Last week I had the great pleasure of interviewing British interior designer Abigail Ahern while she was in Sydney for Decoration + Design. Despite travelling across the globe to be in Australia for a mere three days and having flu, she delighted audiences with her passionate, quirky and rule-breaking approach to interiors. She also revealed to me, to my great excitement, that opening a shop in Sydney in on her to-do list. I know! How exciting is that?
Australians have really embraced Abigail and she is as surprised as the next person. She gets more overseas sales from her London shop (Atelier Abigail Ahern), hits on her blog and Facebook fans from Australia than anywhere else. “I don’t understand it and I’m blown away by it,” says Abigail, who has never had PR representation here or deliberately gone after an Australian audience. “My popularity here knocks my socks off! It’s overwhelming.” As she told me in a previous interview, Abigail believes Australians are more into interiors than any other country, even America. “I would love to open a shop here. I love Sydney so I think it would have to be here. It’s definitely on my to-do list.”
Abigail’s new book, Decorating with Style, was released here last week, eight weeks ahead of its release anywhere else in the world (the benefits of being her biggest fans!) and she is really excited about it. While her first book, A Girl’s Guide to Decorating, was a bestseller, it wasn’t her concept, and she feels she has grown with experience. “The first book was more practical. This one’s more about breaking down barriers and showing that anyone can do it, that you don’t need to be an A list interior designer or have loads of money to have a great interior. I was lucky that I was given the freedom to really write this book in my own voice.”
Having confidence in your own style is something she really encourages, while acknowledging a lack of it is what holds many people back from experimenting. “People always ask themselves ‘what if it doesn’t work?’ or ‘what if I don’t like it?’ but I don’t approach decorating that way. It doesn’t actually hold me back. People are too scared of making mistakes. When people let go and don’t have rules, that’s when they create the most tantalising interiors. I’d like to inspire people to be more confident.”
A big part of this is only buying what you truly love, rather than following trends. “I’m aware of trends but I never let them influence me when buying for my shop or my home. If it resonates with me on an emotional level, I buy it, it’s that simple. Interiors aren’t like fashion, they shouldn’t only be with us for a season. If I buy something I really love I expect to keep hold of it until I’m 90!”
Listening to Abigail speak was inspiring. She really and truly believes in her style of decorating and speaks about it with that kind of confidence we would all love to have in our own aesthetic. As a fellow Pom, I also love the way she “yabbers” on, using words like shenanigans and preaching the brilliance of being a bit oddball! Us Brits pride ourselves on being quirky and yes, perhaps a little bit mad. In a good way!
Of course there are so many other beautiful interiors coffee table books being published every month at the moment, so what makes hers different? “I think it is the fact I’m trying to demystify the whole snooty interior design thing and make interiors more accessible to everyone.”
Unlike many designers, Abigail often shares photos of her own London home (or pad, as she calls it), and the book is no exception. “It’s something I want to showcase,” she says. “Sometimes I read things on blogs, like people saying what a horrible dark space, but I just ignore it.” Dark interiors with walls and ceilings “painted out” are her trademark and despite the difference in weather and natural light between England and Australia, she thinks this style can work just as well here. “I love the contrast between a bright exterior and an inky, sludgy interior that wraps you up in a blanket! Sometimes I prefer my home when it’s sunny outside. But it’s really personal and it’s what appeals to you. While I’d secretly like everyone to go dark, what’s more important is that you love your home. For me, I can’t feel that cocooning effect in a space with white walls.”
With beautiful photography and great, practical tips, like covering cheap roller blinds in wallpaper and painting your own chevron floor, it really is a great read. Look out for a full review of the book on Interiors Addict soon.