Masterpiece Fair London

July 8, 2019

By the time I get this posted, Masterpiece Fair will have come and gone – if you haven’t been, you should definitely plan a visit next year. It is an orgy for the senses where cross-decorating or mixing antiques and contemporary pieces (it was a revelation for me to learn there is a specific name for our approach!), is in vogue. For me personally, it was a breath of fresh air. I felt instantly surrounded by like-minded people – I’m not alone!

One of the talks I went to (which are free, by the way) was about the kings and queens of interior design, people who have been in the game so long that nothing scares them. A Victorian painting above a Fritz Hansen Sofa, why not??? Another talk I went to was hosted by Architectural Digest Decorative Arts Editor Mitch Owens in conversation with Rita König, interior designer and journalist; Tara Bernerd, interior architectural designer; and interior designer Jamie Drake. All four panelists brought different elements of fun to the discussion. It was inspiring to see these successful people talking quite naturally about the normality of making mistakes in interior design. For example, changing the placement of a piece because it doesn’t quite fit or throwing together a room without a plan and it ending up being the best room in the house.

As you know, at Ana Engelhorn Interior Design, we are all about mixing antiques and contemporary pieces to make spaces less heavy. We believe that cross-decorating creates spaces that work perfectly together, creating a delightful effect that makes you smile. A room is supposed to make you feel – one way or the other! – and if you have pieces you love and that create a reaction in you, your ultimate goal is achieved.

Tara Bernerd, who has a lot of experience in hotels, talked about creating the home away from home feel with her creations. She discussed the challenges of creating a layered, eclectic look on budget. Sometimes you have to break the rules and buy something more expensive to help the homely feel along. There is a sense of something cosy and sensual in a homely interior of a hotel. Tara is especially proud when she sees locals coming into hotels she has designed who have their favourite chair or spot.

The talks and event in general supported my belief that the narrative in products you get for your clients is very important. Anything that has a story is 100 times more worthwhile than something which lacks soul. Antiques usually jump this hoop quite easily because of their history, but even contemporary items can have a story. For instance, I recently discovered the Burel Factory, which produces wool and is the sort of high-quality supplier with whom we love working. The old factory had been closed and it was only in 2010 that two mountain explorers, João Tomás and Isabel Costa, rediscovered it. After realising the heritage and cultural value of the space, they decided to revive it and proceeded with the recovery of what has become Burel Factory today.

There were quite a few lessons to be learnt from all the speakers. The core message was not to be afraid, to go with your gut and not copy something that you don’t feel is you, because that’s when mistakes happen! Another great lesson was to mix up the interior in your own home once in a while.  Move the furniture or change the paintings from one place to another. One of their clients, for example, moved paintings every six months because he stopped seeing them.

Tara Bernard also told us that when she works overseas amongst other cultures and designs, she takes her time to get to know the people and to work with what is there. Working with local artisans is also a way to decorate hotels or homes; for example, hanging wicker baskets on the wall instead of paintings.

Art tells the final part of our story and the houses that we decorate are a reflection of ourselves, in part an autobiography. When we have gone through the initial meetings with a client, getting all the necessary information, and then we get our client’s brief right, that’s when we achieve our goal – helping to design our client’s autobiography.