Wednesday 13 December 2017

Interiors: Dressing rooms - Fashion trendsetters bring their bold designs into the home

Matthew Williamson Duresta range of furniture
Matthew Williamson Duresta range of furniture
Matthew Williamson
Missoni Adar sofa
Pink flamingo wine table
Missoni Screen bed

A few years ago, Trevor Wilson of Beaufort Interiors brought in a new collection of wallpaper and furnishing fabrics from Osborne & Little. The designs were something out of the ordinary - think celestial dragons, peacock feathers and prowling tigers in holographic foils and deep jewel colours. Wilson had never heard of the designer, but the name of the collection caught his attention. It was called Eden, just like his own pre-teen daughter.

When Wilson got home that evening he told his daughter about the collection of fabrics and wallpapers that shared her name. As it turned out, young Eden was several steps ahead of him. She'd not only heard of the collection, she was already a fan of the designer.

"Dad," she said wearily. "I'm wearing a Matthew Williamson Collection t-shirt."

Matthew Williamson is best known as a fashion designer and the Eden collection, launched in 2013, was his first venture into interiors. Since then, he's designed several collections of wallpaper and fabric, each nuttier than the next. Butterfly prints, leopards, pineapples and flamingos - every interiors print was a variation of a design he'd used on the catwalk.

Matthew Williamson
Matthew Williamson

Covering a wall with metallic birds of paradise and echoing the same pattern in the cushions is a recipe for disaster, but Williamson's designs seem able to balance on the edge of over-the-top without descending into kitsch. They may be whimsical, but the designs are a carefully-considered balance of shapes and colours.

Williamson describes his look as "organised bohemia". "It might look like it's all been thrown together, but actually, everything is in its place," he says.

Osborne & Little is also known for high production values, which give his products a sense of quality, with corresponding prices. A 10-metre roll of Bird of Paradise wallpaper costs around €134. A cushion in the same range will set you back €97.

This autumn, Williamson launched a range of furniture in collaboration with the Nottingham-based company Duresta. For this, Williamson not only designed the fabrics, but also the furniture itself. "I didn't want to go, 'here's my name, bring something out' - I really got my teeth into it," he says.

Like fashion, furniture has to be comfortable, but designing a comfortable chair takes specific expertise. "I totally underestimated the time, patience and craftsmanship of each and every piece," Williamson explains. "I thought fashion was bad enough, but furniture is super complex. I think anyone would be amazed to see what's inside that chair and the amount of stages and time it requires."

One of the interesting things about the collection is that Williamson mixes shapes inspired by antique furniture with modern forms. The Butterfly Wheel Kemp compact sofa (€3,179) is a mid-century design with the look of a favourite auntie in a butterfly print dress. It's hick, but in a loveable way.

Missoni Adar sofa
Missoni Adar sofa

The Minelli chair (€2,639) has a more architectural vibe, with clean lines and straight arms that give good balance to the fabrics, some of which are dramatic to the point of being bonkers. You can choose from a selection of about 40 fabrics, including some relatively sober velvets and tweeds.

Other pieces of furniture are pure Williamson. Each one of a set of green nesting tables (€9,244) has flamingo legs, as does a pink mirror coffee table (€6,146). The flamingo pink wine table (€3,300) stands on one leg in a typical flamingo pose with an elaborate pattern of feathers decorating the top.

The designs show an expertise in colour and pattern, which is what you'd expect from Williamson. But it's a good job they're so expensive. It's a look that could easily be overdone. Flamingo furniture is cool but you really don't want a flock.

"Matthew Williamson has a bigger following than I would have imagined," Wilson explains. "A lot of people will put several of his pieces together to create an ensemble, but some of the furniture is so comfortable that people buy it whether they like Matthew Williamson or not."

In one sense, Williamson is designing for the extrovert. "As with my clothes, you can't be a shrinking violet to buy a furniture piece from my collection," he says. In another, he's quite aware that strong flavours work best in small doses. He describes his own home as quite neutral in colour, with the character and personality coming from the furniture and items he's collected over the years. "I envisage people using the furniture as I would - a bold statement mixed with existing furnishings."

For those on a tighter budget, there's a high street version, Matthew Williamson Home, which is available from Debenhams. Cushions cost between €32 and €47 and the range also includes various knick-knacks. A flamingo lamp costs €112 and a gold pineapple-shaped lamp is €120.

Another highly recognisable fashion brand, Missoni, has also recently expanded into furniture. Missoni began as a knitwear business in the 1950s and soon became known for brightly-coloured zigzags, stripes, waves, geometrics and in-your-face florals. Like Williamson's, the patterns are hardcore, but so well designed that people love them for it. The new range, Missoni Home Furniture, will find a ready market in the brand's existing fan base.

It's not the cheapest, but prices vary from the reasonable Adar sofa (from €2,936) and the squidgy Tiamat sofa (from €9,131) to the statement Screen bed (from €6,882). The bed has an extra high (150cm) headboard - all the better to show off the famous fabric.

Beaufort Interiors is showcasing the Matthew Williamson collection in Moira, Co Down, see Missoni Home Furniture is stocked by Go Modern Furniture, see See also

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