Hannah Lohan’s space odysseys

By mixing old and new, the acclaimed interior designer creates unique spaces that tell a story. She talks to Wildflower about her life in style

What is your particular design philosophy?

The thread that runs through all my careers is storytelling. I’m passionate about creating spaces that draw on the history and heritage of a property and the people who own it. Often it’s a mixture of the two. This is part of the reason why I love to incorporate vintage pieces into schemes — they add interest and a unique quality that feels truly authentic.

Many of your projects are for the hospitality industry. Can you tell us why you love to design for hotels?

My brother James and sister-in-law Tamara are the founders of Mr & Mrs Smith, the boutique travel specialists, so I’ve been involved in their hotel world for years. James’s enthusiasm for hotels and the guest’s journey has certainly rubbed off on me. It’s about creating an experience, a form of immersive theatre. Every touch point, from the moment guests arrive until they go home, should be considered and fabulous. I live for that sense of “showtime” you get in hotels.

What is your studio’s approach to a new project?

First, it’s really important to us to spend time with clients and take a very thorough brief. Then we’ll have workshop days in the studio where we use an exercise I learned at design college: you basically take all the key adjectives from your client’s brief and illustrate them in a very abstract way by ripping up magazine articles. There’s no sourcing anything at this stage; it’s about expanding your mind and seeing where the emotions behind the words and images take you. You can end up developing schemes from colours, textures
and materials that you never would have thought of otherwise. I don’t believe ideas should be plucked out of nowhere; they have to be rooted in something, however loosely. You need to honour the creative process — it’s where the magic happens.

Please tell us about Woolsery and how you approached this rather unusual project?

We won the Woolsery commission back in 2017 and it’s a dream project for us. Our clients Michael and Xochi Birch are the founders of social networking site Bebo, and they have bought a number of properties in the North Devon village of Woolsery, the ancestral home of Michael’s family, with the aim of bringing the village back to life. The scope of work there is huge. We’ve already re-opened the local pub, The Farmers Arms, and completed the Birches’ holiday home. We’re now working on the manor house and several cottages that will become a boutique hotel in 2022. It’s all very exciting.

What other projects have you especially enjoyed undertaking?

Another one of my favourites was the Dunstane Houses hotel in Edinburgh. The very handsome Victorian main house was covered in dark wallpaper and swirly carpet. We brought it into the 21st century with light walls and added colour with beautiful Persian rugs and luxurious textiles. We made sure we included some flamboyant touches and extravagant wallpapers here and there — not only to celebrate the building’s decadent neo-classical architecture, but also as a nod to Shirley, the owner, who really loves a splash of glamour.

 

You mention that you enjoy mixing old and new — vintage pieces with modern. How do you source such pieces?

Visiting flea markets, antiques fairs and auction houses has been a hobby of mine for a long time. I love the excitement of not knowing what you’re going to find and I enjoy seeing all the crazy stuff that people load into their cars at the end, from stuffed alligators to 1970s home bars One of my favourite events is the IACF (International Antiques and Collectors Fair) in Ardingly, West Sussex — it’s a lovely rustic showground that fills up with traders from all around Europe a few times a year.

Tell us about your shop…

I used to go in to the Old Cinema in Chiswick, West London, to source pieces for clients. As the name suggests, it’s a former cinema that is now full of different dealers selling all sorts of vintage, retro and antique artefacts and furniture. I went in one day three years ago and they were just completing an extension on the back. I asked about it and they said it was available for rent, so I went for it. It was impulsive, but it’s the best thing I’ve done. We sell all sorts of things, from vintage rugs to industrial dining tables. We’ve also started to include some interesting new things from worldwide suppliers. I try to pick up new artisans to work with wherever I go, whether that means hand-dyed cushions from Sri Lanka or ceramics from Italy.

Are there any suppliers that you particularly enjoy working with?

We definitely have a few favourites that we have worked with for years. For lighting, I love Fritz Fryer (fritzfryer.co.uk), which has a wonderful range of decorative antique lamps. For something a bit different, Rothschilds & Bickers (rothschildbickers.com) do glass pendants and wall lights in beautiful colours — you can mix and match all its fittings and cable colours, too. We’ve also started to stock some wonderful pieces from Danish homeware brand Madam Stoltz (madamstoltz.dk) in our shop — its not vintage, but for me it’s about mixing old and new. It’s also a very ethical company that supports a charity in India that helps mothers and children.

What are your favourite trends this year?

The 2020 Pantone colour of the year is Classic Blue, reminiscent of the sky at dusk. Blue is definitely the new grey for homes this year. This shade in particular is so versatile and will go with so many other accent colours — I love pairing blues with a bit of matt blush pink. Traditional British prints such as William Morris fabrics and wallpapers paired with clean, modern furniture will be a big trend this year. It’s that juxtaposition that’s key. I love the designs from Lewis & Wood and Linwood, which are both classic in their approach but have a fresh, modern feel. “Maximalism” is also here to stay in 2020 — clashing prints and patterns with eclectic furniture styles. It’s a fine art to not make a pig’s ear of it, but it looks so good when you get it right — which I like to think we do.

hannahlohaninteriors.com

 

 

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