Abigail Ahern: Alice in Wonderland meets old Hollywood glamour
British interior designer Abigail Ahern has a truly international reputation and a very distinctive style.
She is author of the bestseller A Girl’s Guide to Decorating and owner of the hugely successful Atelier Abigail Ahern (“Purveyors of all things fabulous”) in London where she stocks her own designs as well as items sourced from across the globe.
Abigail is very hands on and in the run up to Christmas in particular, her store is keeping her busy. ”I’ve had the store for just under 10 years. It looks and feels the way it does because I am in and out so much. I’m there at least two or three times a week for a few hours each time, usually at the crack of dawn!
“Not everything in the store is my own label. Many of the finds are pieces that I’ve sourced across the globe and I want to keep it that way. You lose something in the mix when everything in a store is designed by one person or label. I want the store to be an Aladdin’s cave of gorgeousness that quickens the pulse, with vintage and far flung finds as well as my own.”
She’s currently spending most of her time buying stock for Christmas, “whizzing around the globe sourcing beautiful finds”. She’s also designing a homewares range to include tableware, bedding and lamps, and taking on the odd interior design project.
How would she describe her style? “An eclectic sort of Alice in Wonderland meets a bit of old Hollywood glamour if that makes any sense at all! I want my interiors to feel magical but at the same time sophisticated and beautiful,” she says.
“My style has certainly evolved. Every time I travel I get inspired. It’s a huge influence so it changes and evolves all the time.”
Abigail famously says she got her first job in interiors because an editor liked her coat! “It was this huge winter number that was a bit of a jaw dropper and I remember struggling to even get through the door there was so much fabric! She loved the style and pretty much gave me the job there and then. I worked on the picture desk sourcing and researching images for Sir Terence Conran’s interior books and that really ignited my passion.”
A Girl’s Guide to Decorating, published in 2009, has been translated into many languages and reprinted several times. “I’ve been blown away with how popular it has been,” she says. “I think the book pretty much nails what I tend to say all the time: you don’t need a ton of money to have a beautiful space, you just need a big dose of confidence and a pinch of creativity.”
Abigail was in Australia recently, visiting Sydney and Melbourne as part of the Furnitex international seminar series. She likes Australian interiors and subscribes to Vogue Living and Inside Out. “I particularly like the laidback feel of so many Australian interiors but I would love it if they could embrace some darker hues now and again. I think even though the climate is hot, things tend to look way more interesting with darker, sludgier hues on walls. That said am a big fan of Sibella Court and Linda Gregoriou.”
Abigail is one of few interior designers I’ve interviewed who prefers commercial to residential work. “I’m kind of moving away from residential interiors actually. With commercial interiors you tend to have far greater flexibility than with people’s homes. Product design is my latest obsession,” she says. “Designing a comprehensive collection that retailers then pick up and sell round the world is the greatest buzz.”