Barbara Hulanicki's top shopping spots

She's crazy about clashing colours and can't stand minimalism – so where does the designer find inspiration for her interiors? She reveals all to Kate Watson-Smyth
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Best known for her Sixties boutique Biba, Barbara Hulanicki was born in Poland and brought up in England. After the closure of Biba, which had by then evolved from its location in a small former chemist's shop to being housed in a five-storey Art Deco building, she continued to work in fashion and illustration until 1987, when she moved to Miami, where she still lives, and has reinvented herself as a designer of interiors and exteriors.

Her first range of wallpaper was designed as part of Habitat's VIP range and is selling well. She has just produced a new range for B&Q in her characteristic strong colours and bold geometric designs.

It comes as no surprise to know that she's still mad about colour – except green. "My school uniform was a dull sludge green, so I imagine that's why I never use it." And her house is a treasure chest of artefacts and "objets" she has collected over the years.

"I tried minimalism at home and I think I lasted about two weeks. I change my mind a lot, which means I've acquired a lot of stuff. For the decor I tend to go for a pearl-grey background and then pick out the odd wall. My home is quite eclectic. I was brought up with Technicolor film and I'm mad about orange and fuschia. It's my job to be able to put them together without them clashing, so I'm not afraid of using colour at all."

But she understands that many of the rest of us are somewhat terrified of branching out from safe taupe and calming cream. And she has some sensible advice: "Stop and think. Don't rush the way your home looks.

"Most people become manic, running around trying to finish it all before they even move in, and that's such a mistake. Take it slowly and find the things you really like – that mean something to you."

When it comes to painting the wall, if you fancy something bold, "you must be brave," she says. "You need to do a test: paint the sample on every wall and leave it long enough to see how the light affects it. It's very hard to suggest colours to people without seeing their houses because you don't know what the light will do. Blue can be very tricky like that because it can go grey. And yellow should always be put on a south-facing wall to look its best."

Finally, she says, "be careful of using too much glitz. That can really kill the mood. Too many gorgeous things in one room can look dreadful. You need to mix the simple with the very busy for the best effect."

These are some of Hulanicki's favourite shops and shopping streets.


I've designed wallpaper for Habitat and I love using it. It's probably the best single concealer in the interior arsenal as it covers up cracks on wall. By using it on just one wall, you can create a very modern mood – there's so much scope in wallpaper. Unfortunately, I can't have it in my house in Miami because it gets damp – with the air conditioning and the windows open, it just goes mouldy.

But I also love Habitat for its knick-knacks. I have a lovely silver clock that shows the time in every country and I love it. I am a bit of a clock-watcher, although I don't really need to be – my tummy usually tells me what time it is. I love to eat. I have a collection of beautiful glass plates in pinks and oranges and turquoise and orange glasses. Although, having said that, I never eat in – always out at restaurants – so I don't really use them.

Habitat: 0844 499 1111;

The Conran Shop

This is a fabulous shop. I am particularly fond of the basement, where they have great travel stuff – bags and cases, and I love all electrical things. I'm not really a gadget person, but I do love the table lamps there. Here in Miami, everything is rather over-designed, often from the Far East, and the silver is always a little bit too shiny.

The Conran Shop: 0844 848 4000;

Graham and Green

Another of my favourites. It has a really good website so I can spend ages browsing around when I'm not in the UK. The collection is very well edited and there's always loads of stuff I want to buy from here. My own house is so full because I'm so bad at editing – I'm like a jackdaw going round and picking things up everywhere. I do have moments of tidying up when it all gets too much, but I hate throwing things away.

This is in contrast to my father-in-law, who threw out an umbrella that had a concealed bayonet in it. It had belonged to one of his relatives who was governess to the children of the last Tsar of Russian and when the revolution happened, she walked down the street stabbing everyone with it. Such a marvellous story – and he got rid of it. I nearly had a heart attack when he told me the tale. He could never understand why I keep buying stuff and have more and more – but now I can never throw anything away. I always imagine that it might have its own story to tell one day.

Graham and Green: 0845 130 6622;


I love this store. I was there recently and they had the most amazing collection of wooden inlay stuff from India in wonderful modern shapes. It was just the sort of thing I was thinking of doing for my next project – the idea of ancient beaten silver inlay combined with that modern shape. I was rather annoyed that they had done it first, actually. I adore stationery and it's a great place to go for a browse.


Portobello Road, London

Wandering up and down here is great. There are a couple of Indian shops with wonderful chandeliers. They are kind of tacky but nice at the same time.

Portobello Road, London W1

Edgware Road, London

This is another favourite haunt of mine. There are lots of antique shops in the street, some of which are really expensive, but I'm happy just to walk about very often. There's so much to see and hear in the area and it's good for the brain to keep it stimulated. It's no surprise that I don't like minimalism – I think it numbs the brain. I also think it's a very masculine trait. You need things to look at or the brain goes dead. My eyes are constantly darting around when I go here.

Having said that, while I love antique and vintage furniture, and am inspired by vintage textiles in my designs, I can't bear vintage clothes. I have to have new ones. When someone else has worn them they leave their energy behind and I don't like that at all.

Edgware Road, London W2