As the daughter of a furniture dealer, Louise Bradley’s earliest memories are of the design world. “I remember growing up inspired by my father’s creativity and his circle of design industry friends, forever exploring his Hampstead interiors boutique. Very early on I developed a love of antiques and quickly fell in love with all types of design,” Bradley says.
Her first insight into the industry was through antiques. While many of her peers went off to study, Bradley got her training on the ground – she ran a boutique on Walton Street, London, where she collected and sold antiques alongside her own furniture designs. In 1991, she branched into interior design and opened a studio on Fulham Road, which is now celebrating its 30-year anniversary.
Bradley is a self-taught designer – a route that presented a unique set of challenges and opportunities. “From the creative perspective, being self-taught means that you are free, and you don’t have the constraints which might come from an educational curriculum, which is important when you’re developing your own style. Being self-taught, on the other hand, may offer drawbacks at the start of your career, as you might lack technical knowledge. The solution was to be open to collaborations and building a community of like-minded individuals.”
We champion the classic contemporary aesthetic as we believe it can provide a sense of balance, comfort, and harmony – Louise Bradley
This independent education led Bradley to develop a unique method and aesthetic, which she developed over three decades and continues to showcase through the work of her firm to this day. “At the studio, we champion the classic contemporary aesthetic as we believe it can provide a sense of balance, comfort, and harmony,” she says. “Classic contemporary interiors are timeless and elegant, yet full of life, detail, textures, subtle tones, and careful layering of bespoke finishes and accessories. They combine classic elements such as period interior architecture, the love of symmetry, and antique pieces of furniture, with clean contemporary lines and modern functionalities, which are home essentials.”
The studio’s primary driving principles are harmony, wellbeing and authenticity. “I strongly believe that our homes should be balanced and harmonious, creating a haven for the residents. It should combine our clients’ chosen aesthetic with high functionality and comfort, to create a space in which they can thrive,” Bradley says.
The team incorporates wellness into their designs by, for example, selecting natural materials and highlighting a space’s connection to nature. This is especially important in a city like London, where outside space is limited. “Our role is to maximise access and connection to the green spaces, let the natural light in, and lift the energy of the building, creating the desired ambience,” she says.
“Authenticity is another one of our driving principles. It means creating interiors that are authentic to our clients, their personalities, and lifestyles, but also authentic to their location and history,” Bradley adds. The firm works with a lot of heritage properties and Grade-listed homes, so designers often collaborate with organisations such as English Heritage to preserve the character of a property and respect its history, while modernising it for the owner. “For me, working with such constraints means being even more creative, respecting the heritage, and weaving the contemporary thread into it, gently, with subtleness, to create that perfect balance of tradition and modernity,” she says.
Since the early days of her career, Bradley has pinned much of her success on her relationships. She’s regularly in touch with dealers to source the best pieces for her clients. “Direct relationships with dealers are paramount for us as we source antiques and collectible pieces for most of our projects – our clients love furniture pieces with provenance and a story,” she says. “That’s why working with an excellent dealer is important for us; building a relationship with someone who understands design inside out and has deep knowledge of the pieces they work with. Together they can help us create a captivating narrative, running throughout our projects.”
Our clients love furniture pieces with provenance and a story. That’s why working with an excellent dealer is important for us – Louise Bradley
Bradley’s unique eye for design and her collaborative approach has attracted clients around the world, particularly in the UK and the US. While their locations and backgrounds may vary, they all share a love of the fine things in life and an appreciation of fine arts, culture, and design, Bradley says, adding that learning about a client is key: “I love learning about our clients, their lifestyles, and the property’s local surroundings, which together provide the cornerstone of the whole design process. Choosing a particular family heirloom or a relevant classic design detail can unlock the essence of the design scheme. It can be then enriched with other influences, as our clients often love travelling and want to see their travels reflected in the homes we design.”
2021 sees the 30th anniversary of Bradley’s design studio – a great accomplishment considering it’s not been the smoothest journey. “I have been running my business for 30 years this year and have experienced many moments to overcome; the pandemic; the 2008 financial crash – I actually started the business in 1991 during a recession. Every crisis presents a unique set of issues but I’ve learnt that anything is possible if you put your mind to it. Difficult moments will pass when you have a passion for what you do and you don’t give up.”
Bradley is celebrating three decades in business with the launch of a coffee table book, which comes out in autumn. “It’s been an incredible journey and I can’t wait to share it with our audiences. It’s quite emotional to flick through images of projects from the past 30 years and see how we’ve evolved. It makes me very proud and very grateful to have had the opportunity to create homes for wonderful people across the globe,” she says. “I’ll let you in on a secret too – we might have an eye on opening a new office in Europe – I have always been in love with European craftsmanship and antiques, so it feels like a natural next step.”
Effect Magazine is brought to you by The Bruno Effect