British interior designer Abigail Ahern, known for her love of breaking decorating “rules” says she’s obsessed with Australia and would love to move here. But, in the meantime, she’s in talks to bring her product range to our shores for the first time.
Decor + Design 360, the online version of the popular Melbourne trade fair, kicked off this week with a VIP media event where Abigail and fellow Brit designer Kit Kemp were guests of honour. The virtual event was hosted by design gurus Robyn Holt and James Treble, and Australian House & Garden and Belle editor in chief, Tanya Buchanan.
Abigail gave a great interview about her love of interiors, how Covid has brought the importance of home back into perspective, and why a maximalist look doesn’t have to mean “a hot mess”.
“I am so obsessed and addicted to interiors because it’s not about fluffing a cushion, it’s about how it makes you feel, it literally lifts your spirits,” she said.
She recently had to close her London store for three months but, since reopening in August, has been busier than ever. “Covid has made everyone refocus on the home,” she said. “Home always played second fiddle to fashion and beauty. Now it’s really come into the forefront. The main reason I’m so obsessed with interiors is it doesn’t matter about budget or where you live in the world, you can do a few small things to your home and it totally affects how you feel.”
Her biggest sellers have been her faux botanicals (she really has made fake not just cool, but convincing again) and accessories like cushions and candles “The five-minute facelifts of the decorating world, as I call them. Something you can plonk on a sofa or a coffee table and it just elevates it.”
Abigail is known for her love of a darker palette and she said she often gets asked if that can work in a hot country, like Australia. “During Covid, I started painting rooms in a warmer dark, really earthy colours,” she said. “My next paint range is actually inspired by Australia. I want to relocate to Australia because I’m obsessed with your country!”
She adds: “People think if you paint a room in a dark colour it will be depressing. It actually isn’t, it brings a lot of warmth. For me, I don’t want people to go dark if they don’t like dark. Colour is very personal and if you’re happy in pale, by all means go pale. I just have a slightly different interpretation and I gravitate towards inky, swampy, bottom-of-the-lake type colours! The thing about colour is it’s the easiest, most transformative and cheapest thing that you can do to any room.”
Abigail says the older she gets, the less she cares what people think of her unique style, or if they think she’s a bit bonkers! Although she certainly has thousands of fans who love her style and can’t get enough of her tips on how to incorporate it in their own homes.
Later in her discussion with Robyn, James and Tanya, Abigail talked about how she came to design her own faux flowers and foliage (or botanicals, as she calls them) with her florist sister Gemma, who is a partner in the business. They’re actually available in Australia now through Fenton & Fenton.
She is big on connecting the inside with the outside, no mater the time of year or where you live. “I’m all about this relaxed sensibility. I don’t like uptight interiors. I don’t want to walk into a space where I feel I’ve got to sit really properly and take my shoes off. I just want to sprawl out on the sofa and slurp wine!” Oh, don’t we all?!
Abigail’s new book, Everything: A Maximalist Style Guide, about to be released next month, is all about debunking the myths around more is more. “When someone says maximalism, in my head, I picture cluttered, Grandma, stuff everywhere, a complete hot mess. I just wanted to show people that you can have a lot of things but it can look curated and beautiful.
“The book takes you through the process of how to have things in your home, to have forever (because I don’t think interiors are like fashion, things don’t come in every season and go out every season, you should just buy things that you love), and the principals to adding more layers.”
Her long held love for our country is alive and well: “Australia’s known for its interiors and this relaxed sensibility which I really gravitate towards, so we have a huge audience in Oz. We’re talking to a really big exciting brand about bringing our stuff to Australia for the first time so I’m just keeping all my fingers crossed because I would be so excited!”
The chat with Kit Kemp, the founder and creative director of the beautiful Firmdale Hotels, was equally enjoyable, so I’d urge you to watch the recording of the discussion with both these amazing British design icons, which is now available to everyone, here.
Decor + Design 360 is a five-day virtual event from Monday 28 September to Friday 2 October, free to anyone in the industry. REGISTER HERE.
The lineup for this year’s Australian House & Garden International Seminar Series is amazing, and includes my chat with Queer Eye’s Bobby Berk. See the full program and buy tickets.