Q&A with Staffan Tollgård

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How did you get started in the interior design industry?

Looking back at my childhood I can clearly see that interior design was my true calling. It just took me twenty years to realise it. As an 11 year old I decorated my own room and guided my parents in their choice of furniture for the rest of the house. Function and aesthetics were important to me from a very early age. I started studying engineering at university but soon realised that I needed to pursue a creative career. I left and went to film school in the UK and went on to develop and produce films for a few years.  After meeting my wife, Monique, we moved into our own house that took a year to renovate.  I enjoyed the process so much that I took a year out of film-making and enrolled at Inchbald.  The one year diploma in Architectural Interior Design changed the course of my life – and my family’s – from that point.  After graduating I went to work with Rabih Hage, and then started my own design firm shortly afterwards.  That was nearly nine years ago. 

What is it about Scandinavian style which has made it so popular, especially in recent years?

The Scandinavian aesthetic has always been very good at scaling back and simplifying design, which I think speaks to the largest audience of design enthusiasts at the moment.  The clean lines and lack of clutter really appeal to a younger audience that has become much more interested in all aspects of design.  I also think Ikea has a large part to play in the international export of Scandinavian style – one of the markers of which is affordability and accessibility.  Their furniture is an incredibly good starting point for most families, couples or even students starting a home.  And once hooked …

Tell us about your favourite room in the house and why?

I love a living room that works really hard.  One that incorporates the various needs of a family: entertaining, working from home, watching TV, playing with kids, reading a book or the Sunday papers.  One of the hangovers of our British architectural heritage is the concept of the formal reception room.  For most families and homes this division between formal and informal entertaining spaces is not helpful.  We need to consider function first and start from there.  When a living room becomes a truly functional space that meets several needs at different parts of the day I feel that the living machine is really working well.

What has been your most defining career moment to date?

There have been several fantastic moments over the past nine years.  Making it onto House & Garden’s Leading 100 Interior Designers was a great feeling, as was the first time we were invited to enter Andrew Martin’s Interior Design Review.  Being acknowledged by the industry has been very important and I am very grateful for the support we have received.  The single biggest leap, though, is the one we are taking now in opening our own Design Store.  The investment has been a huge one, personally and for the company, but seeing our new home take shape is unbelievably satisfying and exciting.  Having the space to show so many pieces of the brands that I have come to love over the last 9 years is just fantastic.  Please come and visit!

Outside of interior design, what inspires you the most in your life?

Travelling for sure.  I’ve discovered that it’s very hard to get outside of interior design.  It’s quite an obsessive pursuit.  Travelling is always inspirational though – seeing how people live and trying to understand their cultures always inspires new ideas.