We recently sat down with interior designer Caroline Cobbold to talk colour, boutique hotels and the future.
Your Peek Crescent project in Wimbledon is gorgeous. What was the brief from your client?
The brief was to use the given budget to bring life and colour into a space that felt dated. The customer is a couple whose children have all left home, so it hadn’t been updated for some 15 years! They were looking for a transformative re-envisioning of their home.
What ignited your inspiration for the design?
First, I always look at the style of the building and the client’s own collection of furniture. In this initial phase, I am looking to find what pieces are must-keep, how they live, and what their aspirations are.
This builds a depth of connection and guides my approach to the entire project. I believe this process is vital so I can create something made to last.
Can you tell us about some of the challenges in the design process and how you overcame them?
The clients were so laid back. Apart from the delays in shipping because of the pandemic, thankfully, there weren’t many on this project
In that sense the clients were amazing to work with, understanding and generous, plus our builder was fabulous and conscientious.
There have been many positives from this job aside from the design.
During the pandemic, how did you adapt your way of working?
Thankfully the pandemic didn’t change much for me as I work mostly out of my office from home and it didn’t affect the demand for work. In fact, I was surprised to see how much work there was and continues to be.
I think that with more people working from home, many are rethinking their spaces, adapting to the new normal. Some design problems could have previously been overlooked when they were going into their company’s offices and spending less time at home. Now it’s different.
Is there anything that all your projects have in common?
Vibrancy, life and a sense of fun or intrigue.
We have worked together on several fantastic projects including this one. What do you like about working with the KITMILES collection?
I love KITMILES designs and I have for a very long time. They too show vibrancy, boldness, and fun, whilst having a good range allowing them to be worked into projects easily. Not to mention the great customer service.
How do pattern and colour play a role in your interiors and what opportunities do they present?
For me, the trick is finding the right balance, creating something which is cohesive and liveable.
I love bold confident use of colour and pattern. From brightening rooms, making them more playful and charming, and creating focal points, I love what colour and pattern can bring to a space.
What is the most rewarding part of being a designer?
Firstly, there’s the design itself. I get so excited when the initial ideas begin to flow. I love being given a brief and understanding a client’s vision, then coming up with the initial concepts and designs.
I enjoy researching images, pulling together samples and fabrics and making mood boards.
I love the challenges that can arise and then seeing the design come together. Finally, naturally, I love the thrill and joy I get from working with my amazing clients, their happiness, and knowing I have created a house they will enjoy.
If you had to take one luxury object, no matter how big or small, with you on a one-way trip to Mars, what would it be?
I’d have to say my music collection. I know it’s not necessarily an object maybe I could say my phone and air pods! I cannot live without music.
You design so brilliantly for your clients. What is your home like?
My home is what I would call an accumulated style. It’s a red brick semi-detached Edwardian villa, with architectural features and leaded glass windows.
The original features were what drew me to the house back in 2010 when I bought it. Apart from re-doing all the interiors, stripping things back to reveal the original charm, I invested in some larger structural changes.
I created a large, bright very modern kitchen, which includes a 9m skylight, a window seat and 3.6m sliding doors with very thin frames and a narrow profile. All of this looks out into my southeast facing garden. Its heaven!
I also transformed the attic into a living space that is rented as a self-contained studio.
Do you have a favourite piece of design or art that you always return to for inspiration?
I don’t think there is one piece that is the crux of all inspiration, but I would say that when I design, I envision in my minds-eye the most beautiful garden that gives me the peace and focus to then be inspired. It’s curious isn’t it?
What do you think the future holds for interior design?
There has been a massive influx of people wanting to restyle or redesign their own homes. I do worry people will start designing themselves and not seek the help of a trained designer.
Now, information on where to source products is everywhere online, which, in the past, was one of the important jobs and areas of knowledge designers had.
It seems easier to design one’s own home now, but of course, that can’t replace the years of accumulated knowledge, skill, and important trade relationships an interior designer has. I see this as the value an interior designer brings. With it, we add the richness of our training and experience which for me, deepens a project and gives it thoughtfulness and longevity.
How did you begin your career? Did you always want to design from an early age?
I have always been interested in houses, interiors, and fabrics. I started out as a stylist and set designer for film and TV and spent over 35 years in that industry. Working in both film and commercials, I was lucky to work with some big clients.
The advertising industry changed from being aspirational in style to more like reality TV which I felt was less creative. I very quickly learned how to make everything look beautiful with whatever I had to work with.
I am also very fortunate to have visited seriously beautiful homes that influenced and inspired me growing up. Design also runs in the family; my aunt is Tessa Kennedy, a very well-known interior designer of the 60’s. She worked right up until 2016 when she retired.
In 2012 I set up a small company with Tessa, which ran alongside my own interior design practise until 2016. In the 1960s, my mother (Tessa’s twin), was also David Mlinaric’s secretary, another great of the design world.
Is there something you haven’t designed which you have always wanted to?
My next plan is to design a boutique hotel but I’d want to do it in the Southern hemisphere.
I would also like to design yachts. In my mind they would be different, making them more artistic and bringing an unexpected flair not common in that space, and of course, it would provide me with a completely new challenge.
What does 2022 hold for Caroline Cobbold Design?
I have lots of interesting projects coming up all out of town and overseas. I am excited.
Image features our Birds in Chains wallpaper in blue and gold in Caroline Cobbold’s Peek Crescent project. Photographed by Brotherton Lock