Friday, 30 January 2015

Brit Decor: Interviews/ Ian Archer

Since 1989, Ian Archer has been gracing the world of design with his outstanding furniture pieces which have attracted the likes of Ercol, John Lewis, and Heals. However, Ian's successes go far beyond the shores of the UK, with designs launched in Milan, Paris, New York and Stockholm. 

As if this wasn't testament enough to his creative talent, Ian also runs his own hugely successful business, Archer & Co (formerly Couch Design), creating sustainable and high quality sofas and armchairs to high acclaim -  his Raffa armchair won the Design Guild Mark Award for British Design and Craftsmanship. 

So you can imagine my excitement when I was recently fortunate enough to catch a moment or two with the very man himself to find out more about what makes this prolific and innovative designer tick...

How and when did you first discover furniture design? 
Did you undertake any formal training?
I always had an interest in art & design. I still have drawings of
cars I did when I was 4!

I won the school art prizes and so it was a natural progression to do a
foundation course in art & design. It was here that I started to realise
my love of drawing could be allied to developing 3 dimensional forms -
initially sculpture, and subsequently furniture.

What inspires and drives you in life?
I have a tremendous enthusiasm for my work, and really never struggle
for ideas. I actually had to stop myself spending so many hours designing
last year as I had given myself a repetitive strain injury in my drawing

Fabrics can be an inspiration, when I find something I really love I
visualise what sort of shape I would want to wrap it around. This can
also work in reverse; when I have a shape in mind I will talk to Judy
(textile designer partner) about working on something that will best
suit it.

As some of my early years were spent working with very traditional furniture
makers, there is often a reference to the past in my work.

How easy was it to get your first break with iconic brands such as
I think getting a break working with an iconic company such Ercol, can
come down to luck, timing & ability. I had quite a good track record
making commercially successful products in an area of the market that
they were interested in, and I was recommended by a couple of respected
people in the industry.

Can you describe the creative process that takes place when you 
begin working on a design, from conception through to completion
All of my designs start in the same way - with what I call 'sketch
notes'. I scribble down lots of rough sketches, of ideas that may solve
the design brief. These can take minutes, hours or days depending on the
complexity of the project. I then refine these designs in my sketchbook
until I am happy with the final designs. 

I then visualise these either using 'Illustrator' or 3D modelling software. Then when the final design is signed off I produce full size working/construction drawings. These are passed to the frame maker, and when complete the frame goes to the upholsterer, at which point I discuss what I want, and usually after 2 or 3 meetings we have a finished piece - be it a production-ready prototype or
a one off bespoke sofa or chair.

What part of the design process excites you the most?
There are 2 aspects of the design process that I enjoy greatly. These
are, the initial idea generation through copious sketching - I just love
drawing & never tire of it. Secondly, seeing  a completed beautiful piece
of my furniture is really very rewarding.

How do you choose your materials?
Regarding the materials used it varies greatly with my broad range of
clients. The range for Archer & Co and companies such as Arlo & Jacob,
and Ercol, allows me to select natural and sustainable materials, and
generally just the most beautiful and highest quality materials and
fabrics possible. I visit key international fabric & furniture shows to
select the latest fabrics, and to identify current trends and to keep
abreast of new techniques & materials.

In terms of your designs, do you have any personal favourites, 
and if so, which ones and why?
I do have personal favourites of my own designs - usually the latest
things! But probably the Raffa chairs for Archer & Co (AKA Couch Design)
are my favourite. We have a pair of them at home & I often sit in one
whilst sketching ideas.

Can you tell me about your new range of furniture for Arlo & Jacob,
what was the design brief?
I have had a long standing relationship with the owners of Arlo &
Jacob, and when they approached me last year with their ambitious plans,
I was delighted to be involved. Their desire to create a range of
competitively priced, contemporary furniture, with a specification &
quality surpassing that offered by other 'on-line' retailers was a tall
order. I was able to get very involved in the whole 'ethos' of the
business, and starting with a clean sheet of paper, allowed the creation
of a range spanning updated 'classics' to more modern 'linear' shapes.
The range will keep evolving too, with more modular elements &
'signature' pieces to come.

Are there any other brands on your wish list for future collaborations?
There are several brands I would particularly like to work with,
Conran being the most notable in the UK - and I have some things under
discussion with them at the moment. Outside of the UK I think my work
would fit with Morosso & Edra particularly well. But I'm keen to do more
work in Scandinavia and the USA too.

Why did you decide to change the name of your own brand from Couch Design to Archer & Co? 
Our range is much broader than just my sofas and armchairs, Judith is now designing her own collection of fabric and the shop stocks accessories and wallpaper by other designers so I felt we needed a name that reflected that change.

What is next for Ian Archer?
2015 should be a great year. Many things I've worked on in 2014 are
being launched early this year in the UK, Cologne, Paris & Stockholm.
I'm also working on some more 'contract' orientated soft seating, as well
as a whole new collection for Archer + Company, to coincide with the
re-branding. Onwards & upwards as they say, 'just trying to make beautiful 
comfortable furniture for as many people as possible!'


Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Brit Decor: A Modern Gothic Tale

Images (from top) 1The Glossier Nerd 2The Food Fox 3The Design Files 4/ The Country Philes 
5Stylizimo 6Freshome

The Victorians loved to mimic Gothic architecture, which subsequently ushered into British homes (and beyond), a hugely popular revival of Gothic styling. Since then, this style has endured the test of time and remained popular in a world of constantly changing trends. As a result, the Gothic-look has aged remarkably well, but what makes this such a popular and relevant style choice in the 21st Century? 

Today's Gothic interiors exude a sense of drama and intrigue - inspiring some homeowners to act out a dark and mysterious narrative through an abundance of alluring darker colour tones and plush textiles. This style can also be romantic and over-indulgent but above all, it can withstand the rigours of time. But how do we adapt this narrative into our own homes and make it work...?

Below, I've put together a mood board to recreate the Gothic look with a modern twist. In terms of the colour palette, take a bold leap over to the dark-side, but if black is a step too far, explore rich colour tones such as Little Greene's 'Basalt 221' blue-black paint (no.4 below), or the slightly lighter reddish toned 'Pelt' from Farrow & Ball. With these darker colours, it's great fun to explore and exploit texture by applying contrasting gloss against matt finishes and offsetting shiny silk-like fabrics with softer velvets for both a highly tactile feel and further contrast. 

The deep smokey purple velvet upholstery of Conran's 'Wallace' armchair (no.9 below) makes for an incredible statement furniture piece, and for a more contemporary feel, I've thrown in a lighter turquoise velvet cushion from Amara (no.1) along with a modern take on a classic portrait, with this stunning 'Tom Green' graphic cushion (no.2) from Clippings.

In keeping with the theme of contrast, for our modern Gothic tale I have selected this glossy black 'Flos' table lamp (no.3) with its inner gold lining for that hint of opulence, along with luxury accessories such as Tom Dixon's 'Earth' scent (no.8) and the enchanting limited edition 'ink blot' side plate from Rockett St George (no.5).

Flooring should be dark and dramatic to help set the stage for the Gothic scheme - parquet flooring is back with a vengeance in 2015 so it's no surprise that I love the rich texture of this black oak herringbone flooring (no.6). Our modern gothic palette can afford some playfulness in the flooring department by threading in some brighter tones with this show-stopping 'Hummingbird' rug by Alexander McQueen (no.7) for The Rug Company. With its plush black base adorned with beautiful Hummingbird illustrations, there is a careful concentration of rich and exciting colours, which flow into this otherwise dark scheme,  but without overpowering it. Light the candles and we're ready to go!
Do you have a 'thing' for the Gothic trend? I'd love to know your thoughts if you do...

1/ Paddy velvet cushion (Turquoise) £69 Amara  2/ Tom Green cushion £72 Clippings 3/ Flos Miss K T table lamp £180 Amara 4/ Basalt 221 emulsion from £18.75 Little Greene 5/ Ltd edition ink blot side plate (Horse) £20 Rockett St George
6/ New Classics, Louvre black Oak parquet £95.95 per m2  WoodFloors 7/ Hummingbird Alexander McQueen £2,535
 per m2 The Rug Company 8/ Scent Earth Large £150 Tom Dixon 9/ Wallace armchair in Varese Velvet £1,820 The Conran Shop

Friday, 23 January 2015

Brit Decor Bakes: Midas Touch Chocolates

All images / Mike Ahern

This post is dedicated to all those choc-lovers amongst us (I include myself in this category, of course), whether you are a self-confessed chocoholic or simply love to give, these chocolates are so easy to make, look great and taste divine. These little treats could also make a cute Valentine's gift...just saying.

Following some bad news recently, I couldn't resist picking up a chocolate making mould from Lakeland to indulge in some therapeutic making - knowing that there would be some comforting sweet treats at the end of it - and I certainly was not disappointed.

I picked up 2x 200g bars of Belgian dark chocolate and one bar of white, plus a single Crunchie bar from Waitrose, I had also ordered some edible gold leaf sheets from eBay, and was ready to go into meltdown (in the chocolatey sense).  

My reason for choosing two different contrasting colours was to create a marbled effect and as an added twist, I broke the Crunchie bar into small chunks and added these to the melted chocolate before pouring into the mould. Once cooled for a couple of hours, I removed the chocs from the mould and carefully placed the gold leaf to complete the luxe-look. 

Wishing you an indulgent weekend!

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Brit Decor: Colour kick-start 2015

Images (from top) 1/ Sonia Saelens 2/ Riches for Rags 3/ The Zhush 4/ Brit + Co 5/ Zilver Blau

Although our UK Winters do have some aesthetic merits such as frosty white mornings, dramatic skies and the naked architecture of the leaf stricken trees & hedgerows, the ration on daylight hours can leave our interiors feeling a little lacklustre, right?

After the festive trimmings of Christmas have been carefully packed away and the fireworks have simmered out, our surroundings can feel a little bare and in need of an interiors 'pick-me-up'. The simplest way to achieve this, which will in turn lift mood, is to add colour to help kick-start the year with energy and vitality.

I like to think of it as weaving strands of colour into a predominantly neutral canvas - artwork and photographic prints (especially your own) can add instant colour and personality to a room, as well as provide a great starting point for a scheme's palette. Picking colours out from artwork and deploying these as accents in a scheme is one of THE most effective ways of decorating.

For fun and varied colour palettes, I like to envisage confetti and imagine that I am scattering an array of colours throughout the room. Equally I find that picturing a beautiful floral bouquet is another easy way of visualising and planning how I am going to introduce colourful accessories within a room's palette. Of course, we can also be literal about this and add the real thing - flowers bring an instant pop of colour and smell great too!

Today I have created my own shopping palette of quick fix colour accessories to help awaken interiors from their Winter slumber - I hope you like them...

1/ Skydiver artwork €38 Tomy K 
2/ Alexandra vase £795 Jonathan Adler 
3/ Wild & Wolf trim phone £26.10 Red Candy 
4/ Kitchen Skimmer set £10 Zanders and Sons
5/ Dandelion print £20 Howkapow 
6/ Triangles notebook £3.50 Sian Elin 
7/ Swan brooch £29.95 Howkapow 
8/ 1810 cushion by Paul Vogel £35 Heals 

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Brit Decor: White - A Modern Fairytale

Images (from top): 1/ Mike Ahern 2/ Futureproof Design 3/ Artilleriet 4/ Decor & Design 
5/ Daniella Witte 6/ AD Office

Living in the Southwest of the UK generally means that we see far less snow than in some other parts of the country, which in practical terms is great because the small rural roads surrounding my house can become pretty treacherous after just a few hours of persistent snowfall (I speak from firsthand experience!). 

Despite the pitfalls, from an aesthetics point of view I do sometimes long to open my curtains to a dreamy Winter wonderland heavily dusted with coat upon coat of powdery white snow, like the photo I snapped 'above' a couple of years ago, but for now I continue make do with favouriting wintery pics on Instagram.

The last time that you experienced an outdoor snowscape, did you notice something quite unique? Perhaps it was the intensity of the light? The pure and brilliant white coating of snow reflects the daylight creates an almost heavenly palette with light bouncing all around. This same principal can create a knock-out interior scheme too with a careful edit of furnishings and accessories to compliment, rather like embellishments on a freshly iced cake.

I still smile when I think back to my late teens and how I insisted on painting both my bedroom walls and the flooring in brilliant white. My wonderful Mum and Dad (bless them) were entirely supportive, even if they were perhaps a little apprehensive of my plans. Thankfully the final result allayed any fears of a whitewash disaster and instead set in motion my ongoing love affair with white interiors. 

My old childhood bedroom suddenly took on a new lease of life, looked twice its original size and showed off bold coloured furniture and accessories to their best advantage. Not only this, I loved the range of constantly changing tones depending on the light levels. On a dull day the whites took on a pale chalky grey tone and on golden sunny evenings the room would adopt a blushing pink glow. 

Snow White is not just a fairytale you know, give it a try...

Friday, 9 January 2015

Brit Decor: Makes/ Into the Woods

All images / Mike Ahern

Here on Brit Decor I have made no secret of my passion for stylish stationery, but in hierarchical terms, notebooks take second place as cushions rule supreme in my home. In fact, I am utterly obsessed with this most essential of interior accessories. I always like to switch cushions with the seasons and sometimes even with my mood - they are tools of the trade for stylists and can create an instant colour, texture or pattern fix. I just love instant impact, don't you?

However, on recently realising the true and very full extent of my cushion collection, I decided it was time to clear-out those that I hadn't used in a long while and to pack away others for safekeeping. It was during this attempt at organised domesticity that I had an even bigger eureka moment - how about I make my own cushions!

It was during the cushion cleansing process that I found a pair of old rectangular cushion pads, and I immediately knew that these could make the perfect pillows to partner up with my new Mina pin-tucked bedlinen from Habitat. After some frenzied rummaging through my scrap fabric collection, I stumbled across an old pair of heavy white cotton curtains from Ikea, which I would cut into 4 small rectangles to create the pillow covers. 

Although I wanted to keep the look of my pillows very simple, I needed a small design detail for that extra special touch. I took inspiration from my Cole & Son 'Woods' wallpaper and decided to pull this theme into the bedroom by creating some very simple embroidered pine trees, using black thread and a back stitch. I finished the backs of the pillowcases with a basic slip opening, making them very easy to remove for washing - easy-peasy!

I hope you are inspired to have a go at your own 'make' project this weekend.

Monday, 5 January 2015

Brit Decor: Palette 2015

All images / Mike Ahern

One minute I was writing my final post of 2014 and wishing you all a Merry Christmas, and in the next apparent blink of an eye, here I am willing everyone a spectacular 2015 - how did that happen so quickly...?

For the second consecutive Festive period, I successfully resisted the urge to plough into a list of things to do around the cottage and instead allowed myself a complete two week break, and boy did it feel good, in fact, it felt utterly indulgent for someone who is usually so 'time poor'.

New Year's day normally involves a walk along a coastline with friends, and as the photos I snapped 'above' will have already shown, this year was no exception. The clouds were low, dark and brooding but we really didn't care much for their threats of a hefty shower as we sucked in the bracing sea air. From experience, whenever I have taken a walk along a beach at New Year, I always find myself in amongst a cheerful throng of people also making the most of the fresh air and blowing away the Christmas cobwebs - it's such a good feeling!

I love the rich and changing colour palette of the coastline at this time of year - Winter shades tend to ebb towards muted pastels, stormy greys and blues fused with richer accents like the turquoise paint adorning the seafront shelters - currently subdued by the darker skies but poised to come alive again with the sunshine.

Although we are more accustomed to coastal-meets-nautical themes in the Summertime, I have put together the collection 'below' to show how easy it is to draw inspiration from the landscape around us at anytime of year, and you know what? The coastal theme works well even on the bleakest of Winter days. Mixing chalky grey neutrals with varying tones of aqua creates a perfect balance of calm alongside subtle threads of uplifting colour.

Happy 2015 friends!

1/ Mya velvet cushion £30 Made 2/ Bymolle Linen napkins £14 Trove Cafe 3/ Notes booklet £7 Hay
4/ Glass carafe £10.20 House Envy 5/ Anchor cushion £29 Made 6/ Feathers wallpaper British Lichen
£55 Mini Moderns 7/ Woven straw basket £26 French Connection

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