The Joys of Working with Friends


It is not often that I get to work with close friends and I am always so delighted when given the opportunity to help design their homes. In many ways, the “job” is almost effortless –  not only do I know them and their family well and how they live, but also their likes, dislikes and some of their quirky traits. Plus, it’s an excuse to spend even more time together.

Working with my friend Tamara on her family home in Chelsea was such a treat. We met at all times of day and night over coffee, lunch and kitchen dinners.  We got a lot done and had fun doing it.

Tamara has a wonderful Art collection from her own Little Black Gallery, and my studio was called in to help create a space around the collection.  We worked on the layout, soft furnishings and window treatments, which meant spending hours of fun considering furniture, fabric samples and sourcing antique pieces that fit into the overall look that Tamara was after.

Initially we also had to decipher a brief which was not at all straightforward, shall we say.  Tamara and her Italian husband Giorgio had two fantastic and seemingly incompatible visions for their Chelsea house.  Giorgio wanted something clean and classic a la Ralph Lauren while Tamara was after something eccentric, fun and eclectic – just like her personality. Tamara and I presented several ideas that didn’t go down very well and had many laughs discussing how to persuade Giorgio. Of course the goal is always to create a space for the whole family.

In the end, we landed on a scheme that pleased all parties.  We stuck with a classic layout and traditional furnishings throughout the house but captured Tamara’s exuberance with splashes of bold colour and standout antiques.  I always love to play with scale, so where needed, we chose large furnishings that literally and figuratively fill the space. The pops of ruby red, emerald green and black in the different rooms serve to demarcate each separate space and delight the eye.  Dotted throughout the house are standout pieces such as a large and rather grand gold bar cart or the antique Chinese chest Tamara already had in her collection for the entryway.  I should note that much of the furniture in the house was already owned by Tamara & Giorgio and just needed minor tweaks. The key is in the layout:  We gave conversation pieces pride of place in each room, making the entire space feel luxurious and special.

Working with Tamara has been a reminder of how truly wonderful it is to be part of the international sisterhood and to have fantastic girlfriends.  Since we first met at our daughters’ school our children have grown up together and we have spent a huge amount of time together.  We share so much in common as mothers, daughters and grandmothers and as independent entrepreneurial women. Tamara is also an Aries like me – our birthdays are one day apart – perhaps another reason why we get on so well and appreciate each other’s determination, energy and sense of humor.

I am extremely proud of the The Lady Garden charity which Tamara created in memory of her mother in aid of Gynecological Cancer. I’m so pleased the photos taken of Tamara to celebrate the charity’s ten year anniversary were taken at home, capturing her warm and exuberant personality.

Thank you to my wonderful friends as the world is so much better with all of you in it.

Love, Alison x


Photos by Kate Martin