Abigail Ahern, famous for her dark, moody interiors and masculine maximalism, has collaborated with Hillarys blinds to create a collection of 19 curtain and blind fabrics in a partnership that is, on the surface, surprising to both of them. But it really works and I congratulate both of them on a project which has taken two years to put together and which launches today.
Now I’ll be honest. When I was invited to Abigail’s house to see the collection I wasn’t sure. I’m a fan of her style but it’s a million miles away from Hillarys, although I have worked with them and always recommend their plain linens and cottons to my clients. But how were the two going to mix together?
“It’s quite a step out of their comfort zone,” said my Hillarys insider. “They don’t want to alienate their core customer but they were happy to be pushed a little to reach new people.”
And I’m pretty sure they will. Abigail’s collection is made of faux-velvet (tougher than cotton velvet), faux leather, lots tribal prints, tweeds and linens.
And then there’s the fringing. There are six coloured fringes, which you can see in the images, which just give a little flourish to the masculinity of a roman blind. And that’s the key to her style.
“My style has always been quite masculine,” said Abigail at the launch. “But it’s also incredibly tactile. People don’t understand the importance of how things feel and that was absolutely key for me.”
So she “went to town” on the fabrics and the embellishment. The tones may be muted – dark greens, navy blues and warm golds but the fringes come in coral, black and red and gold and can be toned or contrasted with the relevant fabric.
The other key, and clever, touch is in the picture above. Coloured linings. It’s a small thing but not one that you see very often. Remember as a child drawing houses and the curtains always faced outwards so you could draw patterns? The reality is that the pattern is always on the inside and it’s the plain beige lining that faces the street. I have a Swedish friend whose curtains are two sided with lining in the middle, but Abigail has added a range of coloured linings to her curtains which is a detail I love.
“It’s a real game-changer. Why shouldn’t your home look as amazing from the outside as it does inside?” she said.
The range also includes cushions, which Hillarys did already offer but these are Abigail cushions. They come in different sizes and you can choose different fabric front and back as well as were to place the fringe – round the edge, across the middle, just on the ends. It’s up to you. That’s where the faux leather comes into its own. Think velvet on one side, leather on the other and a fringe round the edge.
“You need to layer up the cushions,” says Abigail. “That takes it to another level. Cushions are the five minute face-lift of the decorating world.”
Abigail was also keen to avoid being on trend. These colours may be popular at the moment and at this time of year but they are true to her style.
“I hate trends. Everything in this house has been here for years and I moved in 16 years ago,” she said. “It’s quite heritage./ I don’t want to have things that you want to change after a season.”
And she returned to her theme of texture. “It’s the most under-considered component I find. People never think about how things feel just how they look. I like to layer fabrics because texture will transform a space.”
Walking round her house you can see what she means – layers of velvet, linen, cotton, leather and sheepskin vie for space on every chair. There are rugs in contrasting fabrics and lots of wood and metal surfaces. Lamps and chandeliers are in every room creating, not just layers of texture but layers of light as well.
So it comes as no surprise that she’s also a fan of layering window dressings as you can see from many of the images here. “You can take rooms to whole other levels when you add multiple layers with curtains and romans, especially if they’re in a different fabric or texture,” she said.
Take this picture above, the colours are very un-Abigail but the pale fabric – which has a slight, and slightly unexpected, silvery sheen to it – with the coral fringing which just adds a bit of oomph and stops it being restrained good taste – which is lovely but can be a bit dull. The effect is subtle and doesn’t shout but it’s there in the silver and the fringing.
In fact, I would really like a pair of trousers made in that fabric- which is Lucien Dust by the way. Abigail and I also had a conversation about a coat made from the green Harkness gasoline as well.
The collection launches today so have a look at all of them in more detail on the Hillarys site and see if any of these take your fancy. My favourites are the two mentioned above but there are eight other plains in colours such as peat, buffalo, mole and donkey – to give you an idea of colours. The colours are all fairly restrained true to Abigail’s palette but the patterns and texture more than make up for that.
What do you think? It’s a shame this isn’t touchovision because you will just have to take my word for it that they are all incredibly soft and strokeable.