Design Date


Interior designers Madcap Cottage – Jason Oliver Nixon (left) and John Loecke (right) – have a style that is defiantly maximalist (think wallpapered ceilings, vintage furniture, and riots of pattern and colour). They’ve poured all their audacity and creativity into a new collection of fabrics for Robert Allen @ Home, called Into the Garden, which includes exotic palm-prints, embroidered stripes and polished cotton florals. Jason explains more about their exuberant style below.

How did your collaboration with Robert Allen come about? The Madcap Cottage gents have always wanted to pursue a fabric collection: we are mad collectors of vintage fabrics and are constantly pulling out our iPhones when we visit historic houses to capture unique patterns that are tucked under the stairs or used on a dining room chair. So when Robert Allen, a favourite source for us, approached us about developing a pattern-centric prints and woven collection, we jumped at the opportunity.

Does your collection fill a gap for your interior work – something you could never quite find? Absolutely! We wanted to create prints and wovens that would be an essential part of our interior design tool kit that would also be accessible to the trade and the consumer. Our collections are storylines with multiple entry points, which work together seamlessly – from neutrals to florals, stripes and novelties, with colourways that tie the whole together. Plus, we were craving chintz, so we added some polished cottons into the mix. It’s time to banish the beige and neutral and bring pattern back to the forefront.

Were there any unusual sources of inspiration for fabrics? English country houses are amazing sources; India is always revelatory, and we are like paparazzi in Jaipur and Jodhpur snapping away furiously to capture the gloriously insane colour juxtapositions and patchwork perfection. We also love vintage design books, classic movies and rooting about the Bienenstock Furniture Library, the world’s largest design library (which happens to be housed in our hometown of High Point, North Carolina). Vintage magazines such as Look, Holiday, and Flair are also important go-tos for our visual lexicon.

Is there a British influence in your interiors work? We are diehard Anglophiles: I spent all of my childhood summers in England, and John has read every book about every Mitford and dollar duchess, and Syrie Maugham and Nancy Lancaster, ever written. We are in London at least six times a year, and spend two to three weeks in the summer exploring English country houses. If Nancy Lancaster had had a fling with Billy Haines, we would be their heirs apparent.

Your interiors are highly decorative, but are they practical too? Our homes are uber functional: we drink red wine, have pups who like nothing better than sitting on a down sofa, and we like to put our feet up, so we create similar environments for our clients. Who wants to live in a home where you cannot curl up on a sofa or have spontaneous disco dancing while sipping a Montepulciano with the pugs?

Do you have a favourite interiors project that you’ve worked on? We are currently working on a 13-acre, 20,000-square foot estate in Virginia that calls to mind an English country house with a layered, collected and accumulated sensibility. When complete, the home will have a glittering music room that will feel like a repurposed ballroom, a lacquered den, a garden room that nods to Nancy Lancaster’s sitting room at Kelmarsh Hall, and a foyer that feels very William Kent.

Where do you visit in London for design inspiration? The Victoria & Albert Museum is always a first stop; I have been tempted to try out the Bed of Ware, but John has held me back, happily. Fortnum & Mason is heaven (we love eau de nil) then we might hit up Leighton House, Eltham Palace, Kew Gardens or Syon Park. And we will probably round off the day at Rules or Ronnie Scott’s.


Paper artist Zoe Bradley has worked for international names including Christian Louboutin and Alexander McQueen, and created retail displays for the Smythson, Louis Vuitton and Mont Blanc; her breathtaking designs are commissioned by leading magazines and have been exhibited internationally. For London Design Week 2016 she has created a floral couture-inspired gown made entirely from paper. With a skirt shape that echoes the Design Centre’s famous domes, this spectacular two metre artwork (Ground Floor, South Dome) features 400 exquisite flowers: there are wild roses made up of 2,500 petals, chrysanthemums with 1,188 petals, cherry and apple blossom, as well as 3,500 leaves made with 17,500 folds.

How did you become a paper sculptor? Did it require any training? I’ve always been fascinated with form and texture. I trained as a fashion designer and went to work as an apprentice at Alexander McQueen in 1997, which is where I became aware of using other materials other than fabric to create dramatic silhouettes. This set my interest on working in new challenging ways with paper instead of fabric. Whether it’s a newspaper, magazine, notebooks, letters or reading books, I love to be challenged by materials and scale!

Did you have a big break? It would have to be the showpieces I created for the AW 05/06 collection for Michiko Koshino. I produced three pieces in paper – a pleated swimsuit, an oversized pleated mohican head-dress and a hand stitched ruffle dress on a wicker frame. It was the first time I sculpted paper into a wearable garment, and the show got a standing ovation.

Describe your installation for the Design Centre. An explosion of over 400 flowers in all shades of blue. I was influenced by the angular interior sets that feature in the London Design Week campaign, and drew upon a range of flowers and leaves that would echo this, playing with symmetry and folding. I was also influenced by the work of Wedgwood and William Morris prints, for the bold flower designs for the textile of the dress.

What sort of temperament do you need for what you do? A lot of patience! Paper is a wonderful medium to work with, but its also fragile. Symmetry and mathematics play a large part in the sculptures.

Do you work on your own? I have a very good team who work alongside me to help me realise the finished spectacle. My work is very intricate and there is a lot of attention to detail. I am a perfectionist, so detail is everything! The sculptures are hand sculpted using various tools for curling and scoring the paper. However, with larger installations that require thousands of petals, we have to use technology: laser cutting and die cutting.

What are the advantages – and frustrations – of working with paper? The advantages are that paper is endless and can be sourced in abundance and that it can be so easily found. The disadvantage is that the sculptures can dent and tear easily. It’s ultimately a very delicate and fragile medium to work with. In most of my work I use a paper with a metallic quality. It keeps its form in the pleating and moulding I do, and it has a real lustre, like silk, and a luminous quality.

What do you enjoy most about your work? Creating something that should be so temporary into intricate, long-lasting pieces: if they are kept in the right conditions or behind glass, they are timeless. I also love the fact many of my pieces surprise people, when they realise its made out of paper. Creating the unexpected is a great motivator.

Where do you feel at your most creative? I need to have a clear head, so the stillness in early morning or last thing at night is when my mind is at its most creative. I’m surrounded by rural landscape both at home and in my studio, so they can be great thinking places.

Do you have a passion for interiors as well? I do have a real passion for architecture and interiors, and some of our latest collaborations are leading more into this design area. Zaha Hadid and Frank Gehry are two of my favourite architects: they have created some of the most inspiring silhouettes in architecture. I also love the organic forms and craftsmanship that go into the lighting at Porta Romana. I’m also a fan of Kit Kemp and how she mixes print and colour in a very modern way.

Portrait: Misa Watanabe

Twitter: ZBDesign
Instagram: zoebradleydesign
Facebook: Zoe Bradley Design Ltd




Kit Kemp is the design force behind Firmdale Hotels, a collection of eight boutique hotels in London and one in New York: with their focus on craftsmanship, individuality and a style that is recognisably English yet refreshingly global, they have elevated the notion of what hotels should look like. Her talk at the Design Centre delves into how collaborations with artists and a playful approach to fabric and colour conjures up inviting spaces that have distinct personalities all of their own.

Conversations in Design: Every Room Tells a Story, 11.30am, 15 March.

Your look is very distinctive – do you think your approach is different to that of other designers? I hope it is different and I know it is distinctive! The detail is very important but basically I love colour and a carefree feeling in my surroundings. I am a designer and love lots of other styles and appreciate all the different modes of achieving it.

Where do you head to first at the Design Centre? All the fabric houses! Then I go to lighting and then I go to the furniture. The Design Centre has a cornucopia of beautifully designed fabrics.

Is craftsmanship an important factor for you? Everybody wants something tailor made for their home. Something that says something special about them or their family. I think people can be more individual and this is a great opening for creative craftsman and furniture makers in our industry.

In my latest book, Every Room Tells a Story, I talk about my design alliances with craftsman and artists around the world. The design world is always moving and evolving and we like to push it in a different direction.

What’s your style at home? Is it a testbed for new ideas? Hairdressers always have the messiest hairstyle, architects always have an unfinished home and my interior designs are usually in the workplace and not at home, where I don’t want to see another builder! Having said that, new colours and styles always keep creeping in.

Where do you feel at your most creative? When I’m travelling and somewhere I don’t know very well. I think your mind is open to new ideas, and one bit of inspiration can lead to another.

Megan Hess

Megan Hess is one of the most in-demand international fashion illustrators, and has worked with luxury brands including Chanel, Dior, Fendi, Rolex, Cartier and Bergdorf Goodman. For Focus/15 she brought her talents to the Design Centre with a specially commissioned illustration. This artwork, along with others from her portfolio, is on display on the Walk of Fame on the third floor.

What was your brief for the illustration you created for the Design Centre? My brief was really to capture the entire inside of the Design Centre, both with all the interesting people that would be walking around Focus/15 and all the interesting interior objects on display. And it was very complex to create, just in the sense of scale, showing every level of inside mixed with the actual scale of people and objects. That was a little bit tricky but often the most challenging illustrations are the ones that are the most successful in the end.

How did your style evolve? My style definitely evolved over the years: I think that’s something that happens naturally to anyone who draws. The more you draw, the more your style evolves. I always say to students who ask me how they find their style, “keep drawing and your style will find you.”

Do you have a passion for interior design as well? I think fashion and interiors very much influence each other. When I was working on my book, Fashion House, I was interested in the way that people within fashion often have homes or interior spaces that reflect their personal style. I think Coco Chanel is a great example of the way she dresses with her tweeds and minimal lines and her colour scheme, it’s almost a mirror image when you look at her interiors.

What’s your style at home? Very clean and airy. It’s quite white, as is my studio. I think that’s because I often work with a lot of colour, pattern and texture. So for living and working, I really like to keep things very fresh and white – it almost feels like a blank canvas.

How do you work? I draw everything freehand, and I use a bespoke Montblanc pen, called Monty. It’s then scanned into my computer, which gives me the flexibility to move things around within an image.

Where do you feel at your most creative? I think I really get inspired when I travel: I’ll often bring my sketchbook with me and depending what country I’m in, I’ll perch myself in a busy coffee shop and just watch different people, sitting having a coffee, walking in and out. I’ll notice what people are wearing, the way they are walking and talking; all of those types of elements are inspiring to me.

Did you have a big break? Yes, definitely. It was when Candice Bushnell’s publisher in New York contacted me to illustrate the cover of her next novel, which became Sex and the City. At the time, I was working full time as an illustrator but not with the really great luxury brands that I’d always dreamt of, but when I was contacted by her publisher, it opened up my work to a really big field of people. When her books were realised, and all the covers I’d illustrated were on billboards in New York and buses, and everywhere – that was the first time it went from no one ringing my phone, to a lot of amazing companies and fashion brands, which I’d never actually dreamt of working with.

Do you have a favourite moment in fashion history? I do love the past and I am very inspired by Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly and Sophia Loren. I think there were a lot of amazing, iconic styles in those eras, although I do love modern fashion and illustrating that, so I mix it up. Depending on what I’m working on, I’ll tailor the fashion to that – for the Design Centre, I wanted to really capture that quirky, chic interior designer look.

Megan Hess illustration


Jocelyne-SibuetJocelyne has run Maisons & Hotels Sibuet – a collection of some of the finest and most innovative hotels in France – for 31 years. From the Alps to Provence, each hotel brings out the history and character of the building as well as the wider traditions of the area, meaning that a stay is an enticing delve into the design history of the region (and a place of supreme comfort). Jocelyne joins Condé Nast Traveller‘s publishing director Simon Leadsford on Tuesday 22 September to talk about how she weaves a story into every property she designs.

Conversations in Design: Creating Character – Hotels with a Difference, 11.30am, 22 September. Tickets are £10: book here

How did you become a hotelier? I have always been oriented towards wellness and beauty, and that has served me well in the hotel industry. We were the first ones to bring this idea of spa and wellness to the mountain hotel industry in France in the early 1990s, and our flagship spa in Megève at Les Fermes de Marie was the first of many.

How do you instill a sense of place in each hotel? The story of each our hotels exists, I just seek to bring a clear narrative to life. In each hotel we seek to connect with the original spirit, to share its roots, to find harmony in the setting and to cultivate an authentic luxury. It’s not showy or ostentatious, it’s not ‘bling-bling’; rather, it seeks beauty in simplicity.

We take the history of the locale and let it provide a narrative for our hotels. For example, in the hotel Mont Blanc in Megève this meant concentrating on its historic past – an artist’s hangout where the energy and ambiance inspired great poets, singers, songwriters, sculptors and artists. Le Lodge Park was originally in an Art Deco style and I wanted to bring to life another vision of the mountains in Megève – ­one inspired by lodges of the world, with touches of leather, fur, rough-hewn logs and kilim fabrics. But further south in Provence this decorating philosophy means something completely different: at the Bastide de Marie, it means bringing an authentic polish to the stones of an 18th-century farmhouse, nestled among the vineyards; it means baroque chairs reupholstered in denim from Nîmes and of course being inspired by the wonderful antique markets in the area, Isle sur la Sorgue, with old chemist jars, or portraits and paintings that I have found along my travels.

Does that idea of a sense of place go further than the decor? We go beyond interior design; we design an experience that our clients will enjoy. At the Bastide de Marie we offer a quintessential stay in Provence. Experiences include truffle hunting, riding bicycles through lavender fields, visiting the market with our chef followed by an intimate cookery course or offering the traditional 13 desserts of Provence at Christmas time.

Your hotel interiors are very convivial, but how do they differ from a home? We seek to make our spaces functional and practical, but it was never the goal to make them feel like a hotel; we want to create a second home for our guests. With our dedication to creating each place in harmony with its history and with its setting, a guest should feel like they have come home.

Your most challenging project? The biggest challenge is to take the time to listen to the story of the building and of the destination, and transform that into a place that inspires, that lets you breathe in calm, wellness and relaxation.

Where’s your favourite place to source antiques and vintage pieces? My daughter teases me that I have a gift for shopping (I was born to shop). She is right that I am always on the look out for the little details that bring a room together – whether that is in an artist’s atelier in Provence, an offbeat shop in London or an elegant boutique near my apartment in Paris.

Douglas Mackie

Douglas Mackie studied architecture at the University of Cambridge and subsequently worked in New York before setting up his interior design company in London in 1995. At his W1 offices, he has a team of ‘simply two’; he is super organised and involved with every aspect of each project. Douglas joins House & Garden editor Hatta Byng on Tuesday 22 September to talk about his design ethos and distinctive approach.

Conversations in Design: A Philosophy of Design, 3pm, 22 September. Tickets are £10: book here

What are the ingredients of the perfect interior? Achieving the right balance is highly intuitive. It’s usually the point when nothing further can be taken out of the room, rather than added. While there is no such thing as the perfect interior, if one can achieve a sense of individuality and comfort, then you’re getting close.

What’s your starting point when you take on a new project? It can vary hugely according to the client. Ideally it’s something wonderful that the client already owns; a painting, a great chair, or even a carpet. We designed a wonderful room recently where the starting point was a phenomenal 19th-century white Agra carpet, whose white ground and jewel-like colours were a glorious way to begin.

Do you think your approach is different to that of other designers? We all work in different ways. I tend to think of each new project as a fresh beginning, and enjoy the challenge of evolving, developing and creating something new every time.

Career highlight? In creative terms a recent project in the Middle East was the most challenging, and the end results the most satisfying. In terms of recognition, it was pleasing to be included in AD France’s list of their favourite 100 designers internationally.

Where do you head to first at the Design Centre? I have great admiration for Tissus d’Hélène – Helen Cormack’s eye for textiles, pattern and colour is unparalleled.

Your Instagram feed is quite globe-trotting – where have you gained inspiration from lately? I travel a lot; I am constantly inspired by what I see, whether in a gallery, on the street or in the presence of great architecture. These don’t necessarily provide direct reference points, but they form the backbone of an immense visual vocabulary which informs everything I do as a designer.


Timo Grünert is the managing director and chief financial officer of the Oetker Collection. Based in Baden-Baden, he oversees the expansion, growth and business development of the hotel group. He plays an active role in the activities of Brenners Park-Hotel & Spa and the other hotels in the portfolio.  For London Design Week 2015, he was in conversation with Conde Nast Traveller’s publishing director Simon Leadsford, on the subject of ‘The Art of Masterpiece Hotels.’ Here he talks career highlights, the changing face of hotel design and what to expect from the future…

How did you get into the hotel business? I started my career in the finance department of the head office of the Oetker Group, a family-owned company with activities in shipping, food, beer, sparkling wine, private banking, chemicals and hotels. This job gave me the opportunity to look into all different kinds of businesses and to work with many inspiring personalities on many inspiring projects. One of these projects was the creation of “Oetker Collection – Masterpiece Hotels”. And here I am.

Career highlight? In the course of the opening of Hotel L’Apogée in Courchevel late 2013, the Financial Times  described Oetker Collection as arguably the most prestigious hotel group of the world. Now we are thankfully too humble to take that flattering statement too seriously, but at the same time it was great to see that the new brand receiving such a positive recognition only three years after its creation. Besides that single moment, being able to develop a new business with lots of entrepreneurial freedom in an amazing industry with a great team who works passionately day and night to create something special is a constant highlight.

How are hotels changing? What do people want out of a hotel experience today? Well, first I would say that expectations may differ, depending on who you are and why you travel. But there are some general dynamics in the world which also have an impact on hotels and guests’ expectations: people want to be inspired, they want authentic experiences, they want quality and choice, they want things to be easy and not complicated. And in the luxury segment, in addition to that guests want a truly personalised service and recognition. This may not be new and sound a bit trivial but expectations have reached new levels here. And rightly so – as even formerly less service-oriented industries make an extra effort to be friendly and accommodating.

What do you predict for the future of hotel design? To be honest, I am quite happy that I am surrounded by experts that may have a better view on that question than I do. But speaking for our market niche and naming something obvious: the perspective of the guest has to be at the centre of everything. That means for example that hotel design should not ask the guest to become an observer like in a museum, he or she should not asked to say, “Wow”. Design should not scream but whisper, design has to create an ambience that embraces the guest, which makes them feel at ease. That may mean different things for different markets and segments. And then there are of course the trends from above: being authentic, inspiring, etc.

What’s your favourite hotel? That is a tough question! It is a bit like asking a mother which of her children she likes most. What I am probably most proud of today is the consistency of our hotel portfolio. All nine properties in the Oetker Collection are true masterpieces and I sincerely feel at home in all of them. Besides it is also a question of the purpose of the stay. To give an example: for my honeymoon I would perhaps chose Fregate Island Private, 17 villas in a natural paradise in the middle of the Indian Ocean, for a shopping trip Hotel Le Bristol in Paris, then skiing in Courchevel, a week of well-being at Brenners Park-Hotel & Spa… I could go on like this for quite some time, I really have a great job!