Ask an expert: Buchanan Studio
We caught up with Angus Buchanan, Creative Director of Buchanan Studio who gave us his expert insight on what to look for when buying vintage furniture, what to think about when approaching a new interior project and how to ensure your bathrooms aren’t overlooked as welcoming design-led spaces.
Where do you go when in need of inspiration?
We have a huge back catalogue of interiors magazines and books, which aren’t opened as often as we would like, due to never having any spare time! But occasionally we will have a major inspiration binge on all of them. Every project starts with the team together around a table and a good old-fashioned brainstorm about some new ideas we could try.
What projects have you seen recently that have really excited you?
Recently we have been excited by the latest Wes Anderson film, “The French Dispatch”, and Keith Kandell’s ‘The Line’ campaign for Jacquemus. In fact, everything Jacquemus does is always very clever, beautiful and inspiring. Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club was mesmerising with beautiful set design by Tom Scutt.
Three top tips when buying vintage furniture?
Ask to see pictures of inside drawers and cupboards on any item that has internal areas, as it’s always good to check they are in clean and sound condition.
It’s always worth asking the seller if they know any backstory or history of the item. I remember we once bought an unusually deep leather armchair and we asked the seller if he knew anything about it and he told me about the original owner who was a 1940s gentleman – almost 7ft tall – who personally commissioned the chair to accommodate his long legs! We love the romance in knowing about the individual provenance of a piece.
Don’t be put off by pieces which might be upholstered in fabrics not to your taste, or unsightly paint colours, because it is very easy to change all this. Sometimes a little imagination is needed to see the potential of a piece once it has had new life breathed into it.
A favourite vintage purchase?
We have a Victorian display cabinet which we adore. It has all of its original glass in the doors and a gentle imperfect wobble to it as you used to get with glass before it was all mass-produced. We love its versatility, we have used it in different rooms at different times in different ways. It has housed tableware in our kitchen, it has been a drinks bar in our living room, and it is currently in our bedroom stuffed full of vintage books.
Favourite design era and why?
We have always loved the 1970s, and our Studio Chair was influenced by the freeform furniture of this era. Soft, pillowy, curved- and all about comfort! The seventies introduced the concept of open plan living, with an emphasis on maximising internal light and space, through skylights and double-height ceilings. We also love all the indoor gardens of the seventies and the bold use of colour and pattern.
The bathrooms in your most recent project have caused quite a stir, how did you ensure that these spaces really felt like rooms rather than a functional afterthought?
We wanted our bathrooms to be spaces we could use to spend lots of time, both alone but also in company. Our children’s bathroom is where we usually have drinks as a family on a Friday night after school. A chair in a bathroom is a good idea wherever possible, and so are painted walls. There are lots of clever emulsions available these days that will work well in bathrooms. Also, avoid using too many tiles and gloss surfaces as these can often feel very hard and “bathroomy”. Incorporating items that you love can help bring life to a bathroom, such as books and art. Try to include more lighting zones so you can change the mood by just having your wall lights turned on instead of overhead lights. Don’t be afraid to include textiles, for example, cushions and curtains as these will help elevate the room from purely functional to that of a main living space like a bedroom or living room.
We loved your use of vintage in the main bathroom – the nursing chair, salvaged tub and antique sailboat, any recommendations for choosing furniture pieces for a bathroom space?
Vintage furniture is perfect for bathrooms as it’s generally made very well in hardwoods such as iroko, teak or mahogany, which all do very well in an occasionally damp space. We also love using vintage sanitaryware in bathrooms, the Art Deco and Victorian eras in particular produced some beautiful sinks and bathtubs.