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Five Minutes with Hugh Leslie

7th April 2020

We chat to Hugh Leslie, who opened his practice in Chelsea in 2001, having worked with some of London’s best-known interior design studios. Hugh discusses his love for colour, a very special Lutyens side table and why now is the perfect time to use your “Sunday best” every day of the week!

Hugh Leslie Design
I have worked as a designer in London since moving to the UK from New Zealand in 1987. I started working with Chester Jones at  Sibyl Colefax & John Fowler and then with  Mlinaric, Henry & Zervudachi and John Stefanidis, before becoming a director at Chester Jones. I finally opened Hugh Leslie Design in 2001. It was the right decision at the right time.

The majority are in London and the Home Counties but we do a fair amount abroad; over the past few years we’ve worked in the USA, Switzerland and Gibraltar

Signature look
If I’m known for anything it would have to be colour. I love it.

Advice for aspiring interior designers
Trust your instincts and do what you like doing. Otherwise it’s a long haul.

New project inspiration
Many things really; the clients, the bones of the building, what it is to be used for. Without attention to these you wouldn’t get very far.
In terms of items that inspire… you have to begin somewhere and I like to begin with a carpet. They are usually large and a big expenditure so I use them to set the tone and colour palettes for the room.

Favourite room to design
How can you begin to answer a question like that? Every project brings its own challenges and rooms that are more interesting than others. I would say though, that as I am a designer, the more design work a room requires the more interested I become.

Favourite room in your home
We have a fabulous double height ex artist’s studio in London with skylights that is quite dramatic. But the coziness of sitting by the fire in our Sussex cottage is pretty hard to beat.

Favourite item in your home
We have a lovely Lutyens side table that was made for the Viceroys palace in Delhi which I love. My ex-partner owned it then sold it and when it came up at auction years later we bought it back. It is a stunning piece.

Home comfort
It’s hard to better comfort so anything you can do to make your day to day more comfortable is surely a good thing. Why not begin using anything you tend to keep for “Sunday best” on a regular basis. If ever there was a time to feel special it must be now.

While away the hours
Despite the current UK lockdown, we’re still pretty busy running the office from the country but we do like a good series after dinner. I have just finished “The Morning Show” and looking forward to making a start on the latest Hillary Mantel but I’d like to think I’ll be too busy for a while. I think cleaning out the garage/studio will come first. I might start baking a bit once I have more time.

Post lockdown
We have taken a villa in Greece for September and I’m hoping it will still be possible. But if not, my husband, French Bulldog Monty and I will be content to sit out the summer in our garden in Sussex.

Upcoming projects
A big country house in Connecticut, for a family I’ve already done two houses for is underway. We are designing furniture for it now and I’ll be on a plane as soon as possible. We will be finishing off an Edwardian house in Putney later this year.

Favourite Collier Webb pieces
I knew Andrew Webb who is sadly missed. The quality of Collier Webb’s work is excellent and they are a pleasure to work with. We are currently using the Salon Étagère for a client which I think is a fabulous piece of design.