From hats and handbags to bedding and bath linen, Orla Kiely’s signature Fifties-inspired leaf motif is everywhere. Her latest collection, House, puts a contemporary twist on mid-century modern.
She lives in Clapham with her husband, Dermott, and their two sons in a four-bedroom Victorian terrace house.
My favourite piece of memorabilia
“Our piano. I bought it when my younger son was small and I can still hear him practising every time I look at it. I love where we live — it is leafy, not too gentrified, a bit frayed around the edges and, best of all, a short walk from my office.”
The Dulwich Picture Gallery (dulwichpicturegallery.org.uk) is the oldest public art gallery in England. It is an oasis of calm. It feels as if you are in the middle of the countryside.
The Barbican (barbican.org.uk) is exceptionally beautiful both in terms of design and intention as public housing. The Geffrye Museum (geffrye-museum.org.uk) of British interiors in Hoxton is a gem and explains and displays interiors through 400 years of design. I love The George Clifford Herbarium at the top of the Natural History Museum (nhm.ac.uk). My ideas often stem from nature and this has a fine collection of worldwide plant specimens.
A typical Saturday
I enjoy breakfast with my family then Dermott and I take the bus to Borough Market and buy delicious food for dinner. We walk to Tate Modern (tate.org.uk) for lunch and an afternoon of inspiration. We both travel a great deal, so we like to stay home and entertain on Saturdays and catch up with friends and family. We have a big kitchen with the sink tucked away behind a wall. That way we can clear everything out of sight.
Top tips for a room makeover
Less is more with interiors. Choose a few strong statement pieces and complement them with bold, simple colour and print accents to completely change the feel of a room.And throw in budget-friendly accessories such as cushions, throws, or a great vase.
My latest project
Orla Kiely House (orlakiely.com). The designs are inspired by mid-century modernism. I love homeware from the Fifties and Sixties so this was a joy for me: furniture, ceramics, rugs, lighting — everything that you need for the home. The key is combining use of space with colour accents and prints.
Who I admire
Alongside designer Lucienne Day, I adore Danish design. Anything by Finn Juhl, such as his Pelican chairs (finnjuhl.com) or Arne Jacobsen (conranshop.co.uk) works for me. It is the marriage of form and function with these designers that I like, they do not try and conceal the practical application of the object. They make function beautiful.
Coveted design object
I would like a bolt of original 1951 Calyx fabric (right) by celebrated textile designer Lucienne Day. She was the first woman that really understood art for the people. This print was designed for Heals (heals.co.uk) and exhibited at the Festival of Britain. No modernist home of the Fifties was complete without it. Small pieces come up at auction so I live in hope that someone surprises me.”
Simone Rocha (simonerocha.com) is a fantastic talent The daughter of designer John Rocha, she comes from Dublin, like me, and finished her design education in London. I love her use of colour.
Best-kept secret shops and exhibitions
The Mid-century Modern Fairs at Dulwich College (modernshows.com) are design heaven for me. The Peanut Vendor (thepeanutvendor.co.uk) in Islington and Modern Warehouse (themodernwarehouse.com) in Hackney are also both excellent shops for this kind of style.
A dream home and restaurant
I’d love to live on the top of the Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre — the building’s design aesthetic suits me and I love watching the sunset from the “wall of windows” of its restaurant, Skylon (skylon-restaurant.co.uk). Architect Leslie Martin was a modernist with real vision.
Orla Kiely’s House pop-up shop is currently at John Lewis, Oxford Street.