Design studio| Hampstead Design

Hampstead Inspired Interiors – Interview with Claudia Dorsch

What brought you to Hampstead?

It was 1994 when I arrived in Golders Green with one suitcase and one night booked at the YMCA. The next day I found a room through the university noticeboard but I moved houses four times in my first year at university. Each time I beautified my room with paint, built shelving units from bricks and metal planks found in a back yard, and a few treasures from car boot sales, I clipped curtains to a metal wire strung across the window. I first fell in love with Hampstead as a student, visiting Kenwood House and the Heath and they are still  inspiring to me now as a local resident decades later. When I met my husband to be, we bought a small terraced house in Hampstead Village, we gutted and renovated the place with the help of one lovely builder, room by room, stripping layers of wallpapers, reconfiguring the layout of rooms, painting and designing the kitchen and bathrooms ourselves. We have never left Hampstead – as a family, we adore the mix of cultures, village-feel, cosmopolitan atmosphere and connections to the rest of London. I was born abroad and have lived and worked in many different countries, yet Hampstead is definitely our home.

What does Hampstead mean to you?

There is something about the mix of culture, art, music, architecture and people in Hampstead that resonates with me. I grew up in a cosmopolitan European family that worked in property, art and antiques, and Hampstead feels like the natural London borough for me, my business and family. Historically Hampstead has always attracted creative people from across the world; the poet John Keats lived here, as did Douglas Adams, Sigmund Freud, George Eliot and Richard Burton amongst many others. There are over 50 blue or brown plaques in Hampstead commemorating creative and prominent residents. It’s an inspiring and rich environment to live in.

What are your favourite things about the area?

I like how the cultural mix and liberal mindset of Hampstead encourages a lot of creative businesses to start up in the area. These can be individuals such as fashion designer Ronit Zilka, mid-size creative agencies and restaurant chains, or larger nationwide businesses like the Everyman Theatre. I particularly enjoy the variety of architecture from grand houses and the graceful Georgian terrace of Church Row to cottages and cobbled lanes. It gives the area a village charm but because of its proximity to the heart of the city, and the international brands represented in the High Street it feels part of the metropolis we know. The wildlife and huge expanse of Hampstead Heath is a welcome relief from the clamour of the city for myself and many Londoners too. The panoramic views of the centre from Parliament Hill are an absolute delight. My three girls played in the Heath, we sledged down that hill in snowy winters and I recharge my batteries running in the park every week.

How does this influence and inspire you and your work?

My work reflects the creative, idiosyncratic and liberal nature of Hampstead and its rich cultural blend. I find a lot of creative inspiration in the scale, forms, shapes and colours in art. Luckily as Hampstead and wider London are full of museums and galleries, I make use of the wide choice of exhibitions on my doorstep.  I attend weekly gallery and museums visits and the dialogue with contemporary artists and their work and how it is displayed offer an endless source of ideas and stimulation. I am heavily influenced by the beauty and nature found in the wild green spaces of Hampstead Heath. It’s an incredibly energising place and I draw inspiration from the colours in the seasonal flora and fauna, sunsets over the city and the timelessness of this vibrant mix of escape and city.

What does this mean for clients that are not in Hampstead?

As I work across any period, any style and any influence, it does not matter where my clients are based and what period or style they favour. Hampstead is where I feel at home and where I draw a lot of inspiration; Hampstead is timeless and beyond fashion and this mirrors my work, no matter where I am working.

Where else do you find inspiration?

The intricate details found in antique and vintage furniture often serve as inspiration for joinery in projects and I will always see something interesting at the antiques fairs in London and further afield when travelling with family or for work. I take inspiration from the places I visit when travelling, public buildings, galleries, hotels and shops. I have a vast and organised library of images of ideas I have spotted. I am always taking pictures of something beautiful or intricate or clever which catches my eye, it could be a particular tiling pattern, an interesting garden fence, a door or architrave, or a combination of colours in an artwork – I can later reference these inspirations for projects. Since young, I have been multi-lingual and therefore naturally attuned and curious about different cultures. Observing and experiencing traditions, tastes and places helps drive my creative ideas.

How important is authenticity to you?

I reassure my clients that I won’t suggest something that I would not do to or have in my own home and that is true. My team and I treat each project as if it was our own home and we feel emotionally invested. Each element of our eventual design is authentic, considered and sensitive to each property, owner and their lifestyle irrespective of period and style. Compared to other London boroughs, Hampstead is certainly privileged and cultured, yet it has managed to retain its authenticity as a multi-cultural, artistic, open and eclectic area of the city and avoided becoming ostentatious and overly precious. This mirrors the intelligence, experience and creativity seen in everything we design for clients.

How would you describe your creative process?

I feel a duty and responsibility to find the correct design solution for each client and their home. This solution will look and feel like it should have or always has been part of that property, yet it will be ingenious and transformative. I invest a lot of energy in each project and persevere to consider issues from every angle. I dont like taking ‘no’ for an answer – unless we have exhausted a particular avenue or we approach a problem from another angle. I compare our approach to method acting. I take time to understand the motivations, desires and actions of each client so I can see clearly how their lifestyle will be improved within a redesigned space. Combined with my analytical, managerial and financial skills, acquired during my former career in asset management, clients get project management that adds value as well as creativity. Just like Hampstead is a creative enclave with the city in the background, I offer a creative solution that is backed up by business and financial acumen.