I chat with acclaimed interior designer Henry of Henry Prideaux Interior Design who is known for his elegant and sophisticated interiors. He reflects on the most rewarding aspects of his job, how he balances work and family life and which celebrities he’d be excited to work with. You’ll also get to see some of Henry’s projects and find out where he gets his inspiration from.
How did you become an interior designer?
At school I was always creative and was particularly interested in Art and Design Technology. I then completed an Art Foundation course at Chelsea College of Art and Design specialising in sculpture. This allowed me to understand form and perspective and how to make beautiful things. I made a detour via an academic degree from Trinity College Dublin (with a year spent in Italy). However, this didn’t put me off returning to London in my early 20’s. I needed a job so started to work for Jonathan Hudson, a professional interior designer. At the time, he was decorating my parents’ house and he was looking for an assistant. I enjoyed it so much, I stayed for nearly two years and didn’t look back.
You have a fantastic resume! Who have you most enjoyed working with and why?
It was a bit of a pipe dream to work with someone of Nicky Haslam’s calibre. So it was fantastic for this to become a reality. In fact, I ended up working with him for five years. This is where I learnt a huge amount about creativity in decorating and overcoming design issues.
Was it a natural progression to set up your own interior design consultancy in 2014?
Yes, absolutely. I don’t think you appreciate how much business acumen is required. But it is very rewarding having my name above the door rather than someone else’s.
What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?
It’s so rewarding to see an unusual or challenging design idea realised. I also find it incredibly satisfying when a client is delighted with a design feature they couldn’t initially envisage fully. I love taking risks in design and coming up with ideas that might seem outlandish at first but really work.
How has your style evolved since you first became an interior designer?
It has evolved by virtue of working for different practices prior to setting up on my own. I feel I have now settled into a style that is more ‘me’. My aim is always to be authentic and not allow other designers to heavily influence me. Although, the client and their individual requirements are at the heart of every project. When designing, I will always aim to create something smart and practical that I am proud of.
Do you have global clients or are you UK based?
Currently, my clients are predominantly UK based. However, these are not necessarily British or UK residents. So I often juggle different time zones and cultural aspects.
How do you balance work and family life?
Amy works with me looking after the business development side of the company, so that allows us both a bit of flexibility, and being my own boss means I can often manage my diary to be available to help with anything at home. Of course, there is always going to be a risk of bringing work home, and we regularly catch ourselves discussing a project or throwing ideas around for future marketing and PR collaborations, but we try and switch off when possible.
What was your last project and what are you working on at the moment?
The large-scale refurbishment of a large five-bedroom stucco fronted townhouse in South Kensington for a lovely couple with two young children. They took the whole house back to bare brick and reconfigured it to make it suitable for modern family living. Current projects include the complete renovation of two townhouses; one in Chelsea and one in Southwark and both very different in style. One is a ‘country house in London’ and the other ‘pared-back Shaker style’. We are also discussing the refurbishment of a hospitality space in Belgravia, a family house in Lincolnshire and a townhouse in West London. Meanwhile, we are juggling a range of smaller projects in various parts of London.
How would you describe the current trends in interior design?
I try not to follow trends too closely. But, as a general observation, I am pleased that colour and pattern are replacing grey, tonal palettes, which is refreshing. I also see the use of natural, organic materials such as raffia, rattan and cane continuing in popularity.
What inspires you on a new project?
The client and their story are often the first source of inspiration. Understanding their likes and dislikes and what their requirements are is key as a starting point to any project. As a designer, ideas are constantly brewing but I can’t always work them into projects. So I propose some of them to my clients in the hope that they can be developed and incorporated. If they aren’t used, I usually consider these for use in future projects.
What is your personal design motto when it comes to renovating your own home?
Test creative boundaries, make it functional yet beautiful and stick to the budget! My girlfriend, Amy, and I recently bought a terraced Victorian house in Twickenham and plan the future refurbishment to be a gradual, collaborative process.
How do you relax in your spare time?
I play a lot of competitive squash – which isn‘t always relaxing – but it’s a world away from interior design. Therefore, I find this an ideal escape from my work! I also love visiting art galleries and exhibitions for inspiration. In addition, I scour antiques fairs and markets for those rare, one-off pieces that can really finish a project.
What’s been your biggest achievement?
Setting up my business five years ago and starting a family not long after are pretty high up on the list.
When I was selected as one of four acclaimed interior designers to create a vignette for the entrance to Decorex in 2018 was also a huge personal and professional achievement. There, it created an opportunity to showcase my design style, using some of the brands I love with few creative limitations.
Do you have any tips for anyone who dreams of being an interior designer?
Learn on the job if you can and show that you are keen to be taken seriously by going the extra mile. If you are able to secure some unpaid work experience or an internship, that will be an invaluable introduction into the industry. Learn how to draw freehand and have an understanding of architectural details as interior design and interior architecture often overlap – it’s not all about pretty fabrics and scatter cushions…!
Which celebrities would you be excited to work with?
It would be great to collaborate with a celebrity designer like Kelly Wearstler to understand her design process and where she looks to find the inspiration for her designs. However, if I was designing a home for a celebrity client, I’d love to work with someone with a fresh take on lifestyle like Ed Sheeran. This way, I can imagine we could create a really cool, unique space.
What are your trend predictions for the next 12 months?
More passementerie (decorative trimmings), more use of colour and more designer/brand collaborations.
Can you tell me a little about the project you are most proud to have worked on?
I was recently involved with the design and build of a five-bedroom, family home. The existing single storey bungalow was demolished once planning permission had been granted to build on the same plot. This was in a quiet location in a pretty village in Buckinghamshire for a client of particular importance, my parents. I designed the interior within an elegant scheme that incorporated many existing pieces of furniture and artwork. In fact, this resulted in a home filled with character and elements of history that are very personal to us all as a family.
Who are your favourite interior designers and why?
I’m at risk of boosting his ego here but, working for Nicky Haslam was brilliant and his interiors are fantastic. Veere Grenney creates amazing spaces and selecting from my generation; Salvesen Graham, Beata Heuman, Turner Pocock and Lambart and Browne are all designers whose work I admire.
When designing a room what are the three things you should never scrimp on?
Well-made curtains are essential, flattering lighting is important to make a room versatile and including enough power sockets in the right locations is crucial.
Can you describe your typical working day?
There isn’t really such a thing as a typical day as no two days are ever the same. Various projects are run in conjunction with one another and all demand time on site, with suppliers and in the office. If I am needed on site, I will try to make it at the start or end of the day. This way, I don’t interrupt my time spent on designing and coordinating projects. I also tend to limit suppliers coming to the studio to show their new collections to the morning. If clients need to meet at specific times, I will always juggle the day to accommodate if I can.
What’s been the best thing about 2019 for you so far?
This year, I’ve been managing two large projects which are continuing at great speed. Both will be fully installed soon, and I can’t wait to see the end results and have them professionally photographed.
Where do you see yourself and the business in the next five years?
We plan to move to a larger office in the next few months to allow both the business and our team to grow. The past year or so with Amy on board has been all about building the profile of the company and broadening our target audience. We hope to land more meaty new projects, too.