Meet The Designer: Karen Brotherton

Journal

Meet The Designer: Karen Brotherton

Emily Hartley


We couldn’t start off our ‘Meet the Designer’ series without sitting down for a Q&A session with the talent behind all our designs here at Living Quarters - Karen Brotherton. With a strong focus on print, Karen has ensured that Living Quarters ever-growing treasure box of patterned wallpaper and fabric add a dash of playful country charm to your home. We caught up with Karen to find out more about her inspirations, creative process and plans fo the future.  

 

 

Tell us a bit about yourself and your background…

I come from a very busy working-class family in a rural village in Cheshire. I found my calm in the rolling fields outside our front door. This is where my love for nature began, which has become a cornerstone of my work.

I worked as a botanical illustrator post grad, but spent most of my career in fashion print design. Naturally this lead me to home decor as I've gotten older and settled into my own home. I've always drawn and painted, but it took me a while to find my hyper focus. Which I think can be best described as wonder, both at the weird and the wonderful in nature but also in the belief systems and magical thinking of the humans.  

Describe your creative process…

My creative process is a jumble of serendipitous events and recurring images/symbols that lead to an idea that won't let me rest until I address it. I feel as though, something catches my eye, whether it be an old art piece or a particular flower and then I find that it pops up recurrently in the day to day until it undeniably has to become something I work on. It's a magical process and I live for that feeling.

 

Where do you find inspiration?

Everywhere. Cliché much? I feel like I should say India. But in all seriousness, it really is everywhere, I come from a fashion background so there is definitely an element of fashion to my design, but most of it just comes from a love of art and painting and therefore old artists.  

In terms of inspiration from other people, I'm a big fan of Rick Rubin and his creative process.  All of Stephen Ellcock's books are a huge source for inspiration and are you even a print/surface pattern designer if you don't throw Josef Frank in there.

 

What do you love most about what you do?

When I was little I had a den at the bottom of a field close to my parent's house, it was a crop field, and I was nestled away at the bottom of it for what seemed like large passings of time completely zenned out, watching the swaying grass. I feel like I'm endlessly trying to create that space again using wallpaper, and that is a nice thing to be doing.

How would you describe your style?

Someone once said that my style reminded them of the illustrations from old encyclopaedias they used to look at in their grandmother's attic. That is just the biggest compliment! I feel like my style is trying to capture the feeling of wonder in nature as a child mixed with a bunch of art/fashion influences from my art school days. 

What are you working on right now?

Currently, I'm working with our printers to develop a new printing technique to achieve an antique-style metallic finish for our next wallpaper collection. It's tricky to get the balance, and it's a very abstract concept in my mind, but I'm excited to flesh it out into something a bit different. 

 

What would be your dream project or collaboration?

My dream project or collaboration would be with Reath Design. There's nothing they can't do, and their spaces are pure magic. The colours, the texture the art, its everything. There is something really nostalgic about their work, they're creating modern spaces that somehow have a real old school charm to them without being fusty.

If that wasn't meant to be, I would love to have a collaboration with Kew Gardens. I feel like, as a botanical illustrator, Kew is the apex. Once you've designed and shared a project with them, you know you're a legit botanical artist. 

 

What makes a house a home to you?

To me, a house becomes a home with loads of family and friends bundled in for a family gathering, it's the people that make it feel warm and alive. I love having everyone over for a huge roast. Once everyone leaves, that warmth lingers for ages. It's the afterglow of living in a busy home as a child. An empty house feels very strange to me! I need the hectic buzz to feel at home.

But I think filling your house with things that you love and feel true to you is really important, its really easy to get wrapped up in what's cool and trending but its more important to feel like its YOUR space.