helen hooper | interior designer
Wouldn’t it be nice to have an interior designer at your service to help you get things right when it comes to giving your home a little bit of love? Well, guess what, we were lucky enough to get some time with Helen Hooper, the Hove-based stylist that recently made her mark on the Brighton Mercure Seafront Hotel when it underwent a £3m facelift. From bold statements to Brighton loving, here’s what we found out..
We recently discovered your amazing work when we visited the newly refurbished Brighton Mercure Seafront Hotel and loved it. How long have you been working in interiors and how did you get into it?
I’ve been working in interior design for over 20 years. I crossed over into commercial and hospitality interiors 10 years ago when I persuaded a new client to move away from corporate design into more boutique design with a domestic feel and it spiralled from there.
You’ve lived in different parts of the world over the years – do you think that’s influenced and inspired your style?
Most definitely. I’ve lived in different countries from a very young age so I’m well versed with different cultures, and often fascinated with their history and techniques in art and design; I translate them into my work whether it’s through product, art or colour. I would describe my style as eclectic-modern. My work has many layers of vintage, collectables, new and young designers and artists, creating a multi-faceted layered design.
So, which bit of the new-look Mercure Brighton Seafront Hotel (pictured above) would you love to have in your own home?
Oh, there are so many! I particularly love the Osborne and Little fabric on the seating in the main lounge; the dusty blooms remind me of the Brighton Pavilion and days of decadence gone by. The bespoke Fornasetti [Italian painter, sculptor and interior decorator]-style credenza I designed in the seafront rooms with Brunswick Terrace printed on it would look great in my drawing room. Also, I’d love one of the original wrought iron seatbacks rescued from the West Pier (still waiting to be positioned in the hotel) and, of course, the artwork – I’d gladly have any one of those pieces in my home.
And do you have any design no-nos when you approach your projects?
I can’t bear bland and soulless interiors and harsh lighting, plus I try to avoid trends as they can date a project very quickly.
If our readers are looking at making the most of their small spaces, have you got any tips for them?
Small spaces should be embraced, I know that from my own home. I recently painted my small bedroom black and it works so well and bizarrely makes the room look bigger. Don’t be afraid of colour and statement pieces – an oversized piece of art or a collectable vintage table – just don’t overcrowd the room.
What’s your favourite emerging trend and how can people translate it on a budget?
Collectables and mixing of different styles. 1st dibs is my go-to if I have a client looking for something unique and special. If on a budget, then eBay is great, graduate shows for art, flea markets, etc. Don’t be afraid to mix and match styles and reupholster where necessary. In an ever-increasing throwaway world you can pick up really nice vintage furniture and restore, repaint or reupholster and there you have it, a totally individual and well-made piece for a fraction of the cost.
Any inside tips on where to source things more sustainably or for a smaller budget?
Here in Sussex, Weez and Merl are doing some great things with recycled materials. Handmade Brighton for all things wood and Six Hands Studio produce beautiful handmade furniture. On a smaller budget, The Four Candles and Abode have lovely stylish pieces, as do Igigi in Hove.
Brighton & Hove is a great place to find quirky bits and pieces, but where’s your favourite place in the city if you’re looking for a new addition to your interiors?
The shops in the North Laine, especially Digs and Vine Street Vintage.
Now for an interesting one… if you were a piece of furniture, what would you be and why?
I think I’d be my vintage 1970s rose mirror glass brass and chrome coffee table, it’s the centre of my home, totally one-off with an element of disco thrown in.
And where in Brighton & Hove do you live and what do you love about it?
I live in Hove, five minutes walk from the sea. It’s incredibly central yet surprisingly quiet. Plus I think we have the best architecture around here. That never fails to please my eye.
What are your favourite spots in Sussex?
The beach, especially when it’s low tide and you can walk for miles in the sand. Devil’s Dyke for a walk in the Downs, the views are breathtaking and the North Laines for the individual and quirky shops that are uniquely Brighton.
And finally, what would be your dream day in Sussex?
A lovely sunny day, please. A walk with my dog on the seafront. We have a morning ritual of getting coffee (she gets ham) from Hell’s Kitchen and then on our way back picking up a chewy brown from the Real Patisserie, my roses (I have the same pink ones all year round) from Florian, and Hoye’s Home & Garden for refills and more treats for the dog. I love the sense of community around here. I’d follow that with lunch with a client, a dinner with friends at Six Brasserie and then perhaps a cocktail at the Mercure Brighton Hotel bar which I recently designed.
Mercure Brighton Seafront Hotel has recently undergone a £3m transformation. For more information on the hotel please visit mercurebrighton.co.uk