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Mini Moderns . Contemporary style with a touch of the past.

November 13, 2013

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Mini Moderns is the creation of Keith Stephenson and Mark Hampshire. It is an interiors brand specialising in applied pattern across a range of products including wallpapers, fabrics, cushions, rugs and ceramics. The initial collection (below) was inspired by the 1951 Festival of Britain and was quickly snapped up by Heal’s.

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Before Mini Moderns was formed, Keith had worked as a textile print and graphic designer for various fashion companies ranging from jeanswear to cult fashion brand Red or Dead, whilst Mark had worked in television and had also created his own interior designer-maker business selling his collections through Heal’s. They met at a branding agency in the mid-nineties, and were always put together as a team for projects, they soon realised that they worked well together and had a similar aesthetic, approach and most importantly a similar sense of humour when it came to working on projects.

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“We work with pattern in way that creates a mood or a story. We don’t create pattern for pattern’s sake – we won’t for example do a design because other pattern makers are doing it and it may be commercial – it has to mean something to us. For us pattern is and should be a personal thing. We love to hear how people respond to our designs and the memories or images they evokes for them.” Their wallpapers, fabrics, cushions, rugs and ceramics all evolve as emerge as well considered and concluded ranges.

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Inspiration-wise, they always say that nothing is beyond inspiring them, design influences range from mid-century British textiles to vintage toys, from literature to childhood memories. Travel also influences their work, and much of the inspiration comes from holidays and field trips, both at home and abroad. One design can transform into another whilst working on it.

When asked how they overcome any creative blocks, Keith replied…

“Our biggest problem is that we have too many prints per season rather than having creative block – financial block is usually our problem! As a small business we can only afford to produce the amount that we do per season and we have become pretty good at self-editing. Obviously it is disappointing when we have spent time developing something that doesn’t go ahead, and by the following collection we have moved on. But they all go into our design bank for a time when they may come into their own or influence another design.”

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“Our favourite product is always wallpaper. Everything else comes from this – the patterns are adapted for accessories and the colours are used in our paint collection. The wallpaper is the starting point and is the thing that establishes who we are as a brand and what our collections are about. We always start our wallpaper collections with a concept for the theme – sometimes this can be fairly loose – like ‘Daytripper’ – or very specific like ‘Buddha of Suburbia.’ We immerse ourselves in the theme first, pulling images from our own memories or things we collect and pictures from our library of design books. Then we start designing. We always work on the wallpaper first. This how we feel comfortable and we can work within a square and repeat this. At this stage we work out whether the flow of the design is better as a drop repeat or a straight match. Some designs conceptually feel more structured and seem to want to be straight matches – others need more movement.  Sometimes designs take quite a long time to feel spontaneous. The Festival print was planned out very roughly and then drawn on screen very accurately and then printed out and traced by hand and then scanned and redrawn with all its hand drawn quirks. Whitby (with the seagulls) was a particularly difficult print – but the overall effect is one of simplicity. Which we like – the hard work should never seem evident in the final design.”

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Their suppliers are so important to their company that the guys get to know them personally, it made perfect sense for them to manufacture their products in the UK with ‘nice people’ (as it says on their label), producing goods at prices they agreed that their customers could afford.

Their wallpaper with Rob Ryan just happened by being in the right place at the right time. Keith explains…

“Rob works with Clothkits, who we have worked with in the past and we have some friends in common, although we had never met. We asked around to see if anyone knew if he was interested in producing wallpaper. At first it was just to introduce him to our manufacturers. However, when we did meet he was more interested in collaboration where he created a piece of art, that we made into a repeat pattern and helped to produce with our manufacturers. We all got on immediately and he is really wonderful and inspiring to work with. He is always very, very busy but he always finds time for everyone.”

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It’s great to see how varied the inspiration is in their work. From calligraphy, backgammon, paisley, travel tickets and their own memories from growing up (like c-60 cassettes), it all appears and works well as a rich collection. Some amazing design work, check them all out on their site here.

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Thanks again to Katie Treggiden over at Confessions of a Design Geek for asking all the right questions and allowing me to quote her replies.

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