January 18, 2022
April 20, 2022
Does Abigail Ahern, guest judge for Episode 7 where we check out Cotswolds Holiday Lodges, need an introduction? Probably not. But I think she is so authentically fabulous that I want to rabbit on a bit about her anyway. As an indicator of her professionalism and passion she replied to my email about doing the Q&A within the hour even though she was en route to the airport. She filed copy the very next day. Absolutely no-one else was this quick to come back to me! Says it all I think.
So… we first met when I featured her home in ELLE Decoration way back when. What I found out later though was that this marvel of delicious darkness probably still had the paint drying when the photographer arrived. You see, he’d visited her shop (the first teeny tiny one on Islington’s Essex Road), loved its dark aesthetic (painted black to make the pots stand out) and assumed her home would be the same.
Keen to have the publicity, Abigail readily assured him that it was exactly the same (it wasn’t), a date was set and she promptly rushed home to get painting.
And this is what I love about her. She’d just started out. It was an amazing opportunity. And she seized it with both hands because she believed in herself, and what she could do. And she’s never looked back. Sometimes you just make your own luck with vision, determination and damned hard work.
Her latest book Everything: A Maximalist Style Guide is a treasure trove of inspirational pictures and spot on advice. Although I disagree about using your wardrobe as your go-to for home colour inspiration. But that’s ok. We both agree that what works is what makes you feel good. Quality is everything. And most times it’s the friction between pieces that makes a space.
You can read her official biog here… Abigail Ahern Biography
What we got up to in Season 2 here… Interior Design Masters
And when I interviewed her about her love of dark decor here… The New Monochrome
What are you reading right now: I have two books by the bedside: My Year Abroad by Chang Rae Lee and Second Place by Rachel Cusk.
What keeps you awake at night: That’s easily the business, always always the business.
What’s your most overused phase: “I don’t particularly love it”! It drives the team mad and I say it zillions of times a week. To samples that have arrived that I don’t like, or a styling vignette for a shoot that I pulled together and don’t think looks good enough, even to the garden the other day! In a nutshell — I always think I can do better and it drives everyone bonkers!
Greatest achievement: It has to be the business. I am in a job I love that doesn’t feel like work (most of the time) and to be able to do that every day and drive this business, by leading the development and execution of some long term strategies whilst increasing customer acquisition, driving up our product range, travelling a lot, running a fabulous team and learning along the way is by far my greatest achievement.
20 years ago I had zero business acumen now so much more, from organisational knowledge to financial literacy. Its not been the easiest journey at times but I have grown so much, just like the business.
Have you ever failed at anything: Yes tons of things. However I’m such a believer that you learn from failures and quite frankly in life and in business failure is unavoidable. But I adopt constructive measures and learn from any mistakes I’ve made, from having a concession in Shanghai (which was a huge drain on my time) to a group of agents representing our brand in Sweden who went bankrupt, leaving us with hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of stock. There will be many more mistakes along the way I’m sure, but my big take out is to learn from the failures and not fear them.
Favourite snack: Frozen banana whizzed up with almond milk, almond butter and a date!
First piece of furniture you bought: A concrete rocking chair from a gallery that used to be on Wigmore Street called Mint. I bought it about 23 years ago and still love it to this day.
If you were an animal, what would you be: I’d be a dog, I love the lifestyle my two have, lots of snoozing, walks, playtimes, food on repeat.
Do you collect anything: Pots, I am pot obsessed from paper maché to wood and concrete. You can never have too many pots!
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be: I would have the most perfectly groomed hair, not this curly/messy bed hair look!
What did you want to be as a child: I wanted to be a designer. I made my sister (who I shared a bedroom with) save up her pocket money so we could take the carpet up, paint the floorboards and buy a rug. I was about 9 or 10 at the time!
Worst subject at school: Maths, I hated maths and was terrible at it which is quite amusing seeing that I now develop budgets, monitor transactions and am all over the financial side of the biz.
Do you believe in luck: I believe that if you believe in luck then you tend to be more optimistic, which in turn makes you more confident and optimistic so in answer to that — yes.
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Michelle Ogundehin is internationally renowned as an authority on interiors, trends, wellbeing and style. She is an influencer with expertise and the multi award-winning former Editor-in-Chief of ELLE Decoration UK.