Turn your fashion eye inwards and discover style secrets for your home with interior designer Abigail Ahern
While fashion is generally regarded as an outward expression of who we are, or how we would like to be perceived and great emphasis is placed on how we look, interiors all too often are either slightly neglected or (mis-)used to showcase possessions and status without giving much consideration to the owner’s unique personality and style.
If you feel your pad needs a little attention but you are lacking ideas or time, despair not – we have just what you need. While there are too many fashion blogs to count, interior design fans have produced a sufficient amount of equally inspiring and charming sites to scour for inspiration. And where better to start than with someone who confesses to "sleep, eat and breathe all things interior" and runs a hugely successful design consultancy as well “one of the coolest places to shop in the UK” according to Elle Decoration magazine: enter Abigail Ahern.
A well-known name in the interiors world, this energetic blonde has it all: oodles of style, her own interiors business and shop, a gorgeous home in London and an adorable dog to boot. Hence, her blog offers an addictive mix of personal anecdotes including highly entertaining little disasters, photos of breath-taking places from around the world and practical hands-on tips for decorating your own place.
But before you run to get the paintbrush, join us for a chat with the design expert herself:
Abigail, at what point did you know that you wanted to work in interiors? And how did you start out?
I started young, crazily enough I think from about age 10. I was sharing a bedroom with my younger sister and actually suggested saving up our pocket money to replace the pink carpet I so hated with floorboards. I have been pretty obsessed ever since!
I started in a round about way. I began my career working for Terence Conran’s publishing house as a picture researcher on the interiors books viewing hundreds of images per day of beautiful houses around the globe. A few years later my husband and I got the opportunity to work in America so I studied interior design by night and worked for a design firm by day and that’s really where it all began.
You are a multi-tasking stylist, designer, shop owner and author. We’d like to know how you manage to execute all the ideas you have and bring them to fruition. Do you ever get overwhelmed with all the projects you have on the go?
It can get overwhelming but I think the key is to stay focused on what you are doing at any one time. The interior design side and the product range take the bulk of my time so I try and set out specific days that I will work purely on those projects and not get side tracked. That said I pretty much work crazy hours on six, often seven days a week so it is a perpetual juggling act. But I love what I do, so it doesn’t feel like work.
What does a typical day in the life of Abigail Ahern look like?
The alarm goes off at 5.45 am when I cycle to the gym for a quick work out. It’s the only time of day to myself and so I relish it - often thinking up ideas whilst running on the treadmill. In my studio back at home by 8 am, and then I pretty much work through until 8 pm. Often times my day is broken up with client meetings, sourcing materials and visiting our potters in Stoke so each day is quite different from the next. Maud my dog goes to dog school a few times a week so when she’s not at school my husband and I share the park run. Supper is simple, something we can fling together in under an hour – and then its wind down time when I am usually flicking through piles of interiors magazines I haven’t had a chance to look at. Bedtime is not later than 11:00 pm – by which time I can barely speak.
You have your famous signature style of dark hues, mixing old and new and adding a splash of colour. How do you handle projects where the client’s taste is completely opposite to yours?
I am incredibly fortunate in that the majority of projects I get approached to undertake are very much in tune with my style - creating seductively stylish spaces that are bold, dizzyingly colourful and multi layered. However, some projects like the Ritz Carlton in Palm Beach, for example, have a defined aesthetic and vibe that I need to adhere to. So although the palette in that particular hotel was more muted I very much drew upon the hotel’s penchant for pedigreed antiques and decorative arts and yet lightened the mood slightly. I twisted tradition by sourcing super sized convex mirrors and chandeliers crafted from vintage wine glasses, I coupled unexpected finishes with subtle colours and mixed elements from all different styles and periods to create a delightful space that echoed the hotel’s style but at the same time felt idiosyncratic and trail blazing.
What advice can you give to anyone living in a rented space but still wants it to be stylish and personal?
I am actually designing a rented bijou apartment in NY right now so I know only too well the limitations in renting. Often times you can’t paint the walls or even put pictures up so what I advise is to layer your lair as much as you can with accessories. Bookcases that prop against walls are a fabulous way of adding personality to large blank wall spaces. Rugs skimming across floors, accessories from vases to candles, to objects that are abundantly styled around the room add that personal touch and turn a space from being ordinary to extraordinary.
You travel a lot for work. Can you tell us your current favourite (flea) market for cool vintage finds?
All time favourite flea market is Porte de Vanves in Paris. It’s not as touristy as Clignancourt and it’s smaller and has more of a provincial brocante type feel. It’s fab for art, furniture and porcelain. The Brooklyn flea market is also fantastic as is the market at Cormano near Milan. Also Lille in Northern France is home to one of the biggest markets around. It’s called La Braderie and is held over the first weekend of September. It attracts over a million visitors and boasts around 200 km of pavement stalls.
Your favourite recent purchase for the home? Otherwise?
Favourite recent purchase - absolutely my vintage Mercedes-Benz. It’s a 250SE from 1968 and driving and pottering around London in it is heavenly. I feel so regal and its such a pleasure to drive, its also amazing how many people just stop and stare – but then it’s an object of beauty so why not. Maud (my dog) adores it, sitting in the front seat on her merino wool cushion so she can see out, peering at everyone.
For the house a super sized table lamp, which is new in the store (it should really be in the warehouse as back up on orders, but its so beautiful couldn’t wait the three weeks it would take to order!).
It’s pretty full on: off to Australia as I have been invited to be a keynote speaker at the Decoration and Design Fair in Melbourne in July. We are then launching my collection of lighting in New York and Paris shortly afterwards. I am finishing off a project for a circus revamping the circus’ travelling wagons, which has been a blast. Also on the agenda: designing more products, travelling to search out products for the store and working on residential projects from an apartment in New York to a huge private residence in London.
Check out Abigail’s blog: http://abigailahern.wordpress.com/
Visit her shop in London: http://www.atelierabigailahern.com/
Her book “A Girl’s Guide to Decorating” is available from Amazon or via her shop.
Solid Frog by Mia Linnman: http://mialinnman.blogspot.com/
Emma’s Design Blog: http://emmas.blogg.se/
You are the River: www.youaretheriver.com
Adventurous Design Quest: http://adventurousdesignquest.blogspot.com/
Musings by famous interior designer Jonathan Adler: