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How to design a space for life

‘Materiality is very important. Invest in impeccable craftsmanship at the foundation of your home,’ says Thorp  (Thorp Design)
‘Materiality is very important. Invest in impeccable craftsmanship at the foundation of your home,’ says Thorp (Thorp Design)

When approaching a home renovation project of any size, you want to invest in updates that you’ll love long term. Country Life’s executive editor and resident interiors expert Giles Kime explains: “Interiors and furniture with a capacity for longevity are a vital element in sustainability.

“In the past, furniture was designed to last a lifetime – and in some cases several lifetimes – but this ambition has been lost; much furniture ends up in landfill with a huge impact on the environment. Longevity is as much about good design as it is about craftsmanship and using the right materials.” If you haven’t already, it’s time to steer clear of cheap and disposable pieces where you can, instead channelling a “buy once, buy well” approach.

‘If something resonates with you and sparks joy, you won’t get tired of living with it’ (Thorp Design)
‘If something resonates with you and sparks joy, you won’t get tired of living with it’ (Thorp Design)

Sharing this philosophy is Philippa Thorp, founder and director of Thorp Design, a London-based architecture and design studio that attracts some of the most powerful people in the world. Her faithful clientele includes former presidents and oligarchs, who trust her to breathe life into their global property portfolios, spanning from the Hamptons to Phuket. Having skilfully transcended trends for decades, here are her tips for designing a space for life.

Thorp has advised oligarchs and former presidents on interior design (Thorp Design)
Thorp has advised oligarchs and former presidents on interior design (Thorp Design)

“Quite simply, you don’t need to continue altering your home to keep pace with fashion. I consider good design a form of asset management – when you make sensible decisions with longevity in mind, you add value to your property and avoid having to spend more money in the future,” Thorp begins. She tells me: “By taking this approach, we’ll often have repeat clients who, after moving to a new home, ask us to recreate exactly what we did years earlier in their previous property. We’ll repurpose their existing rugs, art, and furniture, reupholstering items that could use a refresh.” This is, of course, much more cost-effective and eco-friendly than starting over from scratch.

‘When selecting furniture, it’s quite simple: invest in things you love’ (Thorp Design)
‘When selecting furniture, it’s quite simple: invest in things you love’ (Thorp Design)

To achieve this level of timeless elegance, Thorp says: “Materiality is very important. Invest in impeccable craftsmanship at the foundation of your home, prioritising good quality timber floors and wool carpets. Wool offers superb resilience and is highly underrated, as are most natural fibres like linens, cottons, and horsehair.”

‘A good armchair can always be enlivened with new upholstery if it gets tired or your tastes evolve’ (Thorp Design)
‘A good armchair can always be enlivened with new upholstery if it gets tired or your tastes evolve’ (Thorp Design)

Thorp continues: “I always recommend embracing traditional painting methods throughout the home. Spray-painted joinery is popular but difficult to maintain as it requires an entire factory respray if at all damaged. Whereas when you opt for old-fashioned hand-painting, it’s easier to remedy imperfections. If you notice any chips or scuffs over time, the affected area can be simply sanded and re-touched.”

Wool offers superb resilience and is highly underrated, as are linens, cottons and horsehair (Thorp Design)
Wool offers superb resilience and is highly underrated, as are linens, cottons and horsehair (Thorp Design)

“When selecting furniture, it’s quite simple: invest in things you love,” she emphasises. “Choose well-made pieces that bring you pleasure and enjoyment. If something resonates with you and sparks joy, you won’t get tired of living with it. Even if you move on to a different property, it will continue to enrich your life.”

To achieve timeless elegance, ‘buy less and buy wisely’ (Thorp Design)
To achieve timeless elegance, ‘buy less and buy wisely’ (Thorp Design)

Thorp concludes: “Items that are crafted to last might seem expensive, but I always advise: buy less and buy wisely. Then commit to maintenance in the future. For example, a good sofa or armchair can always be enlivened with new upholstery if it gets tired or your tastes evolve. As a society, we need to move away from our throwaway tendencies.”