The playful and lovely interior world of Tricia Guild
BY ANJA FAHS
Tricia Guild is said to be the only interior designer who can design a cobalt blue sofa without it looking silly. With her colourful designs, she acts almost completely outside the fashion and trend world – rather, she is her own trend. She has been in the design business for almost 50 years, has published numerous books on interior design, and is considered an icon of colours and patterns. In this interview she tells us how she started her company Designers Guild in early 1970 with first ideas and a few fabrics on London’s King’s Road and why she cannot imagine a life without colours.
Tricia, when I hear Designers Guild I immediately think of bold colours. What does colour mean for you personally, for your life?
Colour has such a unique power, for me it is much more than just pigment; it’s a way of being. Colour shapes both my professional and personal life so much for the better, I simply cannot imagine my world without colour. I’ve always felt that the very act of choosing colour is a matter of self-expression; it is an instinctive and often spontaneous response to my perspective in that given moment.
Please tell us how you started your business.
I saw an opportunity in the lack of stores that offered a ‘lifestyle’; this concept didn’t exist when I started my shop on King’s Road. The idea of ‘lifestyle’ fascinated me as I had always been more interested in the overall look of an interior and how one went about looking at the room as whole, as opposed to just looking at disparate elements. I set up Designers Guild with a very small budget and tiny amounts of printed fabric. And so, I upholstered some furniture, laid down some rugs, made cushions, created lampshades and presented a concept. I just did what felt right at the time and was led by my instincts. Fortunately, it paid off and has
led us to the point we are at now as an international lifestyle brand.
What made your business so successful? Was it your feeling for colours and patterns that always became the trend? Or was it luck and being in the right place at the right time with the right idea?
I suppose it was a mix of the two. I think that our broad offering has been key. We strive to create innovative designs that are of the utmost quality and I think it is what makes our brand stand out and ensures that our customers know they can believe in what we do. We are distributed in over 80 markets worldwide, which brings with it a vast range of requirements – we take this on board and try to ensure our collections can deliver a targeted response to each market. At Designers Guild we offer fabric, wallpaper and paint in a colour palette that extends from the more signature brighter shades, through to cool, calm naturals and neutrals, as well as hundreds of designs in plain and textured finishes and a range of furniture, home accessories and a bed and bath collection too. Hopefully there is something for everyone.
What was your most successful idea or design so far which really drove your business forward?
There is such an intricate process behind every design; they all start out as original, hand-painted artworks in our studio and over the months they are developed and start to become tangible, useable products. I put all my energy into each and every design that we produce, so if I didn’t believe in one wholeheartedly, it wouldn’t be in the collection. So, to that end, I feel that every design is a success in its own right.
What was the biggest challenge for you and your business?
In the beginning I was very young and had very little money – I suppose executing my vision in the best possible way with what little means I had was one of the biggest challenges.
What are you really proud of when you think of your business?
I have been extraordinarily fortunate to be able to spend my life doing what I love and there have been many incredible as well as challenging moments. I think one the proudest moments was being awarded an OBE, an Order from the British Empire, from Queen Elizabeth II, for services to interior design in 2008. That particular moment will stay with me for life – it was an incredible honour to be at Buckingham Palace and to be recognised for my work.
Some people say that different colours stand for certain characters, do you agree? And if yes – what’s your colour and why?
I find it incredibly difficult to settle on just one colour, as like you say, different colours evoke different moods. I prefer to think in terms of palette and I am always drawn to the daring colours of India. Shocking hot pink, carmine red, rich aubergine and stony black evoke a splendid fusion of femininity, daring, strength and dynamism. This palette is rich, raw and uncompromising – entirely exhilarating in my view.
If you had to design an office space for a big company what would it look like? Which colours and patterns would you choose?
Style needn’t be sacrificed for practicality and I always bear this in mind. There would be vibrant bursts of energy-inducing colour countered, of course, by lots of white.
And what kind of things could add more character to the interior design of an office space – especially for a more conservative company (like finance or insurance for example)?
A textured wallpaper such as our Sashiko or Sakiori designs are a great way to add interest and subtle colour to a more conservative space. Both papers emulate the naturalistic appearance of bark and carved wood. This nod to the natural world will help lessen the feeling of severity and utilitarianism.
What is the biggest challenge when it comes to designs for an office space compared to a private home?
Of course, the function of an office environment is entirely different to one’s personal home. In many ways, an office space needs to work even harder than the home; it has to be both simple and motivationally appealing en masse. Getting that balance right can be tricky – so many offices are stale and soulless and totally devoid of colour. I would say that choosing the right colours for an office can be the biggest challenge. Neutrals such as white or grey are so often the go-to choice, but why not consider a more interesting choice: ecru, chocolate, a shade of blue or green or even plaster pink can look beautiful in a professional environment.
What are the most common mistakes people make when they work with colour in their homes?
I think that people forget that these are their homes and so the design should reflect their personality and what makes them happy. People can be so caught up by design trends, become overwhelmed and then opt for a soulless scheme. I would suggest one brings personality in through choice of colour and pattern, visit a vintage or antique market and if you see something you love, then bring it home. Grab a new cushion or two, or a rug, or perhaps try papering a wall or two – the idea is that you trust your instincts and have fun with it.
Do you have any recommendations or tips on how to update my interior style at home with just small but effective changes? What always works well?
Even the smallest of changes can instantly refresh a room. I prefer to make smaller changes often, in particular when the seasons change. As winter takes hold and the long, dark nights beckon; I like to swap crisp linens for lustrous, heavyweight velvets. I also bring in accessories such as a few cushions, a throw or two and layer rugs – which create a feeling of warmth, texture and depth. In the warmer summer months, I hang banners of vibrant silk and crisp linen at the windows, which is just wonderful when the sunlight suffuses through, and the fabrics float with the breeze.
How would you describe a timeless style? What are the important features?
In my view, a scheme that has plenty of neutrals for that constant harmonious note will always look stylish.
At the moment we often see designs with dark gem colours, like ruby red, emerald green, sapphire blue and opulent flower patterns. What do you think is the next big thing in interior trends and colours?
As far as design trends are concerned, what is supposedly trendy and what isn’t, I am of course aware of these things, but I think that following your own instincts and senses is far more rewarding in the long term. I think so long as one balances their palette with the right neutrals and is mindful that said neutrals complement the other colours in your palette it should work in the long term.
We are living in the digital age. How did the digitalisation influence your work and/or your products? Perhaps things such as digital wallpaper, for example?
Tastes and attitudes are constantly shifting with time but I believe that an appetite for colour, whatever your palette preference, will endure. The modern world allows us to experience more than ever before, but I think that an appreciation for colour has and always will be, a key enricher in life. We live and will continue to live in colour. This is why all of our designs start out as original artwork.
Is there a person whose home you would love to design?
I continue to admire Coco Chanel profusely, so perhaps her.
TRICIA GUILD OBE
Tricia Guild OBE is a British designer. She is the founder and Creative Director of Designers Guild, an international home and lifestyle company with a flagship store and showroom on King’s Road and Marylebone High Street in London, as well as offices in London, Paris and Munich. Tricia Guild is known for her colourful and original fabric and wallpaper collections, as well as for her work as a designer and manufacturer of a range of interior products. She has published numerous books on interior design, styles and colours.
This article was published in The Produktkulturmagazin, issue Q2 2018. Picture credit © Tricia Guild