Designer of the Year Ilse Crawford

On the Sofa with Ilse Crawford

Although she is now based in London, Ilse Crawford has not forgotten her Scandinavian roots. Their influence can be felt in her warm interiors, steeped in modernity and humanity. Ilse began her career as a journalist and was the founding editor-in-chief of ELLE Decoration. Years of working in the industry inspired her mission to put the needs and desires of people at the heart of design, and she founded the multidisciplinary practice Studioilse in 2001. Coining design as a ‘frame for life’; she takes a sensitivity-driven approach, creating environments and spaces which are both comfortable and user-friendly.

1. What was your inspiration behind the Ilse Sofa and Ilse Ottoman?
The original was designed for my own studio apartment in South London because we couldn’t find one that worked in the open space. We wanted a high back and box shape so it would be like a room within a room. A place to settle in, sprawl out or curl up while feeling safe and protected. And with dimensions that mean it can double up as a cosy spare bed.

Over the years it's found its way into our projects or the homes of friends. The dimensions have been honed and refined and the design adapted based on these different contexts as well as my own experience of living with it

2. Why did you choose to collaborate with George Smith to make the pieces?
When we decided to officially launch it as a product, George Smith was a natural choice. As a historic British furniture maker with specialist hand made upholstery skills, we can feel confident each sofa will be produced with the same high level of care.

3. What trends do you predict in the coming months?
I believe it’s a mistake to think of trends in design. We should be working towards creating things and spaces that are as timeless as possible – things that don’t fall out of fashion or date too quickly.
A sofa in particular should be a quiet background piece that works in terms of comfort, dimensions, quality, relevance. It's a piece that should be able to be updated by the things around it, that should be well made and repairable. That way expensive is cheap in terms of longevity and value over time, and the investment is justified.

4. What is your advice to add a touch of modernity to a Victorian home?

Choose colours and the base material palette (flooring, curtains, upholstery fabric for the big pieces etc) so that they create a harmonious and quiet 'frame' that can act as a background to more outspoken pieces that can be the focus

5. What’s the cosiest place in your house to curl up?
We’re in-between apartments at the moment and lacking a good corner to curl up. The original Ilse sofa made 15 years ago has been relocated to the studio, and still looks as good as new. I often find myself hiding there to catch up on my calls.

6. What’s the first thing you do on a new project?
Before you start to design you need to understand the 'why' and the 'what' before you can address the 'how'. So the first thing we do is ask questions, and lots of them. As designers we make places or products that become instruments for the daily life of the people who use them. This requires a realistic understanding of how people will use a space, how this changes throughout the day and the different activities that will take place there. If you don't listen or observe how people behave, you can make mistakes.

7. What’s a popular Scandinavian hospitality practice that we don’t do in England?

‘Hygge’ is Danish word that is hard to translate to English. Essentially it is how to take care to make everyday moments matter, bringing genuine human warmth to what can otherwise be mundane or ordinary.

Maison&Objet, 2-6 September 2016

Considered one of the most important events for interior design, Maison&Objet Paris is a major French trade fair. It offers a huge collection of interior design innovation and talent all in one place.

Every year Maison&Objet honours a successful interior designer, and for September 2016 the wonderful Ilse Crawford has been named Designer of the Year. She will be the first winner to handle the scenography of the designer’s studio, a work and networking space in Hall 8. George Smith is honoured to have been chosen to create the furniture for this incredible space, including three bespoke Ilse Sofas and an Ilse Ottoman. If you are visiting Maison&Objet, stop by Hall 8 and see the new collection. Watch the film here.

Our projects with Ilse Crawford

George Smith has created furniture for a number of Ilse Crawford’s projects. Some of the larger ones were for Soho House, including Babington House, the initial fit out of Soho House New York and Cecconi’s in London.

George Smith has also created furniture for a number of Ilse’s other projects, including: Kettners Brasserie; a number of high end pubs (one of which was featured in Midsomer Murders and showed the pieces George Smith had made); the ‘Ilse Sofa’ for Ett Hem Hotel; and a few pieces for The Grand Hotel in Stockholm. Read more about our projects with Studioilse here

Making of the Ilse Sofa

Over time, George Smith has collaborated with numerous designers to create bespoke pieces of furniture. Ilse wanted a bespoke piece for her studio/home. She initially used one of the floors of her apartment as her studio, then as her business grew she moved the studio to its own building. Here, she wanted something big and spacious with clean lines, and thus the Ilse Sofa was born. The Ilse Sofa is unique due to the height and depth of the seat, arms and back. Every dimension has been calculated and tested to meet the requirements of modern life and ensure ultimate performance.

"We like to think of it as a room within a room" says Ilse Crawford. George Smith are now re-launching the Ilse Sofa in conjunction with Studioilse; the proportions have been adapted and it will feature in the George Smith collection. The Ilse Sofa shown above is upholstered in mohair velvet for an especially tactile experience. This wonderful piece is now available to order; please contact your nearest showroom for details.