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A Q&A With Gemma Lofthouse, Designer Behind Our National Trust Tile Collection

30 September 2021

During this year’s Focus/21 event, held from Monday 20th to Friday 24th September at Chelsea Harbour Design Centre, we took the opportunity to get to know a little more about Gemma Lofthouse, designer behind our National Trust Tile Collection.

Gemma is a passionate and vibrant designer, specialising in surface patterns, textiles and designs. Read on to discover more about Gemma, and her thoughts behind the National Trust Tile Collection designs.

Firstly, can you tell us a little bit about how you were first introduced into product design?

I really developed my love of interior products whilst I was at university, but it wasn’t until my first big role designing for Anthropologie which really introduced me to designing such a wide variety of things. Part of that role involved designing for textiles, rugs, curtains, bedding and homewares, so it really opened that door into product design for me.

Was Anthropologie your first role when you came out of university?

Yes, they were the first big design company I had worked with, and what an opportunity. I actually moved to America for the role.

Where else might we have seen your designs?

I work freelance, so I work with lots of different companies so it’s hard to say where you might have seen them because I will cater to brand guidelines, for example using their handwriting font and colour pallets.

For this year’s Focus/21 event, we invited you along to share some expert guidance around using water colour – could you tell us a little bit more about how you developed an interest in it?

I didn’t really get into water colour until I moved to America and completed a course in it. My big love is gouache which is a denser and heavier type of paint, sitting between water colour and acrylic.

Is there a particular material that is harder to work with than others?

Each material has its own challenges. With ceramic tiles for example, different types of printing means that designs are applied to the surface in different ways, which can make it difficult in some circumstances but whilst some come with challenges, other materials come with perks.

What advice would you give to someone just starting out in product design?

Try not to think about it too much, is probably by best advice. Try to experiment, have fun and let loose with it. You can always go back in and add more details later after letting the paint dry and layer it up.

What is your proudest moment within your career so far?

Two really stand out for me. One, was when Anthropologie approached me to work for them, because they were a company I followed for a long time and whilst I was at university. Second would of course be the National Trust Tile Collection. The National Trust was a big part of my life growing up – going for picnics, walks around their stunning grounds, visiting the houses and exhibitions, and I used to sell some of my wares in their shop, so it has really done a 360. It was an absolute privilege to work on the collection.

Tell us a little bit about how the designs behind the National Trust Tile Collection came to be? Where did you get your inspiration, and where did you start?

Something like this is really about collaboration. The National Trust have such an amazing archive of their own design elements and styles that work for their brand, but also visiting the properties, photographing the grounds, the architecture and working with Grazzie and Hamish from the creative team at Sarsen Stone Group, gave me so much inspiration to work with.

Even the National Trust buildings themselves, the brick and stonework, the original wallpaper and tiles, the foliage, flora and fauna from the grounds, provided so much, so that’s really the starting point for me. I gathered as much inspiration as possible and then I picked elements from those to create designs that would work in multiple different styles of homes today.

Do you have a favourite tile from the National Trust Tile Collection?

I do – and that would have to be Woodland Glade. I have a total obsession with greenery and foliage, so it was always going to be a favourite for me thanks to its texture, colours and layers.

I love tonal colours, and I love green, but its important to think about how that might look on a wall or large space and create something a bit different – so that’s where the little pops of pink colour came from within the Woodland Glade design.

You have worked in America, and are now based as a freelance designer in Devon – have you noticed any differences between interior design across the globe?

I would say that the UK and European markets seem to be one step ahead and more eclectic in their styles. American style can really vary depending on what part of the country you are in and are really influenced by their location. Whereas I feel the UK and Europe really combine different trends and different styles and feels much more fluid.

Are there any major trends you are seeing in the world of design at the moment?

I think there are a couple of things really. There are a lot of patterns, which is very beautiful and it is interesting to see how different brands interpret it. We are also seeing lots of warmer, homely tones like beige and terracotta, and I think that has come as a result of people spending more time at home and really thinking about how to make their homes more cosy.

Discover the National Trust Tile Collection