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On The Sofa With Benji Lewis

Join us on the sofa with Benji Lewis as we interview him about his design philosophy, his future projects and his journey through the design world.

    Q1.To begin with, could you share with us your journey into the world of interior design?
    My first introduction to interiors was when I worked for Bonhams in Central London, pottering sales of ceramics, furniture, paintings, silver and textiles; there’s no better way to learn about furnishings and decorative objets than handling them all.

    I left Bonhams and went on to study interior design, worked for a kitchen design company, and then an architects practice in Mayfair, before setting up my own company when I was 33.
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Interior Designer Benji Lewis, George Smith Bolster Sofa
    Q2.How would you describe your interior design style, and how has it evolved over the course of your career?
    My style has its foundations in ‘English country house classic’ with an understanding of period architectural detail, proportions and furnishings – based on experiences of grand homes I spent time in when I was a child. My grandparents lived in a very homely Elizabethan Hall – set in exquisite gardens – in Lancashire.

    Interestingly however, even though my instinct is for traditional style, the first full project I did was a contemporary home in West London which had big, airy spaces and lots of glass. The client’s brief was to retain existing furniture, and blend appropriate, modern pieces into the mix.

    I try to bring originality and personality to every scheme and not get caught in any kind of cliché. My mantra is ‘It takes a nod to tradition and a wink to contemporary to create a magical mix that’s timeless.’
    Q3.What aspects of a space do you prioritize when conceptualizing a design?
    All good design must start with a scaled floor plan. A successful and functioning furniture layout is integral to hang the rest of your design on. Once that’s in place, it’s a question of ‘colouring in’, with a focus on balancing period and style with colour, texture and pattern.

    Q4.How do you ensure your designs are functional without compromising the aesthetic appeal?
    Issues of storage and the question of flow throughout a space must be at the forefront of consideration when you’re designing – you can’t just concentrate on ‘pretty’. The trick is to dovetail your thoughts on function into the aesthetic mix and not let one override the other. If for example you’ve gone all out on how things look but not paid attention to how much hanging space you need, then your designs will start to unravel.

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Benji Lewis
    Q5.Are there any recurring inspirations that consistently drive your designs?
    When I start a project, I’ll likely look for inspiration at overseas (past and present) media – to see what designers in New York or Paris or Sydney are currently doing. Despite where I began with my traditional vibe, I’m invariably drawn to the idea that the interiors I work on aren’t instantly categorised as being English or French. For example, I love the challenge of presenting a certain ambiguity – that a room might be in The Hamptons rather than West Berkshire.

    Q6.Over the years, you have often chosen George Smith furniture for your design projects. What is it about George Smith that appeals to you?
    I’ve known George Smith for years, and it’s been a very long time since we started working together. In this business, where there’s a huge emphasis on managing a client’s expectations, it’s vital that you work with suppliers who understand the demands of creating bespoke pieces, who take the time to ensure standards of quality are being met.

    George Smith and I have done a lot of work together, so of course over time we’ve built up mutual respect and reliance – they know what’s expected on jobs, so unwanted surprises don’t happen, which in turn of course makes things run much more smoothly.
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Benji Lewis
    Q7.Can you share an instance where George Smith furniture was a centrepiece or intricate part of one of your projects?
    I’d love to say it was a sofa because I’m a sofa nut, but it was actually a Jules chair for a library in Central London. I used a strongly coloured fabric with a huge pattern repeat that in theory should have been used in a more relevant context. However, the combined lines of the Jules have worked so brilliantly with the pattern, the impact is extraordinary. I had the feet on the chair painted, just to really push the boat out.

    Q8.Lastly, any exciting projects in the pipeline where we might see more George Smith furniture?
    We’re focusing on beds now – a first for me with George Smith. I’m having a bespoke four poster bed made for a master bedroom in Chelsea, and another customised bed with a half tester and shaped headboard made for the guest bedroom.
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Benji Lewis
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George Smith's cotton velvet range photographed by Karl George Studio

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