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Q&A with Hilary Robertson, author of The Stuff of Life

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Lucy is an uber fan of this lady. Hilary Robertson, major league interiors stylist, art director and all round oracle on the stuff we love. We've been pouring over her exquisite new book, The Stuff of Life, for several weeks now, so we were just a bit wowed to talk styling, buying and NYC life with the lady herself.

How did you get started as a stylist?

After university I interned on various magazines which helped me decide that I wanted to be an interiors stylist. Initially I had wanted to be in the fashion department but I discovered that the interiors/design world was more appealing to me.

There aren't that many jobs available on magazines but I was very determined! I found a magazine that was about to launch and wrote to the publisher before he had even hired an editor.

Who or what couldn't you work without?

Travel is really important to me as I am always looking for inspiration, new products and trends. I'm in Copenhagen at the moment which I always find refreshing aesthetically.

I lived here in my twenties and it definitely influenced my choice of career. Scandinavians have such a rich design history and they integrate design into their lives in a very natural, practical way.

What do you like most about what you do?

I like the immediacy of photography: you can make a picture very quickly. I take pictures myself all the time. Instagram is fantastic for amateurs. In fact, the iPhone has really helped me to be a better stylist; it makes communication easier and I can record a visual diary that I find incredibly useful in the process of creating a story.

Which project or achievement are you most proud of?

I'm always moving forward and learning so I don't really dwell on the past! I'm always convinced that the next thing I'm working on will be the best. I'm grateful to my publishers for backing my ideas!

Anyone you would absolutely love to work with in the future?

I'd love to work as a creative director for a brand. When I first arrived in NYC I worked on creating a new interiors brand, Canvas. I enjoyed that process as I was involved in everything from sourcing materials and products to art directing shoots.

Tell us a bit about your move to New York, and from a buying perspective, how it differs to London?

The decorating business is very different here from London. US magazines are very focussed on showing homes that have been 'decorated' by
professional interior designers, quite different from our approach in the UK.

Finding independent retailers with their own identity is hard here as the US high street has become so homogenous; the same home brands are everywhere. I reacted against that by spending lots of time at flea markets where I can find things that help me put together a more individual look. I also love to discover crafts people who sell their work on Etsy or at fairs.

Who or what inspires you?

Visiting museums and art galleries is invaluable. I always spend any free time that I have looking at art and design or watching films with a strong aesthetic. Bergman's Fanny and Alexander is my favourite film.

Finally, if you could go back in time, when and where would you put yourself?

The Bloomsbury Group's interiors have always appealed to me. I like the Omega workshop's inventiveness and unconventional approach to creating rooms bursting with texture, color and pattern. I adore Cecil Beaton's interiors too and the sets in Jean Cocteau films. (Around 1912- 1930 might be about right).


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