Meet the Showroom: Osborne & Little
Decorating giant Osborne & Little may need little introduction to the Design Centre’s audience, but that won’t stop the big fanfare in its honour as it prepares to open a new showroom here. The firm was founded in 1968 by Sir Peter Osborne and Antony Little, reflecting Swinging London’s modern, laissez-faire attitude with its bold designs: now a global company with showrooms across the world, it’s still known for imaginative, exquisitely made fabrics and wallpapers. Read on to find out what founder Sir Peter Osborne has to say about the new space in the Centre Dome, what to expect from the autumn collection and why it’s so important to come and see everything in person.
What brought Osborne & Little to Design, Centre, Chelsea Harbour?
Well, I think we lingered too long in King’s Road! We probably should have come here six or seven years ago. It was a case of aligning a break clause in our lease with the availability of a showroom here at the Design Centre. But we’re here now, and thrilled to be!
What should we expect from the showroom?
We’ve gone for a contemporary, uncluttered look with banks of hangers around the walls, which are easy to take down and put back, and large book bars in the middle surrounded by stools. The starting point throughout was to make it easy for customers to access all our collections. Probably the biggest item was the installation of a brand new lighting system throughout. Our in-house designer, Clare Lloyd, master-minded the project.
We will have a large table for client meetings, and samples of all our collections on site for customers to take away with them. And of course there will be the full array of fabric and wallpaper collections from Nina Campbell, who we have been representing and distributing since 1989.
Why should customers visit in person as opposed to looking/buying online?
It’s impossible, online, to appreciate the texture of a velvet or the fine needlework of an embroidery, or the feel of a beautiful linen print. They all look very two-dimensional. Fabrics have to be handled, stroked, admired close up, to appreciate them.
What’s Osborne & Little’s design philosophy?
It’s been described as sometimes a bit whimsical, sometimes classic with a contemporary interpretation, and sometimes the other way round, contemporary with a classic touch. I guess that rather overused word ‘eclectic’ does sum us up, hopefully in a good way! But whatever the inspiration or raison d’être behind a collection, the number one consideration is – will it be liked and appreciated by our customers?
Is there a ‘hero’ product that you feel sums up the brand, or that’s been a long-standing bestseller?
We are well-known for our large-scale mural wallcoverings. We have one design, ‘Trailing Orchid’ [pictured below], which we launched several years ago but remains high up on the best-seller list.
What can we expect from the latest collections?
We’ve just launched a collection of fabrics and wallpapers, Irisa [pictured below], which takes its inspiration from a variety of African sources. For our latest advertisement we created some five or six large pots covered in an assortment of the new fabrics. You can see these pots in the windows of our new showroom, they are truly massive!
What craftsmanship or innovation goes into Osborne & Little’s products?
The bulk of our designs come from our own studio where a team of unbelievably talented designers work together under our head of design, Johanna Bright. Apart from that we source from many mills across the UK, Europe, Turkey, Morocco, India and elsewhere who visit us, and we visit them, to view their latest creations.
Is there anything else you’d like the Design Centre’s community to know about your brand?
Well, I would like to think that many of the designers who visit the Design Centre are familiar with our brand and our collections. But I’m equally sure that there are many who only visit the Design Centre, and while they may be familiar with our name, this is a chance to introduce them to so much more. And our team in the showroom, headed by our manager Alicia Le Bellego, are looking forward to that opportunity.