St. Isaac’s Cathedral Inspires British Designer

St. Isaac’s Cathedral Inspires British Designer

Published: October 19, 2011 (Issue # 1679)


Designer Tricia Guild visited St. Petersburg last month to present her collections.

Color is the god that Tricia Guild worships. Admirers of the founder of U.K.-based interior design company Designers Guild call her a color crusader, and she is getting her latest inspiration from St. Petersburg.

“She is about the only designer who can make a bright orange sofa without making it look ridiculous,” said one of her admirers.

It is all about how people use color, Guild explains.

“If you go to Milan and visit contemporary design salons you see a lot of color; color gives a kind of vitality to a space,” the designer said. “The question is, obviously, how it is used and in what quantity. So if you want a bright orange sofa, you should probably decide against having a bright orange carpet.”

Guild started out nearly 40 years ago with a small fabrics shop and now runs an internationally established global company that enjoys commissions from the British royal family. It was Guild’s trip to India that inspired her to make her first collection of fabrics, before she opened her first shop on King’s Road in London.

“On that trip I found some beautiful little old woodblocks, very simple, and then decided to print those,” she said. “The method was of course different but it was based on these small, almost geometric, printed little fabrics, and I thought I could make those in wonderful colors and develop my language.”

Taking ideas and inspiration from travel has become Guild’s philosophy. Speaking to The St. Petersburg Times in September before the presentation of her new collections at the U.K. Consulate General, Guild spoke with enthusiasm about the glorious shades of malachite in St. Isaac’s Cathedral.

“It is not that a journey would immediately create a collection; it is more that the impressions of it go into your soul,” she explained.

It is not only travel, however, that inspires the designer. What else does a trendsetter look for to keep pushing forward? For Guild, it is fashion, theater, opera, architecture, and of course knowing and building from what clients in different countries are enjoying most from each collection.


Designers Guild’s Royal Collection has proved popular with Russian consumers.

Guild grew up in a very artistic family and lived in a house abundant with bright colors and modern furniture. “I was always reorganizing things in my room,” Guild said. “I loved the house, and my parents included me in the decorating. I was fascinated with ballet so there was a big poster of an Edgar Degas painting of a ballerina in my room. So it was quite personal.”

In 2008, Buckingham Palace invited Designers Guild to create a new collection based on the interiors and the treasures of the palace and Windsor Castle. The royal family commissioned the designers to rethink and recolor elements of the existing regal decor and produce a brand new Royal Collection to inject it with a bit of life and ensure it had a fresh modern twist.

“We were very honored to have been asked to do that and we do our best to make it work,” Guild said. “It is not that we just took documents that were in the palace, it was our inspiration so it could be drawings on the walls or it could be part of the architecture; we created the collection using the archives, but not always literally.”

The company’s agreement with Buckingham Palace is ongoing, meaning that Designers Guild launches a new collection for the palace every year. The choice of what will serve as the inspiration for the next collection is always spontaneous, and ideas come to Guild as she is wandering through the royal palace.

“Every time I go to the palace, there is always something new that you have not seen, like a fascinating piece of ceramic or, for example, while looking for motifs for the last collection, we went into a room that had some beautiful chinoiserie,” the designer said.

Russia is one of the key consumers of the embroidered silks and lush velvets of the Royal Collection, which is a striking departure from Guild’s signature shocking pink, shiny orange or sky blue palettes.

“It’s because they’re using so much of it in one go — shiny silk on shiny silk plus grand flock wallpaper — that it could be a bit heavy-going for younger, Western European and North American tastes (though you can imagine it in those Nancy Reagan lookalikes’ houses in Palm Beach),” read a review of one of the first collections in The Independent. “But in the lovely rich BRIC [Brazil, Russia, India, China] countries — especially Russia — you can just see them buying the whole package.”

Author of more than 15 books, Guild is convinced that taste is something that one can learn and develop. In her opinion, it is arrogant to suggest as some people do that taste is in one’s genes, and being born without a good eye for color or a sense of taste cannot be acquired.

“In a book, you can open people’s eyes and you can open their feelings to perhaps be more sensitive,” Guild said.

“Not everybody is going to become their own talented designer, but the more open they are, the more they know about something. It is the same with music: The more you know it, the more you can appreciate it. My husband [restaurateur Richard Polo] is very musical and we go to the opera a lot; you can play two bars of something and he will know who is singing and so on. I am not like that, but I can appreciate much more now because I’ve learned so much about it. Knowledge makes people less fearful and more confident in their choices.”

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