The de­sign duo on find­ing lux­ury in space and light and break­ing the rules on creat­ing in­te­ri­ors for women

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Since start­ing de­sign stu­dio No.12 in 2015, Katie Earl and Emma Rayner have worked on ev­ery­thing from small apart­ments to vast pent­houses, fe­male-only mem­ber’s club The All­bright in Lon­don’s Fitzrovia to prom­i­nent new res­i­den­tial de­vel­op­ments such as The Gash­old­ers in King’s Cross. Here, they share their de­sign in­spi­ra­tions… How did you get started?

Emma: I have a back­ground in fur­ni­ture de­sign – af­ter study­ing a BA at Kingston Univer­sity, I went to work for a fur­ni­ture de­signer and up­hol­sterer in Bath, learn­ing the ins and outs of both the craft and trade. Katie: I stud­ied in­te­rior ar­chi­tec­ture at Manch­ester Univer­sity. I’d wanted to be an in­te­rior de­signer since I was 12 – ev­ery month, I made my mum take me to B&Q, so I could re­paint and restyle my bed­room. On hol­i­day, I used to take graph pa­per with me, so I could re­or­gan­ise the places we stayed in. I was ob­sessed. Where did you meet?

Emma: We both went from work­ing in a team of 70 at the de­sign stu­dio 1508 Lon­don to a small prac­tice of just eight, in­clud­ing us. It’s where our mu­tual style was re­ally ce­mented

to­gether, but we were work­ing so hard, it made us won­der why we shouldn’t do it for our­selves in­stead.

What was your first big break?

Emma: Join­ing forces with Wilkin­son Eyre to de­sign the in­te­ri­ors of apart­ments at The Gash­old­ers re­ally kick-started the prac­tice. The All­bright club put us on the map.

De­scribe your style?

Emma: As fe­male de­sign­ers, it’s in­her­ently quite mas­cu­line. Katie: It’s funny be­cause peo­ple as­sume the op­po­site – su­per-luxxy, pretty spa­ces. In­stead, it’s al­ways very bold, sim­ple and clean. For ex­am­ple, for The All­bright club – just be­cause it’s for women, didn’t mean it needed to be pink.

What’s your start­ing point?

Katie: The de­sign for each project starts with the build­ing – we dig into its his­tory, who lived there, or for a new build, what hap­pened around the area be­fore it was built. For The All­bright in Fitzrovia, we drew on the art of Vanessa Bell of the Blooms­bury set as a ref­er­ence for colour. It’s never just about what we like – it needs to have more rea­son than that.

De­scribe your de­sign process?

Emma: We don’t be­lieve stylish means more lay­ers, more adorn­ment, more ‘show’. We think the big­gest lux­u­ries are calm, space, light and beauty. We ap­pre­ci­ate when things are made prop­erly. Katie: We like cel­e­brat­ing the de­tail: the beau­ti­ful weave within a fab­ric, the way join­ery in­ter­locks on a piece of cabi­netry. We strip it all back – we like prov­ing that sim­plic­ity can be as much of a state­ment as adorn­ment.

What pieces are you drawn to?

Emma: It isn’t about the era or her­itage, it’s about the feel­ing one piece gives off when sit­ting next to an­other piece. We

hap­pily mix old and new, but never with too much of the same ma­te­rial – it un­bal­ances the mood of a room.

What’s your colour pal­ette?

Emma: We like very rich, de­sat­u­rated tones in green, blue, mus­tard, black, white and grey, warm not cold. Katie: We use red quite a lot too, but never in a tele­phone or post-box red – it would be a claret or bur­gundy be­cause it’s richer, deeper and stronger.

How do you de­cide on the pieces for a room?

Katie: We print out pic­tures of ev­ery piece we’d like to use and group them to­gether by room – we never look at each piece on its own – and then lay all the rooms out to see how it feels as a whole. You don’t want to walk into one room with a mid-cen­tury Scandi vibe and then walk into an­other that’s all shabby chic. It helps dis­cern which pieces stay and how to achieve con­sis­tency through­out.

What about light­ing?

Emma: Warm white bulbs make a space feel com­fort­able and make peo­ple look good. For bed­rooms, we al­ter­nate light­ing to add a point of dif­fer­ence to the hi­er­ar­chy of rooms – if we use pen­dants in the mas­ter bed­room, we’ll use ta­ble lamps or wall lights in a guest room. In liv­ing rooms, we play with var­ied heights of multi-drop pen­dants, like Jaime Hayon’s For­makami de­signs for &Tra­di­tion, to con­nect higher ceil­ings to fur­ni­ture at lower lev­els.

Is tex­ture im­por­tant?

Emma: We cel­e­brate the qual­ity of ma­te­ri­als – see­ing the grain of a timber, the weave in a linen, the vein of a stone or mar­ble. We use tex­ture rather than colour to keep things as pure as pos­si­ble. Katie: We never use faux ma­te­ri­als, for ex­am­ple, a printed tile to look like stone or a lam­i­nate. Emma: If you love timber, say an ex­otic wenge, but can’t af­ford it, stain a solid wood like oak dark rather than use a lam­i­nate. Rugs are also a great way to bring in added depth – we use Hol­land & Sherry for the in­ter­est­ing tex­tures and mix of ma­te­ri­als like leather, wool and jute.

How else do you lend depth to a room?

Katie: Art­work doesn’t have to just be a framed pho­to­graph or paint­ing – play with pieces like a ta­pes­try (rod­ded and hung or box framed), ce­ram­ics and glass. We also like hang­ing strips of wall­pa­per, like Kelly Wearstler’s Ju­bilee, in place of art­work.

What about if you’re on a bud­get?

Emma: If you can’t af­ford to have lots of one beau­ti­ful ma­te­rial, use a small bit well. We trans­formed Sev­en­ties-style gold bar stools from Out There In­te­ri­ors by re­uphol­ster­ing the seats in a grey vel­vet from Northcroft Fab­rics.

Where do you source favourite pieces?

Katie: We love ebay – what we don’t know about what’s on ebay isn’t worth know­ing. We’ve re­cently been look­ing at pre-mid-cen­tury pieces with in­lay and mar­quetry de­tails. Emma: For some­thing mod­ern, Es­passo’s Dine­maquesa arm­chair by Jorge Zal­szupin never fails to im­press.

What does home mean to you?

Emma: It needs to be an ex­ten­sion of your­self – you have to love ev­ery­thing in it, it doesn’t mat­ter if any­body else likes it.

CLOCK­WISE from Be­low Katie and emma’s de­sign and colour pal­ette for The All­bright club in lon­don’s fitzrovia took in­spi­ra­tion from the Blooms­bury set; in the club’s bar, the pair used this bar stool, £348, from out There in­te­ri­ors, re­uphol­ster­ing its seat in grey vel­vet; and they add tex­ture to rooms us­ing rugs, such as this pasta de­sign by Hol­land & Sherry, £1,627sq m

CLOCK­WISE from RIGHT The duo de­signed this sim­ple, el­e­gant mas­ter bed­room for an apart­ment in lon­don’s fitzrovia; they like to hang strips of wall­pa­per as pieces of art – Kelly Wearstler’s Ju­bilee wall­pa­per in Green/ Gold for lee Jofa at GP&J Baker, £290 for 9m; emma and Katie cre­ated this bold bath­room scheme for a house in St John’s Wood; they of­ten use pen­dant shades, hung low, such as these for­makami lights, from £160, by Jaime Hayon for &Tra­di­tion at SCP, to cre­ate bal­ance in rooms with high ceil­ings; the All­bright club’s glam­orous cock­tail bar; sculp­tural shapes bring an eclectic feel to this so­phis­ti­cated No.12-de­signed re­cep­tion room; and es­passo’s Dine­maquesa arm­chair by Jorge Zal­szupin, from £6,050, is one of the duo’s favourite de­signs

CLOCK­WISE from far left Kelly Wearstler’s Ju­bilee wall­pa­per in Shell/ Gold for lee Jofa at GP&J Baker, £290 for 9m; the pair’s sleek kitchen de­sign is given a mod­ern kick with pat­terned mar­ble; brass roof lanterns lend The All­bright café a con­tem­po­rary feel, while hang­ing planters add green­ery; and Chan­nels pleated wool flan­nel fab­ric in Stone, and Win­ter, £388m, both by Weitzner at Alt­field, one of No.12’s top fab­ric sources


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