Mary Graham (left) and Nicole Salvesen, founders of Salvesen Graham

The tastemakers: Salvesen Graham

Nicole Salvesen of interior design firm Salvesen Graham discusses the company’s philosophy and the spaces they created using pieces from our Interiors  sale on 29 January

Salvesen Graham is a leading interior design and decoration practice specialising in classic interiors with a modern twist. Established in London by founders Mary Graham and Nicole Salvesen, the company works for both private residential and commercial clients in the UK and abroad to create beautiful interiors that sit comfortably within their environment.

Our Interiors  sale on 29 January in London has been curated by Nicole Salvesen and Mary Graham, who have created some signature design schemes using pieces from the auction. Visitors to King Street for January’s Christie's Lates event on 14 January will be able to enjoy the fruits of their craft, and to hear the design duo talking about their work. We spoke to Nicole to discover more about their choices, their philosophy and more.

How do you approach your design projects?

Nicole Salvesen: ‘Each project is different — it always starts with the personality of the client and the architecture of the building. Only then will we think about what we might want to add. We work very closely with our clients to achieve interiors that look as though they have evolved over time, never appearing overly designed.

‘There is no “house style” as such. Mary and I both believe in curating a combination of the old with the new, and we enjoy mixing antiques with contemporary design to create interiors underpinned by our use of colour, texture and pattern.’

Where, what or who inspires you?

NS: ‘We are hugely inspired by the designers of the past such as John Fowler, whose influence can still very much be seen throughout the current interior trends. We also love the confidence and colour of American designers such as Michael S. Smith, Kate Ridder, Miles Redd and Steven Gambrel. Antiques always feature strongly in every project we do, and are often are the grounding element to a scheme.’

READ MORE: Christie’s interviews leading interior designer Michael S. Smith

What can you tell us about your vision for this room design for Christie's?

NS: ‘We wanted to show that antiques can be used in fun and interesting ways that are inherently very “liveable”. The antiques were the inspiration behind the wallpaper, which is a fresh take on a classic flame stitch fabric that can often be seen on antique pieces. Not only can old and new pieces of furniture be combined in an interior scheme, but also antiques from a variety of periods can work really well together.’

What are your favourite pieces from our Interiors sale?

NS: ‘We love a bar cart and they always feature somewhere in our clients’ homes, so it was great to discover the collection of cocktail shakers and bar accessories that feature in the sale. The Arts and Crafts brass and copper wall lights were a real favourite, as they were such a pretty colour. Sometimes pieces from this period can be very distinctive and hard to use as part of an eclectic scheme, but these lights would look good anywhere.

‘More is more! We always encourage our clients to be as confident as possible. If you love something, go with it’

‘The gilt japanned bow-fronted chests had a great scale and were in a beautiful blue, helping to add colour to a scheme, while the Pietrina Checcacci Brazilian gilt/bronze and glass coffee table was an unexpected and unusual piece that really caught our eye.’

What is your design philosophy, broadly speaking?

NS: ‘More is more! We always encourage our clients to be as confident as possible. If you love something, go with it. As long as there is something in a room with multiple colours in it, such as a piece of art or a cushion fabric, then this can help tie a scheme together and make it feel thought-through. Adding an antique to a scheme makes the room feel complete and curated over time, rather then pulled together afresh.’

What is the biggest challenge in creating a relaxing living space?

NS: ‘Knowing when to stop so that other elements in the room don’t get lost. We often talk about visual balance when we talk about creating a scheme. If you have one showstopper piece in a room it can often make other things feel less considered so you have to have other strong elements to balance — a fabulous pattern or colour, for example. This will make the room feel relaxing since nothing will jar.

‘We are huge advocates of colour, pattern and maximalism, so the more wonderful objects the better! This is important both in strong and more muted schemes, both of which we enjoy creating.’

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What projects do you have in the pipeline?

NS: ‘We are working on some fabulous projects at the moment, ranging from London apartments and townhouses to a country estate, and lots in between. We are also working on a commercial project, which is something we love to do, having worked extensively on hotels and private members’ clubs in the past.’