I keep my eye out for new textile and wallpaper designers and one whose work stood out recently was that of Anna Jeffreys which was showcased by Tissus D’Helene at a press show at The Design Centre Chelsea Harbour. Journalists usually keep their own thoughts to themselves at these events, but there was a little gasp of surprise and delight at Anna’s swatches. Anna’s seriously pretty designs stood out for their fresh colourways which mix traditional motifs with more contemporary flourishes. What makes them difficult to place is that the colour palette particularly doesn’t seem like it comes from a British design stable and that’s what makes them so interesting.
What has also delighted me about Anna is that this collection has been brewing for some time. Anna isn’t a student in her 20s just out of art school – she has had a rich and varied career in the interiors industry. Sometimes, I believe the best creative work emerges when we have had life experience and really had time to think about who we are and what makes us tick.
So here is my interview where stylist meets designer:
Anna was South African born, half French with ‘a lot of Irish’ she says. ‘My grandfather, an architect (Trinity trained), and my grandmother were a massive influence. They educated me and brought me up. My grandmother had a strong love of East Coast USA and the lifestyle there.’ Anna’s grandfather brought architecture and practical art into Anna’s early life and gave her the passion she has for design.
Anna came to the UK in 1972 when she was 15. ‘I studied A-level Medieval Church Architecture and Textile Design’. Anna’s piece of weaving won a place on the Oxford and Cambridge Schools Exhibition (in Oxford). Anna then enrolled herself on the then new 3 year course at the Chelsea College of Art, Interior and Environmental design. ‘I was loyal to the architectural sway, but I was torn between that and textile design, so decided that technical/draughtsman skills could be combined, ultimately with my love of textiles and pattern and would help me find a career in the world of Interior Design.’
Sir Hugh Casson
‘To my discredit, I turned down a job offer from Hugh Casson to join his team of backroom draughtsmen’. Instead, Anna joined the small team at Jean Monro’s showroom in Montpelier Street, the day after graduating. A year and a half later, Anna knew the name of every fabric and wallpaper house and had learned about archive material, and printing processes.
Nina Campbell took Anna on to manage the building project of her shop in Walton Street, London. Anna stayed on for a year to the run the shop but whilst she was undecided as to what direction she should take next. With a three-month trip to India inbetween, Anna’s next interior direction was one she says was perhaps not her best decision.
Textile shop on the Kings Road
‘I opened a shop on the Kings Road in London with the objective of selling as many wonderful fabric designs as I could under one roof and all for less than £20/m – which was a reasonable price in the 80s.’ The shop proved popular! ‘The actor John Standing was the first of a raft of well-known actors who became my clients and unfortunately endless interior decorators shamelessly brought their clients in, but bought elsewhere!’ After 3 years, Anna married and had a baby and left London.
Interior design in Leicestershire
From home in Leicestershire, Anna continued designing interiors and anything else that made use of her technical skills. Six years ago, Anna says that internet sales began to take a toll and no matter how thrilled people were with schemes she produced, they too often knew where to buy products somewhere cheaper and usually at ‘trade’.
PRIME – Prince’s Initiative for Mature Enterprise
Anna then did two things. She decided to up her computer skills and embarked on an intensive Photoshop course. As well as this, Anna enrolled on a scheme run by Prince Charles called the Prince’s Initiative for Mature Enterprise. ‘The open day was at Nottingham University – it was pretty uninspiring.’ However, Anna persevered and was 3 out of 20 who completed the course. Impressively, Anna alone succeeded in getting her product to market and was proudly presented to HRH The Prince of Wales to celebrate her achievement.
NEW Designs: tradition with a twist
For me as a stylist, these designs have a hint of Georgian or even Swedish Gustavian style to them. I could see them being used in so many different situations from country cottage to grand town house. ‘Ladder leaf’ might even make a good wallpaper for a nursery, bridging that decorating gap between baby and child.
Anna’s design heroes and heroines
‘Where do I begin … in no particular order … Gaudi, Coco Channel, Ferragamo, Manalo Blahnik, Fortuny, Zaha Hadid, Jean Muir, Bill Gibb, Dior (the man), Corbusier, Raoul Dufy, Anish Kapoor, Chagall, the list is a long one. I admire Kit Kemp for her very individual style.’
East meets West at Tissus D’Helene
Meet Anna’s top dog
What serious, interior stylist/designer would be without a faithful friend or two? They often make the best creative directors… This is Anna’s ‘Dora’ – a black and tan Lucas Terrier – who is just quietly blending in with her namesake wallpaper.
Finally, do check out all of Anna’s new wallpaper and fabric designs on her website which are available through Tissus D’Helene. Contact Anna direct for stockists of her decorative stationery range below.
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