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London calling: A Master Class with Abigail Ahern

Last Friday I spent the day in the fabulous home of Abigail Ahern. Yes, the interior designer extraordinaire, who also has an interiors store, writes a captivating blog, appears regularly in magazines and on television and is now contemplating opening up a cafe. If that wasn’t enough, she also runs a Design School. The participants in my Master Class were a variety of women: many creative types (graphic designers, artists, web-designers), some looking for inspiration for doing up their homes, another who manages a charity shop and after ideas on how to make that amazing and a number of women like myself who just love interior design and are between careers and thinking about their next steps.

The day was informal, fun and yet incredibly informative. Abigail describes her style as eclectic and said that this is more difficult to pull off than any other style. The morning was spent with Abigail taking us through the essential elements of amazing spaces: for her it’s all about breaking the rules. While our houses are incredibly different (at the moment, I only have one dark room in mine while hers is dark from top to bottom), I seem to embrace almost everything she advocated without previously realising it. Furthermore, 90% of the images she used to demonstrate her points I have used for my blog. That was a huge confidence boost.

The best part of the day though, was being in her own home and being able to look every single room (nothing was off limits). I took loads of photos but am unable to share them with you as Abigail has a book of her work coming out next year featuring her home and the publishers (naturally) have put a ban on the publishing of her house in the meantime. What I can show you is one photo of Gemma Ahern, Abigail’s talented florist sister who talked to us about the basics of really gorgeous flower arranging using fake flowers that, amazingly, truly look real. You might say that floral arranging is a rather middle aged and middle class thing to get excited about, but it was great.


I left yesterday with 8 pages of ideas for things I would like to do at my home scrawled in my notebook – and with the challenge to take what I learnt and morph and synthesise it into my own style. After all, I don’t want to be an Abigail Ahern wannabe. Spending a day with her and in her home has given me a new found confidence, which as Abigail says is really one of the most important aspects of design: having self-belief.

Stay tuned as Abigail is taking her Design School to New York and possibly Australia later in the year.  In the meantime, I’ll be posting about the content of the Master Class and my essential learnings over the next few weeks.

Image credits {1} The Selby and {2} me (Kate Challis)

6 Comments Post a comment
  1. anja #

    sounds like a marvelous experience! i really love her style (go dark rooms! i hate it when people say you have to paint a certain room white to make it look more spacious. yawn.), and it’s really cool that she did the whole thing in such a relaxed manner. and it’s great to hear that there’s going to be a book!

    June 2, 2012
    • kate #

      Totally agree. The totally white look is so boring . . . but I must confess, I am a little worried that our house will appear really dark with dark walls though. When we moved in it was painted a nasty brown and as soon as we when white the house was so much brighter. Light does have a massive impact on my mood. Abigail’s place is flooded with light, huge windows everywhere and I think this makes a massive difference. I am going to give it a go though. Because you never do know. Thinking about start by just doing the walls of the dining room which is the darkest in the house and see how it feels.

      June 4, 2012
      • anja #

        i don’t actually mind all-white spaces, i am a huge fan of the scandinavian style, but white walls (or any light color actually) never seem to work for me. i tend to overstuff them with pictures, posters and knit-knacks just to kill off the whiteness. now i have a prune walls in my bedroom with dark furniture and crimson/burgundy/dust pink details and i’m much more content.i don’t know if i would feel the same if my whole house were dark, though…
        i think it’s a good idea to start small (i LOVE what you did with your bathroom, by the way!), and the dining room is perfect since you don’t spend a lot of time there so you could start warming to it little by little:)

        June 5, 2012
        • kate #

          Yes, I also love white spaces . . . but they are just everywhere at the moment aren’t they?! I am a bit hesitant because our house is small and quite dark (it doesn’t have a lot of natural light). But there is only one way of finding out and that’s to try it. Coming home after being in Abigail’s place I want to make loads of changes.

          June 11, 2012
  2. Thank you for sharing this! I am doing her class this Friday and after reading your blog, I am even more excited!!

    September 17, 2012
    • kate #

      Kate, you are in for a treat. It was so good that I am going again – on the Sat!

      September 17, 2012

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