Meet The Self-Taught Husband And Wife Design Team Who Can Turn A Soulless White Box Into A Sanctuary

Angus Buchanan started out in set design and on big-budget photoshoots, while his wife Charlotte built her career working with glossy well-known brands. Today, the pair run Buchanan Studio, creating bold yet welcoming spaces, and mixing new furnishings with antique and reclaimed pieces. Together, they inject their signature colour and charm into hotels, private homes, restaurants and more.

How do you marry function with style when working on a project?

Angus Buchanan: With all our projects, there is an important interplay between function and style. I would say it’s the crux of our role as designers. In both residential and commercial projects, the style of a space is often informed by some practical or functional element. For example, in lots of the restaurants we work on, we like to make the kitchen a central part of the design, with bar seats and open fire visible to the diners. The same is true of a residential project; a home needs to be practical and effortless but also beautiful.

I know you’ve spoken at length Angus about being “destined for a creative career”—how did your time working for Mario Testino and then set designer Michael Howells influence your current career and style? Working with Mario in the heyday of luxury fashion was fast paced and high pressure. I was exposed to amazingly talented and influential creative people, as well as having the opportunity to visit parts of the world I had never seen before. I think it instilled a deep flexibility and openness in me. Michael showed me that there was a way to have a creative role that was truly chameleon like. A set for a couture fashion show one day, a set for a recording artist the next, and then a ballet at the weekend. It required lots of different creative ideas and it gave me the desire to start a studio that was open to all creative outputs and didn’t just conform to one “house style.”

What’s your favourite design era and why? We have always loved the 70s—an era that introduced the concept of open-plan living, with an emphasis on maximising internal light and space, through skylights and double height ceilings. We also love all the indoor gardens from the 70s, and the bold use of colour and patterns.

Angus—you travelled the world designing theatre and fashion sets—what are some of the most inspiring cities or landmarks you came across and why? I was lucky enough to see all sorts of incredible places. I’ll never forget the first time I worked in Tokyo, designing a shop for Comme des Garçons. The assault on the senses, incredible new sights, sounds, smells, neon lights and technology. In stark contrast to that, another moment that stands out for me was working on The Dior anniversary event at the Palace of Versailles. We essentially took over the entire palace to create an absolutely incredible couture show and a huge dinner.

You don’t have a formal training/degree in design—how has that helped you and how has that at times hindered you? I started working with Mario at the age of 18, and I always feel that my hands-on experience working with him and then Michael was more valuable for me personally than university would have been. I’ve never been an “academic” as such, and I’m very dyslexic so “real life” industry experience was perfect for me. I always say that my time with Michal was my “university.” He was a rare and exceptional creative talent, who was generous with his time, experience and mind.

What’s your secret for working together as a husband and wife team? We have different strengths and control different parts of the business, which is key for us, but doesn’t always avoid conflict, so a sense of humour is also key! The joy of working together is having a shared dream and shared aspirations.

What’s your approach for translating a client (like Le Bab’s) vision into a tangible space? And how do you balance a client’s wants with a desire to perhaps push a client or put your own stamp on a project? We are very lucky to have exceptionally creative clients that we work collaboratively with. They are often designers or artists themselves, and they are open to being challenged, and they push us to keep thinking differently.

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