Name: Brian Woulfe
Company: Designed by Woulfe
Position / Title: Founder & Managing Director
Tell us a little about your background in design (education, experience, etc)
I started my career as a concert pianist. In many ways, the skills I learned from my previous profession have stuck with me today as an interior designer. The discipline, focus and patience required for both careers overlap significantly. I noticed that there was a niche to fill overseas. Western ex-pats were looking to employ an interior designer that could understand and execute their style to a western standard in places like South-East Asia. I was prepared to travel and spend lots of time abroad – this wanderlust worked in my favour and I was hired by some great clients in the US, Australia and South-East Asia who I still keep in touch with.
How would you describe your personal interior design style?
Ultimately, a space should be as liveable as it is stylish. Functionality is so important to me, so I always ensure high specification lighting schemes, and adhere to practical principles of design. As William Morris said, “have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” While I love rich jewel colours with depth and mood each of my projects, including my own home are as different and unique as the clients themselves.
Where does your design inspiration come from?
I try and get to as many shows and fairs as I can in the UK and beyond. They are a fantastic source of inspiration and the best way to be inspired by many designers in one hit! In particular, London is awash with amazing design. I love heading down to the Chelsea Design Centre to catch up with suppliers. If I’m looking for something specific, I may go straight to the stores but otherwise big fairs like Maison Objet, 100% design and Salone del Mobile Milano are great.
Travelling is also a great source of inspiration, from the colours found in the places like Morocco and India to the crisp, modern lines found in Scandinavian interiors. It’s easy to be inspired when so much of the world is so beautiful! When I travel I try and take in the local design stores and fairs if there are any happening.
In what direction do you feel that design is moving towards in a general sense?
For a long time, we have designed for trends and styles. Even looking back to antiquity, Roman pillars, for example, were designed in different styles and shapes to reflect the nature of the building. Architecture and design have always followed trends, and I’m not saying that this will cease. However, I believe we are seeing a rise in practical design. We have a rising population and fewer and fewer square feet to play with in big cities, and the future of design will certainly be reflective of this. Architectural Digest has published a list of the world’s most influential buildings of 2017, including the Beirut Terraces by Herzog and de Meuron. For me, this building epitomises the future of design innovation, use of space and materials in the modern world. We need to expand our way of thinking in the design community, and pragmatically reflect the nature of human life in the way we create.
Name five key themes to consider when approaching design in the future:
1. Consider who you are designing for, and what kind of lifestyles need to be accommodated. For example, modern living is slowly omitting a designated dining space in favour of a kitchen/dining area with a contemporary island or peninsula counter.
2. Consider space. Choose furniture that won’t look suffocated in a space.
3. We all have our own personal archives of inspiration, from eras to countries, movements or cultures. Draw on these, but let them assimilate into modern living.
4. Lighting will always be an important and necessary element of any design brief. Use dimmer switches on all your down lights, and when possible, use lamps to curate your own lighting scheme,
5. Intelligent use of materials can add value to a space. In a recently completed project in Notting Hill, I incorporated a Tom Faulkner glass dining table into a dining space set in a gallery room. It had a length that I wanted to maintain, and didn’t want to use furniture that would obstruct the view of the entire space.
If you could offer one piece of advice when it comes to design, what would it be?
Visualise! Don’t just design. Visualise what it will be like to cook in their kitchen, how far is the worktop from the oven. Is the light switch for the ensuite easy to find in the dark? These are all things that need to be thought of and that will lead to a truly liveable space.
How important are The International Design & Architecture Awards as recognition of talent and achievement?
It is an honour to be considered for The International Design & Architecture awards. Recognising talent and achievement in this way creates a record of design for future generations, which will help them to contextualize their work in the wider notion of 21st Century design and beyond.
What projects are Designed by Woulfe currently working on?
I am currently working on a Private Villa is Mallorca, a family home in Primrose Hill, a Grade I listed property in London and have started a property search for a client in LA.
What are your aims and goals for the next twelve months?
I have been lucky enough to work on a range of builds with stunning and iconic architectural elements, but would relish the opportunity to work more listed buildings and historical properties. I love the challenge of designing for a modern lifestyle in a period home.
Final thoughts – tell us a little more about yourself…
Your most treasured possession?
My Chow Chow, named Chow Mein!
Your favourite holiday destination?
I am lucky enough to travel a lot for work, and I just wouldn’t be satisfied sitting still. I love to travel, and variety is much more valuable to me than one holiday destination in particular.
Your favourite restaurant?
Your favourite album?
÷ by Ed Sheeran
Your favourite food and drink?
Anything spicy! I love Thai, and was lucky enough to sample all the national delicacies during my time there.
Your favourite way to spend an afternoon?
A visit to a gallery, museum or art exhibition or a walk with Chow Mein in the country.
If you weren’t a designer, what would you be?
I have always thought being a doctor would have an incredible sense of job satisfaction.