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Tarporley's William Yeoward on 30 years in interior design

PUBLISHED: 00:00 21 October 2014 | UPDATED: 19:11 24 October 2015

William Yeoward

William Yeoward

Archant

William Yeoward from Tarporley set off to London to find his fortune with little idea of what that might actually be. From that rocky start he has created a worldwide furniture design business

William Yeoward and Gillian Handley (Creative Director at Horton & Co)William Yeoward and Gillian Handley (Creative Director at Horton & Co)

I met William Yeoward in the stunning purpose-built design studio belonging to his close friend Gillian Handley, founder of interior design agency Horton & Co. It’s the perfect spot to meet this internationally renowned designer, as it is filled with colour and light – and of course more than a few of William’s own pieces. He’s chatty and funny and full of gossipy tales, though frustratingly names no names!

William grew up in Tarporley, a childhood he credits with giving him what he needed to succeed, indeed, flourish.

‘I am grateful for my upbringing here,’ he says. ‘It has ensured that I remain very grounded and have a strong moral compass.’

At the age of 20, William headed to London, to discover what his future might hold. Walking along King’s Road in Chelsea, seeking work, he chose to walk through the door of Designers Guild, asked for and received a job.

William Yeoward and Gillian Handley (Creative Director at Horton & Co)William Yeoward and Gillian Handley (Creative Director at Horton & Co)

‘I had no experience whatsoever, but I think they liked my determination. I worked for Trisha Guild for several years and then decided it was time to open my own place.’

In 1985 he found premises on the King’s Road and opened a business selling ‘old pieces that I bought and did up.’

‘I had very little financial resources, so I needed to sell one thing before I could buy another. I became fascinated by the impact of the past upon the present.

‘Fast forward 30 years and you’ll see just exactly how that has influenced my latest collection.’

After opening his first store, William was asked more and more to undertake interior design projects. It was during this period that realised it was better to find someone to make what he was searching for than to waste hours on the search. The collection of items he had designed and commissioned soon began to fill his King’s Road store, creating a whole new avenue to success. He is passionate about the role of interior designers still.

‘Not only did working in interior design show me how to create good furniture, but it taught me how a professional designer, like Gillian, is somebody who is essential to the putting together of a good home. Many people are design savvy but faced with an overwhelming amount of information they can find it difficult. An interior designer cuts through the noise and in fact saves you time and money, as you’re not making mistakes.’

A meeting with crystal designer and maker Timothy Jenkins was to deliver the final boost to his career.

‘Crystal has always made me very excited; I loved it and was determined that one day it would be recreated in the style of my favourite 18th and 19th century pieces.

‘When I met Timothy it immediately became clear that we shared the same passions and aspirations and William Yeoward Crystal was born and it was this that catapulted me into being a brand.’

William believes that it is his love of all things old that has led to his success.

‘It’s a theme in my life,’ he says. ‘My business was launched using old pieces brought to new life. The crystal range was based upon antique designs that I loved and for my fabric designs I take inspiration from old documents and designs and reinvent them for today.

‘My early life in Cheshire has given me perspective and deep rooted friendships. My first years in London introduced me to Designers Guild, with whom I still work. Life is a circle and design is a circle.’

In his latest collection, William Yeoward…collected, he really brings to life his views on the cyclical nature of design.

‘It’s my favourite historical furniture re-visited’ he explains. ‘It’s a collection of past pieces that I’ve loved, redesigned to suit current tastes. But all the artisanal techniques used in the original designs are used again and have the same relevance to fashions now as did the original pieces to the fashions of the time.

William is strongly of the view that every product he designs should have its own life and its own character, a belief that is reflected in the naming of each piece.

‘When I designed the Oulton cabinet I was inspired by a piece I recall from my visits to Oulton Hall in my youth. I had some marvellous times there. I’ve named a number of items for my favourite places in Cheshire; it’s another way in which I circle back to my past.

‘In design. things go and come, simply looked at again in a slightly different way. The only design trend I’ve never bought into was beige. I think it shows a lack of imagination. It’s not chic and elegant, it’s a lack of commitment. I’ve always worked with colour. If you’re not brave enough to colour the whole room, at least put it into your cushions, curtains and lampshades!

‘This being said, I don’t believe that design is anything other than an opinion, and this happens to be mine. As long as there remain enough people who like what I like, we’ll be in business.’

Find William’s work at Horton & Co, Manley and online at www.williamyeoward.com

Timeline to success

1977: William joins Designers Guild

1984: He opens his first shop on the King’s Road

1997: William Yeoward Crystal opens on Madison Avenue

1998: William Yeoward fabrics and wallpaper are added to the range

2003: A new 3000 square feet showroom is opened, still on the King’s Road

2006: William publishes his first book, Perfect Tables

2012: William publishes his fifth book, William Yeoward American Bar

2014: William Yeoward…collected

Me & Mrs T

During his time as an interior designer William had one meeting with one client he’ll never forget.

‘I was called to meet Margaret Thatcher, soon after she left her role as PM, to discuss decorating her main home. I had a very short appointment and wanted to explain that the existing furnishings didn’t suit her home, but I was rather apprehensive of giving offence! I used the term “scale” a couple of times, and halfway though my next sentence she interrupted me to say: ‘By “scale”, do you mean “dislike”?’ She also demanded to know how I’d know what she liked, and I asked her to tell me what she enjoyed about her flat in London, also recently re-designed: ‘I don’t like any of it!’, was her answer, which left me with rather a challenge! I clearly did a decent job though, as she put me on the guest list for her funeral, which made me very proud.”

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