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Date published: October 10 2016

I like to collect and surround myself with objects

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I like to collect and surround myself with objects that reflect my taste, my interests and life - they make me feel comfortable

People who lack confidence in their own taste are often influenced far too much by show homes, interior magazines and hotels, which are designed to appeal to as many people as possible. They end up with homes which are soulless, bland and devoid of personal expression. 

I like to collect and surround myself with objects that reflect my taste, my interests and my life - things which describe who I am and where I have come from - whether they are good or bad, stylish or kitsch. They make me feel comfortable.

So I try to do the same for my clients. I take them on a journey, stretch their imagination, expose them to new ideas and get them to think about what is possible in different ways. In turn, I want to learn from them and understand their experiences and what makes them tick. Then I can respond to their ideas and needs in a genuinely personal way.

I once knew a designer who allowed the client to bring nothing but his clothes to his new house and within a year he had moved, as it never felt like home. However beautiful a house may be, if a client does not enjoy living in it, then the design is a failure.

I prefer to work very closely with clients and slowly build up a sense of what they like. Starting points can oft en be quite obscure. A project may evolve from a favourite piece of furniture or a painting, but it is the layout which is the most important decision. 

Understanding how the client lives and wants to use the house can lead to quite an unusual layout. We are currently designing an upside-down house - the top fl oor has the most magnifi cent views over the garden of a London square. It is the obvious place to live, so a lift is essential - and a big one, not a vertical coffin. The lift has been designed as a mini art gallery with precious and beautiful art and materials which benefit from being seen close up. The lift is also largely made of glass, so you are always aware of where you are in the building.

I am working on another project where I have to adhere to the principles of Vastu - which is a bit like the Hindu equivalent of Feng Shui. Its rules throw up all sorts of challenges. For example, beds have to face north - even when there are wonderful southerly views. But fulfilling Vastu’s requirements also leads to unusual and imaginative solutions, making the end result feel all the more personal. 

One of the best ways to ensure a house feel like home is to take the client on a trip - Italian marble yards are usually a great success. It often works out that the marbles you had in mind are discounted when the client sees fossilised timber, beautiful onyx and a whole range of startling marbles in daring colours. But that is what it is all about and a hard day’s
work is rewarded with a delicious plate of pasta and some good Chianti. Sometimes it is necessary to travel further afield - hunting for beautiful semi-precious stones in India for a unique master bathroom. 

The world is our market place so we like to show people a range of things which are new, exciting. I always enjoy taking clients to our favourite fabric houses - Rubelli, Pierre Frey and Alton Brooks, for example. We ask them to wander around and pick out any fabrics they like. It doesn’t take long for a colour scheme to emerge and, with a bit of skill, their choices can be turned into a coherent scheme quite easily. At the end of a project we oft en have a pair of slippers made in a client’s favourite fabric - just as a bit of fun.

Author: Mike Fisher

Company: Studio Indigo

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