Design Inspiration: Ilse Crawford

Natural Colours and Materials at Embassy House

Ilse Crawford is known for using natural materials and her design philosophy of catering to the senses – a human approach. She was the launch editor for Elle Decoration back in 1989 and her influence continues as the subject of episode 8 (Interior Design) of the Netflix documentary series Abstract: The Art of Design. In September 2016 she was named Maison&Objet Designer of the Year and has designed numerous high profile interiors such as Soho House Club in New York and IKEA.

What draws me to her style is it’s versatility and timelessness. Her ideas are simple and at first glance we have seen them before. The skill is in the attention to detail and the way the space feels to be in. When planning don’t just think about looks, imagine lighting at different times of day and the smell of materials (woven baskets, a pile of logs, or a sheepskin rug all have different aromas). Suitably inspired? Here are some ways to recreate a bit of it at home.

Ilse-Chalet (Switzerland, 2015)
‘Hygge’ at the Chalet in Switzerland, 2015

This Swiss chalet feels warm and inviting through lighting with large windows, open fire, candles and soft lamps. While you may not have wall to wall-to-wall windows, if you have a nice view, try swapping heavy curtains for a simple blind that can be rolled up to invite the outside in. Light your room with a dimmer switch and lamps with low watt bulbs to create a softer feel and add some candles for those cosy evenings.

Ilse-Apartment Residency (Copenhagen, 2014)
Apartment Residency (Copenhagen , 2014)

Okay so I’m not saying we all need an indoor hammock (though I must confess after seeing this I want one). This room in Copenhagen makes you want to grab a book and find a seat. The varied options (the shaggy rug, low bench and hammock) all invite you to try them. The plants give a freshness and oxygenate the air. Take inspiration by looking at your space, how you use it and imagining the possibilities rather than going straight for traditional furniture choices.

Ilse-226 Development (Hong Kong, 2010)
226 Development (Hong Kong, 2010)

I see where the Citizen M hotel in Amsterdam got its inspiration! These chunky open shelves are perfect for dividing space (if you have this much), though they would also work well against all wall. Small fiddly items will get lost so take inspiration and go for large books placed both vertically and horizontally and ornaments with strong shapes that fill the space.

Ilse-Duddell's Arts Club (Hong Kong, 2016)
Duddell’s Arts Club (Hong Kong, 2016)

I love the lushness of this garden. It feels like a Victorian greenhouse. This look would work for small gardens or balconies alike. Go for decking or patio for low maintenance. The plants are varied in height, leaf shape and colour and are all in pots for easy maintenance. Speak to the garden centre to ensure that your pots are big enough for root growth, that your space is light enough (remember they will block light from each other) and that they are hardy enough to handle outdoor temperatures. The mismatched furniture and trendy string of white bulbs gives some edge so don’t be afraid to be adventurous.

If you want to pick up an affordable piece by Ilse check out the Sinnerlig range at IKEA. Ultimately her style is thinking consciously about how spaces make you feel and accentuating that emotion. Does your living room beg you to curl up and unwind with a book? Does your work space energise and inspire? Is your bathroom luxuriously clean and pampering? Is your garden bright with energy and life? These are the tricks to truly capturing the Ilse look.

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All of the pictures are of Ilse Crawford interiors, were not taken by me and are not owned by me. Check out the references below for more on Ilse Crawford and her style.

  • Sensual Home: Liberate Your Senses and Change Your Life Photographed by Martyn Thompson(1997, Quadrille publishing, ISBN 978-1899988174)
  • Home is Where the Heart is? Photographed by Martyn Thompson (2009, Quadrille publishing, ISBN 978-1844006052)
  • A Frame for Life: The Designs of StudioIlse (2014, Rizzoli International Publications, ISBN 978-0847838578)