How We Find Inspiration In The Oliver Burns Studio

We are often asked as a design studio, where do we source our creative inspiration from. The answer is not a short one!

We like to live by the philosophy that design is everywhere around you, you just have to know where to look. From the buildings that tower above you to the organic shapes in nature, we look far and wide for the influences that shape our luxury homes. Below we share just some of the many places we source inspiration.

1. Online

Nowadays, everything is only a click away: masterclasses, inspiration boards and social media. Pinterest and Instagram remain two of our favourite social platforms to look to for instant visual inspiration. Our marketing and design teams both follow thousands of artisans, interior designers, fabric houses, textile designers, fashion designers and homeware brands. We are constantly saving images of objects and patterns we like and are inspired by to refer back to when designing schemes for projects.

Since we can’t get enough of our day job, we also love to watch anything design-related in our spare time too! Some of the team’s favourites TV series include Grand Designs and Interior Design Masters. When cooking or doing the chores, Homes & Gardens’ podcast ‘The Well-Crafted Life’ is always an inspiring listen or MasterClass featuring informative lessons from design icons such as architect Frank Gehry.

A selection of coffee table books in our design studio. Image via Oliver Burns Studio

2. Books & Magazines

We are very lucky that we get monthly subscriptions to all of our favourite design magazines such as House & Garden, Living etc, Elle Decoration, World of Interiors and Homes & Gardens. These keep us up to date on what is going on in the exciting and ever-changing world of design. We keep the latest issues stacked in our beautiful marble and brushed brass magazine holder as a reminder to have a flick through when we are taking a break!

In addition to magazines, books are a huge source of inspiration in our studio. Rizzoli, Taschen and Assouline are amongst some of our favourite publishers for books that are too stunning not to display! Our display shelf in our studio showcases the covers of some of our favourites, providing something beautiful and inspirational to look at from our desks.

The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan, Italy. Image via Oliver Burns.

3. Buildings & Architecture

The nature of our business means we are often positioned in front of a computer screen for the majority of our working day. However, in an increasingly tech-driven world, we believe it is important to also source inspiration beyond accessible digital tools such as Pinterest and blogs. That’s why we try to take regular breaks to step away from our screen and explore what is outside of the studio. On our daily stroll, we like to take a moment to observe the architectural details that surround us. From decorative door knockers to architraves, railings and ironmongery there is so much inspiration that can be gleaned from the buildings of the present and the past without even stepping through the front door.

Our favourite design period is the Regency/Georgian era, for its timeless elegance and fine sense of proportion.

The view from the reception room in our Italian Lakehouse. Image via Oliver Burns Studio.

4. Travel

Travel often inspires and informs our projects. For instance, our Family Residence conjures happy memories of our Co-Founders, Joe and Sharon, on their honeymoon spent on the Amalfi Coast in Italy. Deep blues, soft whites and hints of silver-grey are reminiscent of the Tyrrhenian Sea, helping to conjure the tranquillity of this beloved holiday destination.  Sketches of the pretty village of Ravello adorn the walls.

Travel also allows us to source first-hand the finest materials. For instance, when working on our Italian Lakehouse, our team sourced marble from the local quarries to infuse the space with an elegance that is befitting of its lakeside location.

Team meeting in Jennifer Manner's showroom at Design Centre Chelsea Harbour. Image via Oliver Burns Studio.
Rug poms in Jennifer Manner's showroom in Design Centre Chelsea Harbour. Image via Oliver Burns Studio.

5. Interior Design Community

Our friends and colleagues are without a doubt our most valuable sources of inspiration, even if we’ve been limited by how often we can see them over the last 18 months. During lockdown, to stay connected and inspired, we enjoyed countless phone calls and Zoom meetings and as a team attended some fascinating virtual workshops and classes.

Since government restrictions have eased, its been fantastic to be able to visit our favourite suppliers in person once again. We can often be found in Design Centre Chelsea Harbour, which we try to visit at least once a month as a team. These team outings provide an all important opportunity to view new collections, touch base with suppliers and soak in the art, sculpture and lighting design on offer.

We also look to leading experts within the design world such as colour authority Pantone to provide inspiration. Their annual Colour of the Year provides creative guidance on the complimentary colours and shades that reflect the trends of the moment.

6. Nature

One of the silver linings of the pandemic has been that we have all enjoyed a renewed appreciation of the natural world. Although it has long inspired poets, writers and artists, the last year has provided more time to value the nature right on our doorsteps. The distinctive seasons we experience in the UK provide an ever-changing colour palette that offers endless inspiration of what textures and colours are complementary to one another.

In an exciting upcoming project we are working on, nature forms a key element to the design narrative. We have drawn on the organic shapes found in flora and fauna to subtly bring some of the beauty of the outside world in. Where possible, we have also looked to specify faux and sustainable finishes, so that we are not only drawing inspiration from nature, but also respecting the environment as well.

Monochrome fashion & interior mood board. Image via Oliver Burns Studio.

7. Fashion

Fashion has always been a huge influence for us, which we often reference in our mood boards when pulling together design schemes.

We love to incorporate fashion in unique and unexpected ways such as framing a vintage Hermès silk scarf as a piece of artwork in its own right, which we displayed in the master suite of our Brummell Penthouse. This project looked to iconic dandy Beau Brummell and former residence of Jermyn Street to inform the scheme. The design subtly weaves in tailoring details to reflect the area’s history as a renowned tailoring district, with studwork and exposed stitching.

Detailing seen on the catwalk, such as fringing and pleats, can also be seen in our luxurious designs. From exquisite upholstered headboards by Aiveen Daly in our projects, to our bespoke George Smith sofa in our studio space, we love to look to incorporate the colours, textures and techniques seen in the world of couture fashion.

Vienna Kunsthistorisches Museum Interior. Image via Oliver Burns Studio.

8. Art Galleries & Museums

We feel very fortunate to be based in London, one of the greatest epicentres in the world for culture, with world-renowned galleries such as The Royal Academy, The National Gallery and the Tate Galleries displaying some of the finest and most highly-valued masterpieces. This accessibility means we can view incredible works of art just a stones throw away from our London office.

From adding visual interest and texture to complementing the colour palette, art is the finishing touch that adds all important character and personality to a space. Therefore when designing a home, art remains at the forefront to ensure the pieces selected not only reflect the tastes of our discerning clients but also harmonise with the architecture and design of the property.

9. Design Events

Over the past 18 months, many design events have needed to be virtual, making it even more exciting this September to be able to attend events in person once again. This year we are especially looking forward to the much-anticipated debut of Design London which is located in the new design district at Greenwich Peninsula and will showcase a curated range of innovative design. Alongside this new addition to our diaries, we will also be attending Focus at Design Centre Chelsea Harbour as well as Decorex and London Craft Week in October.

Design events provide a great opportunity to view the latest collections, speak with our suppliers and gain inspiration to inform our next design schemes. They are also an important chance to take a break from our screens and immerse ourselves in the world of design, which often can only be fully appreciated by seeing and touching the design.

180 House interiors. Image via Soho House.

10. Hospitality

Hotels and restaurants can be great design references, so we take inspiration from the architecture and interiors of any places we stay or dine at. Some of the most inspiring hotels we’ve visited around the world include La Mamounia in Marrakech, which features elegant Moorish interiors with subtle Art Deco touches and Venice’s The Gritti Palace which occupies an opulent 15th century palazzo on the grand canal.

A new opening we are excited to visit as a team is 180 House, the latest opening for Soho House in London. Located within an iconic Brutalist landmark along London’s strand, the interiors are inspired by the 1970s era.