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Henrietta Southam Design

Designer in Profile: Henrietta Southam, Henrietta Southam Design


Henrietta Southam Design  have been shortlisted for 3 Categories in The International Design and Architecture Awards 2021. Read more about Founder Henrietta Southam:


Name: Henrietta Southam
Company: Henrietta Southam Design
Position within company: Founder, Owner
Website: henriettasoutham.com

Tell us a little about your background in design
I think the most important facet I wish to express is that I am self-taught. This is important for me to communicate because I hope to inspire the younger generation to pick up a book and read up on anything passionate to them.
I was brought up in Paris by a mother who was a painter and sculptor and had studied Art History in London under the infamous Anthony Blunt. Her idea of a weekend escapade was wandering through the plethora of museums and exhibits. She asked us to peel our eyes, and taught me to commit the best of the day to paper, in either writing or drawing.
I remember when I told her I was dropping out of International Relations to pursue a double major in History and Art History at the University of Toronto. She was livid. I informed her that slides of the Parthenon footings looked remarkably similar whether I was here or there. She was appeased and so my personal foray into the world of Beauty began in earnest.
Dabbling is an important tool in a designer’s arsenal. I graduated with the acting bug which I then took to New York and attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. I worked freelance in the fashion business as a behind the scenes photo assistant, muse, editor, producer, groomer and quite a successful casting agent. My eye was continuously shaped by the talent around me. I consider my education primarily experiential.

How would you describe your personal design style?
I am in continuous flux: discovering new products and artisans is still a thrill and the sight of an irresistibly shaped object can change my design direction. Ten years ago I wrote about a trend I named “post apocalyptic chic” which was later identified socially as “Hygge”.  If comfort is my overarching goal, provoking dialogue is one of my principal tenets. Raw, primary forms and materials hold a lot of space in my personal design language today. Colour has been replaced by contrasting texture.  My predilection for Antique European furniture has given way to a love for tribal craft and expressive Neoteny.

Where does your design inspiration come from?
Mostly from the emergence and access to a wave of new and extremely talented young designers. Scooping their wares and placing them in situ for an interior shot brings me no greater satisfaction.

In what direction do you feel that design is moving towards in a general sense?
If you can imagine how an insect feels its’ way in the world, or consider how a baby gets a sense of an object through their gums… that is how I feel design is evolving: the objects being produced are primarily of tactile interest and organic materials. Plaster and paper, hemp and rubber, products of reuse and refuse, this is where I see us going and it is glorious.

Name five key themes to consider when approaching design in 2020 and beyond.
Incongruity is an of-the-moment theme that can jump from immediately contemporary to timeless design.  I find that we are living in unprecedented design-centric times brought on by the ease of internet access to all cultures. The accessibility to research and the openness of sources has led the design world into realms unseen or explored. Methods and materials are driven by computers and a sense of urgent environmental concerns. At the same time I see designers getting more wistful: the accelerated pace of our day to day lives is making us look at interiors and interior accessories that ground us.

If I had to sum up five key themes in five words it would be: Original, Expressive, Organic, Recycled, Comfort.

If you could offer one piece of advice when it comes to design schemes, what would it be?
The hardest piece of advice to give is also the hardest one to personally follow: Consistency. Consistency leads cohesion and courage. Each room must stick to a central storyline while existing in its own world. A great home is where one has the capacity to move between rooms like a dialectic, not an argument.

How important are The International Design & Architecture Awards?
To be recognized by an international body of peers is invaluable. It strengthens our belief that we are moving in the right direction, that our hard work has resulted in something remarkable as well as remarked upon. Being shortlisted was a shot of adrenaline and a renewal of faith in our abilities to deliver something not just worthwhile but timeless.

What projects are you currently working on?
HS Design is currently working on refurbishing one of Canada’s oldest “maisons” from 1665 on the Ile d’Orléans, re-imaging a daycare classroom, re-purposing a pavilion into an outdoor restaurant and re-designing an Art Deco center plan home in Ottawa.

What was your favourite project to work on and why?
Every project has been my favorite as it brought me to the next project.  I have been lucky to build friendships with my clients and the honor of my lifetime has been to guide them in the best expression of themselves through their personal spaces and witness the joy and pride they feel for their homes.

Which products/services could you not live without when designing?
Access to the internet and the CAD skills of my assistants. There would be no HS Design without these two.

What are your aims and goals for the next twelve months?
 I would like to see a few custom pieces of furniture I designed come to life. I am super excited about these pieces as they came out of lack of offerings in some very precise areas.

Final thoughts; tell us a little more about yourself and your daily inspirations:

Your most treasured possession?
Although they tell me daily that I do not own them, my children are by far my favorite possessions.

Your favourite holiday destination? Anywhere there is culture that wishes to be absorbed and understood.

Your favourite hotel, restaurant & bar? The Santa Monica Proper by Kelly Wearstler is a masterpiece. Her design is both sculptural and sensual, eclectic and profoundly perfect. A close second would be The Ludlow in New York.
My favorite restaurant is a difficult one: From an experiential place my standouts have been Chez Jules in Bonifacio 1980, New Year’s dinner at Chesa Grischuna in Klosters 1994, and eleven Madison Park in 2013. My partner is a restauranteur and the restaurants I most frequent are the ones he has built and I have designed in Ottawa: Social, Eighteen, Sidedoor and The Clarendon.
My favorite bars just happen to be in London! I’ll never forget the smoking golden pineapple drink at The Langham, nor the epitomy of cozy chic at the Chiltern Firehouse.

Your favourite book & filmg? Les Rois Maudits by Maurice Druon and “Out of Africa”

Your favourite food and drink? My drink would be a toss up between an Old Fashioned and a dirty Martini. My favorite food is Nobu’s Sushi. Hands down.

Your favourite way to spend an afternoon? That would be in my bedroom, in my bamboo bathrobe, next to the fire, after a hot lavender bubble bath to warm my bones tired from a hike in the hills, a large glass of burgundy in hand, an amber scented candle flickering nearby, and a book at the ready for when I wrap up the thrilling movie I am currently watching from the depths of my linen clad king-size bed while my skin soaks up the verbena body butter I just slathered on it.

If you weren’t a designer, what would you be? A writer. Although in order to give up acting I promised myself I would grace the silver screen as an octogenarian in the sequel to “Driving Miss Daisy”.

Henrietta Southam Design

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