If modern-day design is about versatility, Rita Konig is one of its most proficient practitioners. The London-based designer is an interiors expert, a tastemaker, a product creator, and a highly sought-after columnist (everywhere from Vogue to House & Garden and the WSJ). She’s known for a relaxed, welcoming style that’s still fully realized without being formal or fussy — a girl after our own heart, indeed.
Read on to learn more about Rita’s impressive work as a designer and the inspirations that continue to guide her to this day. And be sure to shop her curation of favorites, including her charming line of handpainted lampshades that are exclusive to Chairish. And if you want to hear from the designer herself, don’t miss our one-on-one interview on the Chairish Podcast, where Rita discusses how she updates tradition and aims to democratize design.
You’ve said you like to design a home for comfort — and you’re certainly not afraid of color. If you were offering advice to a new client who was a bit timid about using color, how do you get them over the hump?
A good way to get into colour is to look at accessories, if painting the walls feels like too great a stride. You can start with a vase of pink tulips. I think that bringing more colour into the room is a question of turning the dial a few degrees and then going up in increments, rather than going the full 90 degrees in a direction you are unsure of.
What is the key to creating a comfortable home?
Thinking about how you want to use it and then working out how to make it function really well.
Take the living room for example: How do you imbue comfort in that highly-used space?
Well the first thing is to make sure that the sofas and chairs are comfortable. After that, it is the layout and making sure there are enough tables and lamps — tables for your drinks and several lamps for creating a good light in the room.
Do you prefer to design for commercial or residential?
I have done much more residential than commercial. My commercial experience was with Jeff Klein for San Vicente Bugalows and Hotel 850 so I was very spoiled, really — it wasn’t a 250-room hotel being run by accountants.
Which can be harder?
I suppose in a way the residential is harder because it is so personal for the client, so you have to do more hand holding and persuading. With commercial, there isn’t so much emotion attached to it, which allows for more confidence from the client.
Do you have any advice when sourcing art?
I suppose the obvious one is that it should move you in some way. Follow your eye and instinct — I don’t know a huge amount about art so that is the route I have to take!
Do you have any great tricks for making a small space appear larger?
A pattern on the wall is the simplest!
Chairish & Vintage Items…
What do you find most compelling about Chairish?
Well, I always find shopping for antiques exciting, because it is all about the find and the chance that you might miss it and certainly the fact that they are one-off pieces. This is the stuff that starts to make a house unique and that is what I really find exciting.
You’re a fan of supporting small dealers, especially since COVID hit. What are a few of your favorite pieces on Chairish now?
Right now, I have my eye on:
Chairish sells your beautiful, colorful trays. Why are trays a must for a home? What are some of the functions they serve as decor?
They are great corrallers of things. I love them for the oils and vinegars etc in the kitchen, creams and sprays by my bed, in the bathroom for products, beside a sofa with a candle, match strikers, and ashtray (for the match of course!)
Your ice buckets have such a unique design; how did they come about? And how did you select the colors for them?
They came from a vintage ice bucket that my mum had in our house as a child. I always loved it and it came in many colours — it was one of those design classics, so when James [from The Lacquer Company] came to me about doing a line, I immediately wanted to use that shape. The colours were fun to choose. Funnily enough, not all colours work in lacquer — it’s the darker, richer tones that work the best.
You’re selling an exclusive line of lampshades on Chairish. Tell us what makes the shapes and fabrics so special.
Well, they are hand painted and hand made in Wiltshire, England. I think that lampshades are such an important part of a room as they are pretty much at eye level. I love the designs on these; I find them to be very original and I love how the colours really add to the room. They are a good way to add colour if you are a little nervous of it.
Tell us about Create Academy.
Create Academy feels like the culmination of all the years of the various columns I have written (Vogue, The Telegraph, The London Times, The Wall Street Journal, Domino, Harpers Bazaar US, House & Garden UK) and the workshops that I used to do at my home in London. I love imparting information on decorating, and rather than instructing people on how to decorate like me, what I hope to do is give a roadmap so that people can apply it to their own taste. I think it is so important that your home is a reflection of your style and so that is what the course is aimed at achieving. Blowing the lid off all the trade secrets we take for granted when we do it every day.
Favorite way to create a statement-making moment in a room:
I am not sure I really decorate in that way. But a large print can do that; I love the giant artichoke I have in my kitchen at North Farm by Sarah Graham.
Favorite iconic piece of vintage design:
Mies van der Rohe leather and chrome tubing chairs.
Favorite decorating cheap thrill:
Favorite paint color:
Favorite decor piece in your home:
I love the cloud picture I have from Sam McEwen opposite my bed.
Favorite designer from the past you most often turn to for inspiration:
Design destination every decor lover should visit at least once:
Your mother is Nina Campbell, and so you grew up around design all your life. What was the best piece of career advice you ever received from her?
She taught me how to use a scale rule. That you need to do a furniture plan to do an electrical plan. That you mustn’t be embarrassed to talk about money; when you are young it does feel embarrassing, and so often the young are exploited as a result. Once you get the hang of it, it’s very easy! And if you need to reduce the estimate, you are going to have to change the spec. You can’t give a discount on the same work or expect other trades to.
Favorite vacation destination (the next time travel becomes an option):
Italy. I am longing to go to the Pelicano as soon as I can.
Favorite Instagram accounts to follow:
I love following antiques dealers and follow them on my dedicated shopping account Rita_k_shopping.
Favorite hostess (or thank you) gift:
Tin of caviar. (For my favourite host you mean!)
Favorite style icon:
Tulip, especially if its been painted by Rory McEwen
Lead image: Rita’s North Farm country house in Durham, which is available for rent. Photo: Simon Brown