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Elle Decor Italia

Fran Hickman, the designer who filled London's Chess Club with butterflies, and her main sources of inspiration

In Fran Hickman's eclectic universe there's Carlo Mollino and an ancient Japanese paper roll.


La designer Fran Hickman ci racconta i suoi ultimi progetti, ma più di tutto, cosa l'ha ispirata. (Foto: Marco Minzoni)  

Before founding her own studio in 2014 and becoming one of London's most popular interior designers, Fran Hickman worked on interiors projects for Soho House group's properties. She also collaborated with Waldo Works and designed branded boutiques such as Selfridges Personal Shopping, Smythson in Bond Street and Alice Temperley. Although she is particularly passionate about boutiques and shops, her portfolio is not missing residential projects. Amongst these, a 46.000-square-mettere villa in Regents Park, Cumberbatch family London home and the renovation of a building by Richard Meier in East Hampton, United States. What made her popular is her very sophisticated taste, rich with suggestions and references to the extra-terrestrial world. Between one project and the other, she found the time to sit with us and tell us more about her job. In particular, what inspires her on a daily basis. 


Your most recent project was the restyling of the Chess Club in London. Interiors are extremely elegant and the key detail are butterflies taking over the walls. Can you tell us more about this choice?

I've been a fan of Carlo Mollino for a long time. Last summer, at the end of a holiday in Florence l, I took a train to Turin to visit the apartment he designed in the '60s, which is the tangled background of his erotic photography. Mollino was a very charming man, enigmatic and extremely talented. The first thing that hit me was furniture. The main concept behind the design of this apartment is the preparation for the way to the great beyond. He was inspired by the Egyptian pyramids home of pharaohs' perpetuity. His house is the display cabinet of how he interprets life, a place where he demonstrated his love and appreciation for the beauty of the world and of nature. The butterflies on the walls of Chess Club restaurant are very similar to the ones I saw in Mollino's house. To him, they are symbols of ancient funeral rituals and they represent the women he was expecting to be with in his post-life life. 



 In the picture: the interiors of Chess Club restaurant in Londra, inspired by Carlo Mollino's private residence in Turin.


What about the projects in the near future? 

I'm currently working on three stores in London. One of them is the restyling of a boutique on Sloane Square. The aim is that of inviting a younger audience inside, still maintaining the current client base. To do so, I'm getting inspiration from the golden leaves used to decorate a Japanese roll I found at Nezu Museum in Tokyo and from Robsjohn Gibbings' classic drawings.


Very interesting. What about the others?

The second store is in Motcomb Street and it's from a Florentine brand selling products with a very modern design. Here, I divided the boutique in two sections: one about the ancient identity of the brand, the other about the modernity of its products. For clients, it's a journey to the discovery of a deeper world. For this one, I was inspired by Carlo Scarpa's brutalism, refined and effective. Finally, there's a boutique in Mount Street, from a Chinese fashion brand. We're trying to create an eastern garden to make visitors feel like they just entered a dream.

Nella foto: la bozza della boutique in Mount Street progettata da Fran Hickman che vedrà protagonista la creazione di un giardino orientale 


Besides houses and designer projects, refined materials and eastern fantasies, what inspires you on a daily basis? 

I have an exuberant soul and I'm always seeking novelties, recreation and adventure. I like to learn new things when I travel, widening my horizons and meeting new people. If I cannot travel, I visit art galleries, which always give me a food for thought. I also love cinema, a type of entertainment that can make me travel through time and space, away from the present. 


Design and decor: what's the recipe for a successful project?
I firmly believe that a house needs to reflect what really matters for its owners and tell their story. When developing interiors, keep in mind that they have to tell something interesting, to teach, to bring visitors to places they have never been. A home should be simple, welcoming, cosy, comfortable and a little quirky.


by Valentina Mariani / 4 August 2017


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