from de­signed by Woulfe

Upscale Living Magazine - - Features - | By An­gela Sara West

Founder and Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor, Brian Woulfe, chats to An­gela Sara West about how his mu­sic and wan­der­lust have in­spired his work, emerg­ing de­sign trends, how to add in­stant lux­ury to your home and how he has de­signs on the White House!

Brian Woulfe has his mum to thank for his early in­ter­est in in­te­rior de­sign. “I’ve al­ways been in­ter­ested in the way things look at a very in­stinc­tual level, and was lucky to have a mother who was into dec­o­rat­ing. I be­lieve these two el­e­ments of my life col­lided and helped take my in­ter­ests to a pro­fes­sional level.”

Hav­ing kicked off his ca­reer as a con­cert pi­anist, win­ning sev­eral awards for his phe­nom­e­nal per­for­mances, Brian’s back­ground in clas­si­cal mu­sic’s played a big part in his de­sign work. “The skills I learned in my pre­vi­ous pro­fes­sion have stuck with me to­day as an in­te­rior de­signer. The dis­ci­pline, fo­cus and pa­tience re­quired for both ca­reers over­lap sig­nif­i­cantly.”

In the de­sign in­dus­try, the days can be long, and Brian says it’s im­por­tant to re­main fo­cused and pas­sion­ate. “Even if it’s 3am, and you’re on site mak­ing changes to light­ing scenes to get the mood in each room right for the clients be­fore they move in.”

All about life­style… and stylish play­ful­ness

With his “stylish but live­able” sig­na­ture style, the spir­ited de­signer en­joys ex­plor­ing new ma­te­ri­als, light­ing and wall colours, and loves in­ject­ing a lit­tle play­ful­ness into a home. “How­ever, ul­ti­mately the space has to be lived in. I’m a very re­laxed per­son and feel at my most com­fort­able in jeans and a T-shirt. A home has to work as a home.”

With his motto “Noth­ing less than life­style per­fec­tion”, as his de­sign phi­los­o­phy sug­gests, Brian is all about life­style. “The first thing I do is get to know and un­der­stand the life­style of my client. Only by do­ing this can you achieve per­fec­tion with

the de­sign of their in­te­ri­ors. Each client’s life­style is dif­fer­ent, but every project should end with them hav­ing that same feel­ing that the space works. They can live their life as they choose in their space.”

With each project bring­ing new chal­lenges, Brian’s busi­ness is al­ways ex­cit­ing. “Even if it’s the sec­ond time work­ing for the same client, the prop­erty and its re­quire­ments are dif­fer­ent. Work­ing to listed prop­er­ties’ strict build­ing reg­u­la­tions is a com­mon chal­lenge.”


Brian draws in­spi­ra­tion from nu­mer­ous de­sign­ers, crafts­men and artists. “I like peo­ple who aren’t afraid to take risks, but do not com­pro­mise on qual­ity at any stage in the de­sign process. Ken Bolan, col­lec­tor and founder of Tal­is­man Lon­don (a go-to em­po­rium for those in search of ex­cep­tional de­sign from the last three cen­turies) has be­come a re­cent source of in­spi­ra­tion.”

His favourite fairs and trade shows? “I try to at­tend as many as I can here in the UK and be­yond. They’re a fan­tas­tic source of in­spi­ra­tion and a way to be in­spired by many de­sign­ers in one hit! Lon­don is awash with amaz­ing de­sign… I love head­ing down to the Chelsea De­sign Cen­tre to catch up with sup­pli­ers. If I’m look­ing for some­thing spe­cific, I may go straight to the stores, but oth­er­wise big fairs like

MAISON&OBJET, 100% De­sign and Salone del Mo­bile. Mi­lano are great.”

Brian’s de­signs are also in­flu­enced by his pro­lific trav­els. “From the colours found in places like Morocco and In­dia, to the crisp, mod­ern lines in Scan­di­na­vian in­te­ri­ors… It’s easy to be in­spired when so much of the world is so beau­ti­ful!”


Hav­ing spot­ted a niche to fill over­seas, Brian now boasts a wide global port­fo­lio, pro­vid­ing him with an ex­ten­sive in­sight into vary­ing in­te­rior styles. “West­ern ex-pats were look­ing to em­ploy an in­te­rior de­signer who could un­der­stand and ex­e­cute their Bri­tish or Euro­pean style in places like the US, Aus­tralia and South-East Asia. I was pre­pared to travel and spend lots of time abroad, and this wan­der­lust worked in my favour.”

From lux­ury vil­las to lead­ing ho­tels, a favourite project was an ex­clu­sive Thai prop­erty. “A labour of love for over three years, on a scale like noth­ing be­fore, the prop­erty is breath­tak­ing. Both the project and client hold a spe­cial place in my mem­ory.”

Brian took a lot away from his time liv­ing in Thai­land. “Most im­por­tantly, the need for di­ver­sity within every space. When I first started liv­ing there, ev­ery­thing in in­te­rior de­sign was very East­ern. I wanted to in­ject some of the west­ern aes­thetic, with­out los­ing the na­tional taste in in­te­ri­ors.”


Brian re­cently col­lab­o­rated with award-win­ning fur­ni­ture de­signer, Tom Faulkner. “I find Tom’s work an in­valu­able source of in­spi­ra­tion. He’s hugely tal­ented and brings a breath of fresh air to an in­te­rior scheme. The qual­ity of his crafts­man­ship is su­perb!”

Us­ing tra­di­tional meth­ods, Tom cre­ates a mod­ern look with his beau­ti­ful pieces. “This project was a com­plete ren­o­va­tion of an Ed­war­dian prop­erty and my first thought was in­cor­po­rat­ing Tom’s work. His mod­ern aes­thetic’s not purely suited to the mod­ern in­te­rior, and his clean lines and mix of ma­te­ri­als work so well in the pe­riod home.”


Brian’s client list in­cludes fa­mous faces in­clud­ing BBC pre­sen­ter, Jeremy Vine. What gives him the edge over his com­peti­tors? “My goal is sim­ple; to please the client and com­plete a project to my stan­dards. I have a strong back­bone, so my stan­dards act as a sound­ing board for clients. As the pro­fes­sional, the de­signer’s hired for a rea­son, and should know when to ad­vise or push back on a client when there’s a bet­ter al­ter­na­tive.”

“Of course, I’m also a joy to work with, youth­ful and ex­tremely hand­some!”

The best bit for Brian? “The smiles… That feel­ing of joy when you know you’ve done a good job and your client’s vis­i­bly thrilled.”

He says de­sign will al­ways evolve. “That’s the ex­cit­ing thing about be­ing a de­signer. You have to keep ahead of the curve. The growth of so­cial me­dia and the In­ter­net means clients are much more aware of de­sign and, there­fore, more dis­cern­ing. In the fu­ture, de­sign­ers will have to be more ver­sa­tile in their ap­proach to con­tinue to meet their clients’ ex­pec­ta­tions.”

The “Os­cars” of the in­te­rior de­sign in­dus­try

2017 saw Brian fea­tured in the an­nual An­drew Martin In­te­rior De­sign Re­view, a list of the world’s top 100 de­sign­ers. “It was an ab­so­lute hon­our and priv­i­lege to be short­listed for the 21st An­drew Martin In­ter­na­tional De­signer of the Year Award. To have been in­cluded in such a pres­ti­gious and ever­last­ing record of such an or­ganic and ex­cit­ing in­dus­try feels in­cred­i­ble! Styles will change and trends will vary… To be recog­nised in this wave of lead­ing in­te­rior de­sign an­chors the work of my de­sign stu­dio in the con­text of con­tem­po­rary ex­cel­lence.”


So, how can we add in­stant lux­ury to an in­te­rior? “In my opin­ion, it’s got to be through light­ing and good ma­te­rial choices. A prop­erly-lit room, where the light bounces off its sur­faces, like a leather chair or a textured bronze table, makes all the dif­fer­ence.”

As for trends… “Mil­len­nial pink isn’t go­ing away… mix this with strong mid-cen­tury mod­ern de­sign sil­hou­ettes and a cock­tail lounge aes­thetic and you’ll have the home of 2018. Jewel tones and rich colours will be big, too, in

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