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Over the past few years, home-grown fashion designers such as Christopher Kane and Deryck Walker have carved out international reputations for their innovative style, while the late Alexander McQueen frequently referenced his Celtic heritage in collections.
It’s an equally creative but less celebrated story on the home front, but the creative skills of Scottish interior designers are in huge demand across the UK and beyond, whether it’s transforming an Edinburgh townhouse, a Norwegian ski-lodge or a hot hotel in Monaco.
While the majority of projects draw on the designer’s expertise rather than their provenance, given the individual quality of local materials such as Harris Tweed and Caithness slate, combined with a natural colour palette of bracken, heather and stone, their design schemes often incorporate a subtle Scottish element.
We’re not talking The Broons or Brigadoon here, but a look with wit and style, witness the wallpaper in Carrie’s bedroom in Sex and City 2, collaboration between Timorous Beasties and Ayrshire lace mill Morton Young & Borland, which was inspired by a vintage pattern.
Scott Taylor, chief executive of Glasgow City Marketing Bureau is proud of the city’s design pedigree: “With wallpaper designed by Glasgow’s Timorous Beasties, and the new Blythswood Square Hotel with its interiors designed by Graven Images now listed in Condé Nast Traveller’s Hot List 2010, I think it’s fair to say that the city’s interior designers are making their international mark.”
On the east coast, interior designer Pat Renson of Pat Renson Interiors, who works her brand of practical magic on hotels and private homes says: “Years ago if anyone had suggested Scottish style in interiors, you immediately envisaged a fusion of tartan carpets, plaid curtains, wallpapers and paintings of deer or Highland cattle.”
“Today’s Scottish style means a hint of plaid, and antlers in various forms, mixed in with contemporary and traditional fabrics woven in Scotland in soft heathery tones and muted shades. This use of subtle Scoth detail evokes a nostalgic and comforting and feel, and if not overdone, looks both classic and timeless.
“I particularly love using Isle Mill fabrics, the new Kirkby House Range (Caledonia), and Bute Fabrics, while the craftsmen at Clockhouse Furniture produce unique pieces of antler furniture, chandeliers, and lighting. Of course Anta, one of the forerunners in Scottish textile design, produces a range of throws, cushions, rugs, and fabrics in the most delicate combinations of shades which replicate the Scottish countryside and its colours.”
Julie Noble, who founded Totally Tartan from her Bridge of Weir home four years ago, produces cushions that provide a fast and affordable way of reflecting the changing seasons, with a traditional winter range including ancient MacLeod or Lindsay, and a summer collection in pastel pale blues, lavenders, heathers and mossy greens.
“Tartan can be calm or vibrant,” says Julie, “and I always advise people not to choose a cushion because it’s your clan tartan, but to think of a tartan which will work with the palette of that particular room. Ancient Buchanan with its burnt oranges, camels and muted greens works in just about any room.”
Down in the Borders, Kerdova Print, designs and produces a cutting-edge collection of hand-printed wallpaper by fashion graduate Zuzana Gibb, who transfers her own classical yet contemporary designs onto the wallpaper. Check out the new collection, which includes prints of 1970’s teacups on www.kerdovaprint.co.uk or view them at first hand at the Homes and Interiors Scotland Exhibition over the 27th-29th August.
Award winning designer Kate Mooney who last year launched Scottish based www.occa-home.co.uk, the online interior design showroom which offers an extensive selection of home wares and occa-home own brand products, believes that Scottish interior style has something unique to offer.
“The current trend in new Scottish interiors is a back to basics approach,” says Kate, “with an appreciation of nature and natural materials, mixing stone and timber, linens and wools to give an evolved and eclectic look that reflects a personal touch as opposed to a show-house pattern book formula.
“The mix of traditional and contemporary is a strong trend, with traditional architecture being juxtaposed with more contemporary finishes and light fittings to create an individual and unique space. Think dark old oak table with crisp white Panton chairs, quirky and distinctive accessories, all adding up to an honest and
personal space that reflects the owners and they way they live their life.
“We have some great Scottish design companies and a personal favourite of mine is Timorous Beasties with their striking and distinctive wallpapers and textiles. One Foot Taller makes light fittings that we feature on our web-site and love to use in projects.
“Bridge of Weir Leather is a shining example of a Scottish company gone global and we can’t get enough of their sumptuous leathers. And of course a Scottish wish list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Bute Fabrics and Harris Tweed.”
Scotlandart.com, which has the UK’s largest collection of Scottish contemporary art, with both online and real life galleries in Edinburgh and Glasgow, sends paintings as far afield as New Zealand, as well as having a significant client base in the UK.
Say Eileen Ogg of the Edinburgh gallery: “I would say that landscape has been popular across the generations, and we have done quite a number of art consultations in homes and businesses recently, where stylish, modern landscapes have really fitted the bill.
“We have a number of artists who fall into this category of more ‘modern’ landscapes such as Jenny Aitken, Nicola Wakeling, Lesley Anne Derks and Allison Young. People often like to buy art that has some association with places they know and love, especially in Scotland.
“Personally I think the landscape work that is about at the moment is so much more interesting and engaging than before, especially as landscape could be traditionally seen as quite dry and stuffy.”
Concludes interior designer Pat Renson: “It is my opinion that creating an interior which reflects our beautiful country is so much more rewarding than a trend led room which will look passé in a year’s time.”
The Wooden Heart 112 Byres Road Glasgow Tel: 0141 337 1008
Celtic Style tips
Good design should envelop you but not be overwhelming, so avoid buying into the Celtic look wholesale.
When choosing paint, matt shades work well with plaid fabrics.
Pay a visit to The Balmoral on Edinburgh’s Princes Street, where internationally acclaimed (part-Scottish) designer Olga Polizzi blends classic and contemporary with Scottish originality and artwork.
An Orkney chair adds a Scottish grace note to any room, and even incorporates a drawer for knitting.
Ask the experts, such as Jeffrey’s Interiors in Edinburgh which was founded in 1937, and offers an interior design and retail service, plus ever-changing room sets.
A wide wallpaper pattern brings the ceiling down and makes the room look cosier, while a very small pattern in a large space becomes more of a texture[u1] .