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Interior design firm Bergman & Mar on creating artfully simple homes

Its Slovenian-born, Soho-based founder Petra Arko opens up her little black design contact book

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Edmund Dabney

Who is she? Growing up in socialist Slovenia, Petra Arko was acutely aware of design. ‘Our modernist, mass-produced furniture was made within our borders,’ she remembers. ‘That meant that I’d go to my friends’ homes and see the same pieces over and over again, but it also meant that craftsmen were a part of the community.’ Arko’s love of interiors was fuelled by regular school tours of the local furniture factory, as well as her family’s unorthodox passion for Marcel Breuer chairs and Danish lighting (her father was a film director, so he travelled abroad more than most).

‘I like to combine iconic pieces with designs from lesser-known makers’

Following a brief consultancy career in London, Arko enrolled at KLC School of Design and went on to work for Jo Clevely, designing pubs (‘She started Britain’s gastropub revolution,’ says Arko). Next, she became design director at Spring & Mercer and in 2016 set up her own studio in London’s Soho. Bergman & Mar is named in tribute to her origins: ‘bergman’ means ‘mountain man’, while ‘mar’ means ‘sea’ in Slovenian, referencing the country’s location between the Adriatic and the Julian Alps.

petra portrait
Petra Arko of ’Bergman & Mar’
Edmund Dabney

What’s her style? Reflecting her upbringing, Arko’s designs have a cool, contemporary feel, with plenty of characterful colour, art and lighting. ‘I like to combine iconic pieces with designs from lesser-known makers,’ she says.‘We always place the human element at the centre of our projects. A well-designed space evokes emotional connection, but functionality is just as important.’ Longevity is a key consideration, too. ‘The aim is to use pieces that clients can pass on to the next generation.’

pink bedroom
The bedroom at ’The Makers’ apartment
TARAN WILKHU

What are her recent projects? Bergman & Mar has teamed up with developer Pocket Living to create The Makers apartment, a show flat at the new Bollo Lane project in west London. ‘We created a design that celebrates local and British makers, bringing together more than 60 craftsmen and artists, including Sebastian Cox, Olivia Aspinall, Bert Frank and Naomi Paul,’ Arko says. Foster + Partners is another recent collaborator – Arko has worked with the architects on a luxury bar in a residential high-rise in Canary Wharf.

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Bollo Apartment
Edmund Dabney

It’s challenging building with beautiful traditional features

What is she currently working on? The studio is designing homes in the South of France, The Hamptons, Spain and Scotland, but Arko is also spreading her wings by designing the interior of a west London private members’ club: ‘It’s a challenging building with beautiful traditional features – I’m very excited about transforming the space.’

living room in modern apartment
A show apartment in London’s Lillie Square has a fresh, contemporary feel.
Taran Wilkhu

She says ‘Using sculptural forms alongside simple ones, contrasting luxury with simplicity, and iconic with new – all of these things help to create an interior that speaks of its owner.’ bergmanandmar.com


Petra Arko’s little black book

Every project has its own unique list of suppliers and craftspeople. Part of making it special is finding the right mix and match

Craft The New Craftsmen gallery in London’s Mayfair is a great champion of British makers and there’s always an incredible selection of glassware, ceramics, lighting, textiles and furniture to see. thenewcraftsmen.com

Vintage My favourite vintage store is JF Chen in Melrose, LosAngeles. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a varied collection of furniture and decorative arts, from eclectic period designs to 20th-century masterpieces– it’s more like a museum. jfchen.com

Contemporary Design Shoreditch concept store Monologue London has an ever-changing palette of objects – it’s the perfect place to find fresh, inspirational ideas. Owner Pavel Klimczak has such a refined eye for craft and quality, and I find the mix of Furniture, lighting and homewares is so aligned with our aesthetic. monologuelondon.com

Fabrics I adore Liberty – not just for the beautiful Tudor-revival building, which was designed to feel like a home, but also for the archive fabrics. The new patterns that have just been released have such rich, deep colours– I’m really excited to use them in our projects. libertylondon.com


This article appeared in ELLE Decoration September 2020 issue

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