Interview | Matthew WilliamsonTalking Inspiration & Bathrooms
Known for his colourful approach to design and love of all of things bold, Matthew Williamson has had an exciting career. From his career in fashion to his recent years in interiors, Williamson has done it all, and shares his tips for inspiration, bathroom design, and more below.
Q. Matthew, thank you for interviewing with us. Your work in fashion and interiors is so extensive, & we would like to start by asking about home life.
Interiors play such an important part of shaping our lives. At your home, where do you relax, and what spaces have you created to balance your busy life?
A. I try to make every room in my home have an relaxing an atmosphere as possible. Usually through lighting, careful colour choices, vintage furniture as well as clever storage solutions to avoid unnecessary clutter. That said the bathroom is without doubt the most restful space in my home and it’s where I head to most evenings to unwind and relax from a busy day.
Q. At home, many talk about the bathroom and kitchen spaces being vital from not only a design perspective, but also from a functional one. Focusing on the bathroom, how have you designed your space?
A. I would agree that the bathroom and kitchen are often the most complex rooms and sometimes the most costly spaces to design so it’s important to get them right as we use them so much. But first and foremost we want them to function well.
In my new home in Spain, I’ve inherited four bathrooms which all function well but are lacking in the design department. They all have classic white sanitaryware and silver hardware with shower spaces and walls clad half way up from the floor in white square tiles. Ripping these out feels unnecessary and costly so I’m using what I have and working with it.
For three of the bathrooms I’ve chosen characterful wallpaper that I love to add to the wall area above the tiles. These papers provide all the key elements I need to complete the spaces. My daughter’s bathroom has a charming paper called Flora and Forna by John Derrian. The sepia qualities have inspired vintage lighting whilst the mint green background colour within the design has informed the ceiling and mirror shades.
For two further bathrooms I’ve chosen Captain Thomas Browns shells wallpaper also by John Derian and Homeport Novelty Marine paper by Ralph Lauren. Each themed paper feels in keeping with my home’s architectural qualities and somehow talk back to the local surroundings.
I want these rooms to feel authentic and inviting, qualities which can be achieved by mixing in local vintage finds such as lighting, mirrors, artworks and small pieces of furniture to a bathroom scheme.
For the remaining bathroom which I’m yet to work on, I have my eye set on painting the walls myself in a soft lemon yellow shade and then painting white palm trees free hand on top of the yellow. It’s an ambitious plan and will no doubt be time consuming but I can’t wait to get started soon!
Q. Colour is a massive part of your signature. In the bathroom space, do you balance vibrant colours to uplift or calming tones to relax?
A. When working with colour especially with tentative clients I always advise a shade of green or blue as these two colours are arguably the most relaxing due to their direct connection to nature. I have a book coming out this autumn called Living Bright, and it goes some way to showing how I use colour in the home. One other piece of advice would be to use a paler colour for the larger areas of a room such as the walls and ceiling and then to reserve a bolder complementary shade to pick out smaller areas such as window frames and vanity units. You can always add real depth of colour for the smaller items such as mirrors, towels, bathmats, toothbrush holders and so on.
Q. Designing a washroom can be difficult. What would you prioritize when thinking about the first steps of bathroom design?
A. Without doubt in a start from scratch bathroom I’d begin with the sanitary ware as these pieces need careful consideration. Drummonds would be my number one stop for a consultation to get their expert advice. Once this step is clear things can become more personalised and creative with the tiles, wall finishes, and accessories so I’d always start with something I love to draw inspiration from, be it a favourite image from a book, a photo from a holiday or a much loved item of clothing to name a couple of examples. Mixing in textures and colours from a tight palette will bring character and layers to a bathroom as it need not be top to toe white. I always think of bathrooms as extensions to bedrooms especially if they are ensuite or close by. It’s wise to bring the two spaces together and unify them so the mood feels consistent and calming.
Q. Do you like to take time out and bath, or are you more of a shower person?
A. I’ve always been a bath person for as long as I can remember. I think it might have something to do with our poorly functioning shower we had in our family home as a child. I love nothing more than a long soak in my bath at the end of the day. I use the brass portable Phileas lamp I designed for Pooky to sit on my vanity unit near by as it casts a cosy, low light and creates a great atmosphere.
Q. For work you must travel a great deal. What’s essential in a hotel when you are away from home? Is there a favourite space you love to revisit?
A. I love visiting and staying in well designed hotel rooms. Recently I stayed at Can Bordoy hotel in Palma, where a deep green heavy velvet curtain on a brass pole divided the decadent bedroom from the bathroom. The bath was a free standing egg shape set on a blush pink marble floor and I spent as much time as possible in it.
Q. With more collaborations in the interiors market ranging from lighting to furniture, have you ever wanted to experiment with the bathroom? If so, what do you see as a game changer or product that you would love to get your hands on?
A. I have an extensive homeware range on JohnLewis.com so it’s nice for me to bring some of these pieces home to try them out. The planet glass orb lights are a favourite of mine as is the blue glass mirror and my ranges of towels and bathrobes. All these pieces have been designed to ramp up your bathroom space and give it some personality. I’d love to design more items for the bathroom as I think the possibilities are endless. I’d love to design a bathroom cabinet which is both practical yet beautiful and goes beyond a simple white box with mirror front.
Q. What Drummonds product are you missing from your life?
A. Hard to choose a favourite piece but I’d love to have the classic bath rack in my bathroom and some new brass taps!
Find Matthew Williamson’s collection with John Lewis here.