London restaurant of the week: The Aubrey in Knightsbridge
If you’re a fan of cheerily colourful, sustainable homewares, chances are you’ll have come across Petra Palumbo. The designer’s hand-painted flower glass carafe and tumbler sets have been spotted on stylish bedside tables across the land, while her playful Delft tiles, decorated with everything from disco balls and dirty Martinis to backgammon sets and vinyl record players, brighten up any kitchen. Based between London and the Scottish Highlands – where she has a new flagship store in Beauly – Palumbo’s pieces interweave influences from her Lebanese ancestry as well as the rich heritage of Scotland, with each one proudly made in Britain. We spoke to the designer ahead of her Mayfair pop-up this month, as she shares her key inspirations and reveals her favourite interiors spots in the capital.
I wanted to bring a flavour of what I’m doing up north down south. That’s why I decided to host my upcoming pop-up at Lamb Gallery in Mayfair. It will be the first time I’ll have everything under one roof in London. I get a lot of messages from people saying they’d love to see my pieces but that they can’t make it to our flagship store in the Scottish Highlands – we’re the same latitude as Finland, so it is quite far away – so I thought I’d bring the pieces to them. It’s going to be a celebration of spring, where I’ll be showcasing my glasswares and ceramics as well as Fair Isle knitted blankets and cushion covers, and vintage framed handkerchiefs. I’d love to have a London store one day, maybe in Marylebone or Notting Hill, but for now one shop is more than enough.
Splitting my time between London and Scotland, I’m lucky to get the best of both worlds. For me, it’s the perfect balance between country and city life. When I’m in Scotland I miss my family, my friends and the culture in the capital, but when I’m in London, where we have a place near Golborne Road, I just want to go back up and burrow away in the Highlands. It’s a much slower pace of life there, which helps me do things more methodically.
My pursuit for the perfect home is endless – that’s why I started my brand. I’ve always loved being at home and I’m always thinking about how I can make it nicer and more comfortable, so it seemed like a natural fit. Plus, textiles have always been a huge part of my life as my mother [Hayat Palumbo] founded [hand-painted needlework brand] Tapisserie on Walton Street in the Eighties, so when I was growing up everything was embroidered. I started out making sustainable homewares pieces I couldn’t find on the market, and now the goal is to create long-lasting pieces that people will want to keep, look after and hand down through the generations.
Petra Palumbo x Tapisserie
Needlepoint Cushion Kit
As a 21st-century designer, you have to work with the environment in mind. It’s a challenge but I love it – it adds an extra layer to designing, because you’ve got problems to solve. For me, producing in the UK was really important, as I have so much more control over my supply chain – I can just jump on a train and meet the manufacturer and see the working conditions there. It also means my carbon footprint is a lot smaller. Stella McCartney is a huge inspiration when it comes to creating sustainably, as she’s such a pioneer. It’s impossible to be 100% sustainable, but it’s about taking a holistic approach to it and just doing your bit.
I’d describe my style as colourful, playful and eclectic. I like to take nostalgic products and give them my own modern twist. My pieces really lend themselves well to spring, because they’re all inspired by nature and flowers. I also draw a lot of inspiration from Guatemalan and Mexican folk art, as well as from textile design and tapestries. Basically, anything colourful – I’m fascinated by colours and how they work together.
Blown Tumbler Glass
Blown Tumbler Glass
I like to be a bit tongue-in-cheek and irreverent with my designs. My latest Delft tile collection is a good example of that. I always include images that resonate with me on my tiles, like a picture of my dog or my car, which is a Citroën 2CV. My new collection of laundry room tiles includes the likes of Henry the Hoover, a loo roll and a duster. It’s all about taking the mundane and elevating them, while keeping things light-hearted. I don’t know whether a Delft connoisseur from Holland would approve, but they make me smile every time I see them.
The interior designer Rita Konig is a constant source of inspiration. I love the way she marries wonderful taste, originality and practicality. She’s a friend as well and I’m a huge fan of the way she approaches things, especially when it comes to her use of colour. What she does is incredibly practical and yet manages to be so aesthetically pleasing at the same time. With her designs, everything has its place, and I really admire that.
Whenever I’m in London, I make a beeline for Chelsea Harbour. I can get lost in there for hours. I’ll always go to my favourite spots to see what’s new, like GP & J Baker and Pierre Frey, which is my number one – it’s an old French company that manufactures the most beautiful textiles. I’m particularly besotted with their Le Manach collection – the colours, patterns, prints and techniques they use are second to none. I also love visiting Chase & Sorensen in Dalston and The Peanut Vendor in Bow to pick up mid-century furniture pieces.
I draw a lot of inspiration from art galleries and museums in the capital. The V&A is one of my favourite places to visit – I’m there all the time and I’m a member of their Young Patrons’ Circle. I also love the Dulwich Picture Gallery – I don’t go there as much as I’d like but every time I do I think, “I need to come back!” – and I’m a big fan of the Tate Britain. I remember seeing an incredible Hogarth exhibition there, where you got to see the Rake’s Progress in the flesh, which was just so inspiring. It’s mostly ideas for colour combinations that I take away from shows – if I spot one in particular, like dark brown with lime green, I’ll write it down along with the painting I saw it in and research it at home.
When it comes to fashion, I’m always drawn to pieces with exquisite detailing. That’s why I love Alexander McQueen and Vivienne Westwood – I always go into their shops when I walk past them. Both of them create pieces that are so beautifully structured, with amazing beadwork and embellishments, while also being a bit out there and otherworldly. In terms of pieces that I wear regularly, I love Gainsbourg, which is a British tailoring label founded by two friends of mine in London. My favourite piece is a tartan bolero jacket that they made bespoke for me – it was my 30th birthday present from my husband.
I have a secret nature spot in the capital where I like to go to get away from it all. Everyone knows about Wormwood Scrubs in west London, but not many people know about Little Wormwood Scrubs, which is just across the road. In winter it’s a bit of a wasteland, but in the summer, it really comes to life. It has a 1km loop around it and in the centre, you’ve got loads of cherry blossom and brambles and rushes and long grasses, as well as all these hidden woodland cut-throughs. When I’m there, I feel like I’m in Scotland for a second.
Petra Palumbo’s pop-up store will be running from Tuesday 26 to Saturday 30 April at 32 St George Street, Mayfair, London W1S 2EA