Holistic Harmony


Working across an exclusive portfolio of some of the world’s finest residential projects, Oliver Burns Design Studio is all about superlative living. Chrissy Errikson gleans some optimum style pointers from company founding partner, Sharon Lillywhite 

 When was Oliver Burns founded?

The company was set up in 2004. Our first ever project was the full design and restoration of a listed Georgian country house. The building was derelict and parts of it had burned down, so this was a real labour of love for us. Restoring this home to its former glory won us our first civic award for the sensitive restoration of a Georgian landmark building. Since then, our studio has flourished into a multi-disciplinary practice, where we are proud to have built a talented and passionate team.

 How would you define Oliver Burns’ signature style?

As a studio, we do not have a set ‘house style’ as each client is unique. We work across all genres, from a contemporary country house with a mid-century modern aesthetic, through to a glasshouse overlooking the countryside. We tend to reference classic contemporary as we work in so many listed buildings. We find our clients are often looking for a modern twist on a classical style. We are also very well known for our ‘super-styling’. This requires curating every last detail, from objet to artwork, to ensure the design narrative is thoughtfully weaved throughout the entire scheme.

 Your approach to design embraces ‘thoughtful luxury’ – can you elaborate on this?

 ‘Thoughtful Luxury’ is a concept that lies at the heart of Oliver Burns. We strongly believe that luxury design should go beyond what is just beautiful in order to reflect deeper values and meaning. We do this by adding thoughtfully layered details, which we create with our trusted artisans and craftsmen. We also practice thoughtful luxury through the unique understanding we have of our discerning clients, which we deliver through our vision of client care.

How do you approach a client’s brief?

 We begin by interrogating the brief to make sure we have a full understanding of how the client is planning to use the space. We look at the building, its history, architecture and location and this all helps to inform the context of the overall design. Every building has a story to tell, and we use this to build a narrative that we can weave throughout the scheme. Space planning is also crucial, and the needs will be different depending on if we are working for a luxury brand, developer or private client.

 What colours and patterns are currently inspiring your designs?

A key trend at the moment is wellness and biophilic design, which draws on nature to help us reconnect to the outside world. A beautiful example is the de Gournay Willow wallpaper that forms a stunning backdrop in our Belgravia Townhouse dining room. Hand-painted on silk wallpaper, this is a lovely way to bring the outside in. We are also getting inspiration from Pantone’s Colour of the Year ‘Ultimate Gray’ and ‘Illuminating’. We love the combination of this muted neutral combined with a joyous yellow.

 What projects are you working on at the moment?

We are currently working on two residences in Belgravia, a project on the Bishop’s Avenue, as well as a contemporary country house in Essex for a lovely client and their young family. Alongside that, we have a few more projects in the pipeline that we can’t share at the moment, but which we are all very excited as a team to be working on over the next few months.

How has interior design evolved over the last 20 years?

 Platforms like Instagram and Pinterest have seen interior design become increasingly digitalised. They are great tools for helping our clients visualise a project, as well as making design more accessible and democratised. The advance of technology has also had a huge impact on interior design, especially at the top end of the market. The rise of the smart home, which now features touchless tech as a standard, shows the importance of a future-proofed home that is both beautiful and functional. We are also seeing wellness and distinct spaces for his and her become top priorities for our clients.

 What’s your advice for reconfiguring a home post-lockdown?

 We are seeing a clear distinction between pre and post-pandemic design, which highlights what is most important to our clients. For instance, a greater portion of the overall budget is now being lavished on home offices due to remote working becoming the norm, which before would have been viewed as a secondary or even tertiary area. We would recommend making sure whatever you choose to go in your home is fully future-proofed as we spend more time indoors than ever before, so it will be used and loved for many years to come.

 You’ve signed up for the Walpole British Luxury Sustainability manifesto – can you tell us a bit about it?

 By starting from within, we hope to play a key role in changing people’s perception of what is sustainable and making it something aspirational. We are beginning this process by first reducing our own carbon footprint internally. We have a long way to go, but we are starting to talk to our suppliers about their approach to sustainability and we hope that by doing so we can strive to only work with suppliers who reflect our values. We recognise this is a work in progress, but we want luxury to go ultimately hand in hand with sustainability.

 What’s next for Oliver Burns?

 We are just adding the finishing touches to our design studio, which we very recently redesigned to reflect the high level of quality and luxurious finish we are renowned for. We are all excited as a team to hopefully be back working in the studio soon, and getting stuck into what we do best – being creative! We are also working on several projects with a combination of private clients, developers and luxury brands, so watch this space.

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