Interior Design Tips From Barlow & Barlow

Interior Design Tips From Barlow & Barlow

Lucy Barlow set up her Holland Park Studio in 2013 and quickly became known for her bold use of prints and colours. Today, she runs Barlow & Barlow with her husband, architect and landscape designer Joshua Sear. The team create unique schemes that combine the old and the new – think leopard print fabrics with antique furniture. Here, Lucy shares her tips for designing a space, where to find the best vintage pieces, and the high-street brands she loves to shop…

For me, inspiration can come from anywhere. During lockdown, however, it’s been harder to find fresh inspiration, as everywhere is closed and we’re not allowed to visit anywhere. Being on your phone all day is a total hindrance when it comes to creative design and personal individuality – recently, I’ve felt trapped in an online algorithm, particularly on Instagram, which shows me the same images and ideas time and again. 

When you’re looking for new and exciting ideas, it’s important to step away from the internet and get outside. I’m incredibly lucky to live in London where I find so much inspiration on my daily walks. Different houses, architecture, buildings, and types of windows always jump out at me. It’s so important to find inspiration in your local area, as often, there could be something great just around the corner.

When you come to design a space, the first steps you should take are to get as many samples together as possible and work out what works and what doesn’t. Play around with fabrics, wallpaper, materials, pattern, colour and scale. You’ll find it all comes together quite organically and unexpectedly. 

My top tip for decorating a small space is to focus on the joinery and storage solutions. They’re both incredibly important when you’re working with limited space, as creating cleverly integrated joinery into the design of the room not only helps keep it tidy and uncluttered, it also turns it into a feature in its own right.

There are so many great destinations for antiques and reclaimed furniture. They’re both invaluable for bringing age and soul into a project or home. It’s good for the environment too, and it’s a great way to find beautiful design at an affordable price. For me, an antique is a piece over 100 years old, so something that pre-dates the 1920s. There are some brilliant websites and platforms to investigate – Selling Antiques has a great selection, as does 1stDibs. For vintage pieces, Vinterior is a brilliant platform, while Selency, who are based in France, have amazing pieces at great price points. Other favourites include Reclaimed, English Salvage, Lassco, and Retrouvius

I also love to shop high-street homeware. The more affordable options seem to get better and better. Zara Home have some lovely pieces right now, such as mid-century side tables, layered magazine racks, reeded tables and even retractable step ladders. Since they launched, their offering has been really impressive. French Connection Home is great, too – I recently found some lovely washed velvet cushions there. OKA and Pooky are more expensive, but they’re well worth a rummage if you’re after something a bit different.

You need to stretch your budget with the big tasks in the beginning, otherwise it won’t stand the test of time. Once you’ve laid a good foundation, you can have fun with the furnishings and extras.
You need to stretch your budget with the big tasks in the beginning, otherwise it won’t stand the test of time. Once you’ve laid a good foundation, you can have fun with the furnishings and extras.

Instagram is home to lots of great vintage dealers, too. However, with everyone at home right now, things tend to sell very quickly, so it’s best to make sure you’re following them, so you don’t miss out on any sales. Recently, I’ve bought lots of pieces from @AUBespokeStudio who make beautiful marble tables. @Folie_Chambre have lots of vintage rattan, lighting fixtures and accessories at a great price point, while @Anemone_Interiors sell the most beautiful mid-century glassware and lamps.

When starting a project, know where to spend your money and where to save. When it comes to budgeting, especially if you’re doing a project yourself, don’t get carried away with finding beautiful furniture or soft furnishings early on. It’s tempting when you’ve fallen in love with a sofa or coffee table, but in the beginning, you need to focus on the important materiality of the building, like the flooring, tiling, work surfaces, kitchen and bathrooms. You need to stretch your budget with the big tasks in the beginning, otherwise it won’t stand the test of time. Once you’ve laid a good foundation, you can have fun with the furnishings and extras.

My favourite colour combination is green and pink. At Barlow & Barlow, it’s become a bit of a signature for us, and works so well in a number of rooms. 

Something we’re often asked to track down is great bedside tables. I love Trove by Studio Duggan. They’re great friends and their studio is just around the corner from us. As for the last thing I bought for my home… it was a Dan Hollings painting from Alveston Fine Art.

Many people also ask me how to get into the industry. My best advice in this area is to get first-hand ‘boots on the ground’ experience in a studio or with an established designer. It’s one of the important things you can do. To get into the industry without that would be really hard – experience is everything. Mistakes in the industry are costly as you’re dealing with people’s homes and often, one of the biggest investments of their lives, so having the right experience will ensure you make as few mistakes as possible. Alongside the design aspect, you’re also dealing with people’s emotions, which can be intense.

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