“We share the same goals and visions,” states Tatjana von Stein, one half of the dynamic interior design duo Sella Concept, when discussing how she and her wife Gayle Noonan juggle a healthy life and work balance. “However, the answer is; different deliverables!” When they decided to embark on a career together, von Stein recalls how initially they found it difficult to find the right professional and personal balance. But, as time went on, it became clear that defined roles and responsibilities gave them both an independent sense of ownership and helped them to be more strategic in their achievements.
Now, five years on from its launch, the London-based studio is offering a full design service including branding and creative direction as well as their interior design expertise. This is becoming a popular choice for many clients knowing that such a breadth of knowledge can be gained from one studio. Noonan, whose background lies in graphic design, takes care of branding and brand identity, working collaboratively with von Stein and also independently on a number of global ventures. With von Stein leading the interior design aspects, the pair have added a number of successful projects to their portfolio.
One of their recently completed projects, the Sister Jane Townhouse in Notting Hill (above), is proof of their creative duality. Renovating the derelict pub into a multi-functional workspace with a restaurant, retail area and dining terrace was one aspect of the project, alongside the creation of its visual identity. “Our work reflects what we have as a couple,” von Stein says. “We are two separate entities, but we stand side by side. Even if we influence each other, and brainstorm together, we have that independence through each project we undertake.”
Our work reflects what we have as a couple. We are two separate entities, but we stand side by side – Tatjana von Stein, co-founder, Sella Concept
Practically, both Noonan and von Stein are conscious of how work and home life can be closely intertwined. However, they say the separation between the two is becoming easier. “Partly you know what is happening, so there is less catching up to do about work in the evenings,” states von Stein. “We often have early morning walks to bring each other up to speed on work developments. I think otherwise we might forget to talk about it!” This proximity to each other does bring a cohesive element to their approach to each project. For many clients, working with a multi-disciplinary studio in this way can provide a more focused alignment, compared to working with multiple teams who may not be in such close communication.
With the studio working within the hospitality and retail sectors, this last year has seen a reduction in large-scale assignments. Although, thanks to the team’s digital offering, branding projects have been able to progress with Noonan continuing her work for a variety of clients across the world. “The industry is now reawakening,” von Stein reveals as she discusses the conversations she has had over the last few weeks. “We are also working on a master plan for a hotel group which is a positive step in the right direction.” Alongside this, the studio is also currently working on a boutique members club and workspace within the heart of Palma, Mallorca. Aiming for completion at the end of this year, the space is set to look quite theatrical, the team reveals, referencing the ambience and personality of the city itself. “It is an unusual time for designers,” von Stein comments. “For example, we completed a project last year and I still haven’t been able to see it after completion. For me, it is strange to not have that sense of closure with a space you have designed.”
Von Stein came into the profession almost by chance after studying psychology. She feels her background plays a huge part in her attitude to interior design. “How you move people through a space, the feeling and emotion that comes with it, I love that aspect of my work,” she reveals. “You are a piece of a larger puzzle with every element influencing the atmosphere of the space itself, as well as the behaviour of those who visit.”
Speaking of her own style, and the unique aesthetic Sella Concept is becoming renowned for, von Stein expresses her love for the 1970s design era and Post-Modernism. “Between these two styles you get beautiful brutalist pieces,” she continues. “In the 70’s, how they used to lay out rooms, and the connection between zones within a space, I love this element. It also suits how I personally like to live too.” Coupled with her appreciation of post-modern furniture, her aesthetic brings a mix of eras together. “The best spaces are always a mix of everything,” she declares.
Von Stein also includes antiques and vintage items in every design she creates. “I have an innate fear of everything looking the same,” she remarks. “There is nothing that brings character like antiques. When I visit most spaces, I know where most things come from being a designer, so I like how antiques bring an unexpected touch.” The studio also likes the circularity of using antiques and the story that comes with each piece. “On all points, it works better,” she states. “It is about mixing them cleverly with bespoke items and off-the-shelf designs.” Sometimes, the pieces they source can often set the tone within a space. Within the couple’s own home in Hampstead, von Stein reveals how the scheme revolves around an iconic Willy Rizzo coffee table. “This is why,” she continues, “when I am in the early stages of a project, I decide which items I want to be vintage before I have even sourced them.”
There is nothing that brings character like antiques. I like how antiques bring an unexpected touch – Tatjana von Stein, co-founder, Sella Concept
Looking back on the studio’s work to date, von Stein is happy to see how it has developed with a unique sense of individuality. “I’m not bound by rules, I have none,” she concludes as she says how she takes inspiration from local settings and can also be informed by local craftspeople she finds within a location. “This may be a disadvantage, but I enjoy the fluidity it brings!” This passion and enthusiasm is what has driven, and continues to drive, the duo in creating the bold, striking and inimitable designs which are turning heads all across the globe.
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