This week we caught up with interior stylist and owner of Caravan, Emily Chalmers. Caravan is a gorgeous shop which used to be in Shoreditch but is in the process of moving so can only be found online at the moment. But Emily is also known for her great books and styling work which we have admired from afar for ages and ages. We asked her about what she’s been up to and what she likes best…
Firstly we’d like to congratulate you on your new baby! How’s that all going for you?
Well, thank you!
I’m really enjoying my role as a new mummy… Bunty (named after my granny) is five months old now and growing up so quickly.
The joy of having my own small business means that I can be flexible with my time and managing work and play seems to be going reasonably smoothly so far – though I am sure the balance will be tested as Bunty becomes more mobile!
What’s your biggest inspiration?
Oooh, that’s a difficult one! I’d like to quote Paul Smith here and say that I can “find inspiration in everything” – people, nature, pattern, colour, travel…
On a material scale I find true inspiration from vintage floral fabrics – the weave, colour combinations, lines, style, etc – they make a lovely foundation from which to develop a room scheme.
You seem to have an eye for the quirky yet endearing, what key things do you look for?
Thank you for the lovely description – I like things that tell a story and I’m not overly concerned with designer’s names, etc, I tend to look for quality, practicality and… fun!
I generally try to follow my heart and I don’t get too influenced by trends – though that’s not to say I’m not interested in them.
I think if you ‘tune in’ you can ‘feel’ when something is right for you. My motto: “If in doubt, don’t”.
Here at B&S we like to recycle, our Trees4Trees range is all about that, are you a fan of recycling/upcycling?
I’ve always enjoyed looking laterally at things – can they be used again? or in a different way? – I think it’s an inspirational way to approach things.
Interior-wise I tend to prefer to work with what I’ve got rather than start with a blank canvas.
As a child there was nothing more exciting on a Saturday morning than visiting the local refuse tip to hunt for ‘treasure’ – I’ve still got a tiny set of wooden drawers that I once found there, repaired, and covered with wallpaper.
It’s great that the recycle / upcycle mindset is now a strong trend – and we all know it’s important for our future.
What are your top interior design styling tips?
Don’t be worried about mixing and matching – so long as you keep to a certain colour palette you will usually be okay!
Layer, layer, layer – when I approach a room scheme I try to work in two dimensions as well as three – group things, hang things, place things and stand back and consider the layers…
Lighting is key to a space – it creates atmosphere and can highlight or hide away, as you direct.
As a finishing touch I like to add a bit of metallic or sparkle to a room – it never fails to add a bit of magic to a space.
You’re all about modern vintage style (you even have a book on it!) can you create that look in any home?
Modern vintage style is basically a modern way of looking at vintage – it’s about incorporating and combining old / second hand / vintage / antique / handed-down elements to a scheme.
I believe it’s a look that can be incorporated in any home.
Modern vintage style is an approach rather than a theme, and used well it creates an interior that is homely and comfortable while being stylish and well-considered.
The vintage style is huge at the minute, not just in interiors but in fashion also, what key pieces should someone wanting to adopt this style in their home invest in?
‘Vintage’ is a term that is heavily over-used, but it’s a nice word and incorporates a whole host of styles.
Key pieces to invest in would be good quality classic vintage upholstery paired with a beautiful modern rug and cushions; or perhaps the cushions are crafted from a mixed and matched batch of beautiful vintage fabric and sitting on a new sofa…
I tend to look for things like vintage mirrors to decorate a plain wall – pretty mirrors with bevelled edges and etched designs can be easily found at markets and in second hand shops – and I add or lengthen the hanging chains; or groups of redundant heavy crystal glass decanters that can be re-appropriated as decadent vases for long stems of spring blossom.
You can invest £5 or £500 depending on what you need for your home. A selection of vintage postcards simply grouped together and stuck with blue tack will decorate an area of your wall – even a small nod to this trend can be an investment.
If you could style anyone’s home whose would it be?
Wow – what an interesting question to consider…!
I can’t think of anyone’s home in particular but I do enjoy styling most spaces. It’s always more interesting to style a home as it’s intriguing to work within someone else’s environment.
What’s your own home like?
My own home was once described by Michelle Ogundehin, editor of Elle Decoration, as ‘eclectic floral bohemian’ – I think that’s a perfect description.
How often do you redecorate your living space?
Surprisingly rarely! I like to change the feel of a room with accessories rather than full-on redecoration. You can completely refresh a room by having a good clean and sort out and by re-organising the space – I tend to enjoy doing that more than redecorating.
I think I have to admit here that I’m quite impatient when it comes to decorating. Maybe it’s the photographic stylist in me but I am more of a fan of the quick-fix approach – perhaps adding a layer of vintage lace at a window or doing something as simple as changing a door handle or a light pull.
What’s been your proudest moment as an interiors stylist?
I’ve greatly enjoyed working on my books and it was lovely to be invited by Anthropology to be involved in their home decoration launch alongside my latest publication. Now, that’s an inspirational store…!
Home is where the heart is, what makes your house a home?
I like to surround myself with things that I love – it’s a place to come home to, to relax; and yet also somewhere to leave, refreshed and inspired.
What can we expect to see next from Caravan?
Caravan is going through a period of ‘redecoration’ right now in fact! I’m currently re-organising and re-editing our general offering and, though the essence of Caravan Style will remain the same, since relocating to new shop premises we are having a bit of a spring clean.
Look out for a new extended website over the next few months and the new shop floor will be open by appointment later in the year.
Signed copies of this book and other publications by Emily Chalmers can be found at http://www.caravanstyle.com/shop_books.html
photographs: Debi Treloar