On Saturday I attended the Abigail Ahern design school, and my what an utter joy it was.
The design school is run from Abigail’s home in a popular part of East London which she shares with her husband Graham and two dogs, Maud & Monkey. I attended the half day course, dubbed The New Way To Decorate (1pm-4pm with a complimentary taxi to her store after if you choose) The first 15 minutes of the day is set out to allow you to relax, grab a coffee, get to know the other people on your course and have a little informal meet and greet with Abigail.
Unfortunately, i missed this part due to what I can only describe as a moment of mind fuckery, I gave my Uber her shop address not home address, only realising half way into my journey across London. Oh the fun that then ensued when I had to redirect my Uber to the correct address, he then encountered numerous road closures that he thought he knew better than his sat nav to get around, all whilst he played the worlds worst trance music and sang words from pop songs over it. Oh the hilarity of that cab ride. By hilarity I mean absolute anxiety and panic followed by utter embarrassment when I rocked up red faced nearly 20 minutes late, apologising perfously to Graham who answered the door and ushered me up to the top floor of their house, where everyone was already settled in and Abigail has just stared her presentation. Great start. There was a very awkward silence (again filled with apologies from myself) whilst Abigail found me a chair and settled me in. I felt mortified, however Abigail and Graham where the most gracious and unflustered of hosts.
The afternoon followed the format of Abigail giving us an interactive powerpoint presentation about design, what works, what doesn’t, tips and tricks to get your space looking and most importantly feeling the way you want, interjected with lots of useful bits of inside info on where to go to grab the best interior bargains and how to make best use of your local car sprayer (I'll talk more about this in a future dedicated paint post) followed by a guided tour of her home, no restricted areas which I found very pleasing, prosecco, another informal discussion with Abigail and Graham then I took the option with around 3/4 of the class for a trip to her store.
One of the most interesting things about the day for me, aside from being able to view Abigail's stunning home, was her love of fragrance. Wanting a home to welcome you with its subtle scent, that acts as an extra interior layer if you will, kind of like your mattress protector. Once you’re not of bed wetting age, mattress protectors kind of become redundant, however adding that extra layer, brings you warmth, comfort and a little something else when you’re in your bed, same with scent around the home.
You can achieve scent through all the traditional methods, a scented candle here, defusser there, however Abigail threw a couple of things I wouldn’t have factored in into the mix.
Rocks that smell. Now hang on in there. These rocks aren’t your typical garden stones, they are athletically beautiful, an interior accessory in their own right and smell divine. Mad-et-Len, available at www.thegarnered.com, are laminated iron pots which house lava rock “pot pourri”,named after Proust’s “madeleine” where the author recalls how the taste of even a little crumb of a madeleine cake makes him remember many things, the reference is clearly analogous to the power that a ‘Mad et Len’ scent evokes. Place a few in any space you desire and let them sit pretty and work their magic.
Pot pourri. Yes that 1990's relic, like Adidas tracksuit bottoms with a crop top that all the young people are currently wearing, and for the life of me I can't understand why as it wasn't flattering the first time (I have the cringe worthy pictures of myself as a teen to prove it) has made a comeback and what a surprisingly sophisticated one it is. Forget huge bowls of the stuff scattered everywhere emitting the over powering stench of a crap car pine tree air freshener, this pot pourri from France is a smooth subtle beauty. Santa Maria Novella, available to purchase from www.newlondonpharmacy.com only comes in one fragrance. It's a enveloping beautifully full-bodied blend of herbs and flowers (a secret formula) that repeals moths and insects as well as keeping wherever you place it smelling fresh and inviting.
The trick Abigail gave us with pot pourri is to place small compact amounts into little jars, (tea light holders would be ideal for this) and place them sparingly throughout your home, so every time you walk into a room you receive a slight fragrance on the nose after lingering there, you don’t want to be knocked out by the smell of anything as soon as you open a door. The use of scent alongside interiors is a clever play from Abigail. As our brain pairs smell with memory so when we add a scent that we enjoy into our homes we add another layer to its beauty. Giving us longer lasting and deeper memories of our space than what the decor would give us alone.
Anyway, I went to Abigail Ahern's design school and came away waxing lyrical about scent! which was very unexpected and I know isn't what you came here for, so I'll cut to the chase now get the good interior stuff.
Places to shop:
Abigail sources inspiration for her range of interiors from far and wide and to get an eclectic, lived in look that you love and others will envy you should too. That’s not to say that you can’t find good on the high street, as you most definitely can, but to give a room true character and depth you need to start thinking and sourcing outside of the box. Here are a few places and sources of interest.
Porte -de-vanves - Paris
Clingancourt - Paris
DMG fairs (UK - All over - see website for details)
Kempton (UK - Richmond)
House of Hackney
Abigail’s course was an absolute joy to attend, and I feel worth every penny. I understand that the price of £120 for the half day and £225 for the full day will be out of reach for some, however she often does deals on these courses and I got 50% off of mine in a flash sale, making it £60 for a half day. I would really recommend attending if you have a personal project you are working on that you want to take to the next level, or if you're all ready working in interiors for a living and want to up your game.
The day was beneficial for me in developing my understanding of colour, not colour pairings but the way in which to use a restricted colour pallet successfully to add sophistication, depth and mood, and how if you want to create a visually pleasing space you need to create tension and friction for the eye. No matchy matchy light fittings each side of your bed, or matching end tables at the side of your sofa, thin out of the box in these spaces, think impractical practicality - use things for their unintended purpose, a stool as a bedside table, a pile of books acting as an occasional table and so on. These touches lift your room and take away the showroom feel of a space.
The main thing that I will be taking away from today is to lose the fear of what others think and to decorate for how you feel. Not to worry about the resale value of your property if the walls, ceilings and floors are black and go with what makes you happy, and don't compromise on this. Abigail tells an acedote of her two sisters both in separate properties having homes decorated dark and an estate agent coming round and saying they needed to paint the space white or it wouldn’t sell. The sisters didn’t paint their homes white and both sold in different areas of the country on the same day, within a very short time frame. One sister even had a buyer that wanted to purchase all of the dark fixtures and fittings in her home too!
Dark can and will work in your home, whatever the size of space you have to play with. Just commit fully and go for it, you'll be pleasantly surprised.
Abigail has just launched a new set of paint colours and has an exciting collection of interior lighting pieces in collaboration with Debenhams dropping in the Autumn, there was also talk of an Abigail Ahern x Roger Oats collaboration being launched soon also.
You can find more out about the design school and take a look at Abigail's interior and paint offerings via her website: www.abigialahern.com