Tricia Guild is a powerhouse of the British interior design world. She opened Designers Guild in Chelsea in 1970 and now oversees a 280-employee company that has outposts in Munich and Paris as well as London.
She has translated her style — bold, colourful and often floral — into City penthouses and Norman farmhouses as well as wallpaper and fabric ranges for Designers Guild. She has worked with artists such as Kaffe Fassett and Janice Tchalenko, and designers including Ralph Lauren and Christian Lacroix.
In 2008 she was appointed OBE for her services to interior design.
Why did you chose this profession?
In 1970, when I set up my shop on the King’s Road in London, there was really no concept of lifestyle — or not as we know it today. You would go to a fabric shop to buy fabric, a furniture store to buy furniture, lighting shops to buy lights and so on. I had always been more interested in the appearance of an interior as a whole rather than just the disparate elements. I set up Designers Guild with a very small budget and tiny amounts of hand-printed fabric, but I covered some furniture, laid rugs down, made cushions, created lampshades and presented a concept. Fortunately, it paid off.
How would you characterise your style?
Colour is what Designers Guild is most known for and it is one of my great passions. I’ve always been fascinated by the impact of colour and the way it can radically change the feel of a room or a design. The way colours work together — their alchemy, if you like — is always a significant part of our design process. We offer a huge range, from more vibrant shades through to masses of naturals and neutrals. White is an important colour for me too, though, it brings balance to everything.
Name your three top influences.
It’s incredibly difficult to decide on three! I find so many different people inspiring for so many different reasons. If I had to name three today, I’d choose Henri Matisse, IM Pei, the Chinese-American architect, and Coco Chanel. Each strove to be the very best in their respective fields and were extraordinarily dexterous in relaying their creative visions.
Related article: IM Pei: ‘I’m a western architect’
What has been your favourite project?
Each and every collection that I work on becomes something of a passion project. I try to live and breathe each one as it comes about. I love our latest collection for autumn. It’s a moody and modern interpretation of Tulipmania and Dutch golden-age artistry. It’s infused with rich and darkly dramatic colours and it was fascinating to delve into 17th-century Holland. Their work was so original.
Which of your ranges or products would you pick out as most notable?
We’re most recognised for our often-vivid, painterly colour palette. I think that we are well known too for our hand-drawn, contemporary prints and patterns. I adore some of the floral designs from our Caprifoglio collection. We played a lot with scale, which meant that voluptuous tumbling blooms became these gorgeous abstract marks. I think that this technique adds a wonderful modernity.
Who do you most admire in your field?
I admire and deeply respect all of my contemporaries, as design is an incredibly difficult (and rewarding) profession. We all have our own vision and work incredibly hard. If one stands out though, it has to be Hella Jongerius, the industrial designer.
Which one object would you never allow in your home?
Dried flowers. I find inspiration for many of my designs within flowers, but always try to take my interpretation in a new direction. You couldn’t possibly do this with dried flowers. For me, their beauty is absent.
What is the strangest request you have had?
There have been many, but I’m very secretive!
What do you look for in a client?
Any client is welcome. My aim for Designers Guild has always centred on the idea of us making your life easier. We try to give you the tools to create your own sense of style, which hopefully makes your life more pleasant. We have an interior-design service in our London stores that is tailored to each project. It helps that the astonishing scope of our collections — pattern, plains, colours and texture — means that we are able to translate pretty much any vision into a stylish and, crucially, liveable space. Clients can come to us about anything, from choosing a blind to re-designing their house.
Your first collection was based on Indian block prints. Have you always been inspired by India?
The kaleidoscopic colours, patterns and sensations of India will never cease to inspire me. You can find beauty there everywhere you look — the rituals, blue-green gloss paint, pink silk saris, floral offerings in temples — it is all completely dazzling in its easy, insouciant way. Somehow, these fragments of memory find their way into fabric and wallpaper designs. I especially love Rajasthan and Kolkata.
Which artists have you most enjoyed working with?
There have been many, but it was an absolute joy and honour to work alongside the late and truly great Howard Hodgkin. We did a collection with him for Designers Guild in 1986.
What draws you to colour?
Colour, for me, has always been one of the most truly life-enhancing aspects of being alive. Fundamentally, it makes me happy. We all experience colour every day and each shade stirs individual emotions in us. I believe that we all possess our own colour sense and have shades that make us feel awake, happy, sad or balanced. The very act of choosing colour is a form of self-expression.
How do you go about thinking of ideas for new collections?
I firmly believe that you are what you see. So much inspiration can be found in the world that surrounds us if you simply open your eyes.
What do you consider to be the top trend in interior design at the moment?
The use of plain colours and texture is key right now. Plains are utterly versatile; they work perfectly in their own right and also co-ordinate well with printed fabrics and wallpapers. I love combining plains with prints. Mixing them always seems to make a scheme truly your own. For instance, I would choose a lead design, a strong statement print perhaps, and pair it with a plain velvet or linen that references a tone in the main design.
Photographs: KM Asad/LightRocket via Getty Images; Staff/AFP/Getty Images