The Interview: Sebastian Conran

Houseology speaks to design expert and tastemaker Sebastian Conran to find out about his top interior design tips, loves and loathes.

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The Interview

With a surname that is, without doubt, one of the most famous in design, Sebastian Conran has style in the blood. His passion for product and unrivalled understanding of what makes a wonderful design ensures that Sebastian’s product ranges are always as inspiring and innovative as they are useful.

The Masterclass catch up with Sebastian Conran to find out about his personal interior design top tips as well as his home decorating bugbears.

sebastian conran interview - studio portrait

Q: How would you describe your approach to interior design?

A: My approach to design and to life is to try and keep it as simple as possible. With interiors the same approach applies, but we are also trying to convey an emotional ambience as well as a functional behaviour. I like to think through what message and impression I‘m trying to convey to people who are using and visiting the space. I tend to think that homes can be split up into four main areas: Social, where we eat, cook and entertain; Private, where we work and sleep; Wellbeing, where we bath and exercise; and Utility where we clean, store and tinker.

Q: Where do you like to begin when you are planning the design of a room?

A: I start by analysing how the room will be used and what will be required from the space – where things like electrical sockets need to go etc. Then we put together a ‘big idea’ and narrative for the space using a style orienteering process that will determine its personality and aesthetic. Following that we choose our materials and colour palette and get on with the outline and detail design.

sebastian conran interview - scandinavian style furnishings

Q: Is there one element of design that you think is most important when you are creating a room scheme?

A: Design brings order, without it there is chaos, but too much design just adds confusion. There is no worse sin than over-design, however, Conran is a Japanese word that means paradoxically chaos and confusion.

Q: How do you go about choosing furnishings for a room?

A: As Ludwig Mies van de Rohe used to say, “Less is more” and “God is in the details”. However, I do like spaces to be a bit of a surprise and delight and not make things as predictable and monotonous as Modernism turned out to be. My style seems to be white spaces eclectically filled up like the John Soane Museum - full of interesting personal items to look at.

Q: Is there a particular colour palette that you like to work with?

A: My brother Jasper is the real genius with colour; I tend to go for neutral, but not bland spaces, and allow the furnishings and people to provide the colour. Anything but taupe though!

Q: How do you like to bring texture into a space?

A: Flooring is a great way to bring texture and interest to a space, use knotted woods combined with well-worn vintage carpets or rugs, and mix cultures too. Plants, wall-hangings and curtains can be a triumph or a disaster.

sebastian conran interview - sebastian conran house Flos Arco lamp

Q: Are the interior trends important to you?

A: No, I like timeless elegance personally. But if you are trying to sell things, trend awareness is vital. As Joseph Wedgwood once observed, “Fashion is infinitely superior to merit”.

Q: Do you think it’s important for an interior space to reflect the owners’ personalities?

A: Yes, you should design your space for yourself rather than pretentiously portray a falsehood – you can read a lot into people’s character and how they wish to be perceived by their homes.

Q: How do you go about accessorising a room?

A: The room is the theatre set and the accessories are the players. I like to use personal things and pictures that have a story to them, whether they are gifts or finds in the flea markets of Arles or medinas of Marrakech. I frequently move pieces around and make sure that there is a contrast in scale.

sebastian conran interview - interior accessories

Q: Do you have a design bugbear?

A: I really cannot stand anodyne homes in which everything is new and that look like mediocre furniture showrooms. My only exception might be a complete IKEA interior, generally I love to mix the old with the new.

Q: How would you describe your own home’s design?

A: It doesn’t look like it has been designed so much as evolved.

sebastian conran design tips

SEBASTIAN CONRAN’S TOP INTERIOR DESIGN TIPS:

01. Keep it simple.
02. Maximise the sense of space by not being too cluttered.
03. Read lots of magazines and books and decide what style you like.
04. Don’t try and do the whole thing at once.
05. Bear in mind that quality is remembered long after the price is forgotten.

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