Ottoline de Vries almost fell off her chair when a renowned Dutch interior design magazine called her to request an in-depth interview after she launched a few wallpaper designs online. Not long afterwards the London-based designer was asked to design a wallpaper for the refurbishment of the Willet Holthuysen Museum, Amsterdam. The signs were indicating that she had made the right choice to leave her job as a tax lawyer and focus on her interest in wallpaper design. Born in Quito, Ecuador, Ottoline grew up mostly in Holland, and studied law at university in Amsterdam. Her family moved to London in 2014. Ottoline is launching her latest collection Ballets Russes at Tent London, 24-27 September.
Which five words best describe you? Passionate, resilient, headstrong, visual, positive.
How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since?
My career started in a totally different field. I had studied tax law and started working as a lawyer. When my husband and I were ready to start a family this new energy overpowered me. We had bought a family house in The Hague and I became completely obsessed with decorating. I wanted to create a wonderful world for my kids at home, wallpapering their rooms and hunting for antique and vintage furniture. The weekends and evenings were spent sanding, painting, wallpapering my unique finds. I fell totally in love with my new hobby and my actual corporate job started to feel like a distraction from what I really wanted to do.
Soon family and friends asked me to make them something unique and they started to encourage me to sell my creations. When my first upcycled cupboard was sold to someone unknown, I started to believe this could be my mission. And so I changed my law career for an artistic (ad)venture.
Since childhood I have had this fascination for wallpaper. I just love it. From William Morris to modern design. It had never occurred to me that I would be a wallpaper designer myself. But it just happened thanks to the digital era and plenty of opportunities to print your own fabrics and wallpaper online. I remember uploading a hand drawn sketch online to have it printed on my own fabric, just out of curiosity. The result was overwhelming and I was determined that I wanted to make more and learn how to draw with professional computer programs. And so I did.
What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? There have been so many lessons. Being an independent designer and entrepreneur seems romantic but it’s hard work with a lot of falling and standing up again. Probably the best lesson is to stay focussed. In the beginning of my career I was all over the place; there were so many ideas in my head, so many opportunities and interesting people who wanted to cooperate. I did all that and it was quite stressful. Along the way I’ve found out who I am as a designer and what I find important in my designs. It allows me now to be much more focussed, to decide more easily where to put my energy in and not to be afraid of turning things down. As a result of that I stay very true to myself, which has a positive effect on my designs.
What’s your proudest career achievement? I’m extremely proud that I have managed to turn the thing I love to do most into something that I can make a living from.
What’s been your best decision? That’s a difficult one… Within a few years I hope I can say, our move to London. We moved to London summer 2014 and after a year I can say we love it here. This city has so much to offer - the parks, the streets, the mix of people; a true melting pot. My creativity thrives in a place like this.
Who inspires you? Sergei Diaghilev. I have dedicated my latest collection to the revolutionary dance company he led between 1909 and 1929. The Ballets Russes collection is inspired by the wonderful costumes and set designs made by great artists like Picasso, Matisse, Larionov, Bakst and many others for this dance company.
What are you passionate about? Running - it gives me energy, clears my head and best ideas tend to occur when running through London in the rain.
Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? Vincent van Gogh. For the love and admiration of his beautiful, inspiring work but mostly because it’s so tragic that he hardly sold any work during his life and never got any credit for making these extraordinary works that influenced so many artists and art movements after his death. If only I could tell him that he would be acknowledged as one of world’s greatest painters.
What dream do you still want to fulfil? I hope that one day my family and I will be able to design and build our own house.
What are you reading? A biography of Diaghilev written by Dutch writer Sjeng Scheijen.
images courtesy of ottoline de vries