Since founding her eponymous firm in 2011, Edinburgh-based Jessica Buckley has become a true design talent to watch. She has a maestro’s talent for color and pattern, weaving one-of-a-kind looks to create homes that are at once welcoming, layered, and eye-catching. Blending a sense of sophistication with a lived-in ambiance is seemingly impossible, but she manages to get it right in all her spaces. Her projects have been spread across the UK, from Edinburgh to London, the Cotswolds, and beyond, and she’s also worked globally, everywhere from the US to Australia and the Middle East.
We asked Jessica for her tips for finding the right balance when using so many different design elements, how to create welcoming yet sophisticated interiors, and much more. Read on to see what she had to say, and be sure to shop her curation of unique vintage Chairish finds.
You’re known for creating spaces with timeless appeal, as well as your love of pattern, color, and beautiful fabrics. What’s your approach to achieving the right balance with all these different elements?
Our approach to fabric selection is very instinctive and hugely dependent on the characteristics of the rooms or houses I’m decorating. What’s right for one client or a certain house may be completely wrong for another. I try to achieve a balance between a room having just enough elements in it to be appealing but not so many as to be over-decorated. I don’t like minimal design, but neither do I like rooms where no one has paused to think, “Is this enough?” Often we’ll use colors which aren’t too “clean” and fresh, so that there’s a gentleness to them and, in turn, to the overall scheme. By doing this, I think you can have lots of different colors in a room but still achieve a very harmonious look.
How do you combine traditional English style with a more modern approach to living?
I love taking inspiration from traditional English interiors and will happily forgo modern gadgets if I think it will ruin the look of a room. The answer, of course, is to keep the modern elements hidden as much as possible and to try to evaluate how the modern way of living will evolve and how our clients wish to live. I loathe the idea of spending huge parts of an interior decoration budget on tech that may soon become obsolete. We try to work with our clients to understand what will make their lives and enjoyment of their home better, easier, and more comfortable.
You’ve designed for projects around the world (and you travel and give design consultations, as well). Are there major differences that you’ve noticed around the world in how your clients’ needs and tastes vary?
Every client’s needs are different, wherever they are in the world, so it’s hard to make a generalization, but I would say that my European clients are more open to the use of decorative antiques—that is to say, they are less concerned with the provenance or importance of a piece, and more interested in the general look and feel of the piece.
What are your tips for creating a truly relaxing, comfortable living space that’s still uber-stylish?
For me it’s about making sure that you have everything you could need or want close to hand and presented in a way that’s as aesthetically pleasing as possible—but never contrived. Having a mix of patterns and colors within your home—not too regimentally matched—makes it feel welcoming and cozy but hopefully also stylish too.
I am also a huge advocate of using several different sources of light in a room: plenty of table lamps, floor lamps, and wall lights help to create the right ambience in a room. Even the most beautiful room can look bad if the lighting’s not good.
What are some color palettes you’re loving right now? And any that you generally avoid or aren’t drawn to?
I am really loving red at the moment—think raspberry rather than scarlet. I am hoping one of my clients will say yes to the red kitchen I’ve got in mind for her. I rarely find myself reaching for shades of orange or terracotta… Burnt orange is a color I can’t get very excited about.
In terms of UK and US styles, what would you both say is the biggest difference between the two? What’s something Americans could learn from the Brits when it comes to interiors?
I’m half American and half English so I admire both styles immensely. The US is so good at doing beautiful kitchens and bathrooms which are sharp but have character, often with amazing tiles and hardware. I love the “clean” look of US interiors, especially where it’s balanced by a clever mix of beautiful fabrics in different patterns and colors. The Brits love things a little less “perfect” and I think there’s something to be said for that too. I don’t like interiors that are stiff or formal, so if everything’s a little too perfect, then it can feel soulless to me.
What’s next for Jessica Buckley Interiors? What are some upcoming projects that you’re particularly excited about?
We’re coming to the US in September for our newly launched design consultancy appointments, which I am very excited about. Rather than doing video-call consultancy, we arrange to visit clients’ homes in person to really get an understanding of their home and what they wish to achieve before we give guidance and actionable advice for them to implement themselves. We would love to do more in the U.S.
On Chairish & Vintage Shopping…
What do you find most compelling about Chairish?
I think it’s the clever curation of items that makes it stand apart from most other vintage and antique online marketplaces. The fact that new items are mixed in with them means that it can be very easy to piece together an entire scheme from Chairish.
How does sustainability factor into your design choices and love of vintage?
It’s a big part of our decision-making process. Do we really need to make something new when we might be able to use an existing piece of furniture? We re-use a lot of clients’ existing pieces and we often buy vintage and antique pieces where appropriate.
What are some of your favorite pieces on Chairish now?
This etagere is the stuff of design dreams: Billy Baldwin’s clever design and beautiful workmanship make this a forever piece.
I love Herend’s Apponyi porcelain—this tea set would be pretty dreamy. I would hang the plates on the wall for decoration and I’d use the tea cups for everyday use. I am a big believer in using your best and favorites every day.
Some Design Favorites…
Favorite way to create a statement-making moment in a room:
A patterned sofa is always great—so much more interesting than the “safer” option of a plain one.
Favorite decorating “cheap thrill:”
Paint isn’t very expensive and can completely change the feel and look of an entire room. If the budget is tight but you want wow factor, then choosing a show-stopping paint color can work wonders.
Favorite iconic piece of vintage design:
Favorite paint color:
I am forever drawn to colors from the celadon-aqua end of the spectrum.
Favorite piece of decor in your home:
My bedroom walls are upholstered in Bennison’s “Paradise” fabric: It’s a beautiful design with so many of my favorite colors incorporated into it. Fabric walling makes the room feel very special indeed.
Favorite designer or artist from the past you most often turn to for inspiration:
Robert Kime passed away only recently but his legacy is incredible: He had a very clever way of incorporating antiques and layers of color and pattern into a room and making it look just right. His work was, and continues to be, a huge inspiration.
Favorite style icon:
Am I allowed to choose an interior designer rather than a fashion icon? Lulu Lytle (of Soane Britain) gets it right every time.
Design destination every creative should visit at least once:
I love the casual perfection of the South of France.
Some Lifestyle Favorites…
Favorite vacation destination:
Italy is hard to beat.
Favorite hotel that’s inspired your work while traveling:
Ballyfin, Ireland, is absolutely magnificent and a masterclass in design details.
I love The Wolseley in London.
Favorite small museum:
The Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris, for the sensational Monet masterpieces.
House Guest by Country & Townhouse
Favorite Instagram accounts to follow:
@lindsayhcuthill for beautiful English country houses; @wiggykit for beautiful wearable clothes; @artichoke_ltd for the most incredibly beautiful kitchens & mudrooms; @jasperconran for glimpses of his beautiful homes and hotels
Favorite hostess (or thank you) gift:
A citrus tree
Oh it depends on the season… I love hellebores, parrot tulips, snow lupins, roses, sweetpeas, and peonies…
Favorite adult beverage:
A very cold glass of champagne—heaven!
Favorite way to unwind at home:
Cutting and arranging flowers from the garden
Favorite entertaining essential:
Beautifully ironed bedlinen: the essential component of a well-made bed for my guests
Lead image: photo by Chris Snook