One of Chelsea’s coolest interior design stores has opened in the Bluebird Garage on King’s Road. Timothy Oulton’s new flagship store offers a mix of everything from spaceships to sofas and model trains to Louis Vuitton trunks. The swinging Sixties has returned to one the capital’s most fashionable streets. Here, Tim talks to us about his life, inspirations and more than 40 galleries worldwide.
Q: How did you get started in the world of interior design?
A: My dad had a small antiques shop near Manchester in England, and when I left boarding school I went to work with him. About three months in, I just got obsessed. I loved the way the things were made – the British craftsmanship. I was restoring antique furniture for many years, that’s when I learnt everything about craftsmanship and materials, and I loved antiques but there was no creative process there. I wanted to build a business, to contribute, to have an impact on people’s lives, that’s when I decided to focus on furniture and interiors. We opened the first Timothy Oulton gallery in 2008 in Los Angeles and we now have over 40 galleries worldwide.
Q: If you were stranded on a desert island, what three things would you take with you?
A: My Bose speaker because I love my music, maybe a piano because I’d like to learn how to play – I’d have plenty of time! And then probably a lighter, I’m not sure I could make a fire caveman style.
Q: Which luxury interior design project are you most proud of?
A: I’m proud of them all, but 1880 in Singapore was our biggest, we designed all 22,000 square feet of it. We wanted to upend the traditional old-style members’ club and create somewhere to spark imagination and encourage unplanned conversations and collisions. The experience is always the most important thing to me, whether we’re designing a piece of furniture or an entire space like 1880. Luxury is not about things, it’s about experiences, meaning and connection, and that’s what we always focus on.
Q: Any interior design tips to help sell your home faster?
A: Pay attention to the entrance space, creating a strong first impression can make all the difference. If you have space, a statement chandelier makes a dramatic impact when people enter.
Q: Where is your favourite street in London?
A: It’s got to be the King’s Road, it’s just so iconic. It’s borne witness to so much of London’s rich legacy of innovation, modern culture and design, and it still has that pull. Chelsea has a very close-knit neighbourly feel, and we want to become an integral part of the community here. We hope people will see our new flagship at Bluebird as not only a great furniture destination but also a place to host and connect with people, whether it’s at our regular events or as a unique backdrop to host your own party.
Q: What is the most unusual piece of furniture you have designed?
A: There are a few! We’ve recently begun working with rock crystal, it’s millions of years old. We’ve used it in tables, mirrors and lighting, every crystal is polished by hand, and then individually applied – it takes days to make these pieces. Materials are often the starting point for us when it comes to designing, the shape comes later. Rock crystal is a beautiful, authentic material, the ancient Japanese called it ‘breath of white dragon’ and the Aboriginals believed it was ‘frozen rain’.
We also made a spaceship called Apollo for the Milan Furniture Fair this year, it’s clad in metal with a hand-tufted leather interior. It’s now in our flagship at Bluebird, so you can come and have a glass of champagne and sit in the spaceship – I don’t know any other furniture store you can do that in!
Q: Tell us about your new shop on King’s Road? What were your inspirations?
A: We’d been looking for an iconic London landmark for our flagship for a long time, and when the opportunity at Bluebird came up, we knew it was the perfect place. It’s a distillation of everything we stand for – heritage, creativity, innovation, hosting…all under one roof. We’ve got our most iconic furniture designs alongside some rare vintage pieces like the Louis Vuitton trunks, we’ve got a giant yellow submarine submerged in a fish tank, a giant glowing rock crystal, our own spaceship…it’s certainly not your usual furniture store.
Q: If you could go back in time – which year would you choose?
A: I’d have loved to have been a teenager in the 60s when The Beatles and The Rolling Stones were in full force. It was such an important time of social change, and a very creative period that started to champion non-conformity. Maybe I was born a little too late!
Q: Can you name three autumn/winter design trends to look out for in 2018?
A: People are gravitating more to layered textures over the minimal Scandinavian look which has been going for a while. I don’t believe in ‘less is more’, once you’re free of the constraints of a minimalist approach you can be bolder.
I also think that in this virtualised and digitalised world we live in, there is a growing feeling that we really need to reconnect – either with yourself or with others, and your interior can certainly play a part in this. Whether it’s down time or entertaining, it’s about engaging the senses and feeling alive. That’s an energy that we try to embody in all our products.
Q: And three terrible interior design trends to drop this year?
A: I was never really a fan of millennial pink, but I think in general, style should always be a personal reflection of who you are, rather than following trends which are very temporary. Things constantly shift, and everyone’s taste is different, so if you love something, then don’t worry about the latest trend or what anyone else thinks.
Q: What is the biggest challenge you have overcome in your career?
A: I like a challenge, that’s how you grow and learn. One of the biggest learning curves for us was when we opened our restaurant, Gough’s on Gough, in Hong Kong. Going into the F&B industry was something completely new, but hosting is something I’ve always been passionate about and I’d dreamed of opening a restaurant for a long time. I’m immensely proud of it, we have an amazing team there. I wanted it to be a feast for the senses, somewhere for the perfect romantic night out, and I think we’ve stayed true to that.
Q: What is the most important room in the house for you?
A: The living room, I think it’s the heart of the modern home. It’s where you relax as a family, it’s also where you entertain friends, it’s the epicentre of connection in a home.
Q: Which room in the house will add the most value if designed well?
A: People always talk about the kitchen but the living room so important to get right because that’s where people spend most of their time, it needs to be really inviting and special. Also, creating a great dining space – a backdrop to memorable nights round the table, we all want our homes to be somewhere to share great experiences with those we love.
Q: And finally, what advice would you give to an inspiring interior designer?
A: The tradeshows are a good place to start, they’re a great way of connecting with other designers and getting a feel for what’s out there. The biggest thing is finding your own identity, you need to find something that sets you apart from the rest, and stay true to that. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes and take risks, if something doesn’t work you have to dust yourself down and ask what’s next.
FIND OUT MORE
Visit Timothy Oulton (www.timothyoulton.com) at Bluebird, 350 King’s Road, Chelsea, London SW3 5UU, or discover inspiration for your home on the Timothy Oulton Instagram page: