We caught up with The Dormy House interior stylist Ali Attenborough (née Bradshaw) and asked her if she would give us an insight into her career. Here’s what we learnt about all things interiors, where she gets inspiration from – and even a couple of trade secrets…
Tell us a little bit about yourself, when did your love of interiors first begin?
Age 10 I built a house of Lego and crafted furniture and accessories from Plasticine. I still love interiors as much today as I did as a kid. My home plays a big part in my happiness.
How did you get into the industry?
I did work experience at magazines such as World of Interiors, Good Homes and Ideal Home, and assisted freelance stylists. It’s the best way into the industry – you work up from the bottom.
What was a career highlight for you?
Styling the cover of Ideal Home magazine for the first time was really fulfilling. And now seeing my work in magazines is still exciting.
Who would you recommend everyone follows on Instagram for interior inspiration?
I’ve yet to find a feed that I really love. But for certain inspiration, I follow Kelly Wearstler, The Design Museum, Vogue Living, Rockett St George, VT Wonen, Cole & Son, atmine and insideoutmag.
What is your favourite app and/or website?
Waze. The sat nav app. It changed my life!
What’s your favourite colour?
Green. My home is various shades of green white, grey and black. But I also love the graphic quality of simply black and white.
What is your favourite paint colour and fabric from The Dormy House collection?
My favourite paint colour has to be Charcoal. It’s a bit stronger than most of the other colours.
Favourite fabric has to be the Garcia Ombre. It’s like a pattern without being a pattern. Its colour is strong but subtly shifts to pale.
We go to Chelsea Harbour together a lot to select fabrics, is there anywhere else you go to get inspiration?
Pinterest has to be mentioned. Though you need to build up your preferences and edit your follows to get the best stuff coming through on to your feed. Mostly, I find inspiration in art and art history – I love David Hockney; in cinema – I love Wes Anderson films – and in magazines, from travelling, and looking and listening to people. All these things feed into my love of interiors, and that’s partly why it’s so interesting.
When it comes to propping, how do you select the style for each shot?
For a brand like The Dormy House I start with the product. What does it tell me? Is it classic or contemporary? How and where would it naturally look its best, but also interesting? Then I ask how do we make it look on brand and also current? I work backwards from what the clients requires so that the brief is met, but I need to stay inspired for the images to be inspiring, so I sometimes take things too far. But happy to be reined back in. I think I’ve got a good handle on how far to push things. Sometimes I’m more excited about styling an image how I want it rather than the client’s brief. But it can’t really go far wrong.
What is your signature style?
I style with a natural, relaxed, real, sometimes playful or graphic feel.
Do you break any style rules?
There’s no rules to break in my world.
Where is your go-to place to source props?
Depends on the job and budget. I really like Rockett St George, Nkuku, and H&M.
Real flowers or fake flowers?
Ideally fresh. Though faux flowers don’t wilt on me over a four-day shoot.
What was the last piece of furniture you bought, where was it from and why do you love it?
The Cotton grey armchair from Maison Du Monde. It’s a stonewashed look fabric so has a weathered texture, seams are external, so it feels less formal, and it has crossed fine legs that make it light and airy rather than large and lumpy.
Which room in your house is your favourite?
Our new loft bedroom. It has views out across south and east London, it’s clad in rough sawn dark grey walls, and it feels like a completely different building because we went brave with the style.
What are your three favourite pieces of Dormy House furniture?
The new TV unit (below) solves the age-old problem of clutter and TV storage. A TV is not actually on for long so the unit needs to look more handsome when not in use. If your TV is hidden away, you’re more likely to do something else more interesting than watching it.
The French cupboard (below) is just pretty. And perfect for a dining room or even bedroom with a makeup drawer on top like a standing dressing table. I like the taller height, which makes it more elegant than a sideboard.
I love the scale and seating position of the Spoonback chair (below). It doesn’t feel formal or upright. It’s a timeless classic that everyone should own.
Finally, what is it about The Dormy House that you love?
I love that you can configure or customise your own pieces. That makes you feel creative, individual and not an identikit customer or statistic. Often in shops you find that a chair maybe the right shape but not the right fabric. Choosing your own fabric for a chair, sofa or footstool, for example, makes you feel your home is original and defined.