We constantly turn to the Brits for style advice. Whether on runways or in homes, Londoners seem to have an innate sense of style—one that’s bold and unapologetic but always rooted in tradition. From stately, classic designs to fearless décor choices, the British have showcased time and time again their flair for the dramatic and intuitive sense of comfort. So when we caught wind that British fashion designer Matthew Williamson—previously creative director at Emilio Pucci—was creating a new line of furniture and homewares for CB2, we had to investigate further.
While the esteemed fashion designer is no stranger to interior design—having collaborated with British brand Osbourne & Little on a line of wallpapers and, more recently, launched his own furniture collection—the CB2 line is his first foray into American design. The brief was simple: “They wanted me to do my thing and have the freedom to create products that really embodied my brand and spoke to my aesthetic,” says the designer. “It was a really free lovely personal brief. So that’s what I did: I designed things that I felt I would want to buy myself, very selfishly.”
For Williamson, crossing over to interior design was a natural progression: “I’ve always been fascinated with people’s homes as well as their clothes—and really this approach of lifestyle. I’ve always thought that a lady that buys one of my dresses probably has a very lovely home, and she’s probably as concerned with her pillows as she is with her outfit.” We chatted with the fashion designer on his unique perspective on all things décor and design. From how to mix prints and colors to how to decorate on a budget, learn all about how a British fashion designer decorates at home.
“I’m a big fan of hot and cold colors together,” says Williamson. “Whether it’s in an outfit or in a home, I would go as far as to say if you pick warm tones, you should complement them with cool tones. A good example of that would be hot cerise pink with a cool eau de nil blue-green.”
The designer applies this color technique at home: “I have these big black walls at home which are very calming, and then accents of hot pink—not necessarily too many of them, but I love a bunch of pink peonies or pink velvet cushions. I like neons as well—I love the contrast of, let’s say, a slate gray with a neon accent of yellow. I love that mix of synthetic color with a very earthy color.”
Williamson believes that decorating shouldn’t be expensive, but it should feel personal. “You could arrange feathers from the park on a huge canvas, and it costs you nothing. I often pile books up in my home and color-coordinate the spines of the books so that they become little platforms or shrines. It’s kind of elevating the mundane into something that’s a real focal point and talking point. I’m all about making things look rich without spending too much money. It’s kind of my philosophy in design.”
One of the designer’s favorite pieces from the collection is the peacock candelabra: “There’s a cute little three-prong candelabra for a table or a side table with little palm-tree candlesticks. I love the idea of lining 20 or 30 of those down a table runner. I think that would be a great talking point for a dinner party.”
When we asked the designer to share tips on how to update your home on a budget, he suggested looking for unique pieces: “Look at interesting things, not necessarily expensive things,” he says. “My home is made of really loved pieces that aren’t very expensive. I have a couple of pieces that are very expensive—the floor and the chandelier, the top and bottom—and the rest is just years of collected pieces.”
In fact, the designer recommends spending the majority of a decorating budget on the floor: “Spend whatever money you have on the floor because that’s there forever. Think of it like the envelope of the room—then, put things inside the envelope.”
One of the designer’s pet peeves is walking into a room that looks over-staged. “I think that sense of having it done it yourself is so key,” he says, “and whether you have or not I guess is irrelevant. To do that successfully, you have to have layers of curiosities and personal artifacts.”
Williamson compares this to spotting a great outfit: “You see some of the looks lately where everything is too done and overly considered. But I think the most stylish women are the ones who don’t look like they’ve really given it too much thought. They probably have, but that slightly undone quality is appealing to me.” His advice: Don’t get everything from the same place, and don’t have everything perfect.
According to the designer, one of the three main things every home should have is color: “Color on clothing, just like in homes, changes people’s mood, and therefore, I think perhaps everyone should be a little bit bolder with their color choice,” he says. “A lot of people get anxious around color, but you can always change it if you don’t like it.”
At home, Williamson likes to pile books and color-coordinate the spines to create pops of color that aren’t permanent: “It’s so easy to change. You can think next month, I don’t like that pile of orange books anymore; I’m going to do black and white books—and all of a sudden, with next to no money, you’ve plunked a little teacup of flowers on top and you’ve got an entirely new corner.”
For the color averse, he recommends starting small: “Don’t necessarily paint your walls pink, but maybe paint your doorframes pink. I think that gives a home a unique quality.”
For the designer, lighting is one of the key things to pay attention to at home: “Mood lighting and understanding how you want to feel in the space is so important,” he says. “In a lounge room, for example, you want low light and warm areas where you’re comfortable, whereas in an office space, you need bright light and sunlight.”
Williamson doesn’t really believe in design rules, either in fashion or at home. When designing, he likes to go with his intuition: “The main concern to me is Does it make my heart stop?” he says. “No one needs an extra pillow or an extra side table I don’t think. Objects have to tick the emotion box—so I just try to create whimsy pieces that are optimistic and have a sense of fun.”
When asked how to mix prints and patterns at home, the designer had an invaluable tip inspired by his fashion training: “A good guide in fashion, when people are afraid of prints, is to stick to three colors,” says Williamson. “That often is a good rule of thumb that you can translate into the home as well. If you stick to three colors, you could have any kind of pattern because there would be harmony within the palette.”
To achieve this, he suggests picking three colors, sticking them on the wall of the room you’re designing, and not diverting from the palette: “Then you’ll stick within a certain scheme—whether it’s graphic or floral or abstract.”
One of the designer’s favorite pieces is the blue-black nesting table. “There’s a cute side table that has three burnished gold legs that look a little like bamboo shoots, and the top of the table is cast in a glossy blue resin. I love the organic shape,” he says.
Williamson also praises the table’s versatility: “It’s actually got unscrewable legs, so as we speak, I’ve packed [it] in my suitcase, believe it or not. It’s on its way to my house in New York.”
“I also love the sofa; it’s probably the biggest item,” says Williamson. “I love the pared-back design. I think it’s quite a classic shape that will endure the test of time.”
For the print, the designer used one of his fashion print and changed the colorways to make it more subdued: “I changed the colorway to teal to make it more monochrome. The original pattern is very highly colored, so I changed it to make it a sofa that you could have for many many years. I think that would be a great piece for loft apartments or townhouses or holiday homes. It’s got quite a broad use.”