update on... designer clair wayman

Earlier this year I finally got the chance to sit down and have a good chat to Clair Wayman. We have corresponded and spoken on the phone a lot over the years, but not really had the opportunity to meet as she is based in Melbourne, while I'm in Sydney.

We initially came into contact while I was working at real living, and she was basically the magazine's Melbourne style editor. Over many issues she produced and styled studio-based decorating features, as well as house stories.

Since then she has set up her own design business - Curio & Curio, which celebrates colour and graphic design via products such as cushions, ottomans and tea towels - all hand screen printed and made in Australia. Along with her partner Nick Young from Two Ruffians, she has opened a shop in Flinders, Victoria. And not too long ago, she created a range of wallstickers for The Wallsticker Company.

The interview originally ran here.

How and why did you start working as an interior stylist? I’ve always loved to draw, paint and sew. When composing a painting, I’d group collections of vases, fabrics and plants, anything that caught my imagination. Growing up, I can remember opening cupboards stuffed full of exotic fabrics that my mum had collected from her travels. Now I’m a self-confessed magpie myself, and love nothing better than hunting around fabric stalls, vintage clothing shops and antique markets for hidden gems. As a stylist I spend a lot of my time visiting quirky boutiques and designers, which seems to fulfill my inquisitive nature.

At art college I discovered screen-printing and dreamt of becoming a fabric designer, but then read an article about stylists, and thought it sounded like a creative, fun occupation. I didn’t realise quite how hard I’d have to work until I became an intern on various publications in London. Working as an assistant stylist for some of the best interior stylists in London, I became involved in creating imagery for interior books, magazines and catalogues, often shooting in beautiful country houses around England.

What lessons have you learnt along the way? I’ve learnt to inject personality into my room schemes and have fun mixing and matching styles. I love playing with pattern, form and colour for dramatic effect. Now, my primary goal is to create rooms with character and comfort. Mismatched dining chairs, quirky artworks, deep sofas, and colourful, vintage cushions all help to create a comfortable, welcoming environment - a relaxing space that feels homely and organic. The best interiors evolve over time. I’ve also learnt never to underestimate the power of colour – used in the right proportions, it can really uplift you. Above all I choose what I love, follow my instinct, and don’t follow the crowd.

What’s your favourite decorating style? I love the interiors of the 50s and 60s – designers at this time completely rethought form, structure and materials. The moulded plywood and bright plastic furniture had a fresh, innovative look. Warm orange, brown and yellow colour palettes had an optimistic feel.

I’ve also always been attracted to country interiors with robust battered leather armchairs and faded spriggy floral print sofas where energetic children, pets and adults alike can happily co-exist in the space. White painted floorboards, rustic trestle tables and logs stacked up by the fire conjure up a cosy feel, which I love.

Swedish homes always look light and elegant. They’re spacious and modern, yet decorative. Simple window treatments such as translucent muslin drapes, white, grey or pale pastel walls, candles and blonde wood furniture in curved shapes are the main elements. I love the combination of natural fabrics in delicate floral prints, checks and stripes in a fresh palette of blue, red, yellow, white or cream.

What’s the most common mistake people make when decorating their home? Trying to combine too many colours and styles - creating a confused look is a common mistake. At the other extreme, playing it too safe is another pitfall. Getting the balance just right is the key to creating a relaxed space. Trust your judgement - you’ll soon know when something isn’t quite right.

Designing a room scheme is really easy, if you follow some simple guidelines. I generally hunt out a beautiful wallpaper, fabric or artwork and use this as my starting point. This pattern will act as the main focus of the room and all other ingredients should complement it. Finally, I add some quirky details to add an unexpected touch, such as vintage ceramics.

Contrary to popular opinion, you don’t need a lot of money to create your own perfect haven - being resourceful and imaginative is often much more rewarding. You can unearth some real treasures in second-hand shops. Quite often, once vintage furniture is covered in fresh new fabric, or given a lick of paint it comes alive and looks amazing. As long as the basic structure and shape is good, you can’t go wrong.

Where do you look for inspiration? I feel most inspired when traveling and exploring other cultures. By the time I arrive home I generally have a huge collection of photos and souvenirs to delve into whenever I feel the urge to get creative.

For me India offers a never-ending patchwork of possibilities - their vibrant textiles, elaborate architecture and luxurious style is a constant source of delight. I’d love to one day work with Indian craftspeople to design my own range of hand-dyed, embroidered fabrics.

I also often scour magazines for images, which fuel my imagination, and collect them in scrapbooks. It’s heaven for me to visit old-fashioned haberdashery stores – buttons and braids spark my imagination!

When watching films, I often become distracted from what the actors are saying by the beautiful interiors. Films like Something’s Got to Give, starring Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton is set in a rambling Hampton’s-style beach house. Another film called Evening is mainly set in 1940s America. The house is lavishly decorated with beautiful fabrics and wallpapers – a visual treat!

Who inspires you? I love the work of fabric and furniture designers, husband and wife team, Lucienne and Robin Day who were at the peak of their careers in the 50s and 60s, but have been part of the design evolution ever since. (Robin’s best known for his injection-moulded polyprop stacking chair). Their Chelsea home could easily be mistaken for a contemporary interior, but it’s barely changed for over 40 years. It’s as if the rest of the world has finally caught up with their love of simple, pure materials and design with soul.

I’ve always loved clothes and have long admired Vivienne Westwood, the undisputed grande dame of British fashion. Her designs are outrageous and flirty. The exaggerated tailored shapes, inspired by crinoline gowns and plus fours, are brilliantly tongue in cheek, which is what fashion should be all about. Vivienne doesn’t care what people think, and, in the process, has created a unique legacy that people will always remember.

Another favourite is Tricia Guild – I always felt excited visiting her Kings Road showroom Designers Guild when working as an interior stylist in London. She created the most carefree, joyously feminine fabrics I’d ever seen. Over-sized flowers would float effortlessly across swathes of fabric in delicious pastel shades. I have all her decorating books at home which I escape into every now and then.

How has your own personal interior style developed? As my look evolves I’ve become more interested in creating warm, comfortable spaces that incorporate eco-friendly materials. To me comfort is a spiritual as well as a physical sensation. For a house to feel like a home there should be a powerful relationship between the building and the land it sits on. I love big, simple windows that offer tantalizing views of the landscape, making a connection with nature. Houses that co-habit, rather than compete with the landscape, are the ones that move the spirit.

I’m developing a deeper appreciation of natural materials such as wood, linen, stone, wool and leather for a calm, natural look. When choosing art to adorn the walls of my interiors I tend to be drawn to naturalistic imagery of plants, flowers and animals.

Being conscious of the environment, and our effect on it, is so important. I try and incorporate “green” products wherever I can, such as cushions made from climate neutral fabric or “eco-ware” biodegradable cork placemats. A favourite book at the moment is Cool Hunting Green
by Dave Evans.

How would you describe your home? I live in an open-plan 1960s beach house in a leafy suburb of Melbourne. My home is a constantly evolving canvas as it often gets used as a location for my decorating shoots. Walls change colour and furniture gets moved on a regular basis.

To suit the era of the house, the overall look is “laid-back retro” - junk shop finds are mixed with designer classics and contemporary pieces to create an eclectic feel. A simple veneer wood 60s sideboard sits happily next to black leatherette chairs with chrome swivel bases, that look like they’ve come straight from the set of a James Bond movie. A pebble-clad open fireplace forms the central focus in the living room and, when lit, creates a cozy atmosphere on cold evenings.

Colourful retro ceramics and glassware, mainly collected from Camberwell Market, fill every available space. It probably doesn’t come as a surprise that my favourite colour is orange - so many pieces have this colour running through them.

Being a girl who loves pattern, wallpaper is another weakness. The most recent addition is a bold pink and grey Flamingo design by Cole and Son that adorns a feature wall in our bedroom. I’m yet to find out what my partner Nick really thinks of this new look!

What are you passionate about? I’m passionate about interiors, friends, family, art, fashion, animals, the environment, organic food. I’d love to build an eco-friendly country house, complete with solar power, where I could live with my family and a menagerie of animals
. Being able to design and build a house from scratch would be an amazing achievement - a fantastic legacy to leave behind!

images courtesy of clair wayman and armelle habib

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