Designer Profile: Peter Mikic

Australian-born, London-based interior designer Peter Mikic has formed a reputation for highly textured, colourful, tailored and sophisticated spaces, drawing on his background as a fashion designer before moving into interiors in 2006. Now with headquarters in an ever-expanding Shoreditch office with a team of 12, he oversees projects as diverse as KX gyms and country piles, luxury city apartments and super-yachts for the likes of Elisabeth Murdoch. Here, he shares his design secrets.

HOW DID YOU GET STARTED?

I graduated in fashion and textiles at RMIT University and started menswear label Stonewood & Bryce with fellow graduate and friend Theo Vanderzalm before moving to London in 1995. It was great fun and a huge success – for five years, we showed on the catwalk in Milan alongside Dolce&Gabbana and Prada, we sold to amazing shops like Harvey Nichols, Barneys New York and Bergdorf Goodman and had fans including David Beckham and Jude Law.

SO HOW DID YOU BREAK INTO INTERIORS?

Property developers Nick and Christian Candy commissioned us to do the uniforms for the staff on their super-yacht Candyscape I in 2006. They fell so in love with the elaborately embroidered kimonos we designed for the waitresses that they asked us to design the curtains and cushions too. Then they bought the La Belle Epoque penthouse in Monaco, for which we did all the embroidery, including 18m panels for an enormous dining room, depicting Japanese cranes flying around the room.

WHAT’S YOUR STYLE?

Everything I do is about how it feels – does a space make you want to lie on that sofa, cook in that kitchen, sleep in that bedroom? Working with sumptuous materials and sensuous, enveloping colours that draw you into a space and make you never want to leave is also important. And I love colour – it takes me to a completely different place mentally and emotionally.

WHEN DO YOU DRAW THE LINE ON ‘MORE IS MORE’?

Bold and bright can feel harmonious, but it all has to work together so that no single thing stands out. If I use a bold colour on a wall, I have to use the same boldness in other areas (floor, furniture and lighting). Nothing should overwhelm – I want someone entering a room to be able to absorb it in its entirety and then slowly start to notice things bit by bit, not be bowled over by one ‘wow’ thing.

WHAT INSPIRES YOUR DESIGN SCHEMES?

It might come from a client – their love for a table or artwork – or I’ll start with a fabric like velvet because this will go into the smarter rooms, setting the mood for the rest of the house. I like to keep up with what’s new in wallpaper and fabric. Currently, I’m really loving Phillip Jeffries’ woven raffia wall coverings, Cole & Son’s Ardmore African print wallpapers and borders and Pierre Frey’s ikat-style Haikou pattern. I’m going to use this in a child’s bedroom for a house in the country.

HOW DO YOU CREATE VISUAL BALANCE IN A ROOM?

I install everything, take a break for a day or so and then come back to reassess, usually removing 30 per cent. Spacing and proportion are essential – you must be able to walk around
a sofa, so if there’s not much room, go for an extra-large chair rather than a sofa, teamed with a lovely ottoman. Add pattern to the floor with a soft, vibrant rug – it creates cosiness without overstuffing the room. It’s important for the eyes to feel calm and for you to psychologically not feel locked in. Flow is crucial for the mind – the space must be able to breathe.

WHAT’S YOUR OWN HOME LIKE?

My partner Sebastian [Scott, a television producer] and I renovated an old hotel in Notting Hill to become our home – it was chaos. Every ceiling was lowered, every room was divided, a staircase was missing, pigeons were living on the top floor, plasterboard walls were at all sorts of strange angles. Now our home reveals everything about me. I like having things I’ve found on our travels on display – not for anyone else’s interest, but more to remind me of my life experiences. Accessories such as bold, graphic rugs were also vital for lifting our spirits in the rooms where we entertain.

HOW DO YOU MAKE A ROOM FEEL UNIQUE?

I like having things made and being able to see the finger marks of the maker. I work with artisans who still carve and foundries who make me bronze handles or legs for sofas. I use Ashley Hicks’ hand-beaten handles for door and drawer knobs and all my rugs are made in Nepal, traditionally hand-knotted using Tibetan wool, Chinese silk hemp and linen. I’ve just designed a table with old barn wood, treated, cleaned and coloured in vivid brights, then encased in resin by Barn in the City, teamed with blocky legs in the middle, so you can’t see them, and edged with bronze. Craftsmanship brings humanity to a space so not everything looks too polished and shiny.

WHY DO YOU LOVE USING VINTAGE PIECES?

They bring history and depth to a room that new furniture doesn’t bring, whether they’re antique or mid-century. I’m guided by how a piece speaks to me – I like the slightly quirky, sometimes even a bit weird. Vintage lights in a small bathroom create great interest, but they need to be tall and narrow, so as not to take up too much visual space.

WHERE DO YOU GO TO BUY?

I scour flea markets to find bits and bobs for shelves, like Kempton Park in Sunbury and L’Iles-sur-la-Sorgue in Provence. I source a lot online from 1stdibs.com and an array of dealers like James Worrall and Dorian Caffot de Fawes Antiques via The Decorative Collective website. I also have a network of small antiques shops around the country who call when an interesting piece comes in. Nottingham is especially great for finding vintage furniture. I also pick up lots of pieces from the Royal Drawing School’s end-of-year show.

HOW DO YOU GROUND ALL THAT COLOUR AND PATTERN?

I like to use highlights of both shiny and unlacquered metals, interesting woods, glass and mirrors – all the things that help to throw light around a room. One client loved their
very dark wooden dining table, but it was in an equally dark room, which was lucky to have an enormous window. So I changed the tabletop to glass and it looked so much better – the reflection and light completely transformed the room.

Photography by Kate Martin

FINALLY, WHAT’S UP NEXT?

We’re working on a Jacobean-style new-build house complete with a carved stone staircase, a huge apartment in a new Chelsea development called The Glebe, a minimalist London
terraced house and a rambling country home for a family of five. What can I say? I like to be versatile.

For more info about Peter’s work, visit petermikic.com

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