Designer in Profile: Anna Burles, Creative Director/Founder of Run For The Hills

Name: Anna Burles Run For The Hills
Company: Run For The Hills
Position: Creative Director / Founder

Tell us a little about your background:
Anna trained at the prestigious KLC School of Design in Chelsea Harbour and has been running her own Interior Design studio for 7 years. Anna is a highly original interior designer, styling modern and traditional spaces in conceptual ways, devising exciting schemes full of creative touches, and artfully juxtaposing vintage and antique classics with next generation design. Her client list includes well-known and stylish private individuals, property developers, music stars and well known hospitality and retail brands. She even designed for the Queen during the Coronation Festival. Whilst her clients may be extremely varied and her work equally eclectic, the thread running through them is stylish individuality with a contemporary cool edge. She holds a number of positions within the industry, including being Chair of KLC’s Alumni Advisory Board where she also lectures. She is a BIID Registered Interior Designer and sits on the BIID Membership Committee and is one of Decorex International’s Interior Designer Brand Ambassadors this year.

What inspired you to become an interior designer?
When I was a little girl I used to re-organise my bedroom every few months and paint it a different colour every year. I went on to be a journalist in my twenties and then became an event stylist in my thirties, but I was still searching for my dream career. And then I had an epiphany moment working on an art project in Buenos Aires, Argentina. That full blown interior design was the thing I wanted to do. So I went back to school at the ripe old aged of 37 and retrained professionally as an Interior Designer. I’ve been running my design studio for seven years now, since graduating and have a team of 10 working across commercial and residential interior design, so I finally found my thing.

How would you describe your personal interior design style
My design style is very eclectic and changes regularly. I love minimalist, industrial and raw finishes. But I also love colour and pattern and softly layered textures. I always mix vintage and antiques with modern design furniture and products, which I suppose is a constant and I will never specify all new products in a design. I am always drawn towards mid-century lighting with elements of brass and lashings of glamour. We designed and commissioned a fantastic hero chandelier (made for us by light-maker Timothy Graves) for one of our restaurant projects, inspired by some antiques we had purchased for the project. Which we then referenced in the new piece, but gave it a modern twist. We have worked with Tim on creating beautiful one off pieces for our residential projects, taking a thought or reference and then making it our own, customising it to work beautifully within the space we have. I love sourcing one-off vintage pieces and antiques to add to our design. Sometimes we find the perfect piece to ‘fit’ our design scheme. Other times we find a piece and then build some scheme ideas around it. We love Art Deco and mid century, but also some more brutalist and modernist pieces too. And everything in between. We work with both Private Clients and Property Developers and they come to us for very distinctive residential interior design, decoration and styling. So we pride ourselves on having a very strong sense of creativity within our designs.

Where does your design inspiration come from?
I find design inspiration everywhere and anywhere I go. From a tiny joinery detail on a gorgeous piece of furniture, or an industrial fixing on a train carriage door, which might feed into a current design. I touch and feel every fabric and finish in places I visit, from shops and restaurants to hotels and galleries. I love to travel and my camera goes everywhere with me, cataloguing scenes, colours, moods and details I love.
On a professional project level, our studio obviously need to keep current trends in mind, but try to set trends rather than follow them. And we often ban the biggest trends from our designs, to make ourselves come up with new and fresh approaches. We also love taking inspiration from historical eras. Working with different Clients, all with their own preferences, you also need to take your lead from them on a project, grounding our initial thinking in periods and eras they like. But also pushing their boundaries into exploring different eras, styles and colour palettes. Or mixing and matching them in new and interesting ways, to create unique pieces.

In what direction do you think design is moving towards in a general sense?
I think design is definitely embracing eclecticism more than ever before and I might be able to foresee a time when I’m not described as a ‘quirky’ designer. Many of the best hotels and restaurants and bars have a very characterful design full of personality and original touches. Sleek and glamorous isn’t necessarily enough any more. Authenticity and originality are just as important to Clients and Consumers and this can only a good thing for us as that has always been our philosophy. To mix and match design eras and types of products within our designs in the same way that the best fashion stylists do. The most stylish of fashionistas rarely dress in top to toe designer wear, they almost always combine designer with high street and vintage. An age old combination which works wonders and creates a truly unique look which can’t simply be replicated by buying the same ‘suite’ of things from a shop or gallery.

Name five key themes to consider when approaching design in 2017 and beyond
Embrace the trend towards mixing old with new.
By mixing things up and juxtaposing things to add character and credibility to a design.
2. Shop around. Spend time in boutiques and specialist showrooms, but don’t forget the high street. Not everything has to be sourced from designer outlets and high street homestyle stores have some great products too. You will also get the best value that way. Sometimes it’s worth splashing out on the very best product which not only looks amazing but works brilliantly too. But don’t forget that a lot of quality antiques and vintage pieces are ‘better made’ than many new low to mid priced furniture. So buying antiques can also be a great way to inject genuine quality into your home, which will last really well and also give you more of a unique and individual look.
3. Don’t forget to hunt down wonderful objects, props and accessories from flea markets and antique fairs. Get out there to the wonderful and regular antiques markets and flea markets, which happen up and down the country every two weeks. You can often find the best things at quite amazing prices and you get to touch them and feel them up close and personally. Plus you get to see a huge range of items in one place at an antiques fair – rather than having to traipse around the whole of London to lots of different galleries, shops and markets.
4. Don’t be too fixated on your design ‘scheme’ or direction. Let products speak for themselves and allow your sourcing to organically add into your design. I tend to pick out quirky pieces that tell a story, that provide a talking point and add humour to a space. That can then be your springboard for amending or editing your overall initial design concept. For example I sourced a large French wooden architectural model that would have been used to explain the architects’ proposals to their client, dating back to the C18th, which is now mounted on the wall of one of my celebrity clients homes, in place of a ‘traditional’ piece of art or wall hanging. It’s an amazing piece and fed into our use of materials and finishes within the design.
5. Never be afraid to do a u-turn in a design, that could be your route to creating something truly unique and exciting.

One piece of advice when it comes to interior design schemes:
ADVICE: Let the design evolve over time.
The build or refurbishment might have to happen sequentially and within a budget or timeframe. But the final accessorising doesn’t have to be rushed. Let a ‘base’ of layering and accessorising breathe for a while before adding extra layers. There is so much out there to choose from, but don’t feel overwhelmed, and don’t worry if it takes time to find the right pieces. The best, most characterful homes are the ones that have evolved over long periods. You might find lots of pieces all at once, or you might only add a new piece or two every year. A home filled with ‘one off’ pieces, all of which have a story to tell are the most interesting homes of all. Or those packed full of the latest trends, which look great now but will date so quickly. High street design and high end design can be so homogenous, and we often see things we’ve seen before in people’s homes, restaurants and members clubs. The most inspiring places add genuinely unique pieces into the mix to create something much more refreshing and original. Which begs to tell its story.

How important are the International Design & Architecture Awards as recognition of talent and achievement?
Design is a vocation for those of us who work in the industry. Having our talents and our passion commended and recognised by a global panel of judges and peers is such a special thing. And winning awards and plaudits does great things for our business. It create opportunities and openings which simply weren’t there before. Putting your name on the map and helping potential new clients and press discover you. So these awards are incredibly important for personal and professional reasons.

What projects are you currently working on?
On the residential side, we are currently styling the loft apartment of one of our long time celebrity clients in New York, which is very exciting. We are just finishing a complete makeover of a lovely light filled apartment in the Regents Park area, within an Art Deco apartment building. On the commercial side, we are also designing or launching lots of restaurants in Central London. We have nearly wrapped on the design of a cool new Vietnamese restaurant in Notting Hill called ‘Mam’, for which we’ve designed the branding as well as the interior. We are designing three outlets of Hawaiian Sushi brand Island Poke and recently launched Made of Dough, a cool new pizzeria in Peckham. Early concepts are also in motion for a wonderfully pastel Cevicheria in Westfield Shepherd’s Bush as well as an exciting small plates restaurant within the new BBC Television Centre development.

Final thoughts; tell us a little more about yourself
Your most treasured possession?

My photographs and some of my vintage one-off finds dotted around my home

Your favourite holiday destination?
Italy, New York, I can’t decide!

Your favourite hotel / restaurant / bar?
I love the Ace Hotels and also the Bert and May Villa in Andalusia

Your favourite book / film / song?
I love thrillers and gangster family sagas, so definitely The Godfather Part II, for my book, Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez

Your favourite food and drink?
The wondrous food and wines of Italy and Spain

Your favourite way to spend an afternoon?
Mooching around an antique fairs or vintage street market, followed by a lovely lazy lunch with a glass of something fresh and delicious

If you weren’t a designer, what would you be?
A travel writer or a craftsperson, maybe an upholsterer or furniture maker

Run For The Hills