Founded a decade ago, high-end international interior design studio, Designed by Woulfe, brings a fresh approach to interior design.

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.”

Brian Woulfe designs

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 Woulfe designs

Worldwide inspiration
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!”

Brian Woulfe designs

Time in Thailand
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 Woulfe designs

A contemporary period home…
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 Woulfe designs

Success secrets
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.”

Brian Woulfe designs

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.”

Top tips for instant luxury
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 opulent materials like velvet and suede.”

“Visualise! Don’t just design. Become your client. Visualise what it will be like to cook in their kitchen, how far is the sink from the oven? Is the ensuite’s light switch easy to find in the dark…? These are all things that will lead to a truly liveable space.”

Brian Woulfe designs

Captured on camera 
Alongside designing, Brian also specialises in architectural and interiors photography. “There’s no point spending months on a project to then see it reproduced by an iPhone camera by an amateur photographer. For my own promotion, good interior photography is paramount. For my clients, too, there’s an increasing desire for skilled photography of their houses, whether it be for commercial reasons or a keepsake, as a memory of a project or renovation.”

White House aspirations
What’s next for Designed by Woulfe? “Expanding my portfolio in the US and prime residential locations in the UK.” 

Brian’s dream assignment? “The White House. Based on what I’ve seen on Netflix, the décor definitely needs an update!”

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