Q&A With Steffan Tollgard

We catch up with the brilliant double duo, Staffan and Monique Tollgard to see what’s happening in their world!

We’ve known and admired your work for some time. As a team, do you work on projects together or do you each cover particular aspects?

Staffan: There are some couples who run businesses who never bring their work home.  We do not live by this rule!  Our company was set up on the strong belief that creative collaboration, both within our design practice and with our clients, brings the best out in everybody. So depending on the project both Monique and I will contribute according to our strengths and the requirements of the project. This said, over the last thirteen years we have realised that our strengths and interests lie in slightly different areas of the business and our practice.  So I find myself spending a lot more time thinking about product design, and sourcing new brands to launch at the Design Store, our flagship showroom in Pimlico. And Monique is immersed in projects together with Keisha Hulsey our Head of Interior Design, and Design Director Kirsty Grosz. Together they head three design teams that run a range of different design projects, from very modern new-builds half-way across the world, to relatively small FF&E projects across the river.

What are you working on at the moment?

Staffan: The Summer of 2018 is going to be a busy one for us.  We are seeing the completion of some of our longest-running projects, including two in Riyadh, a beautiful family villa in Jordan that we are particularly fond of, the ultimate penthouse apartment in central London (that’s a four-year gestation one) as well as a lovely Grade II listed property just off High Street Kensington.  We’re continuing with several local refurbishments as well as an interesting commercial project that will see us re-imagine a client’s work and executive office space.  As we are now over the ten-year mark we’re seeing a few existing clients come back for a refresh of work we did previously, and that’s a lovely life cycle to keep going.

Where do you find inspiration?

Monique: Staffan and I are hoarders of information.  We are constantly on the look-out for new as well as tried and tested answers to the questions of living which our projects throw at us. It can be a little irritating when we go to new places (hotels, restaurants, friends homes … ) and pull everything to pieces to see how good things have worked, and why something hasn’t. For our projects our clients are a key source of inspiration, as well as the architecture they have chosen to express their identity through and the setting they have chosen.  We’ve been lucky enough to have worked in different cultures and have tried to make the most of vernacular traditions, craft and materials.  So often we need to look to the past for answers, especially when it comes to protecting homes from the elements.  Technology has a huge role to play, but there are certain traditional answers that we just shouldn’t ignore.

What do you think are the key trends coming in now?

Staffan: We’ve been thinking a lot about this, especially since visiting the Milan Fair in April, and ICFF in New York.  It feels like there is a lot of optimism right now, even though with Brexit looming it seems that we should be experiencing more uncertainty. In terms of trends this optimism is working its way through every strand of the design world, evident in a blaze of colours, right the way from brassware and architectural ironmongery to ceramics, paint colours and fabrics. We recently met a wallpaper manufacturer that is doing waterproof wall paper, and the possibilities here for customising these spaces that have traditionally been dictated by tile manufacturers are quite exciting.

In Milan I loved a new take on the gym/bathroom by Scavolini.  We haven’t seen the reinvention of the bathroom for a while now (different colour metals and ceramics are more of a cosmetic change) and I think this idea of making rooms multi-task is a really great one.  The Scandinavian trend seems to have awoken again and is going strong with a lot of new suppliers together with some fantastic recreations of mid-Century modern icons.

Finally, I see a split emerging in the realm of kitchen design.  Some are becoming even more functional – real chef’s kitchens using commercial grade equipment from the likes of Electrolux’s Grande Cuisine series.  And then some are moving firmly away from the realm of the laboratory.  We’ve seen open-plan kitchens for a really long time, but some of the latest takes on the kitchen make you look twice to see if the hob is even there!  It might mean that some people are actually cooking less, but perhaps some clients are being honest with themselves and admitting that the kitchen is more of a social area than a functional one.  So we see Scavonlini’s Diesel kitchen and we seem to be in a bar more than a kitchen.

You have a gorgeous new showroom east of the iconic Chelsea Barracks, what prompted you to choose this site?

It is a little oasis in this part of Chelsea. We are a five minute walk to Pimlico Road yet have no traffic and a gorgeous view of the little dock at Grosvenor Waterside. Add in 6-meter ceilings and a blank canvas for the showroom and we were sold.

The ST Design Store is a curated collection of some of the best contemporary design from Europe and beyond.  Who are your particular favourites at the moment?

  • O&G Studio from Providence, Rhode Island, have reinvented the classic American chair for contemporary living. Modern heirloom pieces that qualify as functional sculptures.
  • Felix Ghyczy has taken over the helm of his father’s company and is bringing all of their wonderful pieces from the past 50 years to the rest of the world. Look out for the S02+ chair and the iconic garden chair on display in our showroom and at the V&A.
  • Allessandro Sarfatti is bringing back his famous grandfather Gino’s amazing collection of lights through his company AStep. The stunning Le Sfere chandelier will soon be hanging in our showroom together with other classic pieces.
  • Bodil Kjaer’s mid-century desk, that you might know from a number of old Bond films, has been brought back to life by Karakter, an inspirational Danish company who are hell bent on simply producing things of beauty and have never really cared that much about the commercial side of things. The result is an inspiring collection suitable for a museum as well as a home.

Since we filmed you there a year or so ago, how has the showroom evolved?

We are constantly looking for new artisans and new pieces. We’ve clad our walls with leather from a great Dutch company called Alphenberg, who we really think you should be speaking to as well.  They are able to laser cut and customise leather to most shapes and any colour a designer would want.  We’re showing incredible pendants from Brooklyn-based RBW (Rich Brilliant Willing), a company that care enormously about the quality of the light that their fittings produce.  Functional sculpture that is truly functional.  And we are showing some metal cladding from Italian atelier De Castelli.

Which is your favourite room at home, and why?

Staffan: I think the open-plan kitchen / living / dining has to be the best place in the house. We clad the doors of the kitchen using De Castelli bronze panels and have because of a great back-kitchen, manage to keep the front of house looking vaguely presentable at most times.  The living room and dining area look out onto the terrace and garden beyond, and with the doors open feels like you are right in the garden.   We chose a fantastic Skantherm wood-burning fireplace for the living room – it’s both an architectural focal point as well as a really great heat source during the winter. Proper functional sculpture.  The kids do their homework on the dining table, Monique plays guitar with our youngest son around the fire … or the kids run shrieking round the island trying to kill each other.  It’s a real family living space.

Which is the best present you’ve given yourselves, or received, for your home?

Monique: We have a growing collection of stone sculpture that mean a lot to us.  My grandparents started the collection when we got married by giving us a sculpture that came from an exhibition of Shona artists in the Kirstenbosch botanical gardens in Cape Town.  Made from leopard stone it’s a beautiful piece with strong memories and emotional value. Since then we have added to the collection and housed it in a metal and glass cabinet from Porro.  A pair of Jade book ends joined after we went as a family to New Zealand, and most recently, a Jade inukshuk from Canada came back with us to commemorate our 15thwedding anniversary.  We imagine that the inukshuk and the leopard-head sculpture tell each other tales of faraway lands when the lights in the house go out.

Learn more about Tollgard at www.tollgard.co.uk.

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