Material Differences


A 20-year career on the catwalks and photo shoots of the international modelling world may not sound like an obvious backdrop from which to launch a successful interior design service and furniture brand.

But Atesh Salih – a former Face of Giorgio Armani, and familiar presence among the fashion pages of Vogue, Harpers & Queen and practically every other glossy style mag you can think of – always harboured distinctly less glamorous ambitions to roll his sleeves up and become a designer. To that end, during his years as a model he also renovated several houses and trained formally as a designer to hone his skills as a draughtsman.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, though, his years as a top male model were instrumental in shaping the diversity of ideas he brings to his clients’ homes. In part, he explains, it’s a reflection of the hothouse of creativity that is the fashion world. Fashion designers have to be more endlessly inventive than interior designers because of the pace of new ideas required, and he sucked up those ideas. ‘We take inspiration from construction, the use of colour, the detailing used in fashion – they all play a part,’ he says.

But his global travels also brought him into contact with the materials, styles and craft traditions of cultures all over the world, and he picked up a diverse collection of antiques and other ethnic pieces, as well as inspirations and contacts, along the way.

Those influences are subtly evident in the new range of furniture recently launched under the brand name Lampert & Harper by Atesh and his business partner Matthew Daines, who has more than 18 years experience in interior design for high-profile clients.

‘Our focus is on utilising the skills of artisans and craftsmen; rather than being over-decorative, we are interested in the way items are constructed and the treatment they’re given – for example, whether oak is brushed or scrubbed,’ says Matthew. ‘And the inside of a piece of furniture is as important as the outside: the quality and finish of the wood, the fittings, the hinges.’

They are evident too in the team’s broader approach to interior design, which, he adds, is all about creating spaces that feel as though they have evolved and can continue to evolve as the client adds bits and pieces over the years.  ‘We aim to create rooms that reflect how someone has travelled their life. It’s not about going to Heals, buying a load of stuff and it’s done. There has to be more of a story to it,’ he explains. ‘People take pride in their homes being different from anyone else’s, and we have to help them express their character.’

Atesh agrees: they certainly do not set out to create a ‘Lampert & Harper look’. ‘There’s often a fine but important line between designers selling a “signature style” and giving the client what they actually want,’ he observes.

‘We don’t follow trends at all. For us, the real challenge is to successfully combine a diversity of pieces, textures, colours, styles, and create a place that captures a sense of history, understatement, refinement, luxury, elegance, practicality, modernity. That’s a lot to get into a room! In effect, although the end result seems uncluttered, it’s actually very “busy” with different influences, but there is a commonality to them.’ Matthew offers a deft analogy: ‘Walking into a well-designed room should be like arriving at a party – you don’t want everything saying hello to you at once.’

But while Atesh’s fashion background may provide a useful source of inspiration for their work, the two are keen to dispel the fluffy, superficial image of interior design, and they highlight the extent to which designers can add real value.

However, that’s not always as straightforward as it might be. All too often, they say, designers are brought in too late, after the architect has reshaped a home and asked to ‘finish’ it.

That’s an unsatisfactory approach, says Atesh. ‘We’ll say OK, but what a shame – if we’re aiming to achieve a particular end result, we do need to know what’s coming before and work with the architect from the outset, in order not to have to either change what’s already been done or make structural compromises that detract from the finished style.’

Matthew agrees on the value of early involvement. ‘It’s about getting the “canvas” of the building – the structure, the architectural finishes, walls, flooring – right; it’s much easier to layer up and also to change at a later date without destroying the whole.’

He thinks for a moment and pulls out another analogy. ‘That canvas is like a really good haircut – get it right and it “sets the scene” of your image; but also it works for the daily practicalities of your lifestyle.’ Perhaps the catwalk connection is not so far below the surface after all.

For more information visit www.lampertandharper.com 

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