What happens when a Londoner falls in love with an American-born seasoned traveler with a well-honed design aesthetic? They launch a luxury home furnishings, Thurston Reed, inspired by British architecture & interiors. Moldings, wallpapers & motifs with exotic overtones have been reinterpreted onto luxury textiles, plush velvets adorned with embroidered appliques. Rich linens embellished with shimmery metallic threads, all hand-finished with artisanal detail, and so much more. A sense of history paired with a modern global viewpoint.
Recently I had an opportunity to catch up with the design power couple behind Thurston Reed for a fascinating interview. We talked about their growing luxury home furnishings and textile brand including the launch of their Summer linen collection.
Vicki Gladle Bolick: Tell us a little about the journey to becoming Thurston Reed.
Nicholas Reed: I worked in the film industry in visual effects for almost 10 years. Visual effects produces 3D animation and computer generated images (CGI) that are so present in today’s films. I started as an artist and worked my way up to technical director, and while it was extremely rewarding to see my creative work on the big screen, over a decade, visual effects shifted a lot from a mainly creative trade to a much more technical, formulaic approach. About this time, we left London for the US and decided the time was ripe to take the plunge into a new creative business.
Sarah Reed: For some time, Nicholas and I had been fleshing out ideas for a home décor line to reintroduce classic British design for a modern audience. In late 2013, we made the decision to go for it!
VGB: I know both you and Sarah have traveled the globe and have been exposed to many different cultural influences. What areas of the world have inspired Thurston Reed designs the most?
NR: First and foremost, Thurston Reed design is inspired by my home country, Great Britain, but so much of what makes up British design comes from overseas, given our global exposure historically. Take for example Thurston Reed’s use of silk velvet with gold foiling. Rich silk velvets like these made up coveted decorative pillows in British ancestral homes of the 19th century. But these textiles were sourced from Venice, where artisans were famous throughout Europe for this technique, especially gold on cranberry red silk velvet. However, the Venetians did not invent this, they borrowed the technique from the Persians who had been producing these luxury textiles for centuries. So, classic British design has a layered history from multiple countries and eras.
SR: Britain’s interaction with Asia and Africa during the colonial period further inspired use of global design influences. My work for the last 10 years in the international development/ humanitarian assistance field has given me the opportunity to travel extensively in Africa and South Asia, where I’ve had the chance to absorb a range of design ideas including use of bold colour palettes, textile weaving, and embroidery techniques. We’re continually fascinated by the stories behind the décor in British ancestral homes, and how the collections of (a small number of very fortunate) British reflect this melting pot of global and historical design. We have the challenging and exciting task of channeling these stories into Thurston Reed design!
For more on the Summer Linen pillows featured, visit Thurston Reed.
Deep pile velvets, soft natural linens & luxurious silks from Thurston Reed.
VGB: What need did you see in the design industry that motivated you to create your own line of pillows?
NR: We saw a need for design that was more expressive. In a market with plenty of product options, customers desire pieces with a meaningful story behind them. We started with decorative pillows for that reason, they provide a great canvas to express a colour and design story. Our colours are strong and bold, and even decadent. They provide a statement and a bit of intrigue. There is a story behind each design, a genuine historical reason for selecting the application technique, the fabric, the images. We felt there was a consumer demand for special pieces, why not give it to them?!
VGB: Many of your fabrics fuse vibrant colors with striking patterns. What advice can you give someone for mixing patterns & color in a room?
NR: We are big fans of layering. Mixing pattern and bold, solid colours provides an exciting, sophisticated look without creating too much competition between various elements. Here’s how we mix various pillows from our collection. Start with a larger size basic, like our Omni or Aria pillow or any other larger pillow with minimal pattern. Next, add the next size down with slightly more design – geometrics or repeat patterns work well here, like our Andalucia, Adelphi, Arusha, Meru, or Valbonne pillows. These first two pillows can be the same or different colours. Next, add a similar or smaller sized pillow that’s more design heavy, for example, our Fritzrovia, Somerset, or Petworth. To finish, include another great basic (Francesca or Romilly) or even something whimsical, like Andalucia, Arusha or Meru lumbar, or Cornwall. Equally, you can add just one of our pillows to your existing curation to add a pop of colour and intrigue.
SR: A good approach is keeping furniture neutral and taking more risk with accents.
Intricate geometric patterns and silhouetted rhinos are just a sampling of luxury pillows offered by Thurston Reed.
VGB: I love the new line of pillows for the summer, metallics mixed with linens. What was the inspiration behind this recent introduction?
NR: Linen has always been the perfect complement to summer. Whether it’s clothing or home furnishings, linen is naturally breathable, light, and rustic with tactile qualities that have offered relief to those living in hot climates for centuries. So, it was the obvious choice for us when selecting a base fabric for our first summer collection.
SR: The shimmer of metallic thread for this collection’s detailed embroidery juxtaposes with the matte finish of the linen and really helps the design pop. The craftsmanship of the metallic thread work is exceptional and offers something unique and a bit glamorous against a more relaxed character of linen.
VGB: How do you choose colors & fabrics for new designs? Do you have favorite color palettes? A favorite pillow?
NR: We look at the fabrics used in British décor of the 18th and 19th centuries and figure out which of these speaks to contemporary trends. The integrity of the fabric is an important part of what makes our product special so we use silk velvet, 100% hand-woven silk, 100% refined silk, and most recently a very high quality 100% linen. Our colours are genuine ‘jewel’ tones, but we also listen to our customers to understand what they want, including some more subtle options and work with these too.
SR: A favorite pillow is tough to decide, but I would have to say our Petworth pillow is a favorite. It uses a sumptuous, midnight blue silk velvet base and overlays this with a repeat, Jacobean design. The applique rendering of this design – an ivory linen applique edged with copper metallic thread – requires highly intricate technical detail work by the very talented artisans who craft our pillows. As a very technically involved piece, it’s probably our producers’ least favorite pillow! But, the texture and finish are wonderful.
The Summer Linen Collection in Gray from Thurston Reed.
VGB: What is your design philosophy?
NR: To breathe life back into traditional British design elements, techniques, and fabrics. We want to share our passion for a time when interiors were exhilarating and decadent. But, we want to do this is a thoroughly 21st century way.
VGB: How would you describe the design style of your home with Sarah?
SR: Our style starts with furniture with an updated traditional look. Then we’ve added heirlooms and mixed in modern accents and artifacts brought back from travels, definitely no shortage of color. But, recently our home has become slightly overrun with baby gear with our first on the way in July!
VGB: What other projects is Thurston Reed working on besides pillows?
NR: We are excited to make our first foray into hard goods. Stay tuned for our summer introductions!
For more information about ordering Thurston Reed pillows featured click the link here:
Until next time,
LIVE A LIFE WELL CURATED!