10 Practitioners I love…


This is a piece I had to write for mu Uni blog… I think it’s interesting to really look at how you are inspired by previous designers…

Imagine you are going to curate an exhibition on the history of your discipline. Compile a list of 10 practitioners (or specific pieces of work) that you would include and write brief notes on why:

Interior Design has some key practitioners over time, and here’s my top 10 of who I would include:

Furniture designer  (1718 – 1779)

​Not just a cabinet maker, but also an interior designer, and the creator of one of the first ‘catalogues’ of furniture for buyers from all markets and walks of life.  This catalogue defined ‘good taste’, meaning the buyer feel that they were able to participate in upwardly mobile and socially acceptable ‘tasteful’ behaviour if they had the money to buy the furniture.  A wealthy working class businessman could buy the same piece of furniture that an aristocrat owned, creating feelings of upward mobility.  This meritocratic business acumen by Chippendale made him incredibly successful, and is an early example of inspired mass marketing.

Michael Thonet (1796-1871)

This chair can be seen as the first ever flat pack piece of furniture design, and is still in production today.  Thonet pioneered new techniques of laminating wood to create mass produced furniture for the first time ever, and created designs that could be shipped in pieces and assembled onsite.  Like Chippendale he created catalogues for customers, so that pieces could be ordered from anywhere in the world.  These could then be shipped cheaply in large quantities as they took up less space when in flat packs, and he even owned his own transportation services.  Chair No 14 is one of those pieces of design which everyone recognises, creates historical connotations and reflects the importance of industrial mass production.


Fashion & Home Designer (1925-1985)

A Welsh fashion designer and businesswoman. She originally made furnishing materials in the 1950s, expanding the business into clothing design and manufacture in the 1960s. The Laura Ashley style is characterised by Romantic English designs — often with a 19th-century rural feel — and the use of natural fabrics.  Although not to everyone’s taste, her designs, like Chippendale’s, transversed social class boundaries due to their relatively low prices and popular styles, and anyone of any class could become the owner of the rural English idyll.


Interior Designer & Curator (1929-1998)

David Nightingale Hicks was an English interior decorator and designer, noted for using bold colours, mixing antique and modern furnishings, and contemporary art for his famous and wealthy clientele.  His extremely strong use of colour palettes and patterns is still seen as inspirational to the designers of today, to the point that some of the colours he ‘evolved’ and used are still named after him.  I am including Hicks in this list specifically for his use of bold swathes of colour, which become almost abstract in their intensity.

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Architect, Designer, Interior Designer (1892-1970)

Rolf Engströmer, was a Swedish architect, interior designer and furniture designer, and a representative of Swedish grace, the Swedish interpretation of the Art Deco style.  His entrance hall at Eltham Palace is a masterclass in Art Deco linear design, with every detail and piece of furniture made for the room in 1933.  His work embraced the new modernist approach to design.  His work is important to me in that it signifies a historical change in direction in Interior Design both with an aesthetic and architectural focus, and you can relate it to development of artists in other fields at the time.

Architect & Interior Designer (1869-1944)

Lutyens was an English architect known for imaginatively adapting traditional architectural styles to the requirements of his era. He designed many English country houses, war memorials and public buildings.  He would also design furniture to fill his house designs to complete his vision, and promoted the arts and crafts movement with the most natural and raw state of materials exposed and celebrated.  He could be seen as the ‘mash-up’ architect in that he would mix architectural styles as he felt fit, and so created a postmodernist, non-judgmental approach to architecture at the time.  For this reason, he is in my list.

Decorative Artist & Designer (b1949)

Annie Sloan is a British artist, colour expert and author. After studying Fine Art at university in the 1970s, Annie Sloan went on to write several books on traditional paints and decorative painting techniques, starting with The Complete Book of Decorative Paint Techniques in 1988. She developed her own line of decorative paint “Chalk Paint” in 1990.  From this she developed the ‘shabby chic’ look which has been prevalent for the last 20 years in home decor.  Some may curse her for it, but the mass appeal of the style shows how people buy into a look and follow it slavishly.  As a result it has been copied worldwide by manufacturers which shows the cultural significance of her work.  The actual recipe of her paints is an age old tradition harking back to distemper and lime paint which has become very limited in use, yet she has resurrected it hence inclusion on this list.

Photographer, set designer, interior designer (1904-1980)

Beaton was a multi talented designer across several disciplines, who created theatrical interior spaces.  His use of clashing colours and patterns show a return to colour after the austerity of the second world war, and he used to introduce ‘the vulgar’ into the traditional, sort of like the punk rocker of interiors at the time.  His clientele tended to be the aristocratic and the famous, who let him run riot in their homes.  His theatre, ballet and opera sets are inspirational, and still used today by The Royal Ballet and the Royal Opera House in productions.


THE DANISH -HYGGE  (Collectively)
Late 20th century onwards.

Hygge (/ˈhjuːɡə/ HEW-gə or /ˈhuːɡə/ HOO-gə) is a Danish word for a mood of coziness and comfortable conviviality with feelings of wellness and contentment. This covers an entire  interior movement of white interiors, sheepskins, natural materials and pared back interiors.   There is no one designer associated with this style, but given it’s enduring popularity I think it is worth including.  Like Shabby Chic, it appeals to the masses in that it is easy to achieve and promotes an appearance of ‘good taste’ and ‘style knowledge’ but is relatively easy to replicate and purchase off the shelf. 

Phillipe Stark, Designer (b1949)

This chair takes a subversive action, from mimicking a royal chair made for Louis XVI, and subverting it into modern day use.  It has sleek lines, can be stacked 6 high and is mass produced,  and takes the essence of the original into a postmodernist form.  As Starck himself said, the chair “has a mix of materials and styles based on our shared memories. We all own this piece in a way.”  This chair to me is rock’n’roll, and so included in the list.



3 thoughts on “10 Practitioners I love…

  1. Ahh now I know who to blame for chalk paint and “shabby chic”… In all seriousness though, this was super informative! It’s inspired me to do my own research on some of these designers, particularly Rolf Engströmer, as I looove Art Deco. Thanks for the great piece!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Just looking at the photos, I thought, “Oh my gosh, some of these are way too intense.” But then reading how they influence design now made me realize that, “Oh, because this guy went crazy with bold colors, I get to paint my walls with whatever color I want.” That’s awesome to think about!

    Liked by 1 person

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