Matthew Williamson and the appeal of antiques

The fashion-turned-interior designer talks heirlooms and hunting for treasure in Mallorca’s hidden markets

Designer Matthew Williamson
Designer Matthew Williamson

“I guess it’s in-built in my DNA,” says designer Matthew Williamson of his love of antiques. “From an early age, I was aware of pieces that were special to my parents at home. Back then, in the 1970s, it was very much a case of you decorated one room and it was done – everything had its place and woe betide if you moved anything around.”

Williamson designed this suite at the Belmond La Residencia in Deià, Mallorca
Williamson designed this suite at the Belmond La Residencia in Deià, Mallorca

Williamson, who in recent years has shifted his focus from fashion to interiors (his work ranging from wallpaper collections for Osborne & Little to the courtyard garden at London’s Blakes Hotel), is currently collaborating with the online antiques and vintage furniture marketplace Vinterior. Founder Sandrine Zhang Ferron invited the 48-year-old designer to select pieces from more than 1,600 independent dealers. Williamson edited it to a 90-piece capsule, which he has put his name to. “It’s about wading through the soup for people who don’t know where to start and presenting them with great pieces,” he says. “Half have sold in just a few weeks, and we have already planned two more collections. I’m editing the second high-summer selection now, which will be available at the beginning of July.” 

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Williamson’s aesthetic is underpinned by the English interiors style (his first edit for Vinterior is called The English Home), and antiques are integral to the rich layering that defines his work. “That’s the style I love, much as it was in fashion. It’s that sense of different eras, different cultures and different decades,” he says. “I’m drawn to those mixes, those juxtapositions – the old and the new, the contemporary and the historical. It’s the layering that makes a design interesting, whether in fashion or homewares.”

A set of three vintage Chinese turquoise Foo Dogs from Williamson’s The English Home collection for Vinterior
A set of three vintage Chinese turquoise Foo Dogs from Williamson’s The English Home collection for Vinterior

Now living in Mallorca, Williamson’s aesthetic has evolved as he’s absorbed new influences. “My style has perhaps become a little more Mediterranean and rustic, and antiques are a big part of that,” he says, revealing that his next antiques curation will have a similar theme. 

From the collection, a 19th-century marriage chest with original painted flower decoration
From the collection, a 19th-century marriage chest with original painted flower decoration

He has uncovered several antiques troves in his adopted home, including “a hidden gem” in the village of Consell. “It’s kind of a flea market, quite raw and unglamorous, but you can literally go there every Sunday and find amazing pieces – decades and decades of antiques,” he says. “Mallorca is really underrated. People seem to know it as a bucket-and-spade place – that whole Magaluf package-holidays thing – but we’re finding that there is so much to discover here.”

The 90-piece edit includes this hand-dyed tan leather Chesterfield sofa
The 90-piece edit includes this hand-dyed tan leather Chesterfield sofa

Williamson sees his own home as a testing ground for his ideas. “I want my home to feel like me, for it to reveal my choices. I don’t want what the neighbour has. I want other people to come in and see its uniqueness,” he says. “I enjoy it. If I’m not working, I’m probably hand-painting some wallpaper or doing things in the house. It’s an instinctive pleasure.”

A grey sideboard with William Morris print
A grey sideboard with William Morris print

Similarly, he describes the opportunity to collaborate on an antiques project as a joy. His new edit, Mediterranean nuances aside, draws on the idea of indoor-outdoor living. “I hate using that phrase, so I’ve tried to elevate it and envisage how one might live it in a gentrified way. So it’s based around salons and orangeries and afternoon tea in the conservatory,” he says. “I’ve chosen pieces that are quite decorative and ornate – they are fantastical in many ways.”

A decorative Murano glass chandelier
A decorative Murano glass chandelier

The current crisis has not slowed the designer down – he has four new projects in the pipeline. “I’m working on a new range of ceramic tiles, which is exciting. I’ve always maintained that the floor is such an important part of any room. I would always start with it in any project,” he concludes. “I’m also designing a collection of rugs with an Indian manufacturer. I’ve got a lighting collection coming out – table lamps and wall lamps – and I’ve just had the early rumblings of a few pieces of furniture, which could be interesting, as they will feature my prints. It could be quite a busy end of the year.”

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