The hus­band-and-wife de­sign duo on in­vest­ment pieces and de­sign­ing homes to be gen­uinely lived in

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The hus­band-and-wife duo be­hind the Staffan Toll­gård stu­dio on see­ing your home in a new light and how to be bold without ever be­ing brash

Staffan and Monique Toll­gård first met while work­ing on a film set – Staffan as first as­sis­tant di­rec­tor, Monique as an ac­tress, be­fore both de­cided to re­train in in­te­rior de­sign. Es­tab­lish­ing Staffan Toll­gård in 2005, they now op­er­ate out of a stun­ning de­sign store-meets-stu­dio space in Lon­don’s Pim­lico, work­ing on large-scale do­mes­tic ren­o­va­tions in the city as well as fur­ther afield in Switzer­land and Cal­i­for­nia. Along­side Staffan’s own de­signs, the com­pany rep­re­sents brands such as Finn Juhl, Bocci, Porro and Mood. Here, Swedish-born Staffan shares his style se­crets…

How did you get started in in­te­rior de­sign?

After com­plet­ing a post-grad de­gree in in­te­rior de­sign at Lon­don’s Inch­bald School of De­sign, I worked for a year at ar­chi­tect/de­signer Rabih Hage’s stu­dio be­fore set­ting up on my own in 2005 with a house ren­o­va­tion in Chelsea. Monique then left her job in TV pro­duc­tion to do a shorter course at the Inch­bald, join­ing me as a ju­nior in­te­rior de­signer ten years ago.

De­scribe your sig­na­ture style.

It’s bold without be­ing brash, clean but not min­i­mal, rich in tex­ture or colour, but often not both. I don’t like de­sign that

shouts at you – it’s okay for a res­tau­rant or ho­tel to turn up the vol­ume, but at home, it gets tired quickly. I like the homes we de­sign to feel calm and tidy, but gen­uinely lived in.

Tell us about your de­sign process…

I start with what I call a ‘red thread’ – like lay­ing a trail of bread­crumbs through a de­sign, it pro­vides a frame­work for each new project so I stay on track. I look for some­thing im­por­tant to the client – maybe an heir­loom, a piece of art they can’t live without, a col­lec­tion of ob­jects amassed over time, or even the lo­ca­tion of the house (maybe it’s the view or the history of the build­ing) – and use this as the start of the story. It re­ally helps be­cause there

are so many great ideas and sup­pli­ers to choose from, it can be­come con­fus­ing, so I hold up each new idea against the ‘red thread’ to see if it adds to the story. If it does, I draw it in; if it doesn’t, I let it go.

How could read­ers find their ‘red thread’?

Ask friends how they feel when they visit your home – what story are you telling with the colours, ob­jects and fur­ni­ture you use, how do you like to en­ter­tain, are you a lit­tle chaotic or or­gan­ised? We can be­come a bit blind to things we see ev­ery day, so friends will see things you’ll not know about your­self.

How do you de­vise a colour pal­ette?

We choose one or two pat­terned fab­rics (maybe for cush­ions), or look to a rug or piece of art and then draw out a colour link from that – up­hol­ster­ing an arm­chair or stool in a bold block of colour makes a great con­trast to nat­u­ral ma­te­ri­als, such as wood, stone and leather.

What’s worth in­vest­ing in?

Look at the big pic­ture to work out what’s most im­por­tant and spend ac­cord­ingly – if you spend too much on one thing, you have to com­pro­mise on ev­ery­thing else. For ex­am­ple, work with a rea­son­ably priced, pared-back kitchen and spend money on what’s at eye level, such as a re­ally beau­ti­ful stone splash­back. Go­ing to a stone yard to pick your own slab is like choos­ing a paint­ing. It will make the kitchen per­sonal, but it’s prac­ti­cal too.

Any favourite de­sign tricks?

I like wall cladding – it’s both sound-ab­sorbent and lends tex­ture without need­ing to use lots of colour. It works on the front doors of fur­ni­ture too. I like Éli­tis wallpapers and De Castelli pro­duces great me­tal for walls. I’ve re­cently been play­ing with leather tiles from Alphen­berg Leather – the com­pany brushes, colours and then backs real hides to make the tiles all the same thick­ness be­fore laser-cut­ting them into per­fect tiles.

What’s your idea of lux­ury?

Pieces made with great crafts­man­ship – like Mark Al­brecht’s

steel chairs (he’s a for­mer sculp­tor and they’re the per­fect mar­riage of func­tion and form). I’m as drawn to the ma­te­rial as I am to how many man-hours it takes to make them.

What’s in­spir­ing you right now?

The time­less lines and qual­ity ma­te­ri­als of mid-cen­tury de­sign – I like how a Finn Juhl Chief­tains arm­chair still tells a unique story in a mod­ern set­ting. The so­phis­ti­cated cool­ness of Milo Baugh­man’s de­signs are be­ing brought back into pro­duc­tion by Thayer Cog­gin and still made ex­actly the same way they were 50 years ago. An­gelo Man­gia­rotti’s stone ta­bles are like func­tional sculp­tures, while Ap­pa­ra­tus uses vin­tage light­ing com­po­nents in beau­ti­ful ma­te­ri­als, in­clud­ing me­tal, leather, glass and mar­ble. We are big fans.

What are your cur­rent projects?

We’re work­ing on some fam­ily homes in Jor­dan and the Al­garve, mix­ing old with new, and a bold project in Riyadh with very few in­ter­nal doors and views through the house, which is quite counter-cul­tural there. I’m also in­volved in a cap­sule fur­ni­ture col­lec­tion, com­bin­ing solid wood with a very 21st-cen­tury aes­thetic for an Ital­ian man­u­fac­turer, and light­ing for Con­tardi.

Is there a space you dream of de­sign­ing?

Monique and I are both crazy keen skiers, so a chalet some­where very re­mote would be a dream project for us. It would be a true es­cape to the wilder­ness with a real con­nec­tion to the en­vi­ron­ment – I’d use lo­cal, rus­tic ma­te­ri­als with leather and me­tal (the op­po­site to the ski chalets made from the wall-to-wall-to-floor pine that I grew up with), but worked in a very con­tem­po­rary, min­i­mal way, with tall glass doors open­ing out to the el­e­ments.

When do you throw out the rule book?

Why does the sec­ond best room in the house have to be the spare bed­room? How often do peo­ple use it? It’s such a waste – work out the ‘heat map’ of where you re­ally spend time in your home, wire rooms for re­sale and then be self­ish. Turn that spare bed­room into a walk-in wardrobe, don’t put the study in the worst room so you end up on the sofa with your lap­top in­stead. En­joy your home as you want to live now – you’re al­lowed to dream a lit­tle.

For more in­for­ma­tion, check out toll­

CLOCK­WISE FROM TOP Staffan is a fan of the vin­tage-style lights by New York-based Ap­pa­ra­tus Stu­dio, such as th­ese Lariat etched-glass teardrop sconces, £1,980 each; a fam­ily home in Knights­bridge gets the Staffan Toll­gård treat­ment and is richly lay­ered with an eclec­tic art col­lec­tion; Staffan is in­spired by time­less mid-cen­tury de­signs, in­clud­ing this T-back chair, £2,700, by

Milo Baugh­man for Thayer Cog­gin, avail­able at the Staffan Toll­gård De­sign Store

Words / Fiona Mccarthy

CLOCK­WISE FROM THIS PIC­TURE One of Staffan’s top tricks is to use wall cladding, such as th­ese ex­quis­ite me­tal fin­ishes by De Castelli, to add tex­ture; his scheme for a kitchen in Bel­gravia in­cluded a sleek gran­ite break­fast bar from Eg­gers­mann; and the grav­ity-de­fy­ing mar­ble Ec­cen­trico table, £3,132, by An­gelo Man­gia­rotti for Agapecasa, avail­able at the Staffan Toll­gård De­sign Store – a Staffan favourite

CLOCK­WISE FROM LEFT Staffan’s style – ‘bold without be­ing brash’ – is epit­o­mised by this Os­car side­board, from £11,250, Gior­getti, and No Ti­tle 2 (port­fo­lio with four lith­o­graphs) by Mark Fran­cis, £4,500 un­framed, all avail­able at the Staffan Toll­gård De­sign Store; Staffan Toll­gård’s vivid re­design for a home in Bayswa­ter with stand­out sculp­ture; Finn Juhl, one of Staffan’s he­roes, de­signed the Poet sofa, £6,675, avail­able at the Staffan Toll­gård De­sign Store


The light-filled Staffan Toll­gård show­room at Grosvenor Water­side in Chelsea, Lon­don; and the shim­mer­ing iron and cop­per Yoroi con­sole table, £13,964, De Castelli, avail­able at the Staffan Toll­gård De­sign Store

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