THE EIGHT - CASSANDRA ELLIS OF ATELIER ELLIS
an eight question catch up with our favourite people in the design world
1. Tell us a little about yourself and your design background
I grew up in New Zealand – the land of the free thinker - or - I want to do this, so I’m going to. I do think being a New Zealander gives you a completely different view on the world and way of doing things. One is braver, more concise and less bound in by convention.
My grandfather was a furniture maker and my mother was a seamstress, so I grew up making – always. Clothes, paint, magazines, decorating the various dolls houses, playhouses and my own home. Never for decorating’s sake though – always as personal expression of a personal world and a desire for a lovely calm and quiet feeling.
Deemed smart, I studied Economics and as a graduate, designed sets and events for the main TV network in NZ. That was great – everything from the design of the space, the music, the magazines or printed material – right down to the flowers, food etc. I was given carte blanche and so I knew that the creating of a feeling or emotion was what I loved the best.
From there I worked in Interiors magazines and then had my own furniture and homewares store.
Moving to the UK ten years ago wasn’t easy. It was the beginning of the recession and no doors were open – not one. So not one to give in, I went back to making textile products, then was commissioned for four books on textiles and making. I also bought and renovated wrecks – a few of them, one after another. I just grafted on making and doing, creating these worlds and making beauty.
2. How did Atelier Ellis come to be?
Finally – the breathing space came from all that incredibly hard work - and this is when Atelier Ellis came about.
I love home – the idea of it, the four walls of it and the happenings inside of it. I don’t really care if its humble, grand or all of the in between. Home is home. I wanted to build a business based on home and storytelling. I started with furniture because I know furniture and fabric – and I know how to make it beautifully. Then came the paint, which I am possibly proud of most.
We make paint and furniture that is a beautifully made, quiet backdrop to the life lived by our customers in their homes. It’s quite simple but it’s very important to me and I want what we make to be in our customers lives for a long time.
I absolutely love what I do – and I am proud that I actually do a lot of it. I draw the furniture and work with my workshop to craft our aesthetic. I created the colours for my paint range and work with the best paint company in the UK to make them come to life. I work with the same photographer to create our images – the feeling has to run through every aspect of what we do.
3. What is your ambition for Atelier Ellis?
To become a home away from home – to help people understand what home is to them and to serve them I guess - with what we make. I’m working on a range of upholstery linen woven in Ireland – just around the corner from where my grandfather grew up – so that is lovely.
Then I would like a better permanent space – that home space, where anyone can come. Where you can come and buy 1 metre of fabric to make some cushions, try some paint colours or order some furniture – I’ll love all of it. Just one space though – because it’s important to me that we remain home-sized and open to all.
4. What is your design ethos?
At the heart of everything we do, is an aesthetic that takes simple, useful and beautiful as its benchmarks, to create emotionally uplifting experiences through our paint, furniture and community. Our design philosophy is based on a new classicism that is neither minimalist nor traditional, but quiet, emotive and timeless. We want what we make to be in our customers lives for a long time.
5. Where do you find inspiration?
For me it has always been art, travel, nature and books. The exhibitions of Agnes Martin and Richard Long were a huge influence on some of the original paint colours. Travelling to Vienna was a gift for one of the paint colours and my beloved Katherine Mansfield gave me Garden Party Green.
I guess it’s always a feeling – an emotion, rather than say an actual scrape of a colour I’ve seen.
6. What are your favourites across your current range?
In furniture – it’s the Family Sofa because of what it means. Five people and a large dog is the most I’ve seen on one, but it’s also a wonderful hangover nap place.
In terms of paint colours – Boro is my favourite. It is incredibly human and that was a wonderful feeling to be able to create.
7. Any exciting plans for the future you can tell us about?
We have started our PORTRAIT series which I have loved. Interviewing and photographing creative souls and their views on home. It’s not about the decorated aspect at all – very much an opportunity for my customers to give themselves permission to learn and live how they would like to.
Apart from that – slowly, quietly making beautiful paint and furniture.
8. What does your own home look like?
I am lucky as I live in the part of London that I love. I am close to the river and surrounded by green space and that is the most important thing to me. It’s safe and friendly too. In terms of our home – it is an old school with big windows, so full of lovely light. We have a big kitchen table, lots of books and places to sit - and I would say that it feels very calm and quiet. My husband loves art and music so we have a lot of that and I have probably too many pieces of pottery, but this is what makes us happy. Plus our lovely Labrador – so it’s all very good.