of designs, including stained glass screens, tapestries and sculptural lighting.
Stephen Burks Man Made
‘Every object ever made tells a story — and some objects have more to say than others,’ New York-based Stephen Burks said in an interview in 2015. ‘Mostly they’re stories about materials or production, but sometimes there are also stories about activity and use.’ Designing products for major design brands such as Cappellini, Ligne Roset, Missoni and Roche Bobois, as well as acting as creative director for retail interiors, events and exhibitions, he has worked with artisans in Senegal, South Africa, India, Colombia and Peru.
Lulu Lytle founded Soane Britain in 1997 with Christopher Hodsoll, after taking a road-trip around Britain to establish relationships with makers. The business now works with about 30 workshops and artisans who specialise in traditional crafts such as iron forging, saddlery and rattan weaving, designing their own objects and helping clients realise commissions. Their makers create everything from decorative edging for mirrors and fireplaces, to chairs and lights in rattan, to colourful tambour cabinets. Soane’s recent redecoration of Cobblers Cove hotel in Barbados resulted in a collection of furniture, lighting and textiles based on the project.
Roman and Williams
The New York-based studio’s projects range from the British Galleries for the Metropolitan Museum of Art and branches of the Ace Hotel in New York and New Orleans, to the private home of Ben Stiller and Gwyneth Paltrow and the dining hub at Facebook’s HQ. Founders Robin Standefer and Stephen Alesch started out designing sets for Hollywood films before moving over to work on interior spaces, drawing on Standefer’s background in art and Alesch’s in making. In 2017, they launched the Roman and Williams Guild, a retail arm that sells their own designs, as well as those by artisans from around the world, including Akiko Hirai, Dylan Bowen and John Julian.
Best known as a multidisciplinary artist, Faye Toogood has created works of sculpture, furniture and fashion, as well as several interiors. A holiday home in Ibiza she designed featured specially commissioned handmade vessels and her own bespoke interventions, including a sculptural staircase in concrete and plaster. Meanwhile, a store in London for Mulberry featured a diverse palette of materials – ceramic tiles, cast resin, patinated bronze and hand-tufted rugs.
Iñigo Aragón and Pablo López Navarro established the Madrid-based practice in 2012, and have gone on to gain a reputation for their artisanal approach to residential and commercial spaces – which feature everything from custom-made furniture and new ceramic tiling to carefully restored historic detailing. The studio also sells a curated selection of ceramics, textiles and other objects through its website, as well as running its own B&B in a late-nineteenth-century home in Rioja that the designers restored in 2006.
Oregan-based macramé artist and interior designer Emily Katz has worked with brands such as Urban Outfitters, as well as teaching her craft around the world – gaining a substantial Instagram following in the process. Her Bohemian interiors reflect her aesthetic as an artist, with plenty of fibre among the handcrafted elements, as well as greenery and wood.
‘We like to bring craft right to the heart of the design process,’ says Eryk Ulanowski. His practice has worked with high-profile clients such as Paul McCartney, and has brought works by weaver Alan Oliver, jesmonite artist Malgorzata Bany and glass artist Jochen Holz, among others, to its clients. But he’s adamant that a crafted interior doesn’t need to cost the world. ’We ensure that it doesn’t have to be super expensive to bring bespoke elements into our projects.’ For a current restaurant at a department store, for example, it is working with students from the London School of Mosaic and the Royal College of Art’s ceramic and glass department to sure unique elements can be delivered within the client’s budget.
Founded by Charu Gandhi in 2014, Elicyon specialises in luxury residences, with projects in London, Dubai, New York, Los Angeles and Mumbai that feature bespoke joinery, furniture and lighting. For a recent project, at London’s Chelsea Barracks, it curated a range of bespoke furnishings, ceramics and artworks, and explored materials such as chalk and clay. Another recent bespoke project realised for a client was a drinks cabinet comprising brass, églomisé mirror, shagreen leather and gold leaf.