Artist and interior designer Luke Edward Hall is often hailed as a wunderkind for his rainbow-hued, maximalist aesthetic. Here, he shares his design journey and the inspiration behind his eclectic work.
“People often ask me to explain what it is that I actually do, which, in fact, is harder than it sounds. My path to this point has been winding, and the truth is, I’m not always sure how best to describe myself. I studied fashion design in London and afterwards worked as an interior designer. I was then able to set up my own studio and, almost right away, I began working on a variety of projects – drawings for brands, a couple of collaborations, a bit of fashion stuff, a little interior design…
I used to worry that I was doing too much, that I ought to focus on something in particular. Maybe that’s still the case, but, well, I can’t help myself. From painting pots one minute to designing hotel rooms the next and producing my own ceramics, fabrics, lighting and furniture, it’s a dream to be able to work on so many wondrous projects. As I get older, perhaps I will calm down. (I doubt it. There is still so much I want to explore.)
Drawing is at the heart of all of my projects. Even a fabric design, a vase, or an interior will begin life as a sketch. Everywhere I go I take a sketchbook or loose bits of paper with me, a tin of watercolours, and a pencil case stuffed with an assortment of pencils and crayons. My work has a lot to do with storytelling, because I like to draw faces and people. Sometimes my drawings are based on real people, but more often than not, the people are dreamed up by me – they are imaginary characters belonging in imaginary stories. My work is very playful and colourful. Colour is my passion. To me, colour has a lot to do with optimism. I want to bring about joy when I draw and make and do things, and I suppose also a sense of freedom and hope.
I adored art at school and I had good, kind, encouraging teachers. Sometimes I was the only member of the afterschool art club, but I never minded, all I wanted to do was make things. I learnt about photography at college and when I was 17, I started producing a fanzine. I designed it and pasted it together, my best friends contributed stories, fake diary entries, and thoughts on music and clothes. (We thought this was all the peak of hilarity and sophistication.)
My family always supported my projects. Mum never minded when I covered the kitchen in PVA glue, Dad would go into his office on the occasional Saturday and print my homemade magazine, and grandparents helped me build cardboard models of bridges with turrets and drawbridges. When I turned 18, I moved from my hometown to London. I interned at magazines and with fashion designers and ended up studying menswear at Central Saint Martins. Every day, I drew lost-looking boys wearing clothes I’d designed and made – tartan coats with blousy roses in their lapels, dip-dyed shirts, and handwoven jumpers with swans on.
“My work is about escaping the everyday, the grim, the grey and the ordinary. I’m constantly in search of a place or a feeling that is more beautiful, more unusual, more intense, and more alive”
I dreamed of setting up my own studio, even though I didn’t know exactly what it was that I wanted to make or do. After leaving university, I started working for an architecture and interior design company, which I loved and which provided me with an inspiring foundation to build upon. I didn’t come from an interior design background, which meant I was learning new things every single day (and no doubt making many a mistake). I slowly started exploring my own ideas after work and at weekends, beginning with designs for fabrics, then ceramics.
I began working with a ceramicist, whom I still work with to this day. Each piece we make has been thrown on a wheel or produced in a mould and then painted by me, a process that results in odd sizes, wobbly edges, and wonky lines. Over the past few years, I’ve been lucky to work with many brilliant people and institutions. I enjoy the idea of combining my drawings and vision with another brand’s expertise for manufacturing an exquisite product. I’ve always been interested in the idea of blurring the boundaries between art and design. My hand-painted tablecloths, for example, were designed to be used for raucous dinner parties, but also to be hung on walls like giant tapestries might be. And why not?
I love interiors that transport you, but also make you feel completely welcome and comfortable – a bar, say, that you can’t drag yourself away from because it makes you believe you’re lounging around in Palm Beach in the ‘50s, when actually you’re in a wet corner of London on a grey day in 2019. The temporary spaces I’ve worked on have been all about this idea of transportation. Once, in an antiques showroom in West London, I had the idea of conjuring up a ‘70s-inspired drawing room for late-night discos – all chocolate brown and tangerine walls, mirrored surfaces, fuchsia carpet, and ruby red-velvet upholstery (plus a shoal of Murano glass fish).
Our flat in London, on the other hand, is not a stage set. It’s where we live and love to be, and it has changed over time. It’ll continue changing, too, as our interests evolve. Reassuringly, however, some things I know will always stay the same. I’m sure of that. The pictures of Duncan [Campbell, Luke’s partner and co-founder of design agency Campbell-Rey] as a baby on the fridge, say, or our haphazard mix of souvenir magnets, that giant houseplant that just won’t die, or the scallop shell that sits by the sink in our bathroom, a memento from a long-forgotten dinner.
It goes without saying that I am a dreamer, but it’s not that I always want to be taken away to someplace else. Yet I thoroughly believe my work is about escaping the everyday, the grim, the grey and the ordinary. I’m constantly in search of something – a place or a feeling that is more beautiful, more unusual, more intense, and more alive.”
An adapted extract from “Greco Disco – The Art and Design of Luke Edward Hall” by Luke Edward Hall (teNeues, £45), available here.