Meet interiors and food stylist Ali Brown. During her twelve year tenure at Homes & Gardens magazine she wallpapered, painted and dressed more rooms than you’ve had hot dinners. She’s also a former costume designer which means she’s fab with fabrics and those decorative details that make all the difference.
What’s your New Year style resolution?
Having just dived into freelance work after twelve years in-house at a magazine, I’m working from home a great deal. So I am dreaming about creating a lovely, creative desk space. I’m thinking of huge pin boards filled with inspirational images and swatches to carry me on my styling journey – it will be like having a living, breathing Pinterest board. Some sort of simple, organised storage system would also be a great help. I’ve been too busy to get any of this sorted! I’d also like to take advantage of my new, flexible working arrangements to make sure that I get out and about more. I love mixing old and new in my shoots, so I want to head to out-of-town (and European) antique and flea markets to find prop styling treasures.
What colours and trends are you excited about right now?
I have very catholic tastes, finding inspiration in the trends that come via the interiors industry and all sorts of other places too. When I look at my visual inspirations (like my Pinterest grabs) what has been catching my eye is that comforting combination of warm, nutmeg and pink tones. It’s been cropping up recently in fabric and furniture collections. I also love the simplicity of mottled, speckled, time-worn textures, reflecting elemental or hand-made, artisan finishes; and, more personally, I’m really drawn to colour palettes that have a faded, dreamlike cast, like those in very early colour photography. In total contrast to that, I can’t get enough of the ‘more-is-more’ combination of emerald greens, imperial yellow, crimson reds and sequin/fringing as seen in Gucci’s AW16 fashion show. As an ex-costume designer, I find as much inspiration in fashion sources as I do from interior trends. Any inspiration is good inspiration…
What’s your favourite room in your home – and why?
I was surprised that when we renovated our house, with a fair bit of colour – English green for the bedroom; dreamy plaster, lilac and greys for the living room, cobalt blue for our daughter’s room – the room that I loved to be in the most was the bathroom! I decorated it with the simplest of square white tiles, adding a decorative top border to give a smart finish and used inexpensive square, grey marble tiles on the floor. I teamed these with my pride and joy, pairs of vintage, unconditioned brass basin and bath taps (an eBay bargain at just £30 each) and a brass towel rail found in a reclamation yard. For some reason the room just really feels like a calm, easy space to start the day in.
When you’re designing an interior scheme where do you start and why?
I’ll generally begin with the wall colour or covering, as that becomes the backdrop for everything else to sit against. Alternatively, a fabric can often be the keystone, especially if it’s patterned, as this will set the feel of the space. It gives you a point from which to decide whether the furniture and accompanying elements will follow the style, or complement it in another way. For example, a beautiful faded, floral fabric could lead you to combine it with classic furniture shapes, or opt for a contrast with more contemporary pieces.
If you only do one thing to your home it should be..?
Invest in good paint. I’m talking about the likes of Little Greene and Sanderson, through to more specialist companies like Francesca’s Limewash and Papers & Paints. In our old flat we had a soft, recessive warm grey colour from Papers & Paints, and I swear that it was the first thing people would comment on when they walked in. The colours and finishes are just better, and they transform the space, end of.
Who is in your secret address book?
For unique treasures to complement your room schemes, from a pretty spoon to statement furniture (and a lovely holiday weekend into the bargain), the annual Braderie flea market in Lille completely blew my mind. Imagine a whole town full of flea market stalls. Take a van, and a trolley…