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Today, London Design Agenda wants to present you an exclusive interview done by Decorex with top London interior designer – Staffan Tollgard!
What first drew you into the world of interior design?
Looking back at my childhood I can clearly see that interior design was my true calling. It just took me twenty years to realise it. As an 11 year old I decorated my own room and guided my parents in their choice of furniture for the rest of the house. Function and aesthetics were important to me from a very early age. I started studying engineering at university but soon realised that I needed to pursue a creative career.
I left and went to film school in the UK and went on to develop and produce films for a few years. After meeting my wife, Monique, we moved into our own house and took a year to renovate it. I enjoyed the process so much that I took a year out of film-making and enrolled at Inchbald. The one year diploma in Architectural Interior Design changed the course of my life – and my family’s – from that point. After graduating I went to work with Rabih Hage, and then started my own design firm shortly afterwards. That was nearly nine years ago.
What would you say is your biggest inspiration as a designer?
It’s a cliché but I would have to say my clients are the starting point of each design journey. One of the reasons I don’t miss the world of film-making is because each project gives me the opportunity to tell a new story of these particular people living in this particular home. As in a film you are unfolding a narrative: “Who is this person? What drives them? What are their passions? How do they live? What is most important to them?” You are also directing the view of the visitors to the house (clients and guests). “What is the most important vista? How do we frame it? Where should the most important pieces go? What are the key materials and motifs and how do we repeat them with variation through the design so that there are refrains that echo differently along the journey?”
Without the clients there would be no unique starting point, no truly new story. I use the Scandinavian notion of the ‘Röda tråden’ to encapsulate my design philosophy and guide this design journey. Every project has a unique red thread that we discover through getting to know our clients, their story and the history of the property. Something will always filter to the top: a particular piece of art, a period of history, a design motif. This red thread is then worked through the design and becomes the creative DNA at the heart of the project. Each design decision is held up against the red thread: if it helps tell the story then it stays. If it tells a different story, we let it go.
If you could describe your work in 3 words, what would they be?
Contemporary, functional and bold.
What is the biggest challenge in your working Life?
Juggling trying to be a good husband, father, friend and designer. I seriously need a few extra days in the week!
What would you say is your favourite work so far?
Designing the company’s own home has been a lot of fun. The Staffan Tollgård Design Store is due to open in September and I although I am nervous I am also so excited to show everyone what we have been up to. The Design Store is also the home for the Design Group: a showcase for our work as interior designers as well as a beautiful setting for the pieces of contemporary design we have selected to sell. We therefore took the decision that everything in the Store would be sale: flooring, cladding, architectural lighting, AV, specialist paint finishes: if you see it we can specify it. Knowing that we will be judged not only as a store but also as an interior design practice has made the design journey that little bit more challenging.
My very first project is also one that I remain very proud of. I had just set up on my own and the refurbishment of a beautiful Chelsea apartment was a daunting project. At the same time I remember that I was able to concentrate on the details on the project because it was the only one I had.
As a speaker at this year’s Decorex, can you tell us a little about your plans for the show?
I always walk through the fair in an ordered fashion making sure I don’t miss anything. I’m very excited about the new venue this year and can’t wait to see it. With regards to the panel I am taking part in I am hoping for a good rapport with the other panellists and good questions!
If you could sum Decorex up in 20 words what would they be?
“The best of decorative luxury from across the globe, gathered in an inspirational location.” With six words left I could add “Always memorable; always a pleasure to visit.”
What would be your favourite object in your own home?
A 1950s advertising poster from Sweden. It’s three metres tall, very striking with a fun (now ironic) message and reminds me of my home country.
The brand new Staffan Tollgard Design Store is due to open in a few weeks, can you tell us a little more about it?
We aim to bring the best of bold, contemporary luxury around the globe to designers and shoppers in London.
I started searching for a new showroom nearly three years ago. I was convinced that the brands I was working with deserved a wider audience, and a really great showroom space. It took me a long time to find the perfect location for our move into retail but I think Grosvenor Waterside is a great fit. It’s situated in the very central Belgravia /Pimlico/ Chelsea / Victoria nexus and just around the corner from the great and the good of British design (David Linley, Joanna Wood, Luke Irwin and Nicky Haslam are a few of our very impressive neighbours). As a place to work it is wonderful: we now have a view over the water and over 3000 square feet of retail and work space. What drew me to the space was its volume: six metre ceilings and 20 metres of floor to ceiling windows offer an amazing backdrop both for our work, and the work of the brands we represent.
I believe that great design deserves to be seen, and to be sold by designers that can tell its story. We value the human behind the piece: the designer and the maker. That is why, in an increasingly digitalised world, we have invested in a bricks and mortar showroom staffed by interior designers that understand the language of design, the pieces themselves and their place in a new story: that of the collector.
That’s how we arrived at our tag line for the Store.
Great design holds a story.
Come and tell us yours.
The message of the store combines our passion for story telling (our client’s stories, our own narrative of excellence in everything we do) with the narrative behind the pieces we have chosen for the store and the journey beyond into the home of its next owner.
Are there any new projects on the horizon?
A chalet in Switzerland and a fantastic contemporary country house in Berkshire.
As a renowned figure within the industry, what would your advice be for aspiring designers?
If by renowned you mean incredibly lucky and grateful to be working on interesting projects with some great clients I would say …
Strive to find the narrative behind the design you are working on – whether it be your client’s own story, the antique armchair you are consider buying or the bespoke desk you are having made. Ask yourself ‘What is the individual story of each person and each piece, and how do they fit together?’
I would also add that this is a small industry and that being friendly, reasonable and obliging is a very good foundation for a career in it.
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