The Interview: Fiona Douglas of Bluebellgray

Houseology talks to Fiona Douglas about the painterly prints and bold colour palettes that form the Bluebellgray signature look.

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The Interview

Beautiful bright colours, painterly floral prints and a homely handmade feel are Bluebellgray’s signature and the designs never fail to bring a burst of sunshine into the home. We chat to the brand’s founder, textile designer Fiona Douglas, about her inspirations and the power of flowers…

Q: How did Bluebellgray begin?

A: Bluebellgray started out back in 2009 and I really started it all on my kitchen table. I went to Glasgow School of Art and studied textiles and worked in the industry for a few years before setting up the company with my husband. He was very much a part of the driving force in getting it all started.

I started off with a collection of just six cushions and I showed them in London at a show called One Year On which is a launch pad show for new designers. From there I got picked up by Elle Décor and they featured a photograph of my cushion collection in their magazine which was incredible. From there it really started to snowball and things started to grow. It has gone from those six cushions to fabric, rugs, bed linen, crockery and more! It has been an amazing journey and the brand has grown quite organically and we now supply a few different countries. We supply to lovely stores all over the world including Hong Kong and Japan.

Fiona Douglas interview - Bluebellgray Nevis bed linen

Q: We love the Bluebellgray bed linen collection, you must be thrilled with it?

A: The bed linen is the most successful product we have ever produced, the designs work really well and, when they first launched, they were selling out everywhere – we couldn’t keep it in stock fast enough! The thing that is so amazing about bed linen is that it’s such an easy and quick way of changing the whole look of your bedroom interior. Everything else can be relatively simple and pared back and then you put on an incredible duvet design and you have a new look going on! It’s a fantastic hassle-free way to refresh your space and best yet, you don’t need to redecorate!

Q: What do you have to consider when you’re designing the bed linen?

A: I have to keep in mind the kind of colours people have in their bedrooms, I always like a bit of colour but I really like white in bed linen, I think it acts as an anchor and helps pare things back a little bit. We have a signature Bluebellgray palette that we always work to and there is some white mixed in to give that edge of freshness and crispness. It acts like a canvas to the designs too. Taransay is full of our signature colours; purples and soft blues and it’s very springy and fresh. With us, the colours are really quite instinctive, we don’t follow trend boards, we like to strike our own path and the customers react really well to that.

Fiona Douglas interview - Bluebellgray Taransay bed linen

The quality of the cloth itself is very important too. We spend so much time in bed so it’s got to be a lovely experience. It’s not just the pattern we have to think about, but the cloth has to feel comfortable against the skin and make you want to spend time there. For us it’s about using one of the best factories in the world for bed linen to make a really beautiful, quality product.

Q: How do you describe the Bluebellgray look?

A: Painterly florals is how I have always described the Bluebellgray look. Nature is the biggest inspiration for me and I’ve tried to give florals an updated twist. I wanted to do flowers in a modern way for this generation. However it’s not only flowers that inspire me, inspiration comes from everywhere. It might be from visiting an exhibition and appreciating a certain painter or seeing a girl in the street wearing an amazing jacket with a pair of trainers that makes me think of a new colour combination. To me inspiration is definitely something that happens all around, it’s a continuous thing. As a designer, my brain is always ticking in that sense so you’re always aware and looking at things.

Q: How has modern printing technology impacted on the Bluebellgray designs?

A: Without digital printing I couldn’t have done this. The amount of colours I have in each design just wouldn’t have been possible. There are technically thousands of colours in each design but in traditional screen printing I would have had to restrict the colours down to a maximum of around 15!

Fiona Douglas interview

However, I would say that technology is like a helping hand. The heart, soul and essence of the brand is about its hand painted nature, I want the customer to feel that someone has actually sat with paint and paper. The technology allows me to get the original painting onto a cushion so that it can be in someone’s home and they can experience this real painting on their textiles. It’s a fantastic tool!

Q: How can people bring the Bluebellgray look into their homes?

A: There are lots of ways to get the painterly trend into your home and that’s part of the beauty of it all. Just adding one cushion can let you buy into the trend really easily or if you want to embrace it in a fuller way the bedding will give you a whole new look. I think the painterly trend is really easy to live with, there is a softness and a realness to painterly designs. I think there is an honesty to these designs and it’s so easy to see and appreciate that somebody has made it from scratch. They’re incredibly likable and effortless; it’s a natural thing, painterly marks translate so well onto textiles because originally, they’re painted on canvas.

Q: How would you describe your own home?

A: I think my own style is quite bohemian in terms of the way I dress. - it’s Luxe hippy! I love embellishment, colour and textiles. I love indigenous textiles that are special to a country or a people. I definitely have colour osmosis going on too, if I’m using a particular colour in my designs, suddenly my clothes start going that way as well. I’ve been using a lot of yellow and now it’s in my wardrobe too, fashion and interior design go hand in hand.

Fiona Douglas interview - Bluebellgray crockery collection

My home is a little bit the same, it sounds like a cliché but it is an eclectic mix. For me a house is really about it being a home. It’s about living there, I don’t want it to be like a show home I want it to be about memories and enjoying being there. Our home is made up of things that we have picked up on our travels and that we really love. I go by the William Morris philosophy, “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”

Q: What do you like about working with Houseology?

A: I love Houseology because they’re so passionate about design and it comes through in everything they do. They always go the extra mile and everything is centred around the customer. Everything is so beautifully presented and I love that they really try and inspire their customers with beautiful shots and ideas. For an online store I feel that’s really unusual, they give a warm and genuine service, they’re doing things on an extra-special, extra-careful level. They have a beautifully edited selection of products and in my mind it is without a doubt one of the best online stores in the UK. The team have such a great eye for pulling their products together and putting all the inspiring design elements into one home.

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