If your style tends to skew maximalist rather than restrained, if you covet gallery walls and scour flea markets for pieces with personality, Anna Spiro just may be your design idol. The Australian behind interiors firm Black & Spiro made her mark on the design world with her 2015 book, Absolutely Beautiful Things, a vibrant ode to living with things you love that earned her a devoted following. This year Spiro introduced her debut line of fabrics, a “colorful, fresh, and happy” collection of patterns inspired by her trips to Hawaii. Intrigued by her easy ability to create layered spaces that feel lived-in but not cluttered, unique but not kitschy, AD asked Spiro for some insight. Read on for her opinions on everything from flea-market shopping (she’s an expert) to minimalism (“not a fan”).
Architectural Digest: How do you go about achieving a mismatched style that doesn’t look overwhelming?
Anna Spiro: I think it’s important to find a common thread somewhere within the mismatch, whether it’s a recurring color palette or a strong plain hue to ground the scheme. I often like to use sisal rugs on the floor of a mismatched room as the sisal provides some grounding to the array of colors and patterns I like to use. I also think dark timbers help balance out bright, patterned fabrics and can give a room a more sophisticated feel. There is a fine line between a look that is interesting, layered, and beautiful and one that is just a big crazy mess.
AD: What are your go-to sources for furniture?
AS: Everything we do is either custom made or found/antique. Sofas, armchairs, cushions, lampshades, headboards, etc., are always made bespoke for my clients in fabrics I select. I love furniture that is handcrafted rather than mass-produced. I love the patina and individuality that an antique piece has; I believe these pieces are the key to making a room feel individual and unique. I like to buy at auction, and I also hunt around our local antiques and junk stores when I have the time. I often find the best pieces when I’m in small towns; I always try to find the local antiques shop, and it never disappoints.
AD: How about art?
AS: When I am trying to create an art cluster wall, I look for vintage paintings on eBay and also at auctions and antiques shops. I also love to collect art from Brisbane art dealers SGAR Gallery and Jan Murphy Gallery. They represent an amazing array of both up-and-coming and highly collectible artists.
AD: What’s the best thing you’ve ever found at a flea market or an antique shop?
AS: There have been so many wonderful things I can hardly keep count. However, I recently found the most beautiful white vase that was an exact copy of one my grandmother had when I was little—my mother now has that vase. I have never seen another one like it, but I bought this one at auction for $10. I would have paid more, and I absolutely cherish it, as it reminds me of picking azaleas in my grandmother’s garden with her and arranging them in her vase.
AD: How can a homeowner create the beginnings of a layered-looking interior in a new space?
AS: Start to collect paintings and antiques, and upholster furniture in a mismatch of fabrics. I always think amazing patterned fabrics make a room feel like a home.
AD: What’s one interior trend you wish had never happened?
AS: Minimalism—I’m not a fan.
AD: Where did you draw the inspiration for your textile line?
AS: I was inspired to create the collection from my own frustration with other fabric houses not producing fabrics in the particular hues that I use in my work. For example, yellows are always too muddy in my opinion, and I love to include a little bit of yellow in most rooms. I was inspired by my many trips to Hawaii. Some of my happiest days have been sitting on the beach in Hawaii so this collection is a reflection of those happy times. It was also really important to support the diminishing Australian textile industry, and with Australian-made fabrics fast becoming a rarity, I wanted to celebrate fabrics that are made here, using the best artisans possible.
AD: We’ve heard a lot about Australian design having a big moment. Who are your favorite fellow Aussies in the design world?
AS: I have a couple of favorites. My friend Adelaide Bragg from Melbourne is a very clever designer, and I also adore the work of Cameron Kimber and Marco Meneguzzi from Sydney. They all use beautiful handcrafted furniture and antiques in their work, and their rooms always look so interesting and beautifully pulled together.