Minimal Touch, Maximum Impact with Louisa Grey
There is a sense of refinement and balance in Louisa Grey’s work as a stylist. She has several trademarks – an instinctual way with texture, a precise placement of objects and an elegant simplicity that evokes a sense of calm and well-being. It’s no surprise that she studied Textile Design at The Chelsea School of Art given her uncompromising eye for detail and fondness for unique, tactile materials.
Over the past 18 years, the London-based stylist has developed an enviable commercial and editorial portfolio, working with clients including Marks and Spencer, Loewe, IKEA, Christie’s and Elle Decoration UK. Since founding her own interior design studio, House of Grey, these projects have taken Louisa around the world with increasing frequency. In between her recent travels, she shared with us how she crafted an aesthetic at once trend-driven and timeless, her thoughts on the rise of social media and why her pastime in ceramics will remain a private passion.
Where did you grow up? Describe yourself as a child.
I was fortunate enough to grow up in Cambridge which is an extremely creative city. I was a tomboy who spent a lot of time with my father, spending holidays working with him on the building sites that he was designing and running. The practical side of me certainly shone and helped when I was diagnosed with dyslexia at a relatively early age. If I was challenged with a situation, I enjoyed innovating. Being resourceful and innovative is still an ethos I use on each project that we work on.
Where does your interest in design come from? Do you come from a creative family?
My parents are incredibly creative and met at art college in the 60’s. My father was an architect and builder for many years. I would watch in awe whilst he spent time crafting buildings and spaces into well thought out beauty. His eye for detail and craftsmanship are elements I have learnt and use in my work today. My mother was a successful international knitwear designer. I watched her juggle being a businesswoman and a mother, and that impacted me positively. I respect the idea that we learn from our elders so I have used my parents as my mentors.
Tell us a bit about how you got to where you are today. How did you get your first break in the design world?
I was fortunate in that my parents have a visionary circle of friends who were all working in the interiors industry. And so, I began as an assistant to a designer, and then embraced it as a career.
How would you describe House of Grey’s approach to interior design?
The concept is rooted in simplicity. We create spaces that function as a living respite, and return us to a sense of balance, which in turn gives us more energy and more time, and a deeper profound experience of the present moment. In our visually overstimulated world, we bring a sense of calm at the end of a busy day.
Your work is quite clean and minimalist, and has a sense of drama and theatricality about it. What are the keys to making this style a success?
At the studio we work on the composition of the images, including the shapes that the props and furniture make within the room design. We tune into this to see how it feels and make sure it will function.
Can you share what’s on your mood board right now?
We have a selection of materials on shelves in the studio which we refer to for inspiration. We are collecting quartz crystals at the moment as they are thought to stimulate the energy flow and bring balance to the body. This, combined with the wonderful light they throw around the studio, is creatively very satisfying and calming.
Is there such a thing as an average day for you?
Not at all, which is why I love what I do. I am currently writing this interview whilst on our way to Chicago for a huge two-week project. I do find the studio days are really productive. And now the team is growing, I find that I can actually develop the creative ideas and work more efficiently.
You’ve worked for some amazing clients! How do you choose who to take on and how do you start your creative process with them?
We always ask to see any creatives that the client can share with us, and that way we know if it is a project that we feel we can fulfil and develop. I am interested in being inspired by a project before taking it on. We generally have a studio meeting to see how much availability we have and then take it from there.
How do you measure the success of a project?
For myself, if the feeling matches or exceeds our concept. Also by how happy the client is and, of course, repeat business and referrals.
Does the rise of social media make it more challenging to take inspiration from trends while maintaining originality?
I think if you are strong in what you do and know your own style, then social media can help your company reach a wider and more international audience. Ultimately, being a stylist has to do more with an internally developed aesthetic, and while that can be inspired by social media it has to be reassembled internally to truly be yours.
Do you feel like you have a community in the industry?
There are a handful of people that I would certainly say are in my creative community. We share advice as appropriate, and support each other. I think this is an asset that more individuals should be open to. Sharing wisdom is very important for progression. It also means you are confident in what you do.
What is the most rewarding thing for you about your job?
Meeting and working with very inspiring people. It has opened my life up so much more than I could have imagined.
And the most challenging?
The logistics, as well as dealing with customs when we are shipping items internationally. It is very challenging and can be rather time consuming.
How do you find work/life balance with a young family?
I really work hard to have the evenings and weekends free to spend with my family and friends. That and yoga help keep me sane.
I hear that you’re an amazing ceramicist. Tell us about how that passion developed.
In the lead up to my 40th birthday, I had a list of life achievements that I wanted to conquer and this was [at the] top of it. I was on the waiting list for eighteen months, and now I have been practicing for several years. I have been asked if I accept commissions, which is flattering, but it is something I am very private about. And honestly, I enjoy it deeper knowing that the process is purely for myself!
Tell us what your own home is like – how would you describe the décor?
It is very minimal and absolutely follows the House of Grey design aesthetic of a quiet understated luxury. Thankfully my family supports and enjoys it.
Do you have a dream project?
To collaborate with John Pawson on a project. I have followed his work since being at The Chelsea School of Art and have always admired it. The prospect of working with an architectural practice that has the same aesthetics in terms of minimal design would be extremely exciting. We could draw on our knowledge of new low-impact recycled materials [and] interior wellness and bring our design aesthetics together to innovate something beautiful.