Flora Soames Collections malachite tazza
Interiors + Design

Style Counsel: Flora Soames on Placing a Collection at the Heart of Design

By Sotheby's
Ahead of the Collections sale on 31 October, celebrated interior designer Flora Soames discusses her approach to design, and why collecting is so important to the creative process.

What are the first things you want to learn about a client when you begin working with them?

Every project that we work on is very much led by the individual client’s needs and expectations, whether it is a commercial or residential project. Each client has a different understanding of what they want to achieve in a space, as well as how involved they’d like to be. As such, we tailor make a project to those varying degrees and a project starts to take shape from this point onwards in terms of creativity, as well as practically.

What is the key to creating an eclectic look for a room and ensuring it is still well-balanced?

Eclecticism is, I hope, at the heart of much of our work. However very often this tone is set by the existing collection we are working with at any given time. Whether it is works of art, furniture or objects which a client has inherited or collected over the years, or the aspiration to build a new or expanding collection; these are the foundations on which an eclectic look develops and crucially the elements on which we hinge a layered scheme in relation to layout, colour and texture.

You specialise in antique fabrics. What is it about this element that you especially love?

I started as an interior designer having worked in the art world and later for a furniture dealer for ten years, during which time I developed quite a varied taste for antiques and mid-century design. Textiles are integral to my work and a personal love of these developed through studying and collecting wonderful fragments of wallpaper and fabrics over the years. One day soon I plan to have these as the core inspiration of my own collection, Flora Soames Fabrics. I feel that fabrics, new and old, like antiques and extraordinary works of art, are what gives a room its personality. And more crucially, for me, patina. Whether that’s a sense of age or a sense of being lived in, this is key to the interiors that we work on.

Flora Soames interior
An interior designed by Flora Soames. © Flora Soames.

What tells you you’re finished with your design?

I think retaining the essence of a room is really vital, particularly in interiors of architectural merit. Navigating the original design and details in these buildings is something which has to be approached sensitively and with awareness of the language being spoken. The idiosyncratic nature of so many of these original interiors is what leads to them being interesting and a blank canvas is not always an inspiring thing!

In terms of knowing when you’re finished, this is shaped by when a design comes together visually and functions as you had set out to achieve. Saying this, for me a collection is never complete, so the art of an interior that will stand the test of time is creating the foundations on which can be added to over time, without taking away from the original concept and design.

How much are you inspired by the history of a room or building you are working in?

Enormously. Having studied history of art and architecture I am heavily influenced by design throughout the centuries. These references are a vital and formative benchmark for the work that we are doing, whether it is a dedicated restoration project or often a more modern interpretation of a period building, given the demands of the way we live in these houses today. Either way, we set out for our interiors to reflect the traditions of design.

Do you think with the growing concern of sustainability, more people will opt towards incorporating antiques and/or historic architecture into the design process?

I hope so. I’m all for a balance of contemporary alongside traditional — this juxtaposition is very important, when done well. However, the point to this combination is to create an interior which is diverse and shows off each element to its best advantage. We live in a world where there is so much ‘product’ and contemporary design is a very saturated market. Personally, I believe investing in craftsmanship is key, and understanding the longevity of these pieces — and ultimately the reward and pleasure one will get back from building a diverse collection.


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