British design doyenne, colour enthusiast and the creative force behind Designers Guild (which turns 40 next year), Tricia Guild OBE divides her time between her Notting Hill and Umbrian homes. In her latest book, Tricia Guild: In My View, she shares the stories behind their creation, from collaborations with architects and designers to how she developed a decorating scheme for each very different location.
What was the motivation behind writing this book? I have always been contemporary minded, but recently that spirit has taken centre stage. Frustrated by the notion that modern interiors must be purely minimal, I wanted to challenge this in my homes and express my take on modernity – one that has soul and a sense of personality.
Tell us about the collaborative process with garden designer Arne Maynard and architect Stephen Marshall I’ve worked with both of them for many years, so there already existed a kind of shorthand between us, but it is rare to start this sort of process from the beginning.Normally garden designers come later but, for us, that combined creativity flowed from the outset. By working together, we found a cohesion and continuity that was a joy to be a part of.
How does your environment impact your designs? I take huge inspiration from the landscape and views that surround me and I find it very rewarding when an interior flows into the exterior, linking to it visually. It can be simple references or more complex connections depending on the space – perhaps a colour that has been used inside could be echoed outside, or flowers cut from the garden can be placed in vases within. A continuation of a floor or wall material is another way of merging those boundaries and making the most of the area.
When did your love affair with Italy begin? We would go on holiday there when I was a child. I adored the landscapes, the people, the food and, of course, la dolce vita! Italians have an intoxicating love of life that has always struck a chord with me. I married an Italian American and we found our first house in Tuscany over 30 years ago.
You use bright, bold hues in your homes, yet they both feel contemporary – what advice would you give when experimenting with colour? A modern way of life and colour, pattern and texture are not mutually exclusive. I hope people are less intimidated than they once were by colour and can feel confident when including pattern and texture in a modern way. I do find that when using a strong shade, lots of white or natural tones will allow it to breathe. And I always make a moodboard when considering new ideas – it’s a good way of organising, editing and assessing. Provided you use the right scale, it should work in a room if it works on your moodboard.
Did you ever imagine the global scale to which Designers Guild would grow? No, although I was always ambitious. My light-bulb moment came when our first overseas agent wanted to distribute our products – I realised the potential for the whole international market. What have been your biggest highlights and challenges? It wasn’t easy being a young businesswoman in the 1970s. A few people suggestedI should stay at home, but the negative comments only made me more determined. We faced the usual issues like cash flow and staffing, butI quickly learned to trust my instincts. My highlights have been more memorable. Receiving my OBE in 2008 was incredibly special, andI feel the same excitement every time we open a showroom.
Has your decorating ethos changed from when you first started out? In the beginning, I wanted to show a complete lifestyle – fabric used on furniture rather than swatches on a shelf, wallpaper on walls and, of course, accessories you could see and touch. I knew people needed to see the result to have faith in their choices and that continues to be central to my philosophy. In a sense, my style has not changed, though I love to experiment and I hope it has evolved. I am still fascinated by the impact of colour and pattern on an interior and, although I am perhaps more contemporary now, that is key.
Who and what has inspired you? I am influenced by almost everything I see – the secret is to be open but selective. Travel has always been a factor ; the colours and sheer exuberance of India, the more minimal strictness of Japan and the cool Nordic beauty ofScandinavia have all shaped and infused my style. Architecture is a passion, particularly the innovative and creative work of I M Pei and Le Corbusier. I am also a supporter of the arts – I go to the theatre regularly and it is always inspiring.
And finally, any wise words for those starting out in the industry? You must be determined and keep going when it gets tough. It is not enough to excel creatively; you must have an understanding of business and simple economics if you want to succeed.
Tricia Guild OBE is the founder and creative director of DesignersGuild. ‘Tricia Guild: In My View’ by Tricia Guild and Amanda Back (£45, Merrell), is out now (designersguild.com)
This feature appeared in ELLE Decoration October 2019
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