Over the last 20 years, the publication of House & Garden’s Top 100 list has become one of the most eagerly anticipated dates in the industry’s calendar, and the authority on the best and brightest in British design. This year, we were thrilled to sponsor the Designer of the Year category, and now, we’re even more thrilled to reveal the deserving winner: Sibyl Colefax & John Fowler’s Philip Hooper. Patrick O’Donnell caught up with Philip to chat about his win, his influences, and his failsafe recipe for comfortable rooms.
Hi Philip! First things first: how does it feel to be House & Garden Designer of the Year?
Well it came as a surprise I must say. My projects tend to be very complex and take a long time to complete so my output is not particularly high. I jokingly have said that it feels like a long service medal rather than an award for any particular house I have decorated. But ultimately, I am very flattered. I said at the start of my career that what I wanted was respect within our industry – I think this award is that endorsement.
You’re a self-confessed chameleon when it comes to interior styles, but if you had to choose one that particularly informs your work, or repeatedly inspires you, what would it be?
I think architecturally, Lutyens informs my joy of planning and creating the bones of a building. His wit and playfulness, coupled with his love of geometry, is a constant inspiration. He worked over many decades and covered the tail end of Arts and Crafts, which I love, and the grandeur of his ‘Wrenaissance’ period which helps enormously with the grander country houses I design.
Of course, being a chameleon, I am naturally eclectic and look to the European masters of this genre, Henri Samuel and Jacques Grange, and their skill in curating interiors.
“Somewhere to put your feet up, somewhere to put a drink down, and a light to read by – follow this mantra and you should be okay”
Do you have any tips for our readers on how best to approach a new room design?
Think about the genius loci of where you are designing. Try to root at least some of your design ideas in the period of the building or its geographical location. I find it soul destroying seeing interiors that transplant a fantasy of some tropical hotel in Asia into a Georgian terrace.
Ultimately there are three important things to make a room comfortable: somewhere to put your feet up, somewhere to put a drink down, and a light to read by. Follow this mantra and you should be okay.
Are there any Farrow & Ball colours you come back to time and time again in your projects?
I love Hague Blue – one of my favourite colours for a front door. Stony Ground is the perfect shade as an architectural backdrop and to show off architraves and skirting in a paler colour. Mahogany is a great brown for painting doors, too. When the Georgian merchant classes could not afford a polished hardwood door, they often used faux bois or a dark brown to simulate them.
Do you have a favourite unexpected way to use colour or finish in your designs?
I like using colour graphically – dark skirting to anchor the room, pops of colour behind bookcases and cabinets, and of course don’t forget ceilings. Nothing adds drama like a decorated ceiling in an unexpected shade.
What has been your most memorable project to date?
A private house in the highlands of Scotland. The light, clear and clean, was a challenge for getting the colours right – anything chosen in London just looked dirty. I learnt a lot from that. But the finished result showed the perfect symbiotic relationship between client and designer, where everything was considered, playful and surprising.
PHILIP’S FARROW & BALL FAVOURITES
About Philip Hooper
Upon graduating from Canterbury College of Art with a degree in architecture, Philip Hooper worked for John Stefanidis Ltd, where he was the principal designer on a number of large-scale projects. After setting up his own practice, concentrating on projects with a strong architectural emphasis, Philip joined Sibyl Colefax & John Fowler in 2001.
His career has taken him all over the world with high profile work in the United Kingdom, the United States and the Caribbean, and his projects feature prominently in magazines and international interior design.