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Under the spotlight: Stefa Hart – interior designer

By 10th August 2021Articles, Lifestyle, News

How were you first inspired to work in interior design?

My passion for interior design has come from a love of art and decorative arts. I love colour and I enjoy making a room interesting and comfortable. I lived with Nina Campbell for a year before I married, and I was certainly inspired by her. Nina was our designer for Hambleton Hall. Once she had gone, I took up decorating at Hambleton and soon started my own business with friends asking me to help them. Forty years later Hambleton Decorating is a thriving small interior design business.

What are your tips for blending antiques with modern pieces?

I love mixing modern furniture with antiques. For me, the art of mixing modern and antique furniture is to embrace the modern decluttering of ‘stuff’. Buy what you love and the best you can afford and make sure you have room for it whether it be as a decorative or a practical piece. There are certainly styles that do not mix. I would not mix Victorian furniture with contemporary furniture. But, I would mix a George lll commode with a Soane the-simplified-crillon-chair or Angel Rectangular Dining Table and a Sussy Cazalet rug, a Vaughan coffee table and a William Yeoward lamp .

Given the current overseas travel restrictions, where in the UK do you source the most interesting antiques?

It has been very hard for art and antique dealers during lockdown. I would go to a lot of the antiques fairs where dealers from all over the world exhibited. Now they have websites with excellent photos; it’s not the same but it does work. I can’t wait for the fairs and markets to open again! For special items I love going to a good shop such as Ronald Phillips and MacKinnon antiques. I like to visit Masterpiece Fair in London, the Decorative Art Fair in London and Harrogate and the Newark Antiques Fair. All these are re-opening, and I am sure will be very popular. During the lockdowns the salesrooms have been very busy and have done very well.

Do you have a favourite wallpaper and/ or fabric designer and if so, why?

I have rather a lot of favourites. Having been in the business for so long, I have built up some very happy client relationships. Every client and every building calls for something special. Something to thrill the client, suit the room and fit the budget. There are so many fabulous designers producing gorgeous wallpapers and fabrics. The research for something to suit is part of the pleasure of designing. At the moment we are placing an order for a very beautiful wallpaper, hand painted and designed especially for the room. At the same time, we are buying an inexpensive wallpaper to line the inside of a cupboard. My go-to favourites are Claremont, Pierre Frey, George Spencer, Christopher Farr, Nina Campbell, Tissue d’Helene, Turnell and Gigon, Chelsea Textiles, Fermoie, William Yeoward, Lewis and Wood, Guy Goodfellow and Vaughan.

What inspired you and your husband Tim Hart to research and design the new breakfast crockery for Hambleton Hall?

Both of us love china! When we started at Hambleton, our breakfast service was Nina Campbell’s blue bud china. It was too delicate for the demands of a restaurant wash-up, so we changed to Villeroy and Bosch Petit Fleur. Now it is time to have a new service and Timmy is working hard on the design and production of it.

There is increasing pressure for hotels to become more sustainable. How do you juggle that with your design vision?

We are constantly looking at how the hotel can be more sustainable. The light fittings have mostly been changed to LED. We are looking at solar panels at the moment. It is, and will be, an ongoing project for us all.

Here are a few examples of my work:

A corner of the Hambleton Hall drawing room. This room has evolved over the years. The wallpaper is by George Spencer, the chair fabric by Jean Monro (a sofa is covered in the same fabric), and the sofa pictured is covered in an India Hicks fabric. The cushions are from Chelsea Textiles. I love the way that green is brought into the room. It could easily be rather sweet and sickly pink and blue.

This is a corner of a study we did a few years ago. The curtains are made from an Alidad design for Chelsea Textiles. I love these Persian inspired designs. It is hand embroidered in India. The walls are hung with a Claremont fabric which makes the room very cosy.

This is a seven-bedroom Chalet in Switzerland which my colleague Caroline Field and I finished last year. It was a heavenly project that we managed to do during lockdown, and it took us four months from start to finish. When we laid the table for dinner, we picked wildflowers from the surrounding fields!

Stefa Hart co-owns Hambleton Decorating and Hambleton Hall, Rutland

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