Design Date – Holly Hunt

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Holly Hunt has an international reputation as an arbiter of refined taste. Always with an eye for what’s now and what’s next, she joins style guru Lucia van der Post at Focus/13 to discuss her career in design. First, she talks about her dedication to being the best, her intuitive approach and why basketball skills are important for business.

 A Life In Design, Space, Third Floor, South Dome, 24September, 11.30am-12.30pm; Tickets: £15

 How would you describe your approach to design? It’s intuitive. I’ve always been a modernist, while following the rolling waves of style. It’s important to be able to react to changing moods in design, but also to be the one having the courage to make smart choices ahead of the next wave.

 Where do you find your inspiration? My eyes are open all the time. Looking is what creates the thread between who we are and what we create. My favourite architect is Tadao Ando, perhaps because he wasn’t formerly trained. His work has a purity that comes from natural instinct.

 What is the best part of your work? I enjoy the left-side and the right-side of the brain elements of my work. For me, the two can’t be separated. Anyone who is successful in business works creatively. I have a very good eye and I think that carries me to a lot of places.

 What inspired the start of your career? The clouds of divorce were on the horizon and I thought, ‘My business plan was an escape plan. I needed a desk and a telephone.’ I bought the small showroom in Chicago, thinking, they are selling a million dollars a year – we can do better. That was the plan and guess it worked out OK. To do better has always been a goal. The secret sauce for my entire business for the following 30 years started then – it was the people. The team and the mutual passion we had to have best of class place and product, the determination and collaboration to make a difference.  And we had fun building the company.

 How has the design world changed? Designers (and clients) are younger, smarter, more design aware and less predictable. We have to be transparent today as everyone can know everything with the power of the internet  and everyone is connected. Design is ubiquitous, but its popularity is not the issue. Craft skills have been lost and people are accustomed to getting things immediately today. Our furniture takes time to make, it’s more like a Savile Row suit. People don’t mind spending the money if they believe they’re getting value, and luxury value is about beautiful materials, craftsmanship as well as service. Without the last one the client won’t come back for the first two.

 How is it exactly the same? What is old again is new again!  And desire for special did not change. Even more today, people want to feel that things are in part curated for them personally.

 What kind of space do you love to live in? I want to walk in to a space and say, ‘I feel comfortable.’  I love being here the energy is great.  How it feels is more important than how it looks.  Margaret Russell [editor in-chief at Architectural Digest] asked about featuring my new place but I had heard her say she didn’t want to see a home until it had ‘soul’. So I am working on the soul! After total gut and new interior architecture, I’ve worked on my furnishing gradually, discovering what I need as I’ve lived in the space. I have a few more pieces to find then I will show it.

 How do you like to re-charge, away from work? I’m getting better at switching off, but my work is my passion so it doesn’t feel like work. Friends sometimes drag me away for a week, banning me from any electronic devices!

 What’s your secret?  There are no secrets. It is committed work and 10.000 hours plus and still working to get it right! We have a guiding thought in the company. Never let Best get in the way of Better – that works and now is not a secret!

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