Acclaimed architect and interior designer David Collins raises the standard in luxury living as he opens the door to his London home and an impressive roster of five-star projects.
Taking luxury lifestyles to new levels, leading architect and interior designer David Collins creates timeless spaces in unforgettable places.
Architect and interior designer David Collins has secured a reputation for his innovative style, which melds traditional British refinement with metropolitan chic. Taking inspiration from some of the foremost eras in design history to produce Rococo flourishes and Art Deco details, the Dublin-born designer shakes it up with a heady injection of glamour – a word with which his name has become synonymous. Over the years, Collins' London-based studio, which he runs with his business partner Iain Watson, has upped the ante within the city's haute hospitality scene with his remarkable architecture and interiors, from the Berkeley Hotel's iconic Blue Bar to the recent renovation of the restaurants within London's revered food emporium Fortnum & Mason. A self-confessed fashion aficionado, Collins is also credited for creating the sumptuous setting of British designers Amanda Wakeley and Vivienne Westwood's stylish London showrooms.
Collins' forte lies in creating highly comfortable interiors that belie their impossibly chic appearance, earning him a devoted following and a coterie of A-list clients such as Tom Ford, who called on the designer to fit out his London abode. The David Collins studio has a string of impressive overseas projects in the pipeline, particularly in the US, where he has recently completed Luxury Hotel & Resorts' latest New York and Hollywood locations, as well as The Charles, Manhattan's most prestigious private address. David Collins lives in West London.
You have reinvented the quintessential British home for the 21st century. What do you feel are the most important elements of this celebrated style?
I am influenced by the emotional effects design can contribute, particularly in a residential project. I tend to experiment with color, materials and even cultures to create something that has a personality that reflects many strands of design rather than one set style or set of rules. I like to think laterally and push boundaries, but always focus on comfort.
Who are the people you looked to at the outset of your career, and who do you find inspiring today within design, architecture and art?
My father was an architect, and I'm very influenced by architecture. I tend to see the architectural style of a building before anything else, and it's always been a passion of mine, so I'm quite well-versed in various architectural styles. Understanding not just the stylistic elements of them but very importantly the evolution from previous styles and why certain eras adopt particular styles.
I was very inspired by Mies van der Rohe, by Eileen Gray, and by the Bauhaus movement when I studied architecture. I felt instinctively that the so-called Modernist movement had reached its natural peak in the early part of the twentieth century and had become diluted by the late twentieth century, and that some of the more contemporary architecture that's going on today is more a response to an economic set of rules, or, in some cases, an extension of the architect's own ego.
You regard your own home as an experimental space for your designs. What inspired its current manifestation?
I like to try things out in my own home. I get inspired by things I see in my office. Often there's a material or a finish that we've customized, and I think, "I'd like to live with this, at least for a while." I don't tend to do major rebuilding projects on my house, but I've just recently made my dining room much warmer and more like a total entertaining room, rather than just somewhere to eat. I've been quite inspired by the rebirth of couture and particularly the arts and crafts - such as embroidery, hand stitching and the customizing of fabrics.
Which is your favorite room?
My favorite room is probably my study, which is entirely navy blue satin, offset with tones of ivory and gold. It's quite indulgent and masculine and comfortable, and I suppose it was inspired by the fact that I've always loved the colors of the Navy and the Air Force.
What is the secret to creating a relaxing environment with a strong element of drama?
I think that it is to make the furniture comfortable; to have the lighting adjustable, soft and flattering; to have great music; and importantly, to have personality within the space.
How many homes do you own?
I am not a multi-home owner. I detest the pressure of debt and expenditure, and so I am lucky enough to have a comfortable and rather large apartment in London over two floors. I also recently bought a house in Buenos Aires which I'm converting really because I love the style of colonial Spanish architecture, particularly that which is found in Buenos Aires. It is very much of a time where things had a certain elegance and style to them, which was erased by social changes in the late twentieth century.
Your style changes all the time. What is your style at present, and what inspired this current spirit?
My style at present is, I suppose, quite confident with color. But I tend to use color in a very saturated form, and not necessarily with a lot of contrast - just different densities and textures. And I am quite inspired by contemporary artists or twentieth century artists such as Francis Bacon, or Patrick Scott.
Your passion is fashion. Do you collect such items, and does your appreciation for luxurious, precious materials stem from this?
Yes, I do have a passion for luxurious fabrics. And I have a real affinity for blue. For anything with indigo. So, since I was in my teens, I've tended to wear navy blue or a variant thereof. These are the kind of colors and textures that appeal to me. I like Prada, and I like Lanvin and admire Martin Margiela. The home of Jeanne Lanvin has very much inspired me. I also like to mix different shades of blue.
Tell us about your current major project, New York's luxury residential development The Charles.
When I was given the opportunity to work on The Charles, the reason the clients asked me to become involved was that they wanted to bring a residential feel and a personalized atmosphere, which came from an emotional point of view, rather than a design statement. I felt that I wanted my statement of design in The Charles to be about living, rather than ego. And in this way I've taken some of my experience from other residential projects and combined them to make something that I think is unique in New York – a very comfortable townhouse, with wonderful spacious and voluminous apartments.
You have designed some of London's best restaurants. What do you enjoy about restaurant design?
I enjoy the challenge of working with restaurants. It's fun to work with people like Gordon Ramsay, and I do think that Gordon Ramsay at The London, West Hollywood, is probably the best restaurant we've done, although I really do like The Landau at the Langham Hotel. But with both of these spaces, we were very much creating the architecture; we were not interior designers. We created the style, the architecture – everything, right down to the finishes. I. M. Pei said, "There's no such thing as good projects, just good clients." I would tend to agree with that.
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David Collins' definition of luxury:
An empty diary and time on my hands, music playing and the sound of the sea. I find this in Uruguay.
If luxury were...
By the sea.
A good conversationalist.
It would be playing cards with friends, in the sun, with nothing pressing to do.