“I like a space to feel like you can’t take it all in at once, that your eyes have to dance around to find all the interesting parts,” says Swedish-born, London-based designer of the moment Beata Heuman. Even if you haven’t heard her name, you've more than likely bookmarked one of her whimsical dreamlands on Instagram. With rooms that your eyes not only dance but waltz around, it’s little wonder that over the last year, when we’ve felt so desperately bored with our own homes – hungry for visual cheer – that her Instagram following has more than doubled, sitting now at 122,000.
IMAGE | Beata Heuman: a CANOPIED SOFA IN A CLIENT PROJECT IN QUEEN'S PARK
Confections of improbably gorgeous colour and quirk, her work is as inimitable as it is instantly, recognisably Beata. It might seem like a far cry from her Swedish roots, where tonal schemes and minimalism reign supreme, but amid the dodo egg shaped pendant lights, scallop edge radiator covers and bespoke furniture with lion's feet, are clean lines, practicality and clever storage solutions. For example, chests of drawers that sit in deep, disused fireplaces.
After working under the king of opulence Nickly Haslam for nine years, in 2013, Heuman set up her own practice. It wasn’t long before she secured a spot on House & Garden’s prestigious Leading Interior Designers list. Since, she’s worked on projects big and small, from Notting Hill to Nantucket. And now, her triumph has necessitated a book. Called Every Room Should Sing, it’s a manifesto of sorts, encouraging us, in the most charmingly contrarian of ways, to forget about trends, and to use small and sentimental pieces to breathe life into our spaces.
“I like bringing a childlike mindset to design,” she says. “It’s incredible how unaware children are of others and what they think. If you can somehow tap into the excitement you had as a child, when you were oblivious to judgement, then you’ll thrive at being creative in your home.”
IMAGE | Beata Heuman: Ludwig Bemelmans INSPIRED WALLPAPER IN HER DAUGHTERS' BEDROOM IN THEIR HAMMERSMITH HOMe
With a flair for the bespoke, employed no better than in the west London home she shares with husband, John Finlay, a lawyer, Heuman thinks outside the box. The crosshatched glass and gold ceiling in her kitchen takes its cues from Venetian pâtisseries. The mural in her daughters’ bedroom is inspired by the one in New York’s The Carlyle hotel, which, famously painted by children’s author Ludwig Bemelmans, features among other characters, Madeline, her classmates and Miss Clavel. Heuman’s version includes hares, peacocks and the nearby Hammersmith Bridge. Above their beds are upholstered canopies, a trick she employs to create the illusion of space. On a recent client project in Queen’s Park, she installed one above a sofa (the arms of which were embroidered with eyelashes). In an interview with Architectural Digest the – male – owner of said sofa wondered, worriedly: “How will I tell my friends I have a canopied sofa?” But there were, the piece goes on to say, no regrets – of course there weren’t. Her ingenuity applies to smaller pieces too: “only recently I found two dusty vases with inscriptions on them in a thrift-shop in Norfolk. I’ve rewired and repurposed to make interesting lamps that sit atop the Lyre cabinets in my living room!” she tells me.
When it comes to lean budgets and small square footage, “I like to find solutions,” she notes. “It’s these kinds of projects that force me to think most creatively.” Sound familiar? “Rather than despair about the limitations, try and rejoice in what you can do, and the clever ways you can get around them. For me it’s always about the details” she says. White run-of-the-mill curtains can be instantly updated with a grosgrain ribbon trim for example, while above a bed, instead of a bank-breaking headboard, you can fix a fabric wall hanging. The one above her own is from Slow Down Studio.
In a dedicated chapter in the book, she also advocates for "making the ordinary extraordinary". Whether it’s a wardrobe lined with beautiful (Fornasetti cloud) wallpaper, or a jewel-like glass bottle of washing-up liquid by the sink, it’s all about forming little moments of enjoyment within your interior,” she says. (I can confirm that the latter is quietly joyful).
For all her fantastical kookiness, Heuman’s homes never feel daunting, or too done. She may have earned her design stripes with an effortless cocktail of Swedish sensibility and English eccentricity, but beyond that, her democratic philosophy is a reminder to us all that every home has its own heartbeat. Our interiors, after all, should be a reflection of our interior world – our aspirations, our memories, our hopes. Sometimes we just need to be presented with something particularly joyful to be reminded of it.