Ask designer Matthew Williamson how a nice chap from Manchester, England, wound up living in Mallorca, Spain, and he bursts out laughing. “By complete mistake,” he says. As for how the onetime fashion darling transitioned to interior design? That journey was perhaps more inevitable.
The move from vibrant wardrobes to walls, floors, and furnishings has been a long time coming, born of a small yet scintillating collaboration with The Rug Company in 2003, when he splashed rugs with four iconic prints from his ready-to-wear line. Stationery for the luxe leather-goods brand Smythson and wallpaper for Habitat followed. Since 2013 he has rolled out lavish collections for tony wallpaper and fabric purveyors Osborne & Little; furniture for Nottingham-based Duresta; plates, trays, and table linens for Italian brand Les Ottomans; and, last fall, tropical lampshades for Pooky.
He also has decorated the bridal suite at the majestic country house Aynhoe Park in Oxfordshire, the courtyard garden at London’s Blakes hotel, and, in Mallorca, Nama Bar’s funky interiors and the deluxe Suite 67 at the ultraexclusive Belmond La Residencia hotel.
This year Williamson, 49, has two new collaborations—a line of eye-catching rugs (mod stars, regal florals, jungly landscapes), launching in October with Obeetee, the global leader in hand-woven floor coverings; and dazzling accent pieces (drink cabinets, divider screens, and more), from boutique British furniture maker Roome, which debuted last spring.
As for Mallorca, Williamson visited a friend there several years ago and felt an immediate connection to the rustic, Balearic isle. He bought a villa in Deià, a village cut into the mountains, that’s a short walk from a moody, derelict monastery. We caught up with him to chat about career moves, color, and the perplexing audacity of an all-white room.
Your transition from fashion to interiors appeared seamless.
Well, the two industries overlap. They’re happy bedfellows. Christian Lacroix pivoted to interior design. And [Turkish designer] Rifat Ozbek. And [British designer] Zandra Rhodes [is launching] a homeware collection with Ikea. I spent the first 20 years of my career in fashion, but I’ve always been fascinated with interiors. I remember imagining that the woman buying my dresses most likely had a beautiful home.
If you met someone at a party, might you have a sense of their living room?
I used to make gowns for £3,000, and I couldn’t imagine that the woman who bought those didn’t care about her home. So I do make the connection. If you’re well-presented, chances are you’ll have the same spirit within your home.
So what happens when you enter someone’s all-white home? Do you break out in hives?
I try to avoid those houses. [Laughs.] No, I’m full of admiration for minimalism and contemporary design. I have little flashes of wishing I could live like that, in that sort of serene, pared-back way. A weekend in a spa or hotel of that style would be refreshing. But I don’t think I’d like to live there.
Ever wonder why you’re so drawn to color and print?
I’ve often wondered why others are fearful of it. To me, it’s a natural instinct. I think it’s my mom. She was the inspiration for my early career. She was covered in color, pattern, ornamentation. It was in her DNA. Growing up, I never saw her in gray or black. She’d favor bright orange instead. I think I retained from her that sense of appearing as optimistic and positive as you can.
Can rugs be as cheery as clothes?
I’ve tried to create happiness for the floor, if you like. Often, rugs can be quite nondescript. But they’re such an important part of creating a new space. The floor is often the first place to start. So I wanted to bring personality to the floor. [For Obeetee,] I’ve gone to some classic patterns I’ve used in the past and reworked them for rugs.
Like the giant peacock-feather print.
That’s my classic go-to motif. I’ve done it for years in fashion and interiors.
The Roome collection seems like vintage Williamson, reined in by clean, spare lines. They’re smart accent pieces.
True, I can see them in a simpler, pared-back home. Which is opposite to my style. But I like that pop of color on something very slick. I think it’s a nice marriage.