The self-taught interior designer reveals how hard work and determination can take you to the very top – and how to enjoy the view once you get there!
Since cutting her teeth with the über-cool Yoo property empire, Tara Bernerd has forged a reputation for designing rock-chic interiors, whether for hotels, private homes or super-yachts. Other projects to watch out for include the Four Seasons Park Lane, the Hari Hong Kong and the Equinox Hotel in LA.
How did you get into interior design?
It was always in me – I left school at 16, but I was lucky enough to build up an unconventional design CV through work experience, similar to modern-day apprenticeships. A pivotal point was when I was 20 and designed my own loft, which was without doubt the catalyst for what I’m doing today. Everything I do has always been guided by my mother’s philosophy that ‘input equals output’ – hard work, constant self-critique, thinking outside the box and then hopefully designing with a sprinkle of good taste!
What’s your signature look?
Often dubbed ‘industrial glamour’, my style is seen as bold, but I focus first on the spaces themselves, then the aesthetics. I’ve always had an instinctive feel for marrying big, open spaces with smaller cocooning areas. People say my love of materials, such as wood, marble and lush fabrics, feels slightly masculine, but I try to be eclectic too, adding a sense of individuality to each room with furniture, art and accessories.
Any tips for using more unusual finishes at home?
I’m not keen on design driven by trends – the things that stand the test of time are those you most relate to. Be honest about what you love, because it’s always important to be charmed and seduced by where you live. I personally love wide wood floorboards, travertine for bathrooms and having cabinetry fitted to my own specifications – it’s not as expensive as you might think.
What’s the best way of using art for interiors?
In recent years, I’ve toned down what was quite a wild, bold colour palette and I now use art to provide hits of colour against a backdrop of textured neutrals. I like working with friends, such as the artist Harland Miller and gallerists like White Cube’s Jay Jopling and Tim Jefferies at Hamiltons. I can’t imagine having bare walls – for me, art and design are intertwined.
What are your go-to brands?
I like to mix brands, modern and vintage, high end and high street. Staples include Minotti, Poliform, Molteni&C and Antonio Citterio’s furniture ranges, Holly Hunt in the US and Autoban in Turkey. Lighting from Isometrix. Fabrics from Lelièvre and Designers Guild. I combine these with pieces from Retrouvius, 1stdibs.com and Phillips (when I can afford it). I love mid-century furniture and Fifties Murano glass. And I always have fresh flowers.
What’s the key to getting it right?
Avoiding formulas and being true to the space, the location and you. I prefer informal luxury to chintzy glamour – it’s about being strikingly original yet ultimately timeless. I like a little edge to my aesthetic, which comes from using sophisticated finishes – give me grey felt, petrol-blue velvet, baby-soft leather and smoked glass, mixed with concrete and wood in an open, loft-like space and I know I’m on the right track.
Is your home like any of the hotels you’ve designed?
I’m not very good at differentiating between work and pleasure – I design everything as if it’s for me, so my home is completely married to my work. In a hotel, I design a restaurant as I would my kitchen, reception areas like they’re my hallways, bedrooms as somewhere to retreat; all have a home-from-home feel. Hotels have taught me the importance of using hard-wearing, hard-working materials that meet a strict budget and achieve a balance of comfort and glamour. Investing in good-quality elements, such
as wood flooring, stone or marble for bathrooms and kitchens, and great lighting is vital for creating a comforting but aspirational ambience.
What inspires your textured designs?
I’ve always admired the industrial look of original lofts, like French architect Pierre Chareau’s La Maison de Verre in Paris, or the edgy approach of architects such as Tadao Ando. They’ve inspired me to use materials that feel slightly raw – in my own apartment, the concrete panelling in the hall was inspired by Chareau, but then I like to soften this with layers of traditional textiles and fabrics to create a seductive atmosphere.
And what’s coming up next?
We’ve recently completed the redesign of the Kimpton Fitzroy Hotel in Bloomsbury. Across the Atlantic, we’re in the middle of the design of the Four Seasons Hotel and Resort in Fort Lauderdale, and the Thompson Hollywood, LA, as well as working closely with Gehry Partners on the Equinox Hotel, LA. Increasingly, hotels are becoming our key focus, but I quite fancy doing another yacht.
For more info, visit tarabernerd.com