Creativity Corner Inspirational People

A Day of Good Design with Ilse Crawford

April 25, 2013

Everyone that reads my blog or who knows me personally won’t be surprised to know that i love creativity, emotional and intelligent design, slow living, well-being and authentic food. I go on about these often enough!

I don’t follow groups, religions, trends, am not a groupie and don’t have many role models. There are very few people that i identify with on many levels and who inspire me. One of them is ilse crawford!

I first came across ilse when i bought my very first issue of elle decoration, back in 1990, a year after she founded the british magazine, hailed as an international decorating bible. Ilse is often credited with teaching the british to love modern interiors.


My interest was piqued and i started following her career. After a short stint in new york (working for donna karan), she came back to the uk and in 2000 became the editor of a new magazine – ‘bare’, a stylish, but very much ahead of its time, bible to well-being. I loved it but it was short-lived!


Then came the position of head of department for man and well-being at design academy eindhoven in holland (regarded by many as the best design school in the world) and ilse had also started her own design studio and consultancy: studioilse.

For those of you who are not familiar with studioilse and its DNA, it’s very much based on the fact that it gives a human perspective to design which is emotional and intelligent. Really quite different to your usual interior design practice. I don’t like calling them that anyway. They are so much more! Studioilse once described their values as:

“we are fascinated by what drives us, brings us together and ultimately makes us feel alive. The studio manifests this through brand development, concept creation, interiors, furniture and products – design that can provide a frame for life”

For me they design a blueprint to entire environments, from thinking about the human experience, to creating a unique identity which can then evolve and morph into its own, thus adding meaning to our lives. They’ve done this with soho house, new york, babington house and with every single project undertaken since. Some further examples: high road house, kettner’s in soho, the electric cinema, the olde bell.

You wouldn’t think that with all this there is much time left to write books. But, hey, we all know women are great at multi-tasking and ilse is a pro at it! I urge everyone of you to obtain a copy of both, the sensual home and home is where the heart is.


Apart from beautiful, they both illustrate ilse’s philosophical approach of seeking the emotional needs before tackling the design side of an environment or space! This was a huge influence for me when designing my own home. It was more about how i navigate my space, how i like to sit, eat, lounge, entertain, over the pure colour, look or style of a piece of furniture or where to place it so it fits within the design parameters . It’s a philosophy that has enhanced my daily life at home and is contributing to my overall well-being.

So, i was delighted when i first read that ilse crawford joined the school of life (TSOL) faculty. I’ve been a huge fan and supporter of TSOL since their launch in 2008. I had missed out on the very first ‘a day of good design with ilse crawford’ back in 2011 so was super excited to get on the list for this second event last saturday!

Our group of 20 people met at her lovely apartment and although i had seen many photographs in magazines, there is nothing really like seeing something in real life and getting that ‘sense’ and ‘feeling’ of it. It’s full of personality and personal touches, lots of keepsakes, invites, postcards and a multitude of books! It is exactly how i imagined it to be. A ‘real’ home lived in by people (ilse and her columbian husband oscar pena angarita) who understand their needs and habits – a truly ‘human’ space. I didn’t take any pictures of the apartment as after brief introductions we went straight up to the studio, but also i didn’t want to intrude in their private space!

The studio, up one flight of stairs from the apartment is filled with daylight, and has this wonderful ‘creative’ feeling you get in a space where many talented people come together to work on brands, buildings, furniture and products. All white, including the wonderful eames chairs and wästberg lights, it seems as if the plain backdrop helps with the creativity. Colour is introduced through magazines, books and magazine tear sheets, used as mood boards. Sitting there you get a real sense of being part of the outside. It’s quite magical.









Ilse was incredibly generous with sharing about her business, her design principles, how projects are tackled, the different phases of a project and the good, the bad and the ugly! The main points were that with every new project the team first analyses context, background, history and the surroundings of the building. Then they look at the needs of the people using the space. Now the process begins with getting the client to agree while also liaising with the architects. Studioilse likes to use local tradesmen. Private projects can take between 2-4 years. Commercial ones take less and always need to be rushed. Few clients understand design and the impact it can have. Studioilse prefers to head a project from its initial conception, rather than being called in as an afterthought and often to remedy a project gone wrong!

Ilse talked us through a recently completed project. Ett hem. They converted a 100-year-old house in stockholm into a boutique hotel. Designed and intended to be used like staying in a friend’s house, ett hem has a number of communal spaces where guests are encouraged to mingle. You can “sit in the kitchen, have a drink in the sitting room, pick up a book in the library or snuggle down by the fireplace.”


Ilse also introduced us to the precious collection studioilse did for denmark’s biggest design brand georg jensen (see below). My favourite was the mama vase. Watch the video that supports this collection here.

The collection “brings a renewed sense of ritual to enhance our everyday habits”. Water is a basic need and ilse, as well as consulting on an ongoing exhibition, 1% water is also writing her third book on this subject.


I was happy to see the studio as they’ll be moving to new premises to accomodate more staff. It was a real honour to have been given the opportunity to see the space where so many wonderful designs have originated from, a really special treat for me!

We left for our next destination. The wapping project. Although i’ve been there a couple of times before, it’s years since i last went and hence it felt like the first time. Impressive, full of history and depth.This was our destination for lunch and we also got treated to an interesting and uplifting talk by founder and curator jules wright (a personal friend of ilse crawford). I will blog separately about jules and the wapping project as it’s such an amazing story and she’s an incredible woman.

Suffice to say, lunch was superb! The food at the wapping project is simple, delicious and fuss-free. Ingredients are carefully sourced and the service was outstanding!








From there we went on to the garden museum, based in the deconsecrated parish church of st mary-at-lambeth adjacent to lambeth palace.  The museums main gallery is the main space for their collection of tools, prints, photographs and library. You’ll find insight into the social history of gardening as well as the practical aspects of the subject. The museum covers the whole range of gardening, from royal gardens to allotments. In the early 1980s, a 17th century style ‘knot garden’ was created in the churchyard, planted with authentic plants of the period.

We stopped off for afternoon tea and a talk by alun jones of dow and jones architect.



Alun jones talked to us about their award-winning design in transforming the museum into a centre for exhibitions and events through the construction of contemporary gallery spaces.

” The garden museum is housed in a listed former church. We designed a two-storey structure that wraps around the aisles of the existing building. The new structure creates new galleries for the permanent collection and for temporary exhibitions, and an education room”

They are about to go into phase 2, where they’ll double the space for display of the permanent collection, 95% of which is in store, and create extra space for schools and community outreach work, in addition to a bigger café and modern visitor services.







From there, we took a short stroll along the river to vauxhall where our next stop was lassco, brunswick house. I blogged about it here and here. This was a perfect ending to our day. A great space that had nothing done to it and yet it lives and breathes through the fantastic objects and artefacts it sells. It’s success comes from the ever changing unique stock and the way it gets displayed and moved around. Every time you walk in there you feel as if you’re in a different space. It’s like an aladdin’s cave.



We all had a rummage around and then congregated in the café for a drink, a little chat and our good-byes.



For me, it was the perfect day. The sun was shining and i got to spend time in the company of a woman who’s been a great influence on my own design and well-being philosophy. There is so much more i could have asked ilse.

More importantly, she is even nicer than i expected. Warm, unassuming, intelligent, softly spoken, thought-provoking, vulnerable, strong, generous and very wise. She has an incredibly calm aura and what struck me most were her impeccable communication skills.

“Ilse is also an influential author, international public speaker and has been named one of britain’s most influential women.” MONOCLE

Yes, all of these are true, but ilse understands that people and teams are at the core of the most wonderful visions and without them very little of any significance can be achieved. Having met phil and janis on the day, it is evident that ilse leads with heart and mind, empowering her staff and allowing them to flourish in their own rights. Ilse is definitely the face for studioilse but i think in her mind it’s all about the people around her, her brood, her (maybe) biggest achievement to date.

Thank you to clemmy and mary (TSOL) for organising this wonderful day!

This post will stay up till next thursday.

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  • Reply Helen April 25, 2013 at 2:18 pm

    What an amazing opportunity – wish I had known about it. I am hugely influenced by Ilse’s work. I’ve been lucky enough to stay at both The Olde Bell and The Crown Inn and they are the most wonderfully welcoming and relaxing places – true testament to her belief in emotional design. I always look forward to seeing what she does next.

    • Reply tina May 3, 2013 at 12:48 pm

      I know how you feel. When Ilse did the first one in the autumn of 2011 I missed it and was gutted. You can imagine how happy I was to get onto this second one:-)

      I’ve visited both but haven’t stayed in them… it’s her aura that is marked in every place Studioilse gets involved with.
      I am looking forward to her next book which is about Water.

      Thanks Helen.

  • Reply Doris April 25, 2013 at 8:06 pm

    Tina, what a wonderful and inspiring day you had! And you got to meet ilse Crawford – one of the legends in the design industry in my opinion! And to top it all off a nice person too. Thank you for giving us an insight into what sounded like a magical day with her. Your photographs are as usual wonderful, I especially loved getting a glimpse into her office. xD

    • Reply tina May 3, 2013 at 12:49 pm

      Ha! Correct. For me she’s also ‘one of the legends in the design industry’

      Being in the studio was a highlight for me. Pleasure. Glad you got to share some of this:-)

  • Reply Chi @ 106 April 25, 2013 at 9:25 pm

    Oh my! Your day couldn’t have been more perfect if it tried!!! I only wish I could have been there too.

    I don’t profess to know that much about Ilse Crawford but I have a rough idea of her philosophy which I know chimes with mine. I LOVE what she did with Ett Hem and her book, Home Is Where The Heart Is? has been in my Amazon basket for months. Time to take the plunge, methinks! 😀

    How super is her collection for George Jensen?!I’ve been coveting the fab brass candleholder myself.

    I have so many tabs open right now, bookmarking links like mad. There’s so much cool stuff to see, do and learn out there, isn’t there? And learning seems to be becoming more convenient and more fun, don’t you agree?

    I really must keep up with The School Of Life more. I follow them on Twitter and I keep meaning to attend one of their events/sermons but haven’t managed it yet. Soon ….

    Wonderful, WONDERFUL post – looking forward to reading about The Wapping Project! 😀 xo

    • Reply tina May 3, 2013 at 12:56 pm

      I know honey. You would have loved this… especially the food at The Wapping Project. I have to admit, although I don’t usually eat bread, they brought freshly baked and hot yummy bread with olive oil. I just had to give in to the wheat:-))

      You and your Amazon basket… why are all those books in the basket. Hit the button woman!!!!! You won’t regret it. Promise!

      Yes, George Jensen range is sensual and beautiful!

      Pick a TSOL event and I’ll join you. Brené Brown is in town again, why not come to this? OH, just checked, it sold out now. Maybe you can go on the Waiting List


  • Reply noreen April 25, 2013 at 11:08 pm

    hi tina,
    that’s overwhelming! what an interesting day – and how special for you, who’s followed her career. the home/studio/museum/tea/what-did-i-miss sounds like a memorable adventure that will feed your creative spirit for a long time to come. i look forward to reading more about this.

    btw, i posted about both other creativity interviews. it’s fun to apply their structures to teaching.

    joy to you, n

    • Reply tina May 3, 2013 at 12:58 pm

      Thanks Noreen. Yes, was pretty special for me. Left inspired, energised and with great memories to keep.

      I saw you posted about my creative process feature. Thank you. Have forwarded it to the relevant guest contributors:-)

  • Reply Catherine April 26, 2013 at 12:50 am

    What a special day for you. The whole day looked fabulous, you must have been walking on air at the end of it. Your photos of the day are outstanding!!! Something that caught my eye immediately was the silver jug on the red desk in Ilse studio, stunning. I must chase up Ilse’s books now and all the links you provided. What an amazing, warm and wonderful woman. Love TSOL also, they are life changers! xx

    • Reply tina May 3, 2013 at 1:00 pm

      Thanks C… yes, the mama vase is pretty special.
      Do get her books. You will enjoy them.
      Happy TSOL are now also represented in Australia xx

  • Reply Parisbreakfast April 26, 2013 at 8:40 am

    Wow wow wow!
    What utter fabulousness
    I’m speechless and jealous

    • Reply tina May 3, 2013 at 1:00 pm

      Hahaha.. anyway, jealous in this case is good, right?
      Thanks Carol x

  • Reply Louisa Blackmore April 26, 2013 at 11:17 am

    Hi Tina

    What an incredible day!

    I must say, I love to make a cuppa and sit down and have a good old catch up of your blog. You write so well and with such interest and passion for your subjects, and your photographs are gorgeous too.

    You totally inspire me & probably lots of others too.

    Louisa xx

    • Reply tina May 3, 2013 at 1:04 pm

      Thank you Louisa. What a lovely and very flattering comment.
      My main aim is to inspire so thank you xx

  • Reply Sarah @ Mocha April 26, 2013 at 11:23 am

    What an amazing and inspiring day!

    Im sure it has given some incredible perspectives and insights.

    Thanks so much for sharing 🙂

    • Reply tina May 3, 2013 at 1:05 pm

      Thank you Sarah for visiting.

      It’s always amazing to learn from your role models. But being in their presence is even nicer:-))

  • Reply Igor April 26, 2013 at 11:53 am

    Wow Tina, this is probably the longest blog post I’ve seen and read so far! I really loved the story about Ilse Crawfod, truth be told I wasn’t familiar with her name and career but now I am beyond intrigued and want to get those two books! Thanks for the intro, Tina, and happy weekend!

    • Reply tina May 3, 2013 at 1:35 pm

      Hahaha. Igor, it’s good for you to read a long one…:-))

      As you love Interiors, Ilse is unique in her methods. I have no doubt you will enjoy the books.

  • Reply owls house london. April 26, 2013 at 2:32 pm

    what an inspiring post. i loved reading about Ilse Crawford, having known her work through Georg Jensen (a brand I know VERY well, having worked with them for a few years), and your general enthusiasm for her and her style of design is wonderful to read. thank you! Jane

    • Reply tina May 3, 2013 at 1:38 pm

      Hi Jane. Thank you for your comment.

      Wow, you worked with Georg Jensen.. that must have been interesting..
      I love the precious collection. Glad you enjoyed the post!

  • Reply Tricia Cunningham April 26, 2013 at 9:09 pm

    Thanks so much for sharing this with us. I always enjoy reading about Ilse Crawford. Just going off her work, she is one of my favourite designers but I also her ethos. Glad you reminded me about the books too. It’s about time I got those and really got to know her better. Triciax

    • Reply tina May 3, 2013 at 1:44 pm

      Thank you Tricia. I also enjoy reading about Ilse and have copies of many interviews and reviews.

      Ilse also guest edited an edition of Vogue Living Australia back in April 2011. I had missed it in the shops here in the UK and so had to ring Australia to optain a copy. The Sydney office were going to make me wait a month so I called Melbourne. The lovely lady was so amazed I rang at 3am UK time and was so after a copy that she send me a spare copy in the post out immediately, free of charge. I love when the passion goes around! x

  • Reply caroline @trend-daily April 27, 2013 at 9:01 pm

    Good grief-outstanding day Tina. A fantastic opportunity to meet such an iconic woman of true talent. Great piece-yes very long, but I made it to the end. You must have loved every minute-thanks for sharing it so eloquently! x

    • Reply tina May 3, 2013 at 1:45 pm

      Haha. Another one that commented on the length. I did love every minute.
      Glad you enjoyed. xx

  • Reply geraldine April 28, 2013 at 2:02 am

    You are so lucky Tina. I wish I could have gone. I have her sensual home book and just love her philosophy to design and home creation. Lovely to get an insight from your post. Have a good week lovely. xx

    • Reply tina May 3, 2013 at 1:50 pm

      Glad you like her book and philosophy to design and home making. Happy you enjoyed the post xx

  • Reply Ingrid April 28, 2013 at 9:13 am

    Looks like an inspiring day Tina- Lucky you!

    • Reply tina May 3, 2013 at 1:50 pm

      Haha. I felt all lucky x

  • Reply Nicola April 28, 2013 at 12:10 pm

    What an extraordinary day of inspiration. Thank you for taking us on your day’s journey – and life’s journey – with your great photos as usual, Tina.

    The Ilse Collection products for Georg Jensen are simply beautiful in their functional form. They describe a way of thinking which must be an inspiration to all her students.

    I love the simple white and light office with the books, images and references that give it life, an intriguing insight behind a philosophy.

    • Reply tina May 3, 2013 at 1:58 pm

      Haha. What people don’t know is that it’s thanks to you that I got onto the course. Here’s the story:

      I was planning a 1-day London Design Tour for a blogging Conference. Unbeknown to Nicola that I missed out on the day with Ilse in 2011 (TSOL), she emailed me saying that TSOL have just issued their calendar and Ilse Crawford is doing ‘ a day of good design’… would that be of interest to me. As I was in a meeting that lasted all day I wouldn’t have seen the TSOL email that I get as well and probably missed out. I made my excusues, left the meeting room, got on my iPhone and paid for the course in a matter of minutes.

      So thank you lovely Nicola. I’m indebted to you!!

      I have no doubt that all her staff and students learn so much all the time. Interestingly, Phil, has been with the studio for 9 years (since he graduated). I can totally see why!!

  • Reply Gerard @WalnutGrey April 29, 2013 at 10:16 am

    What a wonderful memory this will be to think back on. As you know, I’m also an Ilse fan and so delighted for you that you were able to have this experience. I met Ilse at Skandium when they were launching the “Ilse Collection” for Georg Jensen. Whilst I was initially nervous, she was warm, kind, funny and sincere. I was certainly taken with her. I also went to see Ilse in conversation with Michelle Ogundehin at the Design Centre in Chelsea Harbour and was so impressed with her back story and ethos on design.

    I’m actually a bigger fan of Ilse’s products than her interiors, but it’s her thinking on emotional design that I connect most with. We need more of this in design per se.

    Glad you had a fantastic day xx

    • Reply tina May 3, 2013 at 2:06 pm

      Lucky you:-)) I remember you telling me you met Ilse at Skandium…we were joling about who would get her first on the blog, remember?:-))

      Oh, NOW I AM JEALOUS!!! This is the first I’ve heard of ‘Ilse in conversation with Michelle Ogundehin at the Design Centre in Chelsea Harbour’ Completely missed out on that!
      I heard Ilse speak at the Design Museum when she launched ‘Home is where the heart is’. It was a slideshow taking us through her childhood, big influences (BIBA) and how she got to where she is today. I totally loved her then.

      Michelle gets to interview great people. I was lucky to hear her be in conversation with Rosita Missoni (another design hero of mine). I actually have 3:
      Sir Paul Smith (who I’ve heard speak many times), Missoni (met Rosita and also Angela at the V&A last year) and Ilse. Phew! I have now been ‘touched’ by all my design heros. Tick!

      Haha. I’m going to challenge you here. You know we disagree a lot on design matters. I bang on about emotional design and you go on about aesthetic, often (anal) design. I would love you to enter a space designed by Studioilse, spend time there and tell me how it felt! Deal???

      Thanks love xx

  • Reply Anya Jensen April 29, 2013 at 7:28 pm

    Omgosh Tina – you go to the most perfect places, and meet such amazingly interesting people. I loved reading this post, and know of so many of her projects, without knowing much about Ilse really. Thanks a mill for sharing – and the wapping project, next to where I stay when in London, must go next time. PS: Wondered if you’d like to adopt me so I can come on these amazing exploring trips with you ha ha. :)) See you soon – in Berlin,

    • Reply tina May 3, 2013 at 2:07 pm

      You MUST go the the Wapping Project. It’s a fascinating space with fascinating exhibitions and the food is to die for!

      Always happy to show you around xx

  • Reply leah of sang the bird April 30, 2013 at 3:03 am

    Wow T! Amazing, incredibly wonderful. I have a bit of a crush on Ilse. Her ’emotionally intelligent’ designs resonate with me. I love her aesthetic. And I adore ‘home is where the heart is’. It is one of my go to books for inspiration.
    I watched her video and i loved the way it made me feel. So beautiful, and so sensual. Bringing a “sense of ritual to enhance our everyday habits”. I live by this quote xxx

    • Reply tina May 3, 2013 at 2:09 pm

      Awww, how did I know you would love Ilse? Well, I just knew!! Ha. I also often refer to ‘Home is where the heart is’.
      Darling, you are the queen of simple and grateful living. ALways love checking in with you. Thank you Leah xx

  • Reply Gudy Herder April 30, 2013 at 11:35 am

    I “met” Ilse in public the first time last year at a conference she was giving at the Salone del Mobile in Milan and can just confirm, she seems to be very down to earth, intelligent and has a certain aura, yes! Amazing article, Tina. Thank you, I have learned a lot.

    • Reply tina May 3, 2013 at 2:10 pm

      Thank you Gudy. It’s nice that you met her and so could relate to this post from that point of view. Hope to meet you soon. x

  • Reply Holly April 30, 2013 at 6:40 pm

    Oh Tina! I know you had an amazing time and I’m so happy you were able to capture some of it to share with us here. Very generous of you. Thank you so much for introducing Ilse Crawford’s story. I can completely understand why you consider her influential for your design and well-being philosophy. Any one who appreciates the intentions behind the design, is sure to appreciate her work and the work of her team.

    Those books are on my list 😉

    Again, I’m blown away by your images! They’re all fab. From a content point of view – the one in the studio with the red desk and the one at the Garden Museum, of the door with the flowers painted around it – have stolen my heart.


    • Reply tina May 3, 2013 at 2:34 pm

      Happy to introduce Ilse Crawford to you and all other Interior bloggers. Treat yourself to the books. Ilse is Danish so you will relate to her taste.

      Thanks Holly. The red desk is designed by Studio Ilse. On the day, she told us that it’s a best seller and gets specified a lot.
      Happy Pinning xx

  • Reply Alison Sye April 30, 2013 at 9:03 pm

    What a wonderful day.
    Love those portrait plates.
    Thank you for introducing me to the School of Life, I love the website.
    As usual, your photographs are a feast for the eyes.

    • Reply tina May 3, 2013 at 2:35 pm

      Yes, you will enjoy TSOL… Thanks Alison.

  • Reply We Heart Home May 2, 2013 at 11:38 am

    Lovely photos Tina – looks like fun!

    “seeking the emotional needs before tackling the design side of an environment or space” – i love this way of thinking about design! That is how I try to do it too.

    Trisha x

    • Reply tina May 3, 2013 at 2:35 pm

      Good way of doing things Trisha x

  • Reply Rebecca Portsmouth May 6, 2013 at 11:29 pm

    How lovely to read about your day with the new and the established. Ett Hem I had read about elsewhere and sounds like a dream holiday place.

    • Reply tina May 8, 2013 at 12:47 am

      Thank you Rebecca. It was indeed a fab day! Look forward to catching up.

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