A late Victorian easy armchair. Estimate £1,200-1,800. A mahogany barrel-back wing armchair. Estimate £1,500-2,500. Twelve hand-coloured botanical mezzotints from Phytanthoza

Two interiors designers, 289 lots, one empty room

Find out what happened when we challenged London-based interior designers Christopher Howe and Fabrice Bana to furnish an empty room in our King Street galleries, using pieces offered in our Interiors sale on 31 January

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  • Christopher Howe

Over the years, antiques dealer and furniture designer Christopher Howe has worked with some of Britain’s most revered cultural institutions, such as The National Gallery, Sir John Soane’s Museum, Strawberry Hill House and Hampton Court Palace.

How would you describe this look?

Christopher Howe: ‘The design I’ve put together here is very much ‘English country house’, but we’ve mixed it up by adding a mid-century Swedish carpet [not offered in the Interiors sale]. That’s something I often like to do: create a comfortable English country house feel, and incorporate pieces from different periods.’

How does this look reflect your design philosophy?

CH: ‘I tend to consider individual pieces in terms of form, texture and colour, and put them together that way, rather than designing period rooms — which is how things were done when I first started in this business 30-odd years ago. It’s not always easy to design that way, because each object has to have its own integrity; it has to be able to stand up against pieces from other periods.’

What’s your favourite piece in the room?

CH: ‘The piece I have the most affection for is one that could easily be overlooked — an unassuming George II 'bachelor's' chest of drawers. It’s perfect in so many ways: the scale, the condition — it has all its original hardware.

A George II mahogany dressing chest, circa 1750. 31½  in (80  cm) high; 34  in (86.5  cm) wide; 20  in (51  cm) deep. Estimate £2,000-3,000. This lot is offered in Interiors Including Property from the Collection of Sir David and Lady Tang and Property from Bywell Hall, Northumberland and Property from Howe on 31 January 2018  at Christie’s in London

A George II mahogany dressing chest, circa 1750. 31½ in (80 cm) high; 34 in (86.5 cm) wide; 20 in (51 cm) deep. Estimate: £2,000-3,000. This lot is offered in Interiors: Including Property from the Collection of Sir David and Lady Tang and Property from Bywell Hall, Northumberland and Property from Howe on 31 January 2018 at Christie’s in London

A Regency walnut library chair, circa 1815. 39  in (99  cm) high; 26  in (66  cm) wide; 35½  in (90  cm) deep. Estimate £2,500-4,000. This lot is offered in Interiors Including Property from the Collection of Sir David and Lady Tang and Property from Bywell Hall, Northumberland and Property from Howe on 31 January 2018  at Christie’s in London

A Regency walnut library chair, circa 1815. 39 in (99 cm) high; 26 in (66 cm) wide; 35½ in (90 cm) deep. Estimate: £2,500-4,000. This lot is offered in Interiors: Including Property from the Collection of Sir David and Lady Tang and Property from Bywell Hall, Northumberland and Property from Howe on 31 January 2018 at Christie’s in London

‘Miraculously, it has never been re-polished, so the colour is beautiful. Another little feature, the hidden rollers underneath the feet, allow the piece to be moved around. It's very rare to see elements like that still intact. It's also not too perfect, which is what I like about it.’

What tips would you have for someone aiming to decorate a blank space?

CH: ‘Ironically, I rather like blank spaces, so I would say don’t be in too much of a hurry to fill them. I would consider exactly how you want to use the space, and then go about making it as comfortable and functional as possible. In terms of style, don’t be driven by convention. Space is precious, so fill it with things that are relevant to your life, that reflect your interests, hobbies, family, where you’ve travelled. These days we store all our photographs on our devices — we don’t print photographs and frame them anymore. Those personal touches disappeared during the days of minimalism. We need to start to bring them back.’

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  • Fabrice Bana

London-based interior designer Fabrice Bana specialises in bespoke, antique and vintage furnishings. He blogs about design and decorative arts at A-Gent of Style.

How would you describe this look?

Fabrice Bana: ‘For this space, I created a maximalist vignette that is quite luxurious, uniting elements from a wide range of cultures and time periods. All together, it’s colourful and joyous, with lots of different textures and materials. I imagined that the person who would be living in this room would be a well-travelled aesthete, with many stories about where they picked up each of these items, and have a good sense of humour.’

How does this look reflect your design philosophy?

FB: ‘You could describe me as an emotional interior designer; there’s something very organic in the way I approach everything I do. Here I started with the Tuschinsky-style handwoven wool carpet from 1920, on the wall, and added elements that drew out its colours.

‘I also wanted there to be a great deal of movement in the room, so I added the smaller, square rug on the floor [a 19th-century part-pile Veramin Ru-Khorsi rug], on which I put a round table [a mid-19th-century parcel-gilt and black japanned breakfast table]. That allows you to walk through the space in a circle, so there's a sense of fluidity.’

What’s your favourite piece in the room?

FB: ‘I would have to say Otto Pilny’s Oriental Beauty Dancing, from 1913, which was done in the Orientalist style. I love the composition and the colours — there’s an amazing orange glow in the background, and there’s a lot of movement.

‘It’s quite textural, too: you can see the embroidery in the dancer’s dress. It’s a big painting, which makes it quite striking. I imagine that every time you looked at this work, the dancer would put a smile on your face.’

What’s your advice for someone decorating a blank space?

FB: ‘Go with your gut. I often like to start with an antique or bespoke rug and then decorate with colours and textures that complement it. But the end result has to be comfortable — there’s no point living somewhere that looks like a museum, where you can't touch anything. Above all, a room should reflect who you are and how you live. When I design a space, I always think about who will be living in it. I think a bit of wit, a bit of humour, and having stories to tell are important, too.’