“Be relevant or be dead”
You know the situation well, heck you’re living it, girls – Hong Kong homes are tight (to say the least!). But where we lack in space, we make up for in what this incredible city has to offer, so we’re willing to make the most of our living situations. Regardless of whether you’re setting up camp in a teeny tiny studio or decking out a one-bed, we could all do with a little direction when it comes to making our ‘cosy’ apartments feel like home.
We reached out to the seasoned design expert for advice, the man who made his famously British homeware brand iconic on a global scale, Tim Oulton. We’re massive fans of his eclectic décor and timeless pieces (especially their newly launched spring/summer collection!) so we couldn’t wait to hear his top tips…
Tell us a bit about your background. How would you consider ‘Timothy Oulton’ to be a reflection of yourself?
My dad owned an antiques shop near Manchester in England, and when I left boarding school I went to work with him. About three months in I was obsessed, I loved the way the things were made as well as the British craftsmanship. I was restoring antique furniture for many years, (and where I learnt everything about craftsmanship and materials) and I later started designing. We opened the first Timothy Oulton gallery in 2008 in Los Angeles and we now have over 35 galleries worldwide. Timothy Oulton the company is, in many ways more than just ‘me’. It’s actually a group of great people who are extremely passionate about what we collectively do.
How would you describe your design/creative process? Is there anything in particular that runs across each collection (i.e. reclaimed materials!)?
Inspiration often starts with the material. I’m passionate about leather and we hand-finish all of our leathers. We’re constantly experimenting to create new finishes. I’ve always loved reclaimed wood; we source a lot of it from the UK and disused barns and distilleries. The materials have to be authentic – we don’t mask the natural imperfections, we celebrate them. Every piece is a true one-off and that’s what gives it character.
Your brand is famously British! How do you stay true to your own style, whilst adapting and keeping it relevant across the globe?
I always say, “be relevant or be dead.” We borrow ideas from the past but we make it our own. We’re proud of our British heritage, but we have a very global viewpoint. It’s about making quality, authentic pieces that have character and soul. So the collections resonate just as much with someone in New York as they do with someone in New Delhi.
You’ve mentioned that each of your pieces have their own story. Is there one in particular that speaks to you at the moment?
I’m very excited about a new dining table called “Inception.” It’s inspired by infinity mirrors from the 1970s – the ones that have those endless reflections that get smaller and smaller into the distance. The table is crafted with a glass top that looks clear until you turn it on – then it completely changes – it’s like stepping into a portal! It really plays with the eye and it’s definitely a conversation starter. We’ve designed a wall mirror as well using the same idea.
Which interior trend do you wish would come to end?
I’m not really a fan of anything that’s just a ‘trend’; I’m more interested in timeless designs that stand the test of time.
On the flipside, are there any interior trends that you’ve incorporated into your own home?
I like to incorporate pieces from different eras; I think your home should be a personal reflection of who you are rather than following trends that are very temporary. I still go to antiques markets and auctions so I have a few pieces in my home, but I mix them up with something more modern. I like that collision of old and new.
If you had to design your home from scratch – name 5 [of your] must-have pieces.
– A leather Chesterfield sofa – I’ve always been obsessed by them.
– The Mars Chair – it’s one of my favourites because it will still look just as good in 20 years.
– A vintage leather trunk – I’ve been collecting Louis Vuitton trunks for many years, I’ve always had a thing for vintage luggage.
– A big dining table in reclaimed wood, something casual and chunky.
– Maybe a wine cellar… I couldn’t live without red wine.
Hong Kong homes are notoriously small! What 5 tips do you have for making the most of your space?
– With less space it’s even more important to choose pieces that you love and that really speak to you. Just one iconic chair like the Saddle chair adds instant character to your space.
– Choose a sectional sofa like the Nirvana, you can move the modules around very easily and adapt it to your space.
– Choose furniture with storage – trunks make a great coffee table.
– Multi-functional pieces. We’ve launched some of our classic floor lamps with trays this year – perfect for small spaces if you don’t have room for a side table.
– Lighting is always important and even more so if you live in a city where your apartment might not get much natural light. A statement pendant or chandelier adds drama even when your floor space is limited.
– Adding a big mirror like the Axel is a real room changer – something with height rather than width is ideal for compact spaces and makes a room feel so much bigger.