OPENING THE FRONT DOOR IN LAVENDER TROUSERS and silver sequinned trainers, textile designer Jan Milne is at least half preparing me for what is to follow in her Kelvinside flat. Lavender, as it turns out, will feature significantly, mixed with fresh lime and warm tangerine, while the silver trainers.... ? Well, while there may not be any sequins in this interior the edgy attitude personified in Jan's choice of footwear is as evident throughout.
Think colour, where sharp brights are mixed with pastels on acid, and think print, where slices of juicyhued fruit and flower heads come blown up in scale and splashed across everything from cushions and curtains to laminate table-tops. Wherever you look there is a Jan Milne design, from the fuchsia-on-white feather pattern on the duvet and curtains in her bedroom to the turquoise spirals on the yellow mirror in the living room. "It would be crazy to be a textile designer and not have my own textiles in the flat,”she points out, "but also, as I make new furniture for each show, my flat ends up with all the pieces I don't know what to do with!"
Things certainly looked very different in November 1997 when Jan bought the ground floor flat, her first, moving into cream coloured décor, the odd room of stripey wallpaper, and woodchip walls.
"I could easily walk into someone else's house and suggest a style, but that's tougher when it comes to your own place,” she observes. It is impossible to contemplate Jan's home without referencing her work, indeed, the lavender fabric for the Dialogica sofa (a Danish fabric Jan had printed with her own design) provided the catalyst for the entire interior.
"Some people feel the need to play safe, there's the idea that you can't use more than three colours together,"Jan agrees, "but that depends on how they're used. I thought the fabric for the sofa would work with fresh lime walls, and then, when I bought the orange Canyon chair from One Foot Taller, I realised how well the orange worked with lavender …… " She adds, "I don't believe I'd have had this use of colour if I hadn't gone through the textile process."
The textile process is the degree course in Textile Design Jan studied at Glasgow School of Art, a course she admits getting "talked into" having initially planned to study painting. Interestingly, as a painter, Jan's work was dark and moody, in sharp contrast to the crisp hues that characterise both her designs and home today although her most recent range of laminate samples feature existing images in a more subdued palette."It gives a sophisticated edge,'she explains."Don't think I just use brights!"
Fruit and flowers have been recurring subjects since Jan's student days where she experimented with "putting colours together in an abstract way,'her work since is an evolution and refinement of those early ideas. Add to that a shopping habit that would make Carrie Bradshaw blush - "Whether it's clothes or knick knacks, I could shop for the rest of my life! " - and Jan's home was never destined for neutrality. Consider this: the chrome bin in the kitchen was shipped back from Tribeca in NewYork after Jan found it in a catering wholesalers. Why? It was a fraction of the cost she would have paid here and the perfect piece to work alongside the stainless steel faced cabinets. As Jan admits,"If I see something I like I buy it whether I need it or not"
Other pieces were found at trade shows, the clear and pink Perspex 'Rave' table from a co-exhibitor at 100% Design in London is just one example of her individual eye. The chunky silver mirror in the hallway was a swap with another designer, while Jan spotted the Flos lighting at the Milan Furniture Fair. Wherever you look your gaze finds something unusual, whether it's the tall cylindrical Bubble Tower alongside the living room fireplace, a light filled with water and plastic fish that changes colour at the change of a rotating filter, or the cast resin table in the hallway. The latter Jan made soon after graduating, first printing on the turquoise resin base before embedding fabric flowers into the mix."I took it to San Francisco for a show, then had to bring it all the way back again because I couldn't bear to sell it! " she admits.
Jan has a stylist's sense of the quirky, dearly evident in the pale mint kitchen where bags of fruit-flavoured sweets hang on one wall while vodka bottles are lined above the cabinets. The sweets, Jan explains, were bought on a trip to San Francisco's Chinatown and chosen for their colourful packaging and graphics, now co-ordinating perfectly with the mosaic-tiled worktops (using tiles from Glasgow-based Topp Tiles). Opening a drawer, she pulls out even more brightly-hued bags, bought to match the kitchen's previously orange walls. If this isn't attention to detail. ..
"I actually designed the kitchen around the fridge,' Jan says of the stainless steel model by Siemens, the starting point for the stainless steel cooker, washing machine and, of course, units, faced using stainless steel sheeting from Richard Austin Alloys. The glass splashback, painted on the rear, is a new addition - "The amount of people who said,'You can't paint glass!' but if you paint on the reverse it won't get scratched" - while the laminated table and chairs add a further slice of colour with pink and turquoise lilies.
Across the hallway, the bathroom is, as Jan says,"Like a Barbie toilet" Of course, she's joking, but the yellow and pink colour scheme with fairy lights round the dado does suggest that this, like the kitchen, is not exactly a serious space. While writing her college dissertation Jan studied colour psychology and admits it has influenced her since. Yet the piece de resistance is surely the bedroom where blazing fuchsia contrasts with crisp white walls. The starting point here was the feather print, inspired by a design Jan created for Fidelia's, a new restaurant in Uncasville, Connecticut. Her clients figured the feather image (from an eagle, perhaps?) would fir in perfectly with the restaurant's authentic Indian theme.
"Would they believe I found the feather on Kirkcaldy beach?" Jan smiles. Inspiration does strike in the strangest places. The circular stools are her design as is the silver mosaic mirror above the bed, while fairy lights grant the space a boudoir edge. Shiny satin bags printed with Jan's flowers and spirals dangle from the wardrobe, evidence of another new venture for the designer. "I do want to focus on my interior ranges,'Jan agrees,"but I can't help but get excited about other things as well. I like the diversity" The idea came about after a commission from L'Oreal to design bags to be used as a promotional gift; they worked so well Jan is now looking at developing the range under her own label.
Perhaps the key lies in the bold simplicity of Jan's designs; there's nothing fussy to these prints, a style reflected in a home where easy, accessible pieces are mixed in with the more avant-garde and where plain coloured walls offer a simple backdrop. In the bedroom, the look is achieved with a tall chrome mirror stand from Habitat and white plastic storage containers from Ikea."It's like fashion, I like mixing designer with inexpensive,'Jan agrees, so while the stainless steel bedside lamp from San Francisco (clearly a favoured shopping spot), probably dented her Visa, a metallic finish cylindrical lamp cost nine pounds from B & Q.
Jan is now spending more and more time Stateside with the American market counting for the largest percentage of her current business. "They're more open to the use of colour, 'she explains, although, doser to home, Jan has recently worked on designs for the restaurant in the Royal Botanical Gardens in Cardiff. It’s all a far cry from her workshop in Govan, yet in America her designs have been used for bars, restaurants, even a cruise ship, and the story of her lucky break will offer hope for many a fledgling talent. While at a trade show specialising in gifts - "So from the start I was showing the wrong products but there was still a lot of interest,'Jan recalls - a buyer for Barney's approached her stand with the immortal words,"My friend would love your stuff"
That friend turned out to be an architect who commissioned designs for a sushi bar off 5th Avenue New York. Talking about her more recent projects defines each by its colour scheme. For the Samba ( in the Mirage Casino, Las Vegas: pink velvet with orange gerberas and purple with yellow daisies; for Gloria Estefan's restaurant in Miami: turquoise velvet with lime slices.
If this is anything to go by, don't be expecting monochromatic interiors from Jan Milne anytime soon.