Ten Minutes With Abigail Ahern: Top Tips From An Interior Design Guru

11/07/2013 18:54 | Updated 22 May 2015

Designer, author, super-cool shop owner, transformer of hoarders' houses for our TV viewing pleasure and all round design superstar Abigail Ahern is currently criss-crossing the globe inspiring fans in London, New York, Melbourne and Sydney with her design master classes.

Can't make it to one of those? Fear not – we grabbed ten minutes with the lovely lady herself to bring you some top tips, from daring to go dark to nailing eclectic chic without spilling over into crazy.

abi portrait01hrfk

Abigail, congratulations on your Channel 4 series Get Your House In Order – did you enjoy getting into TV and do you think you'll do more?

I did enjoy it - it was probably one of the most challenging things I've ever done. In terms of future TV, I'm not ruling it out, but it takes such a chunk of time - three solid months of 18 hour days - that it means everything else goes on the back burner. When I was away from the business for that long I realised how much I missed it, so it would really depend upon the programme.

Any behind the scenes traumas you can tell us about?

Tons - me more often than not tearing around the locations with a few minutes to go before the homeowners turned up to see the reveal, with stuff everywhere waiting to be artfully styled; the worry on the homeowners' faces when I told them of my 'daring to go dark' plans; working with a group of builders who wanted constant tea breaks and had me shouting in their ear all day that there wasn't a second for anything other than the revamp!

As well as TV work, design work and your shop, you also run design master classes all over the world – what can you tell us about those?

The master classes have had an amazing response – I'm overwhelmed by the response actually, especially in Australia. I'm basically teaching (or inspiring) people to break rules, think out of the box and design their homes with a new attitude that breaks boundaries. With all my years in the business I have to say you don't get a cool interior unless you take risks. The more risks you take, the more interesting your space becomes. My master classes give people confidence, decode and break decorating rules creating new ones along the way.

abi ateliershop

What are the design questions you get asked the most and what are your answers?

Q. If you paint a room dark will it look gloomy?

A. No, no and no again. You just need to ramp-up the style ratings with splashes of colour and cool lighting.

Q. How to mix styles without a room looking crazy.

A. Easy - if you restrict the colour palette you can mix with aplomb, it's way easier to mix if you have only a few colours/patterns/textures fighting for attention rather than everything.

Q. Where do I source art?

A. Flea markets, auction houses, etsy , eBay, graduate shows, Nelly Duff

Without giving away the entire content of your master classes, could you give our readers, say three top tips that might help them to get started if they want to embark on a redesign of a space at home?

1. Have confidence to follow your heart and not trends. If you fill your home with stuff you love it will pretty much stay with you for ever.

2. Work the single colour look, no matter what hue your walls paint your ceiling, skirting, doors and trim all out in the same hue. It's one of the most transformative things you can do - it will make your room look way bigger with no different junctions of colour confusing the eye and what's in the space will stand out far more.

3. Play around with scale. Scale is one of the most under-considered components in the decorating puzzle. Once you start putting supersized pieces on walls or shelves that are small (like mirrors and lights) you create instant grandeur making a room feel more magical than it really is.

And could you give us three absolute decorating no-nos?

1. Matching furniture - way too catalogue-ish.

2. Symmetry - super boring.

3. Having everything the same height, be that items on a shelf or furniture in a room. You need a lively rhythm to tantalise the eye.

Are you constantly updating/redesigning your own home?

My home is constantly evolving, so pieces get moved to different rooms as opposed to being got rid of. It's inevitable - I 'm looking at new stuff literally every day and zooming all over the place buying for the store, so yes, lots gets brought home.

If you were a visitor to your shop and could only choose three pieces to buy, which would they be?

The dog lights as they make me smile, the merino wool cushions as they are so squishy and comfortable - perfect for after dinner lounging and our illustration tables, adore them. Oh and our faux flowers - I can't live without them. That's four I know but I can't choose.

abi dog lamps

Which are your best-selling pieces?

The dog lights, mirrors, moose heads and the biggest seller is the faux flowers – I cannot keep up with the demand. They've gone to the Vatican, to A-list celebs, yachts in the Med, all over the place.

abi faux flowers

Is there any such thing as a typical Abigail Ahern client?

Not really, although I would say our clients are people who want homes ladened with personality that don't follow a formula - that make you smile when you walk through the door, but at the same time are beautiful, glamorous places to hang out. They love a mix of styles, want a magical vibe but with a twist from the norm.

What next for Abigail Ahern?

Crazy days, a new book for Spring, a new store for Autumn, a new product range in the next month and master classes in NYC and Australia. Feeling the need to cut myself in half possibly!


Suggest a correction