It’s no surprise to find that Fiona Collier is a fan of design classics. She runs her own commercial design company and knows a good thing when she sees it. The founder of Boston Spa-based Blue Sky Design Interiors, she and her team specialise in creating state-of-the-art offices that look and feel good, though they also take on one-off commissions and are currently involved in a refurbishment of Kendal Town Hall.
The furniture, fixtures and fittings she chooses for her work on commercial premises must be good looking, robust and well-made as they need to stand the test of time, along with the odd Basil Fawlty-style meltdown driven by computer malfunction and irritation overload.
Fiona takes the same approach when fitting out her own home, though she says: “Residential interior design and commercial design are very different. We still have to meet client aspirations but there are many more elements to consider with commercial design, including complex installation of mechanical and electrical systems. The budgets we work with are also much bigger and several have run into millions of pounds.”
While many offices and other business premises are increasingly attractive compared with days gone by when style was rarely a consideration, the pandemic has brought more positive changes. “Break-out areas with a good coffee offering were already popular but they are now seen as a must,” says Fiona. “There is also more emphasis on comfort and softness and we are seeing the use of curtains as temporary dividers. They give that softer look and help with acoustics.
“Shelves are also being used as dividers and they give a more domestic feel to the space as does the use of wood furniture with a mid-century look, which is also popular and gives a slight residential feel.”
Biophilia is a trend that spans both commercial and interior design, though in offices, the latest trend is for plants in macramé holders hung from a gantry. In general, says Fiona, it’s a case of never the twain shall meet. “It rarely works. I tried using commercial carpeting in my house because it is very hard-wearing but it just didn’t look right, just as furniture made for homes doesn’t look right in an office.”
Her own home is a terrace house in the fashionable Cold Bath Road area of Harrogate. She bought it in 2015 and has put her own stamp on the property, installing a new kitchen and wood-burning stove while refurbishing every room. One blessing was the reclaimed wood flooring. The beech floorboards downstairs came from an old gym and the maple flooring upstairs was from a squash court.
“They needed some work to make them look their best but they are really good quality and very hard-wearing,” says Fiona, who is also thankful for the vertical radiators she inherited with the property. “They are very efficient and, as you can’t hang washing on them, they have got me out of that bad habit. I’d never go back to normal radiators now.” Her top tip is to invest in a Dry:Soon electric clothes airer from Lakeland and adds: “It’s my favourite household gadget.”
The decor reflects her love of blue and the walls are a combination of soft whites and Farrow & Ball blues, including the inky Stiffkey, named after the Norfolk beach where the mud, along with the cockles, share a deep navy hue.
Furniture, as mentioned, is a mix of design classics, vintage pieces and new buys. One of her favourite pieces is the glass-topped Noguchi table designed by Japanese-American artist and designer Isamu Noguchi and first manufactured by Herman Miller in 1947. “I love it, especially the legs, which aren’t fixed, so you can move them. It’s an authentic piece. I’d rather save and buy something of real quality than buy a cheap copy,” says Fiona, who also collects vintage Ercol, mainly via eBay, which is where the dining room chairs are from.
Another great love is beautiful Boeme fabric. The small business is run by Fiona’s friend Jo Bound and every Boeme design begins as an original artwork by Jo. The sitting room features curtains in Boeme’s Tempest Mineral, while the first-floor games room/office features Tanuki Porcelain fabric.
Collections have emerged organically including a blue glass display in the sitting room, which started with a Whitefriars bark vase. “That was £120 and started when I went to a vintage fair. The stallholder told me all about the history of Whitefriars and it got me interested,” says Fiona. “I’ve added another piece of Whitefriars and some Murano, which are also investment pieces that should hold their value.
“I don’t like buying knick-knacks. I’d rather buy something designed and made in a considered way, something with meaning.” She also has some Royal Copenhagen ceramics and a collection of vintage German Scheurich vases.
The guest room houses shelves of much- loved pieces of pottery by Clarice Cliff and others, mostly from the 1930s, and they look sensational against a wall painted in Farrow & Ball’s Downpipe.
Fiona’s pictures too have meaning. Many are by her son, others are by her friend Andy Moody and there are two paintings of the sea in Northumberland, which is her “happy place”, where she and her family like to holiday.
Top of her wish list is an Arne Jacobsen egg chair. “Again, it would have to be the real thing manufactured by Fritz Hansen,” she says. “I hate rip-offs because they are worthless and copying like that is wrong.” www.blueskydesigninteriors.co.uk
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