Emilio Pimentel-Reid, better known to his social followers as @whatemiliosaw, is a UK-Based Creative Director who works across the disciplines of design, events, retail and publishing.
Born in the Dominican Republic, Emilio studied Fashion Design at Parsons School of Design in New York. His love of colour and pattern developed at Oscar de la Renta, watching the designer mix seemingly unrelated fabrics and bold accessories, which combined to create the house’s signature look. Emilio’s understanding of clearly distilled visual concepts came from his formative time at Calvin Klein which led to an appreciation of minimalism.
A respect for both the contemporary and traditional later informed his move into the interiors field ( following an MA and training in fine and decorative art at Sotheby’s) at the cult American interiors magazine Nest, known for celebrating exceptional spaces and its bravery in valuing everything from stylish igloos to palaces.
Emilio launched his own multidisciplinary studio in 2012 following many years as the Decorating Editor at ELLE Decoration (UK). His range of commissions blends his interest in contemporary design and historic interiors with a sense of playfulness, rigour and a colourful aesthetic.
He currently lives between London, Somerset and Bath, and talks to us below about his home style and his new book Bold British Design...
When did you first become interested in the world of interior design and what keeps you interested today?
My mother subscribed to many design magazines when I was growing up and as a teenager I enjoyed escaping into the world that the glossy pages revealed. I now understand how much work, thought and planning goes into conjuring a successful interior -but back then it was just escapism. As a professional I believe an element of escape is an important quality a successful interior should provide.
To this day, I have not lost the sense of marvel when it comes to interiors. My Style-Refresher Service, offering interior sourcing, shopping and styling to private clients keeps me interested and engaged. I enjoy lending my expertise to styling a room or decorating a whole house and this side of my work keeps me inspired and discovering practical new resources.
Where did the inspiration for your book, Bold British Design, come from and what was the hardest part of writing it?
The idea for this book came from a desire to share the energy and delight I have experienced in my role as a Creative Director collaborating with the many talented individuals I encounter in the UK’s interiors world.
Created in partnership with photographer Sarah Hogan, Bold British Design reveals a snapshot of UK design today by showcasing the houses and studios of 21 British-based people working in a range of interiors-related fields.
*Through profiles and short interviews, we provide context and insight into their design choices. The various spaces reveal distinctive elements of their work, personality, taste and training that led them to create personal, stylish workplaces and homes.8
The hardest part was narrowing the edit of designers to ensure we featured a range of styles and points of view.
Can you tell us about your home style?
My style at home is personal and reflects my interests, upbringing, friendships and mentors. I’m exposed to and work with the most contemporary things in my professional life and yet don’t want to live exclusively surrounded by newness. I appreciate furniture with history and having a couple of pieces dated from the same period as the building acknowledge what the interior could have looked like in the past. They also look great in the context for which they were created. I live with a mix of Georgian, Regency and Victorian furniture as well as designs that have just been launched.
Colour and pattern make me happy and the scale of my rooms (the ceilings are over 4 metres) means I have the challenge of plenty of wall space to hang art and textiles. I don’t care about price or provenance in the sense that something good does not need to be expensive. I regularly pick up fabrics, ceramics and many other interesting accessories at vintage shops and online. Other times I do fall for more expensive things that require a little more consideration before I invest.
My preference at home is for things that are well made and not disposable – whether old or new. If I really love something, I’m not afraid to go for a trendy piece; I know the trend will eventually be forgotten and I will end up with an object that I love forever.
What is your most treasured possession?
I have a wine coaster given to me by my grandmother when I moved into my first flat. It belonged to my great grandmother and is Art Nouveau- the fluid international style inspired by nature and popular at the turn of the last century.
This is a style I don’t even like, but the connection to someone I care about encourages me to use it regularly and makes it a treasured possession.
Small gifts on special occasions have the potential to become imbued with meaning and significance.
What are your top 3 tips of bringing bold design to your interior?
Don’t be afraid to play with scale-The bigger the better specially in small spaces where just one large statement accessory makes an interior look bold, finished and considered. Mix it up- Combine handmade craft objects with something modern and machine made. Balance something trendy with an antique. The items play off each other creating an interesting and layered pairing.
Be true to yourself- No matter how eccentric, if you absolute love something you will find a place for it in your interior. Try it out in different settings and be open to removing other existing items to make your new purchase work.
What has been your biggest interior design mistake?
My biggest mistake has been assuming my partner would agree to all my design choices when we first moved in together.
It’s a huge challenge living with someone else’s taste and making it blend with yours so that you both feel at home.
Patience and creativity is required.
If you could have another home in any part of the world where would it be and why?
I would have a house in the Dominican Republic (where I was born). The Caribbean climate, clear light and materials (native stones, responsibly harvested tropical woods and antique mahogany) would allow me to decorate in a different visual language than the interiors I’ve had the opportunity to create in the UK, Europe and the US.
What has been your career highlight to date?
Every year brings a different highlight – and this year it’s the launch of my new book Bold British Design.
What has been your biggest interior design success?
Some of my biggest successes have been working with my growing group of private clients creating interiors where their taste and personality come together with some help from me.
I particularly enjoy the challenge of incorporating a client’s existing pieces into new schemes.
Recently a client emailed me to say his home brings him joy at a time when there isn’t much joy in the world. That to me is a huge success.
How do you update your interior seasonally?
I probably tweak my interior on a daily basis.
For seasonal updates I have (and keep building up) a collection of accessories- a ‘home wardrobe’ which I can change around as my mood and the weather dictates.
Although my rooms are all painted in different colours – there is one overall palette, meaning that I am able to rotate my accessories around my flat giving them a new perspective.
How would you spend your perfect day off?
I normally travel a lot for work across the UK plus abroad and my perfect day would be a Summer Friday- spent in my home city of Bath.
I would start the day as the first person arriving at the Thermae Spa so that I could enjoy the view over the Georgian city from the glass roof top pool all on my own. My skin never feels happier than after a dip in the mineral-rich waters.
Relaxed, I walk uphill (Bath is built on seven hills) on my way back home stopping at the Thoughtful Bakery for sweet Bath Buns baked with a sugar cube in the centre and magazine shop Magalleria to stock up on independent titles like Luncheon, The Rakes Progress and Cabana.
After a quick gazpacho lunch at home bought at the St. James’s Cafe - a visit to the Holburne museum. They do a great job at curating an informed mix of Old Master, Contemporary and Decorative Art exhibitions.
Then popping into the city’s Victoria Art Gallery, next to historic Pulteney Bridge which is lined with shops. Over the years Bathonians have endowed it with an excellent permanent collection specially from artists who worked locally, ranging from Thomas Gainsborough to Howard Hodgkin. The tightly edited ground floor exhibitions are always a delight and the 1st floor gallery transports you to the 19th century.
Then back home for late afternoon relaxing and lightly styling my flat with flowers from my garden and plants delivered by tricycle from the local nursery.
Dinner alfresco with London friends who I don’t see during the week when I’m in town- who pop in from Somerset and Gloucestershire on weekends.
Ideally the food has been ordered in from a local restaurant made with Somerset produce since I don’t cook- though I love to entertain.
I set a metal table for six at the far end of my city garden and deploy a selection of tablecloths and a range on patterned dishes and glassware (mostly bought online) mixed and matched so the guests feel I’ve made an effort.
At the end of the evening when everyone has gone home, a glass of whisky served in a crystal tumbler.