Unique homes Hollie Bowden
Photography Helenio Barbetta & Edvinas Bruzas
Studying at KLC School of Design in Chelsea, interior designer, Hollie Bowden, began amassing a broad resume of experience, working with a handful of established interior designers and forging a diverse path with stints as a stylist, florist and set designer before establishing her own interior design studio in Shoreditch in 2013.
A willingness to embrace minimalist rigour but not to forgo grandeur places Hollie's work at the vanguard of contemporary design. She has become known for her considered schemes that are somewhat raw and pared-back but energised with unexpectedly theatrical flourishes.
“Sourcing unusual, diverse pieces that hopefully no one has ever seen before is very important to me. It’s partly about the love of great objects themselves, but also how they enhance exquisitely detailed spaces. The great thrill of antiques and vintage is how they introduce an element of the unexpected - even if you are searching for something in particular, you never know what you are going to find when you set out.
A collector and a prolific shopper, Hollie has built a reputation for sourcing unique and eclectic pieces that might otherwise go unseen and her own home - which she shares with her partner and their twin daughters - is a treasure trove of the curious and extraordinary items she has collected from all over the world.
Tell us about your home?
– I live in a buzzing area of central London’s inner north, which has such an amazing variety of shops, galleries and places to eat. My building is quite typical for the area, a lovely magnolia painted Victorian terrace that we have the top floor of. My little enclave is pretty untouched by modern development and has beautiful wide streets with lots of squares and parks nearby.
In which way does your personality reflect your home?
– Homes are always a bit of an autobiography but I’ve lived in this place for over ten years - alone, with flatmates and now my family - so it has built up so many associations over time. I love how different pieces in it reflect those different stages and aspects of my life. I think the flat reflects my love of curating spaces with objects and letting unexpected moments happen, just by experimenting and developing ideas over time. Projects move so fast at work, it’s such a pleasure to meander with my own home.
” I AM VERY INTUITIVE, I CAN SPEND DAYS SOURCING THE PERFECT VASE – SOURCING UNUSUAL, DIVERSE PIECES THAT HOPEFULLY NO ONE HAS EVER SEEN BEFORE IS IMPORTANT TO ME. IT'S PARTLY ABOUT GREAT OBJECTS, BUT I ESPECIALLY LOVE HOW THEY MAKE EXQUISITELY DETAILED SPACES SO RICHLY TEXTURED. ”
What’s your idea of a home?
– It’s such a cliché sorry, but home has to be a warm, inviting environment for me. Even if a home is minimal or on the mannered side, it still needs to have a sense of generosity running through it, which can be done in so many ways.
Your favourite part of your home?
– We’re enjoying a really splendid heatwave at the moment so I'm having a wonderful time with my little twin girls on the south-facing terrace that runs the length of the house. There’s a pine bench that has gone a beautiful silver-grey and a forest of potted plants out there that makes the space really lovely and green. It’s an incredible luxury to have an outdoor terrace with a flat in London, so I count myself very lucky.
How would you describe your design aesthetic?
– My approach is very personal, I handpick all of my projects and work across them with a great deal of involvement. I believe that people come to me because they want something different, bespoke, unique, high-end and sophisticated, but experimental and progressive. My schemes are considered and somewhat raw and pared-back, but energised with unexpectedly theatrical flourishes. I'm definitely not adverse to using colour where appropriate but often refer to myself as a “minimal maximalist” - I like things to be unfussy and uncomplicated but exquisitely detailed and richly textured.
Bedroom — Tansu chest, ceramic hand, plaster bum, 18’s lamp with a flower shade and tortoiseshell/marble inlaid box.
Bedroom — marquetry sideboard, living - tiger painting - market find, cheetah 1970s, African necklace
” AXEL VERVOORDT & JACQUES GRANGE SEEMED TO INVENT A WHOLE GENRE OF DESIGN THAT I CONSIDER REALLY FORMATIVE FOR MY OWN WORK – I LOVE BARE WALLS AND OPEN SPACES WHERE AN EXCEPTIONAL ANTIQUE OR ART PIECE TAKES CENTRE STAGE. ”
What’s your favourite room to design?
– Definitely a living room. It’s often where you can most fully express the DNA of a project’s identity and introduce some adventurous, punchy pieces that give a space that extra layer of richness. It’s also the space where you can let art be centre stage. Art is such a fundamental element for the way I approach interiors.
Who has influenced you in your work?
– Broadly speaking there are some interior designers in the world who I have learnt so much from – amazing people like Axel Vervoordt and Jacques Grange who seemed to invent a whole genre of design that I consider really formative for my own work. I love bare walls and open spaces with an antique object or art piece that is absolutely exceptional. But what influences the direction and expression of my work are the new artists and makers I come across all the time. There are some giants though that I always refer back to, like the Catalan sculptor Xavier Corberó.
What inspires you?
– I consume much of my inspiration from my travels, art, books and galleries, weaving all of these threads of ideas together, sometimes quite unconsciously to create a 'world' for each client.
Hallway — Abstract art 50’s, carved breezed blocks
” PIECES FROM AUCTIONS ARE THE KIND OF THING I TRY TO FIND TO MAKE A PROJECT LOOK WELL-TRAVELLED AND UNIQUE RATHER THAN FORCED. ”
Office area — Bamboo blind, italian desk, obelisk moon and cloud by EJ Barnes, art by Paula Rego, 70s glass lights, Matteo Grassi chair.
Tell us about an art piece or object that means a lot to you?
– I bought a ceramic hand off one of my best mates Jermaine Gallacher that everyone else finds quite creepy but I have become obsessed with. It is covered in a gloopy, almost impasto glaze, but the pattern reminds me of Giallo Sienna marble. It has moved to my bedside table and it’s not leaving!
What are you looking for at auctions?
– I am very intuitive, I can spend days pouring over auctions online to find the perfect vase or just browse for something surprising. Sourcing unusual, diverse pieces that hopefully no one has ever seen before is very important to me. It’s partly about appreciating great objects themselves, but I especially love how the right piece can make exquisitely detailed spaces so richly textured. Pieces from auctions are the kind of thing I try to find to make a project look well-travelled and unique rather than ‘interior designed.'
What was the latest thing you bought at an auction?
– I bought a really exceptional Jean Lurçat lithograph that is quite weird and wonderful.
Your top three favourite spots in London?
– Donlon Books on Broadway Market, Schmid McDonagh on Church Street who have the best mix of twentieth-century pieces, art and antiques and The Wolseley on a Sunday for lunch.
What do you like to read?
– I love magazines like Apartamento, Cabana, World of Interiors, and I’m always checking out what’s happening in the online design press with Open House / New Era / Dezeen / AD / T Mag / Absolute.
Guitar case as wall sculpture, naive candle stick - market find.
From left: shelves - Rod Brad mini chair, Wassily chair, bull sculpture / Bedroom: Marquetry sideboard, plaster faces art.
How do you like to spend your weekend?
– My partner and I often go up to my parents’ place in Gloucestershire with my twin girls for the weekend. I designed a little summer house on their property which I made with my partner Byron - who apart from being a furniture maker is brilliant at making anything he puts himself too. The kids absolutely love it there and get spoiled by their grandparents. It’s such a great break from living in town, and I always come back into the office invigorated and ready to go on a Monday morning.
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