Whether she’s working in Shanghai, Saudi Arabia, Paris or L.A., Annette English delivers her signature sophistication to an impressive roster of happy clients. The Australian-born designer has been practicing her craft in L.A. for almost twenty years, yet has remained something of a quiet force in the business, letting her work speak—and shine—for itself. We caught up with her over the holidays and are thrilled to feature her as one of the Designers We Love.
How would you describe your design aesthetic? Each project is unique to my client and the architecture of the home, whether it’s contemporary, a French château, transitional or a relaxed beach house. My design aesthetic is always fluid and evolving but the underlying theme is sophistication, elegance and comfort, and hopefully always inviting and timeless. I care about the details with myriad layers and textures. Our interiors tend toward monochromatic with pops of color but I’m looking to shake that up a little. New design challenges are what I really look forward to, and when a client asks for a style we haven’t done, I couldn’t be happier! This year, I’m going to be working in Paris, Dubai and traveling to Yerevan for work—and Los Angeles, of course. I’m so looking forward to designing interiors in styles we’ve never attempted before!
How did you get started in the business? I used to own a very successful restaurant and bakery in San Francisco in the 1990s. Over the course of 8 months, I did the interiors for the restaurant, not really knowing what I was doing but it was all very intuitive and came easily to me, though I didn’t have any experience in the field. Once the restaurant opened, we got as much attention for the interiors as we did for the food. We were a hot spot! That’s how I found my true passion and the beginning of a truly wonderful design career. From there I studied at the Academy of Art and worked for one of the preeminent designers in San Francisco who was a great mentor—and still is to this day.
Where do you find your inspiration? Inspiration is found all over but mostly from my extensive global travel (I’m Australian and have been almost everywhere) and Mother Nature. I also get lost in design and architecture books and magazines for hours on end.
If you could reside on a Hollywood film set from any era, which would it be and why? Breakfast at Tiffany’s, the much-loved book of Truman Capote, is based in one of the best cities of all time, New York. Then there’s the ever-beautiful star, Audrey Hepburn, who portrays an eccentric café society girl. I can’t get over looking at her gorgeous outfits, hair and that special joie de vivre she emanates in every scene. That movie was aesthetically pleasing all the way through.
What do your clients enjoy most about working with you? So I’ve been told, the fact that I’m personable, fun, take the stress off their shoulders and do what I can to make it a really enjoyable journey. Oh, and my clients tell me I’m a mind reader. Thankfully they come to trust me fairly quickly, which I believe allows them to relax into the process, trusting they’ll have an amazing end result. We’re also looking to do something unique and personalized for them, and I stress that.
What takes a bath or kitchen from ordinary to extraordinary? A great kitchen should always incorporate unique and striking materials, and have some original design accents too. I’m a fan of mixing wood, stone, metal and glass into all the rooms we do. These days there are so many interesting tiles, distinctive hood designs and fantastic appliances but the trick is to add a focal point, like a series of pendant lights to give the kitchen a spark. Impeccable organization and layout are also key. Having the kitchen open onto a family room gives you the instant great room that everyone wants that these days. The kitchen is the heart of the home and should feel like it. Bathrooms, especially the master bathroom—should give one the experience of a sanctuary, a retreat. Unique materials, lots of counter space and a beautiful free-standing tub will make any bathroom feel special. My bathroom designs for clients almost always incorporate a painting or artwork, chaise lounge and long vanity. And they’re never cluttered. We always want to encourage opportunities for moments of reflection and relaxation.