Mad About . . .

The World’s Best Contemporary Interior Designers: New Book

8th April 2021
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Long timers among you will remember a small series I wrote way back BP (before Pandemic) about a beautiful velvet wrapped interiors book by Phaidon called The Greatest Rooms of the Century, the criteria for which was that they must all be residential. The rooms were a fascinating history of design through the decades but it was the essays at the start that really drew me in.

from Phaidon's By Design, the world's best contemporary interior designers: Kelly Wearstler: Malibu Residence, Malibu, California, USA, 2009. Picture credit: François Halard

from Phaidon’s By Design, the world’s best contemporary interior designers: Kelly Wearstler: Malibu Residence, Malibu, California, USA, 2009. Picture credit: François Halard

In one, Diana Vreeland, the formidable editor of Harpers Bazaar and Vogue, was quoted as saying, in what would turn out to be hugely prescient, that:  “Few things are more fascinating than the opportunity to see how other people live during their private hours. In the rooms they love… among their personal possessions …  organising their domestic arrangements to fit the pattern of their lives.”

from Phaidon's By Design, the world's best contemporary interior designers: Fawn Galli: Short Hills, private residence, Short Hills, New Jersey, USA, 2017. Picture credit: Richard Powers

from Phaidon’s By Design, the world’s best contemporary interior designers: Fawn Galli: Short Hills, private residence, Short Hills, New Jersey, USA, 2017. Picture credit: Richard Powers

She wouldn’t have been remotely surprised by the invention and success of instagram I’m sure. Anyway, moving on from the rooms, Phaidon have now published their latest interiors tome: By Design, the world’s best contemporary interior designers.

from Phaidon's By Design, the world's best contemporary interior designers: Gristanti & Cussen: Riksbyggen, show apartment, Uppsala, Sweden, 2019. Picture credit: Idha Lindhag

from Phaidon’s By Design, the world’s best contemporary interior designers: Gristanti & Cussen: Riksbyggen, show apartment, Uppsala, Sweden, 2019. Picture credit: Idha Lindhag

And before we continue, I must, somewhat proudly, declare an interest. For the 100 designers had to come from somewhere. And I was asked to be one of the nominators, whose opinions were sought as to who should be included in the line-up. And so alongside an illustrious list including Carla Sozzani (Italian gallerist and sister of Franca, who edited Vogue Italia until her death in 2016), Rosa Park (Cereal magazine), Matt Gibberd and Albert Hill (The Modern House), Michelle Ogundehin and Joa Studholme, is moi “founder of Mad About The House, London”.

I was asked for a list of nominees, not all of whom made the final cut but many of whom did including many favourites such as Kelly Wearstler, Pierre Yovanovitch and Ben Pentreath, Studio Ashby, Linda Boronkay and Brigitte Romanek, Beata Heumann, Kit Kemp and Rita Konig.

from Phaidon's By Design, the world's best contemporary interior designers:Kit Kemp: Hyde Park Gate, private residence, London, UK, 2020. Picture credit: Simon Brown, courtesy of Firmdale Hotels

from Phaidon’s By Design, the world’s best contemporary interior designers:Kit Kemp: Hyde Park Gate, private residence, London, UK, 2020. Picture credit: Simon Brown, courtesy of Firmdale Hotels

And while every page is a delight, as you can imagine, it is once again the introduction by William Norwich that draws me in from his opening words that what guides these designers is “experience”. That’s not to say that they are all old hands (far from it) but that they are guided, nowadays, by how their spaces will affect their inhabitants, rather than the guiding principles from decades past when it was all about static design and suitability. This generation, he finds, is designing for people not for their peers and not for the critics.

from Phaidon's By Design, the world's best contemporary interior designers: Hecker Guthrie: Piccolina Collingwood, gelato shop, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 2017. Picture credit: Shannon McGrath

from Phaidon’s By Design, the world’s best contemporary interior designers: Hecker Guthrie: Piccolina Collingwood, gelato shop, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 2017. Picture credit: Shannon McGrath

“Here are designers who are like alchemists, or impresarios, filmmakers and producers. They are also storytellers who work to create environments of warmth, interest, scholarship, personality and craft. More than ever before, they design in the context for where their work lives: location, environment, sustainability and also dreams and aspirations.”

from Phaidon's By Design, the world's best contemporary interior designers: Dimorestudio: Villa in Florence, private residence, Florence, Italy, 2018. Picture credit: Andrea Ferrari

from Phaidon’s By Design, the world’s best contemporary interior designers: Dimorestudio: Villa in Florence, private residence, Florence, Italy, 2018. Picture credit: Andrea Ferrari

The criteria for the nominations was broad – basically the designers had to be working today and have been working since 2015, other than that they could be at any stage in their career and work anywhere in the world. And so we all had our own ideas of what constituted the greatest designers.

from Phaidon's By Design, the world's best contemporary interior designers: Gristanti & Cussen: Riksbyggen, show apartment, Uppsala, Sweden, 2019. Picture credit: Idha Lindhag

from Phaidon’s By Design, the world’s best contemporary interior designers: Gristanti & Cussen: Riksbyggen, show apartment, Uppsala, Sweden, 2019. Picture credit: Idha Lindhag

Helen Barrett, who writes for FT Wealth, was looking for ‘an intelligent response to the sustainability challenge” which was similar to Graeme Brooker, the head of the interior design programme at the Royal College of Art, who said the impact of current events on the plant are so overwhelming, that “design just has to respond”. He chose practices that work with existing objects and re-use spaces as well as those which were less well-known but had diverse approaches and deserved publicity.

from Phaidon's By Design, the world's best contemporary interior designers Il Palazzo Experimental Hotel, Venice, Italy, 2019. Picture credit: Karel Balas, courtesy of CHZON

from Phaidon’s By Design, the world’s best contemporary interior designers Il Palazzo Experimental Hotel, Venice, Italy, 2019. Picture credit: Karel Balas, courtesy of CHZON

Amy Fine Collins, journalist and fashion critic, asked if her choices were influential rather than derivative and insistent that they were knowledgeable in other areas such as the fine arts, fashion, literature and music.

While Marie Kalt, the editor in chief of Architectural Digest France, out personal taste aside when selecting her nominees, Brooke Metcalfe, a former Vogue Interiors editor, said she looked for a certain welcome and was “drawn to design that consistently feels like home”.

from Phaidon's By Design, the world's best contemporary interior designers

from Phaidon’s By Design, the world’s best contemporary interior designers

So what were the guidelines that informed my choices? Well I am more Brooke than Marie. I looked at designers who were creating, not just spaces that I would like to live in, but who had clever ideas that would work for all of us, with or without the high end design budget, for those who are creating rooms where there is always lots to look at and discover and where no detail is overlooked.

from Phaidon's By Design, the world's best contemporary interior designers

from Phaidon’s By Design, the world’s best contemporary interior designers

This is, of course, a fabulously designed coffee table book but it is also a brilliant work of reference and inspiration and while I have written four books of my own, I am enormously flattered that this blog has gained enough recognition that has allowed it to be classed as something that is worthy of nomination and recognising others in the industry about which I feel so passionate.

om Phaidon's By Design, the world's best contemporary interior designers

from Phaidon’s By Design, the world’s best contemporary interior designers

By Design, The World’s Greatest Contemporary Designers is out now (UK) and will ship from 19 May to the US and rest of the world.

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7 Comments

  • Reply Ursula in Cádiz 11th April 2021 at 8:16 pm

    Your place amongst the elite is very well deserved, Kate!
    The Venetian hotel room is to die for, and I love the Kit Kemp offering too; that clock’s a marvel.

  • Reply Anna 9th April 2021 at 3:58 pm

    Congratulations Kate…named with the very best, as you deserve to be.
    Your Blog is a successful example of the truth in this statement.
    YOU CAN`T USE UP CREATIVITY…THE MORE YOU USE THE MORE YOU HAVE.

  • Reply Aster 8th April 2021 at 3:33 pm

    I’m looking forward for this 80’s inspired look to go away and die out. It looks like it’s only in the beginning stage though. The first room just screams ” tacky” to me. The Kit Kemp one looks interesting, and the one with the green chairs is alright. The rest, big pass.

    • Reply Amy 9th April 2021 at 7:50 pm

      A lot of the stuff becoming trendy right now is what I call “high difficulty design”–looks great if you pull it off, but it’s difficult to pull off, and anything that isn’t a bullseye looks just awful. Of course, “low difficulty design” can be difficult to make fully interesting. I think people just need to be aware that certain shapes/tricks/techniques are going to be harder for the layperson to nail.

  • Reply James 8th April 2021 at 10:24 am

    Congratulations Kate, you run an amazing site and push out awesome content continuously 🙂 – on a side note that first picture the home in Malibu every single part of that room is so detailed I need to win the lottery!

  • Reply Elaine Sarchet 8th April 2021 at 10:00 am

    Such a huge compliment – you must feel highly chuffed! Well deserved as your blog is exceptional and one that makes me smile when I see it pop up in my inbox.

  • Reply Anna 8th April 2021 at 9:25 am

    Dear Kate,
    I want to thank you for this interesting article and for all the other great and informative articles you have been publishing here. I’ve been following you for some time now and as I am just at the very beginning of my career as an interior designer (founded Oct. 2020) I appreciate your content so much. You inspire, educate and motivate me to get better and be courageous in my work. Also I love your and Sophie’s podcast <3 Thank you and sending hugs from Austria.
    Sincerely,
    Anna

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