Growing up in a townhouse as one of six siblings instilled Fran Hickman with a deep sense of how space affected humans both directly and indirectly. She moved from this natural connection to a more regimented, official path that involved working in New York and London for some of the most prestigious companies and firms before establishing her own studio in London.
Set apart by an unusually human approach to design, Fran Hickman’s interiors capture the essence of their purpose and the people they service. Rather than using objects to communicate a message, Fran looks sooner to materials for atmosphere, stating that ‘the weight of stuff’ acts as a distraction. It’s in this mindset that the studio’s brilliance can be found – overlooking the instancy of physical form for a more profound feeling in the structure itself lends Fran’s interiors a cutting edge.
We caught up with Fran Hickman to delve deeper on her refreshing mindset. Keep reading for first design loves, the thing we should all be talking about and where to find interiors inspiration on Instagram.
What are the key ingredients when it comes to a successful interior design space?
At the heart of all good design lies great story-telling. Starting with abstract concepts, grounded in the client’s specific objectives, together we uncover unique design stories. Our task, as a studio, is to transform the abstract into the material, generating particular and meaningful designs from the language of existing environments. We believe the rewards of this approach are huge: unforgettable design directly reflective of personal style and brand ethos. Everything – from shape to material to finish – chosen for a reason and all of it coming back to the story.
When working with a smaller budget, one significant design statement backed up by a few smaller, equally interesting ones is all that is required to create a space that engages and delights. For instance, for Emilia Wickstead’s Knightsbridge boutique the bespoke pale pink terrazzo floor and monolithic blocks were the statement, and the signature Wickstead floral upholstered sofas, deep pink carpet and discreet, minimally detailed dressing room were the additional interest.
What intrigues you about spaces and how people interact with them?
Good design has a remarkable power to affect how people behave. A well-constructed bricks-and-mortar space, by appealing to all five senses, is unrivalled in conveying a brand identity to a customer, whereas a well-designed office space can do wonders to increase productivity. This relationship between people and space ties together all our work: the objective is not simply to make spaces feel special, but to make people feel special within them.
What was the first thing that made you fall in love with interior design?
In my early 20s I worked for Martin Waller in New York who travelled the world to bring back treasures. I loved the stories about the pieces he would bring back and the worlds they would summon. It was really then that I decided to go into design – creating bespoke interiors with thought behind them felt like something I could happily do for the foreseeable future.
Do your ideas about interiors translate into your own home?
I am currently working on my own home in Notting Hill. I love a juxtaposition and my space is a mix of pretty wild textiles and tidy Japanese screening. I find it simultaneously exciting and peaceful.
Is there a motto or personal philosophy that you stick to when it comes to interior design? Has that changed over time?
I have always approached design from an indirect angle: form follows function, of course, but feeling is vital too. Design the right feeling into the right function and the right form will follow.
What is the one item in your home that you could not live without?
My Angela Wickstead bed linen brings me great pleasure. It is a daily luxury.
For you, what is the most important room in the house?
I love a good shower and bathroom. It’s a daily ritual that both invigorates and relaxes me. Given the choice, I’d choose living with little furniture for a really good bathroom.
What are your interests outside of interior design & how do they propel you in your work life?
As unsurprising as it is, travel is for me an important source of inspiration for work. For example, on a recent holiday in Japan I found a couple of decorative wallpapers which proved perfect for a project we are currently working on in Tokyo. My design vocabulary also draws on a wide range of influences beyond interiors, from architecture to photography.
Where do you go on Instagram for interior design inspiration?
What do you hope to do this year that you’ve never done before?
I’d love to work on a public space like the Barbican or on the South Bank.
What do you think we should all be talking about more in the world of interior design?
What is the most gratifying part of your job?
A happy client and the pleasure of a really good detail.
Still searching for inspiration? Find more interior design at OPUMO.