MARTYN THOMPSON

Prince st MT portrait 2 06.2016.jpg

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)

CHRISTINA SCHMIDT Skandium

In the Eighties and Nineties Scandinavian furniture meant flat packs to most people in the UK but in 1998 a new destination store dedicated to modern and classic Scandi design arrived in London. The Fizz goes behind the scenes with Christina Schmidt, co-founder of Skandium, to see what floats her boat...

BY DEE IVA

How did Skandium come about?
The seed idea sparked when my partner Magnus Englund and I found a cooking pot in a provincial department store in Finland. It was the pot, we thought, what a ’looker’... so simple, like a child would draw a pot, yet perfect in proportion and execution. We learned that it was designed by typographer Björn Dahlström for a new kitchen range by Finnish company Iittala called Iittala Tools. Iitala had begun the journey of reinventing themselves for a contemporary market.

We thought the concept was smashing as all the objects were simple but divinely perfect, in a way the reinvention of modernism, celebrating timeless beauty. So we thought let’s put together Alvar Aalto from 1924 with these pieces because style never goes out of fashion. It is not about being fashionable. If it is beautiful and relevant, it is a long-term investment in the quality of your life. With this in mind, we headed to the little island of Hästö in the Finnish archipelago and sat by the water’s edge, contemplating what we should call this idea and how to go about it. That was summer 1998.

ABOVE: Christina Schmidt, co-founder and creative director of Skandium
ABOVE RIGHT: Casserole with lid by Björn Dahlström for Iittala, 1998
BELOW: Hästö island, where the idea for Skandium was born

Do you have a favourite classic Scandinavian design piece?
I do not have a favourite as such as there are so many superb pieces and the design chosen will have to work well in the space you are living in. But If I had to choose, I would always pick the 'PH Artichoke' pendant in copper, by Poul Henningsen, the 'Trolley 900' with basket by Alvar Aalto (great as a side table), a cooking pot by Björn Dahlström and the 'Lempi' glasses by Matti Klenell which serve water, wine and milk equally well.

ABOVE LEFT: 'PH Artichoke' pendant light by Poul Henningsen for Louis Poulsen, from £4,900
ABOVE: 'Trolley 900' by Alvar Aalto for Artek, £2,365
BELOW: 'Lempi' tumblers by Matti Klenell for Iittala, from £12.50

Describe your personal interiors style
I am not so fussed about ‘retro’ as such. I do like great design and love new ideas, no matter what time they are from. I love the craftsmanship and thought behind the classic pieces of Scandinavian design, hence my passion for it, but when executing a project I like to mix styles from different periods, to keep it simple and harmonious and throw in a bit of the unexpected.

You were once a fashion and lifestyle photographer, who did you shoot for?
That was 20 years ago! I worked for the local fashion magazines and advertising agencies in Stockholm. Among others I did a shoot with Izabella Scorupco (right) who had long dark hair at the time. We used an ice blonde bob wig on her for the campaign and she later cut her hair and changed its colour. Izabella went on to play Bond girl Natalya Simonova in GoldenEye. I had a brilliant assistant at the time, Elisabeth Toll, whom I am proud to say is now a stunning fashion photographer with international assignments. It all has to start somewhere.

Do you still take pictures and has this shaped or influenced your work at Skandium?
I always think and act from a visual point, it is innate. I do not take pictures for Skandium as there is simply not the time for it since the content of what we do is so very wide. My focus today is interior design which is my passion. For this I take pictures for Skandium to go online and for my Instagram account.

BELOW: 'At Ease' sofa by Daniel Schofield, £2,700. Exclusive to Skandium

What's next for Skandium?
There are so many companies out there and many offer the same or similar products as we have done for the last 16 years, so for us it is to enhance the focus on concept living and tighter editing on what we believe makes the Scandinavian aspect alluring. We don’t show everything just because it is on the market. For this year's London Design Festival we will showcase a new Skandium collection including a range of furniture by Swedish architect Jonas Lindvall and a Stig Lindberg retrospective with Swedish manufacturer Röstrand including our own range of bowls bearing Lindberg's distinctive illustrations from the children's book 'Daniel Tip Your Toe'.

ABOVE RIGHT: 'Stig Lindberg Bowls', £12.50 each. Exclusive to Skandium
BELOW: The first Skandium store touched down in Wigmore Street, London, in 1998

Who or what is currently exciting you in design?
I am actually more impressed with good craftsmanship and production than design as such. Without good craftsmanship there is never good design and in the ‘old’ days the craftsman was innately also the designer. I love seeing a mix of materials in an object where the combination enhances the experience, not just ‘entertains’. I will always love simple execution in both shape and material, such as the Collective Tools 'Serving Spoon' by Antonio Citterio for Iittala.

Is there anything you wish you had designed?
The 'Trolley 900' with basket by Alvar Aalto for Artek, as it is functional, stylish and very charming – the dream combination!

What's your social media of choice?
My personal one is Instagram without a doubt, I loooooove it!
skandium.com

Izabella Scorupco by Mark Mainz/ Getty Images Entertainment / Getty Images

GREG NATALE

Award-winning Australian interior designer Greg Natale has made his name with glamorous schemes strong on geometric print, pattern, colour and trad-modern luxe. Based in Sydney, he's branched out to design covetable homewares, from graphic rugs to gorgeous furniture, accessories, wallpapers and tiles. He's also published his first book, 'The Tailored Interior', to share his tips, inspirations and projects. We meet the dandy decorator...

BY SOPHIE DAVIES

What’s your design philosophy?
I'm focused on creating bold, sophisticated interiors that are tightly edited and tailored with a distinct touch of glamour. Every piece has a place and shares a relationship with other pieces in a space.

How would you describe your style?
It comes down to my love of layering. I’m a big fan of interiors that are full and sumptuous, rich in textures and finishes, with a careful layering of pieces – whether the space is minimalist or maximalist.

What drew you to luxurious, glamorous interiors?
I’ve always been inspired by the late English designer David Hicks – the way he worked with bold colours and patterns, creating elegant environments, was mesmerising. Danish designer Verner Panton's layered, repeated patterns also influenced my aesthetic. 

ABOVE: Interior designer Greg Natale in the living room of an Edwardian house he restored in Sydney, backdropped by Fornasetti plates
ABOVE RIGHT: The UK/US edition of Natale's book 'The Tailored Interior', with a foreword by Jonathan Adler and photos by Anson Smart
BELOW: Natale's zingy dining room for Leichhardt House, Sydney, where the linear 'Comback' chairs by Patricia Urquiola for Kartell echo the lights

What are your tips for using print and pattern in the home?
I do love bold geometrics – they can really lift a space, bringing a layer of intricate interest to a large, open interior via a rug, carpet or wallpaper. I also love detailed curves, which can perfectly balance the angles in a house. It’s in bringing balance and contrast where print and pattern can really come into their own, ensuring a design is cohesive and dynamic. I recommend using neutral tones on bigger furniture such as sofas, then introducing accent colours, pattern and print via more easily changeable cushions, throws and rugs.

ABOVE: Natale's 'Diagonal' striped wallpaper for this small, one-bed Fitzroy Apartment in Melbourne, increases the sense of space (source it from Porter's Paints)

What does a tailored interior mean to you?
My work is essentially a bespoke business – it's all about tailoring my design skills to a client’s desires in order to capture their passions and style. I also curate every piece and finish so it holds its own special place in the mix.

Where do you get inspiration?
I'm interested by the worlds of fashion and art, which celebrate the glamorous and the luxe (I love the sexy, sophisticated tailoring of US fashion designer Tom Ford and Halston's style from the Sixties and Seventies). A lot of my inspiration also comes from the everyday things I’ve observed when exploring new cities. Some of my rug design patterns were inspired by the details on gates, buildings, even manholes. 

What inspired your latest collection for Sydney firm Designer Rugs?
‘New Modern’ is very contemporary and represents a natural step for me following my earlier, more classically inclined ‘New Regency’ collection for Designer Rugs. Each rug is named after a city – for example, ‘Rio’ was inspired by the city’s striking mosaic pavements, while ‘Los Angeles’ features deco elements that are such a part of LA designs. Others represent a mood or theme – so ‘Memphis’ gives a nod to the post-modern design movement. 

BELOW FROM LEFT: Graphic pattern rules in Natale's 'Miami', 'Rio' and 'Memphis' rugs from the 'New Modern' collection for Designer Rugs

ABOVE: Rome's Colosseum and the sexy, streamlined, Seventies glamour of New York's Studio 54 inspired Natale's armchair and coffee tables for US interiors brand Worlds Away, part of a 10-piece collection

Which of your collaborations are you most proud of?
Early collaborators Designer Rugs and Porter’s Paints both have a special place because they were the first brands to allow me to diversify. Designing furniture collections for Stylecraft and Worlds Away has given me the chance to create key contemporary pieces that embrace a little vintage glamour, while my Italian-inspired 'Pavimento' cement tiles for Teranova took a different approach to flooring. My new cushion range for One Duck Two suits both contemporary and classic spaces.

What’s exciting you in design or style?
I’m really excited to see a renewed interest in the post-modernist Italian design group Memphis, with its vivid colours, geometrics and graphics. It's one of my favourite design movements.

What about colour trends?
I’m loving the chic, sophisticated neutral appeal of navy blue. At the more dramatic end of the spectrum, I find the current trend for rich colours such as malachite and lapis lazuli breathtaking. And I’ve always been a fan of metallics, particularly brass.

Who are your design heroes? `
Alongside David Hicks, Verner Panton and Memphis, I love the work of modernist architects such as American Paul Rudolph and the late Australian legend Harry Seidler (I'm fortunate to live in an apartment in one of Seidler’s buildings today). I’ve always been a fan of the Californian Case Study Houses of the Fifties and Sixties, commissioned by US Arts & Architecture magazine. In my own industry, I count Jonathan Adler and Kelly Wearstler among my contemporary inspirations.

ABOVE: Greg Natale's cushions for One Duck Two span printed linen and embroidery in greens, blues, greys, and black and white. From left: 'Manhattan', 'Trellis', 'Monte Carlo', 'South Beach' and 'Malachite'

Where’s on your travel wish list?`
Saint-Tropez is number one. The sun, the setting, the glamour – what’s not to love?

What’s your social media of choice?
Pinterest – it’s such a great source of inspiration, in terms of absorbing that of others and sharing your own, and it allows you to create personal mood boards, particularly useful in my profession.

What have you been up to recently?
We had the US and UK launches for my book The Tailored Interior in September, and launched my first cushion collection with Australia's One Duck Two (available online at David Jones and in select stores). We also moved offices, setting up a new, more generous space in Surry Hills, with an appealing edge of glamour! In future, I intend to focus more on product, work towards another book, and ensure that the brand becomes more global in approach and reach.
gregnatale.com

'The Tailored Interior' by Greg Natale (Hardie Grant Books, £24.40, US$55, AU$69.95) launched in the UK and US in September 2015 and in Australia in November 2014. Snap it up online. Photography by Anson Smart.

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