An Influential Swedish Designer Tells Us What Inspires Her
An Influential Swedish Designer Tells Us What Inspires Her

An Influential Swedish Designer Tells Us What Inspires Her

In this series, we ask creatives and tastemakers in the interiors industry what’s inspired them over the years – from travel to food, films to books and even people. Swedish-born Charlotta Elgh has worked with major lifestyle brands – including IKEA – as well as founding an award-winning advertising agency. Now director of home design at John Lewis, this is what she told us…
By Georgina Blaskey

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My earliest influence was my mum. Every other weekend when I was a child we were at an auction or new interiors shop. It’s where I found my appreciation for both classic and modern design. Today, I’d say I’m more modern in my everyday life but classic in my fantasies. If I ever own a summer house, it’ll be totally coastal classic. Most of all though I’m a functionalist; I believe beauty lives within the simplest designs, and this allows for more space. I’ve always taken pride in the way my home looks, plus I live a fast-paced life, so I need it to be a space designed for easy living.

My grandparents were also incredibly design minded. They lived in Uppsala close to Stockholm, and I remember visiting them for afternoon tea. They had specific chairs and tables that were so beautiful but we children weren’t allowed to sit on them. I eventually inherited these chairs but decided to pass them on – as I said, I’ve always favoured functionality.

The James Bond movies have been a huge inspiration for me. They’re so glamorous and have managed to capture the design of each period beautifully over the years.


Today I’m inspired by strong women. I have a brilliant team of women around me at John Lewis and, frankly, it’s difficult to keep up with all their achievements. My three daughters also inspire me every day, and challenge me to do what’s best for the next generation.

My time in Mallorca inspired me to develop the IKEA Hotel in Delft in the Netherlands. That in turn gave me the confidence to go to Almhult in Sweden and start developing fabrics. Every step in my career has inspired the next, and it’s been important to look at it this way. Curiosity is my superpower and I hope everyone who has worked with me over the years would say the same. I’ve always been interested in making the impossible possible.

John Lewis

I love spending time in Europe. The people, the fashion and the architecture in Paris are all so inspiring. I studied interior architecture in Milan, and the furniture fairs there are a great reason to visit. The Zona Tortona is one of my favourite places – there are so many incredible shops to explore. Architecture and history are two major influences on my work. I love doing research and reading up to find out what was going on in the world at different times.

Theatre and opera are two other passions of mine. My mum sat on the board of the Malmo Opera, so I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to experience premieres from a young age. In my next life I think I’d like to work as a ticket collector in London just so I could spend all my time in and around musicals. I saw Tina Turner in London not long ago and was screaming with joy in the end. The costumes and the set design are always so inspiring.

My favourite restaurants tend to be buzzy places where you can still chat easily. My restaurant of the moment has to be La Poule au Pot in Belgravia, which is also a big hit with my design team. For coffee, I like Hagen on Pimlico Square – just bear in mind it has only three barstools. I’m a decent home cook, too. I could make risotto in my sleep, I've cooked it so many times. My best tip is always to add twice the amount of wine and take it off the heat early – I like it very al dente.

If I could have founded any brand, it would be Apple. I'm practically married to my MacBook Pro – it’s the best combination of design, beauty and function. Also, I’m addicted to adidas – which is why you’ll see so many stripes running through the John Lewis SS23 collections. Above all, though, I admire brands that are doing right by the planet.

Follow @CharlottaElgh

La Poule Au Pot

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