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Business News/ News / How One London Decorator Built a Business on Eccentricity
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How One London Decorator Built a Business on Eccentricity


In Beata Heuman’s latest projects—a showroom and a hotel—the designer champions a mix of Swedish ease and English eccentricity.

Designer Beata Heuman in the library at 188, her new appointment-only London showroom and design studio. The cross lap cupboards hold the studio’s books and samples.Premium
Designer Beata Heuman in the library at 188, her new appointment-only London showroom and design studio. The cross lap cupboards hold the studio’s books and samples.

Off a busy West London thoroughfare sits a former gentlemen’s club where Winston Churchill once stood under the Georgian portico, fingers flashing his V for victory. In an equally celebratory mood is its latest inhabitant, Swedish-born designer Beata Heuman, who is marking her 10th year in business by opening the 19th-century building’s forest-green doors as an appointment-only showroom and design studio—named 188 after its street number. Past the pillars and up the steps lined with flower-filled terracotta pots, her Dodo Egg Light with an ovoid glass shade anchors the porch. “The dodo is a good example of what my studio stands for, in light form," says Heuman (pronounced HAY-men).

As with the U.K. climate, you never know what you are going to get in a Beata Heuman project. It’s often a buoyant mix of simple lines with a dash of witty romanticism. “[188 is] a bit of an experiment," says Heuman, 40.

Nearly everything inside—furniture, rugs, joinery, hardware—is for sale. “The bigger-ticket items, like the sofas and the furniture, you need to see," and now clients can, here, she says, patting the camelback sofa, then gesturing to a smorgasbord of fabrics hanging in the drawing room, flanked by Bertel Thorvaldsen plaques just in from Copenhagen.

Before launching her own studio, Heuman spent nine years working for interior designer Nicky Haslam, to whom she attributes her idiosyncratic style. “He has got this kind of amazing confidence, and he’s also quite contrary," she says. The job fostered a passion for British eccentricities, which she now pairs with a Scandinavian airiness. Her first significant project under her own name was the London townhouse of two artists. “They trusted me, even though I hadn’t done anything!" she recalls. “They wanted to do something quite different." Since then, there’s been a country cottage in Sussex, a fiction writer’s pied-à-terre in London, a Manhattan brownstone and an 18th-century clapboard home on Nantucket.

Commissioning specialist painters is a Heuman forte, and there are nostalgic and experimental works throughout 188: The library ceiling is done to resemble a nailed artist’s canvas, while the drawing room’s ceiling scrolls are re-created from a 17th-century house in Hälsingland, Sweden. There’s a sense of period in the layout, allowing her to migrate through the rooms as the day progresses. “I move around," she says. Upstairs there’s her take on a Churchillian war room: Her personal office space has two gargantuan desks, one serving as a drawing table in billiard-green felt. Overall, it’s the boldest nook in the house, with busy bulletin boards overlaying the inky willow-print linen walls.

Heuman’s actual home is a 10-minute walk away, but she sees 188 as a warm space for family and friends to enjoy as much as clients. Her two young daughters, Gurli and Alma, have a room to use in the attic, with a soft sage-color bed and a spacious Frame chair in lemon and red. Nestled underneath the garret window is a wooden seat, which is actually a fireplace bench that Heuman designed when she was in her early 20s and purchased for about $100 in the former client’s house sale.

Off the parlor-floor design rooms is the office of her husband, John Finlay, who oversees her e-commerce platform, the rapidly expanding Shoppa. New pieces include a director’s lamp and an oversize cushion in yellow linen with red piping. An unusual addition is the kakelugn that sits in Heuman’s library. Based on the traditional Swedish ceramic stoves, it’s actually a painted-wood cabinet.

“When something becomes predictable, it’s less fun and interesting," she says, “so instinctively I always need to add something that f—s it off a bit." She draws attention to the drawing room’s ottoman, commissioned with a tapestry of lemons, olives, cigarette butts and playing cards, using the work of painter Andie Dinkin and woven in Ukraine by Swedish company Vandra Rugs.

If Heuman’s palette and vision seem a bit “accidentally Wes Anderson," her big fall project—the 38-room Hôtel de la Boétie, in Paris—feels intentionally Beata Heuman. Many of the building’s features were long removed, and “we kept it quite simple in support of lean[ing] into what’s there." A mural of an alfresco breakfast party gone askew provides the backdrop of the dining area. The petite rooms were given space-saving “headboard art," with tapestry-shield motifs inspired by the floor of the Medici Chapels in San Lorenzo, Italy. “With a hotel it’s more about your vision," Heuman says. “It’s quite fun doing something that’s a bit more public that people can see."

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