MARTYN THOMPSON

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Australian photographer Martyn Thompson is well known for his enigmatic imagery which has appeared in style bibles including Elle Decoration, Vogue and Architectural Digest. Now a native New Yorker, he has turned his eye to designing esoteric fabrics for the home. We go behind the lens to see what makes him tick...

BY DEE IVA

What prompted you to start designing textiles?
I’ve always loved textiles. Thirty years ago I was painting fabrics, making them into clothes and selling them in a small shop in Sydney. I began taking pictures of them and my photography career was born out of that – it took over. So coming back to fabric isn't a total stretch. I had started exploring new ways to reproduce my photos and discovered the digitised jacquard loom. Although a little suspicious of the first results I soon fell in love – there’s a depth to the tapestry-like weave that speaks to the tactility I search for in my photos. I realised the potential for interior fabrics and began to develop the idea.

Tell us about your new 'Rock Pool' textile collection.
I was in Limeni on the Mani Peninsula of Greece on an editorial assignment. Standing at the end of a jetty staring at the rocks in the water below, I saw all these colours – amazing – like a painter's palette – dancing on the surface. I took a small cart load of photos and these became the basis for the 'Rock Pool' collection.

ABOVE AND ABOVE RIGHT: Martyn Thompson in his Manhattan studio
BELOW FROM TOP: Thompson's watery 'Rock Pool' design can be used to upholster walls as well as furniture. The chair is covered in a mix of 'Whitewash' and 'Painted Galaxy'; A range of Thompson's earlier designs including 'The Accidental Expressionist' and 'Melting' are used to cover these cushions; 'Ripple' from the 'Rock Pool' collection covers the wall, the small sofa is upholstered in 'Blotch' from the 'Accidental Expressionist' collection

Does your photography inform your designs?
It’s very literally an extension of it. Each of the fabrics begins as one of my photographs before we edit and develop the image into a repeat pattern. My photography has always been very much about a certain quality of light and a particular muted colour palette. Happily these qualities translate beautifully to the jacquard loom process.

ABOVE: The 'Green Buterflie' scarf from Martyn Thompson's first accessories collection is printed on silk and uses designs from his interiors collections

We hear you were quite the club kid in the Eighties…
Ahhh... that was the early Eighties. A lifestyle choice that didn't bode well for my university studies! I always loved dressing up and was a real show off on the dance floor. I started making my clothes when I was quite young and was totally enamoured of Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren. I didn't really think anything could get better than New Romanticism, but when their Buffalo Girls collection came out I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. It’s still my fave fashion moment ever. I guess music was my first great love – and I admired performers like Siouxsie and the Banshees as much for how they looked as for their sound – though the music was fabulous too of course.

That period was an incredibly creative time, is there anyone who particularly inspired you?
There was a general spirit of getting on with stuff to just do it. For me, a young queer kid, this felt like a time outside of boundaries and prejudice. Boy George, Marilyn, Jimmy Somerville and other 'out' singers were a total inspiration. Homosexuality was still illegal where I grew up and I think these people gave me permission to exist.

What are your favourite design hotspots in the Big Apple?
The Future Perfect design store (below left) – David Alhadeff is a total advocate of what is new and is helping many new designers build their careers. I’ve always really admired Paula Rubinstein for her quirky take on vintage objects and textiles. Other favourites are Federico de Vera on Crosby Street – he has a really beautiful vision – and I love the new Oliver Gustav shop on Howard Street (below right).

Do you have any design heroes?
Yes plenty… to name a few, Gio Ponti, Mariano Fortuny, Vivienne Westwood, Susie Cooper.

Where's on your travel wish list and why?
Well, I'm crazy about Iceland. I love that there is still a sense of the unexplored and the impenetrable. It’s so ancient looking and can get really remote, really fast and you feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere with no one – not a sensation that's commonly achieved where I live in Manhattan!

What's your social media of choice?
I have an Instagram account but I'm disappointed that it has become such a commercial medium. I think that Tumblr can be really beautiful, especially the 'pin up' board format – that's my favourite.
martynthompsonstudio.com 

Pictures: Lauren Coleman (The Future Perfect)

POLLY DICKENS Habitat

Polly Dickens is a well-known figure on the London design scene. Famous for her brilliant eye, she has travelled the world as a buyer for retailers including Anthropologie, Liberty and The Conran Shop. Now Creative Director at Habitat, she has gone full circle back to her Conran roots charting the unexpected colour combos, textures and patterns that embody Habitat's genre-hopping, global mix.

BY CLAIRE BINGHAM

Tell us about your new collection for Habitat.
We’ve looked at a range of ideas for AW15 from the 1980s Memphis design movement to mid-century America, 1950s Scandinavia and modern-day Africa. Our designers have translated these ideas into a collection that ticks lots of boxes with interesting use of materials, strong shapes and bright colours. My favourite is the new 'Astrid' light designed by Matthew Long, which was inspired by DNA molecules for a simple but elegant, graphic lighting concept. His 'Hawkins' armchair is also a real statement combining an angular shape with chrome frames and mixed fabric textures (see our picks from the Habitat AW15 collection here).

ABOVE RIGHT: 'Hawkins' armchair by Matthew Long in green wool and grey velvet, £995, Habitat
BELOW: 'Astrid' lights by Matthew Long, from £70, Habitat

What aspect of the range do you love the most?
That it’s brave and makes a statement. I always admired Habitat for creating designs that have a distinct personality – designs that aren’t afraid to challenge conventions and push people into looking at home furnishings in a different way. With this collection I really feel that we’ve done that again, creating statement designs that some will love and some will hate but that encourage people to be passionate and engage with design. Nobody else is doing that on the high street but it’s where Habitat will always be.

How would you sum up your style as a designer?
I’m not a designer as such but more of an editor – putting together designs and products for the Habitat collection and building the creative identity of the brand. For me, the provenance of a product is paramount and I’ve worked to champion ‘the hand of the maker’ at Habitat. You’ll notice, especially with our ceramics, textiles and accessories, that we’ve made sure you can see where a person has worked on a product – from brush strokes to imperfect shapes.

What are your influences?
I find that experience is my biggest influence – experiences from travels, exhibitions, trade fairs, theatre – the list goes on. I am continually inspired by people, places and things around me. These are constantly changing and translate into the collection in some shape or form. This year, the incredible Jackson Pollock exhibition at the Venice Guggenheim was the inspiration point for our Christmas 2016 collection, which we are really excited to launch.

BELOW: 'Mural' (1943) by Jackson Pollock is on show at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice, until 16 November 2015

Who or what is exciting you in design right now?
UK designer Aaron Probyn (left). We worked with him on a retrospective project for Habitat’s 50th birthday back in 2014 and I’m working with him again on a new collection for SS16. The way he adapts across product categories using different mediums is fascinating.

ABOVE: 'Poise', 'Pendry' and 'Marlowe' table lamps for Habitat by Aaron Probyn, 2014
BELOW RIGHT: Jean Prouvé's 'Fauteuil Direction Pivotant' office chair by G–Star RAW for Vitra

What’s next for you?
We’ve just finished putting together our SS16 collection so it’s on to AW16. I’m off on a big buying trip to the Far East taking in Hong Kong, China and Thailand. We’ve worked with suppliers out there for a number of years and on this trip we’ll be looking at accessories from new ceramicists' studios, working on Christmas decoration designs and also new porcelain lighting in China.   

Who are your design heroes?
Jean Prouvé is one. I love his work and am fortunate enough to have collected several of his pieces for Vitra over the years.

Where’s on your travel wish list?
I’m a bit of a travel junkie. My job has meant I’ve been lucky enough to cover most corners of the globe but the one place I want to spend more time is Japan. It is such a diverse country that I have only been able to glimpse it on business trips so would love to have more time to explore. I’m also a passionate cook, so anywhere that has a good food market is on the list too. 

Is there anything you wish you had designed?
Anything from Korean-born, Brooklyn-based Jennie Jieun Lee’s ceramics collection.

ABOVE: The colourful painterly ceramic world of Jennie Jieun Lee

If you weren't a creative director, what might you have been?
At university I was heavily involved with student theatre, designing and making costumes for lots of different productions. I loved it and was thinking of extending my degree into theatre design.

What’s your social media of choice?
I’m quite an ‘unsocial’ media type, however I love photography and my iPhone’s memory is always full of all the pictures I take, so I’d have to be on Instagram.
habitat.co.uk 

Habitat's Autumn/Winter collection is available from September 2015

2 LOVELY GAYS

London-based interior designers Jordan Cluroe and Russell Whitehead, aka 2 Lovely Gays, are fearless with colour, adventurous with shape and partial to a bit of theatre. Cluroe made his design debut as the runner-up on BBC2's The Great Interior Design Challenge last year. Fast-forward to 2015 and the duo are busy bringing their fresh, minimal style to the masses. Here they share their tips on 'making living lovely'.

BY CLAIRE BINGHAM

Tell us about your most recent revamp.
We've been lucky to have an amazing first year, working with some fab people. Each client becomes a part of us. We recently finished a project on Cloudsley Road, Islington, which always makes us smile. The white and gold scheme was a cue from the client but we wanted to give it a fresh look with flashes of emerald and mint green. There are some stunning pieces, not least the metallic marbled wallpaper by Brooklyn-based Calico Wallpaper. It's such a glamorous backdrop. 

What are you working on at the moment? 
We are about to move into a new house. Our first London home in Trilby Road, Forest Hill, will always be very special. It was the first time we had undertaken such a large job for ourselves, which is very different from working with a client. It was an intense learning experience, but we loved every second, and the result was us saying, 'Bring it on!' It is the unexpected compromises that make it. The plywood made a virtue of the boxed-in steels and pipes, creating storage and shelving in every available inch. Our new home will be a progression of our style but with added theatre. We can't wait to get our teeth into it – although there are no holidays for the foreseeable future!

ABOVE: Jordan Cluroe (left) and Russell Whitehead (right) with Buckley The Wonder Dog
BELOW: White and gold brings a touch of luxe to this cool, Scandi-style scheme in Cloudesley Road, Islington, North London; Soft, muted colours and a curtained wall give this bedroom at the mews house a light and dreamy atmosphere and the sleek metallic lamp adds a dash of drama

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What do you love most about decorating a space?
The most exciting thing is the way it can make a client feel. We love that an atmosphere can truly be life changing.

How would you sum up your style?
Clean. Honest. Human. Playful. Adaptable.

What are your influences?
If we are talking design influences, then we love American decorator Kelly Wearstler, and British designers Jasper Morrison and Sebastian Wrong. The flip side of this is our shared passion for art, theatre, film and fashion. We are both from a theatre background and that has had a big impact on us. We are like children in a sweetshop wherever we go. Inspiration sometimes comes from the most unexpected places. At the moment, we have a profound crush on Canadian painter Kris Knight. We've followed his career for years and have finally managed to get our hands on one of his artworks for our house. His paintings are so beautiful, but also magical and emotional. His use of colour really inspires us.

ABOVE RIGHT: Design hero Sebastian Wrong
RIGHT: 'The Flying Money' oil on canvas, a 2014 painting by inspiring Canadian painter Kris Knight

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ABOVE, TOP ROW: Jordan and Russell's white and light-filled house on Trilby Road, Forest Hill, South London, balances period detail and design classics to cheery effect. The result is contemporary, functional and fun. With a liking for Muuto accessories, Tom Dixon lighting and Eames furniture, Jordan and Russell are always scouring antique markets for finds to upcycle, such as the green-painted café chair; Kaleidoscopic colour and the use of plywood gives this space the modern factor. This midcentury Danish chair was recovered in a blue-felted wool.
ABOVE: The designers clad the chimney breast of their loft bedroom in plywood to create built-in shelves, while keeping the room's original shape. ‘Plywood is one of the materials we’ve used throughout the house’, says Russell. ‘It’s great because it's an inexpensive material but we love the raw quality when it's finished really well.’ Beside the Scholten & Baijings 'Minimal' bedlinen in Syrup for Hay are ‘Athens’ bedside lamps from B&Q

 

What did you learn from The Great Interior Design Challenge?
It's amazing what you can achieve with massive constraints. It was such an intense and exciting experience. It just fired up our passion and made our desire to design a concrete thing.

Any tips on using colour?
Be brave – but that doesn't mean you need to go crazy. People say that we are bold with colour, but we have never seen it that way. Colour is a part of life and it's exciting, so why not embrace it? For instance, when looking for an alternative to grey, we found pink was a new twist on a neutral. There’s a phrase we use: ‘mud in the water’. When we are making final adjustments to a scheme, we often remove one colour and clarity appears. Sometimes a tone that bridges two other components can be the ‘mud in the water’. Best to edit it out.

What’s exciting you in design right now?
We're getting excited about carpet again but perhaps that's because the house we’ve just moved into is so cold!

Is there one product that you really admire and wish you had designed?
The wheel.

Where’s on your travel wish list?
The child in us wants to go to Iceland to see the Northern Lights and the snow, but professionally New York is always on our wish list. We love a good city.

What social media do you use most?
We love Twitter. It has been great for us and we've made many friends through it. We enjoy Instagram, and are trying to get into Pinterest, but it's too much like what we do at work all day!

If you weren't a designer, what might you have been?
We spent the first 10 years of our professional lives training and working as actors, so for us being a designer is a new career. We’re finding it incredibly liberating. We're also co-owners of St. David coffee house, in South-East London, so we have another string to our bow!
2lovelygays.com

Pictures: Megan Taylor megantaylor.co.uk  Kris Knight picture: Kris Knight