Upcycled Style: Meet one-of-a-kind chair designer Kelly Swallow

As Kelly Swallow and her unique range of upholstered chairs come to ACHICA this week, we catch up with the designer to talk about her career, her passions and her flights of fancy…

How did you get into designing chairs?

Not through an obvious route. My passion for fabrics lead me into fashion design always using unusual and vintage fabrics. I then worked for Greenpeace for many years before combining my two passions and applying the re-use and recycle ethos and stunning combinations of colour and texture to chair design.

What made you choose a patchwork design?

I started on patchwork when I was about 10 years old. In retrospect my first project was quite ambitious, with lots of hexagonal shapes. My grandmother made patchwork quilts, so I guess it’s in the genes. I love the substance and longevity that patchwork embodies, I’m passionate about mixing vintage and modern, using traditional skills to make heirlooms of the future.

What’s your top design tip?

Think of the obvious…then go in completely the opposite direction.

Who is your favourite designer?

Timorous Beasties for quirkiness and the element of surprise, Zoffany for stunning quality, Designer’s Guild for vibrancy.

What’s was the last thing you bought for your home?

A beautiful 1970′s Parker Knoll Statesman suite with egg type chairs. It had been well treasured and cared for so I couldn’t bear to split up the suite. Our sitting room was quickly redecorated to provide the perfect setting.

Favourite party trick?

I don’t think I could command attention for long enough to do a party trick.

What inspires you?

Anywhere I see colour: film, fabric, countryside, sun, sea..

How do you like to relax and when was the last time you felt totally relaxed?

I love walking the dog on Sunday mornings with my son and my husband. And last summer on holiday with family  and friends, chat, swim, read, chat, read, swim…lovely!

[Above: Kelly Swallow's Linen Grain Sack Chair]

Are you a country lass or city girl?

I grew up in the country, just outside Dublin, but I’m definitely not a country girl! I need to live in town near an easy route to the city.

What are you working on at the moment?

We’ve just finished a fantastic grain sack collection for the Vaults Bar at the Angel Hotel in Bury St Edmunds and now we’re busy on lovely spring colours and themes.

Favourite motto?

Something which my mother used to say and I find myself saying most days: ‘Necessity is the mother of invention.’

If you could design a piece for one person who would it be?

If she was still alive, for my mother. She would sit like a Queen bee and be so proud and brag to absolutely everyone.

One person you’d like to meet?

I’ve just read ‘How to be a Woman’, so I guess it could be Caitlin Moran. Her book reminded me of an evening with my friends with lots of hilarious, loud, opinionated, cheeky conversation,

What has been the highlight of your career to date?

We helped the team at DIY SOS on one of their ‘builds’  last year. They’re a really genuine, lovely team to work with. It was a very fulfilling experience.

What gets you through the day?

Coffee and Radio 4

Favourite destination?

Dublin, because that’s where my family is.

What’s in store for 2013?

Lots more surprising combinations. Watch this space…

[Above: Victorian Grain Sack sofa by Kelly Swallow]

The fabrics used by Kelly Swallow range from vintage to contemporary, each with their own history, allowing the final piece to tell a story with exciting and surprising contrasts. To see the full range from Kelly Swallow shop at ACHICA here

For beautiful furniture, accessories and daily design ideas for your home and lifestyle,
shop at ACHICA.

Keya Modessa, ACHICA Features Writer

View all posts by Keya Modessa, ACHICA Features Writer