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Keir Townsend

Contemporary classic design – London style: Keira Townsend talks to Hilary Fennell about Keir Townsend, the award winning interior design studio, based in South Kensington/London, which she runs with her husband.

By Hilary Fennell

The use of green creates a calm mood in this bedroom. Shades vary from emerald, to olive, to pale sage in a variety of textures, from glass to lacquered wood, to velvet and leather.

Born in Russia, Keira Townsend was a creative child whose love for interiors manifested itself when she was only six. ‘My earliest memory is wanting to redesign the childhood bedroom I shared with my sister. I wanted to convert it into two rooms and to install a mezzanine!’

Keira studied fine art and fashion design until progressing on to interiors.
Her father was a diplomat and she grew up in many different locations, amongst them Morocco and the Middle East, moving to South Africa in 1991 and, 10 years later, to London where she met her husband Alastair Keir, at The Russian Ball. ‘I’m not sure if it was fate so much as persistence,’ she laughs, ‘he persisted for four years.’

They set up Keir Townsend 10 years ago, undertaking high end commercial and residential projects. Alastair manages construction and project management, whilst Keira concentrates on design. ‘We have no problem discussing work at home or on holiday, because we love what we do,’ she explains, ‘Having employed 40 people over the years, I can honestly say that you either have a vision for spaces or you don’t. No amount of training can give you that. Our eight year old son has it, he’s an architect in the making, always telling us about the hotels and resorts he’s going to build.

A floral theme was introduced to the bedroom of this historic house using framed panels of silk velvet, embossed and hand painted, arranged in a fashion that would have been popular at the time the house was built.

Keira believes that the spaces in which we live and work have a huge influence on how we develop and relax.

‘A lot of my inspiration comes from ethnic and cultural influences from the different parts of the world I’ve lived in,’ she explains, ’but I’d describe my style as contemporary classic. I don’t like replicas or mock-period design. Every era has its features, but I believe that there is an art to combining old and new, natural and man-made in a way that is comfortable, warm and relaxing. And I really dislike minimalism. We don’t live in a minimalist world. We need comfort and objects that inspire. Ultimately, I try to create neutral, calming schemes. I begin with a fairly blank canvas to which I can add colour and accessories for a change of mood.

Use of mood enhancing colour schemes. Orange calls to mind feelings of creativity, positivity and enthusiasm while promoting focus and attention. It is a great colour to use in a study.
This 10-seater dining table was crafted from 200-year old barnwood with a vein inset that reflects the horizon line of the property. The whole piece was laminated in resin so that the natural grain and texture is still visible, combining elements of old and new in a complementary way.

And, I always make it a priority to get to know and understand the people who will be using the scheme – who they are, what they like, and how the space will be used. In that way, I can tell their story.’ Keira’s idea of bliss is living in nature, ‘We’re spending more and more time in The Cotswolds. I wouldn’t rule out moving there completely.’

Shower backsplash installation featuring a floral theme created in silverleaf behind glass.

Her advice to anyone who wants to do their own interior is to strive for timeless elegance, things that will survive and that will still look amazing 10 years on. And to those who want to get into the business she reminds us that it is 80 percent administration, ‘you need an excellent attention to detail.’ And the biggest lesson that life has taught her so far? ‘Stay positive. Construction is a tricky business. During my career, I’ve seen two recessions come and go, but it is so easy to get discouraged. So never give up.’

Keira’s Top Interior Trends:

1. Respect for the Environment
‘There’s a strong trend towards all things natural – from materials used to organic shapes and to a more simplified way of living. Be environmentally aware when selecting lighting, heating, air conditioning systems, as well as choosing sustainable materials wherever possible.’

2. Green Walls
‘The love for all things pristine and sterile is over. Green walls are a big story in homes, workplaces and public spaces, which is good news for our wellbeing, as green promotes calmness and peace.’ ‘Green’ or ‘living’ walls are comprised of real, living plants that require soil and water often provided through an integrated water delivery system. ‘We’re doing a lot of moss walls too, especially in homes. Unlike living walls, they do not need soil, watering or misting as they take the moisture from the air.’

3. Functional Art
Pieces that are both functional and are works of art at the same time. ‘We recently created a dining table for a client’s rustic home from 200-year old barnwood with a vein inset that reflects the horizon line of the property. The whole piece is laminated in resin, so that the natural grain and texture is still visible, combining elements of old and new. It’s a real talking piece.’

4. Floral Themes
‘We just did a bathroom scheme where we created floral themes on taps and the shower backsplash in silverleaf, further enhanced by natural stone and polished plaster to create a tactile and multifaceted effect. Very subtle – very calming.’

5. Natural Light
‘There’s a huge emphasis on lighting schemes and how natural light is used in a building, and a move away from electricity, favouring solar panels.’

For more information see www.keirtownsend.com