British Decor – Lisa Whatmough of Squint Drops By!
There’s little that hasn’t been done in the furniture market – but occasionally a creative inspiration shines from the din of repeated, reused, and repurposed trends to create a new classic. Lisa Whatmough, the founder and creative tour de force behind London’s Squint Furniture and Home Decor took a moment from her busy schedule to answer some questions about becoming a trend setter, keeping creative juices flowing, and well – remaining at the forefront of a unique idea!
KL – I have to ask – because my business partner and I knocked names back and forth for 2 or 3 weeks before choosing MyHomeFaceLift. Why Squint?
L.W. I had a lecturer at college who insisted you squinted before starting to draw so that you really focused on your subject! It’s somewhat become a self-fulfilling prophecy as the colours of the work haven gotten brighter over time, and I like the word. I’m drawn to things and people who are slightly imperfect, and thus much more interesting.
K.L. I can relate! There’s very little that’s new in the world when it comes to furniture. There are deco pieces whose influence can be seen in relics pre-dating the 18th Dynasty in ancient Egypt. Your pieces draw on a very eclectic group of influence from Chesterfield sofas to egg chairs – your pieces even get a bit of sparkle from Swarovski Crystal. What’s the Squint line’s story? How did Squint evolve?
L.W. I have to say when I started this I hadn’t seen any patchwork furniture historically, which really bothered me as I thought that might have been for practical reasons maybe because it doesn’t last very well with use. But then I didn’t really know anything about furniture design, as my background was Fine Art. I initially began it all with a collection of beautiful antique textiles and lovely shaped Victorian accessories, mirrors and lighting. The nature of antique textiles means you really only ever seem to find the very special pieces in small scraps, so you have to combine several pieces in order to cover or upholster anything of size. I went utterly with my taste, which was drawn to floral French and Japanese silks and I stuck to my guns at a time when the UK was very much into plain and minimal interiors. The catch phrase of the day was “out with the Chintz” and I was trying to get my hands on as much antique Chintz as I could find. I wasn’t working in isolation; there were several designers and small companies going gun ho against the grain and we all seemed to find our way to Liberty which was under new management. With a very forward thinking team who wanted to showcase everything but the norm and were phenomenally supportive, small brands could hit the shop floor running both with sales and press. Liberty changed very quickly from being a department store to an Emporium and it was exiting, every week something new and fabulous was in store. I was very lucky in particular in regards to timing.
K.L. Although your line flaunts a really vivid and courageous color palette, anyone who knows color can see that there’s nothing random about the color stories of your furnishings and decor. Can you talk about the creative process that begins with each piece as an individual, and how each that creative process evolves into a finished piece? Are these collaborative team efforts, or the individual expressions of in-house designers?
L.W. Squint is very much about my taste but my taste is actually very broad and I enjoy playing with muted palettes just as much as the hotter ones. The client is always my launch pad as everyone’s taste is unique so although there must be some sychronicity for them to come to Squint in the first place I also find that I get inspired to look at everything anew on each commission. The other sources of inspiration are the beauty of the fabrics themselves, which come from all over and the astonishing brilliance of our manufacturers and their skill at making the furniture. Clients usually start at the website for shape and size and then if they are based in London come in for an appointment. Clients that don’t come in also use the website for colour reference as anything on there can be the inspiration for anything else. It’s quite a fluid and relaxed process, no two pieces are ever the same and once we’ve decided on shape and fabric it’s up to us how we put that together.
K.L. Can you talk a bit about the people who are the creative forces of Squint?
L.W. The studio team is very small, just four of us. I direct the visual identity of everything, and I have two seamsters for the sewing and an assistant who works on the accessories range. Everyone else involved comes from the various companies we work with. I think there’s an idea that in creative studios there’s some lovely art college feel going on but actually both here and in every design and fashion house I’ve dealt with, it’s heads down in full concentration just getting on with the making. We strive for the best of quality on everything and that is at times complicated and hard work.
K.L. Do clients ever approach you with requests to create pieces personalized by their own antique fabrics to create a piece personalized by family heritage?
L.W. Yes we regularly rework an existing piece which they may have inherited and sometimes they want to include some of their own fabrics, maybe from the children’s clothes or Grandmothers curtains, anything is possible as long as the basic quality is up to scratch.
K.L. Although your furnishings are more like pieces of art than sofas or décor – they need to function as furniture, too. How do form and function meet in the design process to address durability?
L.W. That’s very much a piece by piece issue, some clients want only antique woven silks which by their nature are expensive and delicate and ultimately mean the final piece is to be looked at not sat on and other projects we are involved in are for shops and hotels, we alter the types of fabrics accordingly and place the more durable textiles on the seats and arms.
K.L. You must have a very interesting and colorful clientel! What is the most interesting commission you have received?
L.W. Well they are all great actually, my clients are varied in age and wealth demographic but all have a great sense of humour and are huge amounts of fun to work with. One of my ongoing favs though is Christian Louboutin (http://www.christianlouboutin.com/) and we make for several of his boutiques now. Christian really has an off the wall taste and brings his humour to each project and his team understand the process utterly – and are as you’d expect fearless and brilliant in their concepts. A couple of years ago when we started working for him, he sent boxes of the most extraordinary vintage fabric I’d ever seen. He collects on his travels, and we use those in all of the furniture we make for him.
K.L. Every great idea invites imitation, which can really challenge any product line to evolve. Do you have a vision for new directions and evolution of Squint Home Décor?
L.W. It’s annoying when your plagiarised, and leads to boring and badly constructed copies, but at the same time it pushes you forward and that is invaluable. This year we are expanding into our own lines of fabrics, wallpapers and ceramics which will be available online as well as in store. My vision ultimately is to have a much bigger company with our own British made range, but up to this point I’ve been learning my craft. It’s an interesting journey and I have to say I love the day job!
We are so glad she does! Get inspired by the Squint line at: http://www.squintlimited.com/
Try pillows to infuse great color and Bohemian chic into your space at MyHomeFaceLift.com: http://www.homeaccessoryaccents.com/index.php/liv_room_en/livingroom/pillows-throws/merben.html