Max Buston Design is a studio based in London, creating colourful, atmospheric and timeless interiors.
The studio works on high-end residential, commercial and hospitality projects in the UK and internationally; from concept, detailed design and project management to completion.
Symmetry and Proportion
The first consideration for any interior is its architecture, and creating a design which is in harmony with the building. If the architecture, spatial planning and mouldings can be perfected, the interior has an almost unbeatable chance of success. Over the course of time, many properties have been altered; rooms carved up or added to, or ceilings dropped, without sufficient regard for the asymmetry often created.
The first part of a job is space planning: getting the right mix of rooms, but also squaring up the rooms. As much as possible, ensuring they are in proportion and symmetry. Any space that cannot be addressed during construction can be disguised with clever decorating tricks that draw eyes away from the problem. Adding height to a window, for example, can be achieved by disguising the top with curtains, or adding mirror underneath.
For smaller rooms, generally furnishings that are bigger are better, as long as it doesn't become cramped.
Balance, Contrast and Colour
Balance and contrast are crucial to successful decorating. They are the embodiment of an interior that creates real joy and fun, as well as calmness. Balance is about the right colours and flow, from one room to another; furniture in proportion (always why pairs of objects enhance, as they anchor the other, as well as providing symmetry); the right level of lighting. It’s also about the old and new, and the right amount of leggy and skirted furniture!
Contrast adds fun and wit, so that every space you look at makes you smile. Colour bestows on us an emotional reaction. One colour or fabric in a room usually becomes the ‘connecting’ colour, in that it connects all the other materials in the room.
The key difference between traditional design and historical design is that the former is a contemporary style sympathetic to the architecture and period of the building. A historical reconstruction, by contrast, is an attempt at true likeness, using materials and colours available at the time. We offer both, but the former is recommended. Even John Fowler and John Cornfield advocated a traditional decorating, in harmony with the past but ultimately in keeping with the lifestyle of today.
Traditional design today often uses an eclectic mix of furniture and styles mixed in together, which is often much more interesting and dramatic; but these wouldn’t necessarily be available to those of Georgian England. On the other hand, historical periods were often transitional, with several styles co-occurring. This makes rooms appear timeless.
What is equally important is having an eye for detail to choose pieces that are authentic and of excellent craftsmanship. Beautiful furniture will always be good looking, and can be employed well in any environment.
Art and Collections
It is well known that objects look better in pairs, for one to play a balance with the other, or en masse, to create effect. Just think of the Upper floors of the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek in Copenhagen, where only one type of object is displayed: Roman heads. The effect in a museum of seeing a mass of objects which are all different is both unmemorable and confusing; the same applies to a home. Tableaux which have a strict theme and sense of purpose are much more effective; however, they mustn’t look contrived, hence the need for balance.
The other joy of collecting is getting to know the history of an artwork and it’s biography: how it was made; who held it before. Was it a gift? All add to the objects charm. A scholarly evaluation of objects can also be offered.
Detail and Finishes
The best interiors take attention to every single detail. It’s painstaking work, and not always immediately apparent (the exact height of a dado; the colour of a switch plate; the trim on a cushion). However, the combined effect is what makes a room feel special and luxurious. Everywhere one looks is perfection, interest, nothing overly busy, and above all, calm.
Special finishes play an important part in this. Designing a unique floor, using a special paint effect or polished concrete on the walls, and employing clever ways of doing things, to create an interior that brings joy and happiness.
Gardens, looking through to the outside
One of my favourite garden designers is Harold Peto, whose creations included the gardens at Iford Manor (which he bought in 1899), Ilnacullin and Buscot Park. His favourite employ was the long axial. The water garden at Buscot, some 350m in length, has at the end a mooring on a lake with a classical temple in the distance. As you walk down the watercourse, sections in the hedging widen out and are peppered with amusing statues. A similar effect, if on a grander scale, is employed at the royal gardens at Sanssouci in Potsdam, Berlin.
Two other inspirational gardens are Mount Congreve in Waterford, Ireland, where hundreds of the same species are planted together, en masse, and second, the Gertrude Jekyll white garden at Barrington Court, where a circle of borders are planted only in white. A final favourite is Annes Grove at Castletownroche in Ireland. Deep in a wood lies a sub-tropical garden. The main garden is atop a cliff, and taking the steep path to the bottom is the lower garden, made up by the bank of a river.
Each of these gardens has an individual strength, that make them immediately mystical, dramatic and surprising. Even in a small city garden the same principles can apply. Whatever you do, be bold with your scheme, and something memorable will be created.
The garden is always a major consideration to any interior project, for so many vistas begin from looking out through the windows. The inside and out should be thought of in harmony, and commissions often work in tandem.