In a video on her YouTube channel, Kathryn M. Ireland guides a camera through her Los Angeles studio, documenting the process she uses to hand-print textiles. Two burly employees demonstrate rolling out the naked fabric, laying a patterned screen overtop, and pushing a squeegee through a puddle of Pepto-pink dye back and forth over the mesh.
“It is such a unique art…” Ireland trails off, distracted mid-sentence by a giant spitball of pulpy screen-printing lint clinging to the studio wall. “What on earth is that? Horacio, what is that up there?”
“The lint that we collect—” Horacio replies.
“Oh, you just throw it up there?”
Horacio starts to stammer an explanation, but Ireland cuts him off. “I love it!”
“You like it?” he says with shock.
“I do!” She waves a hand as though conducting an orchestra. “I’d like to see the whole wall look like that.” As one of Hollywood’s favourite interior and textile designers (clients include Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Steve Martin), Ireland might be expected to be more, well, Hollywood. In her extensive career, she has authored six books and starred in Bravo’s Million Dollar Decorators. But Ireland is best known for her bohemian approach to design—both in her colourful aesthetic and her just-roll-with-it attitude.
“I think people come to me because they want an unpretentious, under-decorated home that looks like real people live there,” she says inside the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, where she is speaking at the 2018 Interior Design Show. “I grew up spending time in beautiful, stately homes in England where we were running through ballrooms to get to swimming pools, and running past amazing collections of furniture and art. But we were laid-back.”
Before moving to Los Angeles in 1986, Ireland was raised in the UK. These days, the mother of three boys divides her time between homes in Santa Monica and France, launching new collections (she’s helping one son come out with his own line, Otis Textiles), collaborating with design-world pals (she’s just finished a three-year-long project with architecture firm Marmol Radziner), and hosting rosé-fuelled bootcamps for aspiring interior designers. Ireland has cemented a throw-pillow-laden, sun-soaked brand that keeps an elite clientele of celebrities and Silicon Valley executives calling every time they close on a new Spanish Colonial Revival.
“I definitely attract people who have a colourful life, or want a colourful life,” she says. “You know, people are wanting a more pared-down, minimal look—especially if they’re downsizing. People want simple, but simple doesn’t have to be beige.”
Simplicity to Ireland is less about desaturation and more about liveability: cutting clutter, balancing beauty and comfort, and investing in pieces you love rather than worrying about whether the kids will spill cranberry juice on them. That, and skipping the millennial-pink sofa. “I don’t think you can be trendy in interiors,” she asserts. “Because trends come and go—trends in fashion are one thing, but I think classic and timeless will win.” When asked what she thinks of the movement towards monochrome, ultra-minimalist interiors, she jokingly rolls her eyes. “Oh dear. I think we’ve been there, done that now.”
Ireland is known for hand-printing her textiles, but she’s recently been dabbling in digital—both in fabrics (her latest collection includes digital prints) and in her new online platform, The Perfect Room. In beta as of this writing and slated to launch later in 2018, it aims to connect users with full decor packages designed by international A-list interior designers. “It’s high-end design online,” Ireland explains, “like thumbing through a magazine.” And that’s all she’ll say just yet.
Thumbing through a brown-paper scrapbook of her latest collection, Ireland pauses on one of her textile samples: floral on a blush backdrop. “This was actually a mistake,” she admits. “You can see that the background is a little pink—they washed it for some reason after they printed it. But accidents sometimes happen for a reason.” Ireland runs a hand over the swatch. “I actually quite like it.”
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