We catch up with Helen Powell, the discerning eye behind design and lifestyle blog Design Hunter, to discuss her inspiration and aspiring to be a minimalist.
Helen admits she’s always been interested in design, a passion she believes was influenced by her decision to study Philosophy and Sociology at university. “I’m very interested in how design communicates ideas and how it expresses things that are going on within our culture and society. I’m also interested in trends and in looking at the bigger picture rather than just focusing on the latest wallpaper. I tend to look beyond colour and surface pattern,” she explains.
Helen knew she wanted to work in a creative environment so prior to starting Design Hunter almost five years ago she studied floral design. “As a florist you need to understand how to use colour, texture and form, but I also really enjoyed learning about styling and photography,” she explains.
This led to her blog, Design Hunter, an aesthete’s paradise, covering interiors, design and lifestyle products, architecture, fashion and travel. While the site features a wide range of design styles, Helen admits, “the focus often reflects my love of understated, modern enduring design.”
A fan of minimalism, Helen confesses, “I appreciate objects and interiors that reference honesty and simplicity in their design and use of materials and believe in buying less but buying better. I think it’s important that the objects we choose to live with help to create a home that is inviting, restful and a place of sanctuary.”
This philosophy has translated into the styling of her 1960s modern mews-style house in Leamington Spa, where she’s lived with husband Graham and whippet Albert for nearly five years.
Helen admits her style has become much more minimal and detail focused as a result of living in a modern home. “I prefer clean lines, strong shapes, natural materials and luxurious textures over lots of colour and pattern,” she explains.
This takes discipline though: “I like understated modern design and aspire to be a minimalist, but in reality I’m far too untidy to achieve this. I’m very good at accumulating clutter, but have become more ruthless in culling this recently and am trying to work towards a more pared-back look,” she laughs.
When asked to describe her home Helen acknowledges that it “definitely doesn’t have an ‘off the shelf’ look”, combining elements of mid-century and modern rustic style, with eclectic pieces the couple have collected and objects that evoke happy memories. Her favourite piece? A Bertoia chair. “I love its light, elegant, skeletal form and the fact that it looks beautiful no matter which angle it’s viewed from,” Helen says.
Graham and Helen have done some major work on the house, mainly in converting the large double garage into a living space a few years ago. Doing most of the work themselves (one of Helen’s proudest achievements) allowed them to stick to a relatively modest budget of £20,000 for everything, including windows, flooring, plastering, electrical work, a new kitchen and appliances. She admits that they blew almost half the budget on the huge sliding glass windows that run along the entire rear of the house and open out on to the garden, but that “it was totally worth it as they are the best thing about the house – they make the living space really bright and light and connect it with the garden.”
Despite living in a relatively modern property Helen admits they see their home as a continuously evolving project, laughing “I’m not sure it will ever really be ‘finished’” and conceding she has her sights set on the garden next.
Want to get Helen’s look? The tastemaker cites her travels, favourite blogs and magazines (Remodelista, Elle Decoration) as well as Pinterest as sources of inspiration, and lists The Conran Shop (“for kitchen and tableware”), The White Company (“for beautiful linens”) and 1st Dibs (“for fantasy furniture shopping”) as her favourite retail destinations, so get hunting.
This article originally appeared in the December 2014 issue of Heart Home mag.
Photographs: Oliver Gordon. Words: Victoria Dockrell.