House & Garden

Designer Profile Orla Collins

Orla Collins has decorated her bedroom in her trademark, opulent yet pared down style, combining dramatic black wallpaper, feather lamps and an antique bed to create a glamorous, clutter free look.

By Judith Wilson

Dublin-born Orla Collins took a diploma in interior design at the KLC School of Design in 1999, then worked for a mix of architectural and interior-design companies to get to know the whole process. Five years ago, she launched Purple Design, and her team of three offers a complete rebuild and refurbishment service, ‘not just interior design’. Her style is at once opulent and luxurious, yet pared down, and she declares that she doesn’t ‘follow any rules on any-thing’. Her London-based projects currently include a Georgian house in north London, an Arts and Crafts house in west London, and two apartments in Kensington. She lives in a elegant ground-floor flat in South Kensington.

Orla bought this flat six years ago: I already lived in the area and wanted to stay. It was in a sorry state, but I saw potential in its 3.5-metre-high ceilings and tall windows. I ripped out everything and reconfigured the space – my bedroom was originally the kitchen. Now it is ten metres square, with walls that are taller than the floor; I love verticality. The new bespoke doors are 2.6 metres high, and beautifully veneered with a high gloss lacquer finish. Some women are obsessed with shoes-with me, it’s doors. The white flooring throughout is a commercial vinyl: it looks like leather, is warm underfoot and is incredibly practical.

Orla initially painted the bedroom an elegant pale colour, but after three days decided it needed drama. I chose this black Osborne & Little wallpaper, called “Portia”, and love the play of gloss and matt. I designed the feathered lamps to add a sense of fun. As soon as I found lampshade maker Caroline Ashworth, I knew we were on the same wavelength. I chose green as the accent colour: the tones of the parchment lampshades and the feathers are slightly different. On the bed are green silk cushions to match by Fox Linton. The silk bedcover is reversible green on one side and bronze on the other so sometimes I’ll swap in bronze cushions. The faux-ostrich roman blind fabric is from Fox Linton.

Orla bought the bed in an antiques shop in Dublin. It fills the room: I love it because the posts are beefy, yet it looks romantic. I have a wonderful specialist decorator, and we played around with finishes: the frame is stippled, matt charcoal, for depth, with the carvings highlighted in gloss. I designed the bedside tables with the X-frame base in polished stainless-steel tables with Macassar ebony tops. I often design bespoke furniture for projects.

The wallpaper makes a strong statement, so the mirrors, symmetrically flanking the door, are the only ornaments. They were originally gilded, but my decorator has painted them to match the bed. I found them stacked in the doorway of a picture framer. All Purple Design projects start with the architecture and therefore symmetry is important to me. There’s no point playing with cushions at the end if you haven’t got the architecture right. I designed this room without wardrobes and have tucked mine under the stairs. If there are wardrobes in a bedroom, clothes end up on the floor, and I hate clutter.

This room, like most of Orla’s projects, has evolved gradually. I considered hanging a chandelier but concluded that it wouldn’t feel right. People think it’s odd when I tell them I have a black bedroom, but it is peaceful and intimate.