Chances are that you have come across at least some of bluebellgray’s inescapable designs. These bold oversized watercolor prints are hard to miss and even harder to not want one for yourself. Even if you consider your style minimal and fancy only muted colors, bluebellgray’s Fiona Douglas can easily convince you to add some vibrant hues to your decor. Her infectious passion made the brand go global very quickly, with her colorful collections now adding a cheerful look to so many homes.
Leading the floral trend and transporting these patterns into almost every home decor item, bluebellgray is now all set to decorate your walls. These watercolor blooms will soon be available as wallpapers so you can create your own stunning floral murals. I am loving their collection, and it has something for everyone. From blooming flowers to splashes of color, to aztec prints, they have it all. So this fall, you can bring back spring!
I got in touch with Fi to find out more about bluebellgray and her love for all things color, and here is what she had to say.
What inspires you every morning?
I love working in a creative studio. My team inspires me every day. They are a really young dynamic mix of people and they inspire me to keep doing this and keep pushing the designs forward, and pushing the boundaries. A lot of them have been with me since the very early days of bluebellgray so we all know each other really well and have a very free, creative space for ideas and thoughts.
Did you always work with watercolors? Tell us about your art inspirations.
Watercolors are my main focus and what I have primarily used since my art school days, but I actually work with a lot of different materials. I use acrylics when I paint on canvas; I love that they mix with water and I find them very free to paint with. Pastels and colored pencils always pop up in my designs too. I love using them as outlines or highlights on top of the watercolors. It’s almost like working in reverse, drawing on top of the painting!
I think the biggest art influence on me is the illustrator Quentin Blake. All my childhood memories of books and drawings are tied up with his amazing illustrations and he definitely sparked my love of watercolor. I also love the Scottish artist Elizabeth Blackadder. She is a master of watercolor florals and I love her subtle use of color. She is such an inspiration and some of her early work in particular is just breathtakingly beautiful. She was, and is, such a trailblazer for beautiful paintings.
Has your style changed in any way after the launch of Bluebellgray?
I think it has matured. In the early days I was still so unsure of myself; not of my style so much, but more my confidence. Art school and a few tough jobs in the industry had worn me down quite a bit, but I still had the fire inside me to do this and I knew I needed to do it. As time has gone by, my style has definitely grown and my color palette has widened. My early collections were super bright, and now I have more soft colors in the collections too, which I love just as much as brights. I think I’m more sure of my style these days and that makes me push the paintings further, and take bigger risks with designs, or push the scale on things to make them as exciting as they can be. This has always been in me though. If you looked at paintings I did way back in art school you could see the early signs of bluebellgray in there!
Tell us a little more about your design process.
We make two collections a year and we usually start with something quite specific as a starting point – a place or a theme. It’s really important to me that my inspiration is first hand, so it needs to come from travel or nature rather than trends or other designers (if that makes sense). So my team and I travel specifically to gain inspiration, we take sketch books and cameras and it’s very raw. Sitting on a freezing Scottish hillside sketching the hills, or in a boiling hot garden full of cacti in Morocco photographing the colors and listening to the birds. We then take everything back to our studio and look through all the drawings and photographs, writing down words that remind us of the feelings we had when we were there, which informs the feeling we want to infuse in the collection. From that point I paint in my studio. It could be on canvas or paper, quick sketches or longer drawings; any of them could turn into a design. I like working on sheets of paper rather than a book.
Then my team and I look over all the artworks and decide which pieces to develop further into full designs. We start digitizing the designs and that is when the collection starts to take shape. We print the designs on paper initially on our large format printer and start putting the pieces together to see how they work together as a collection. The whole process is quite organic. I really believe it is all a process that you have to work through every time.
Once we have finalized all the designs and digitized them, we start sending electronic files out to our suppliers to start the sampling process. The choice of base cloth we print on is very important and using mills that understand our style and colors. We also think at that point about the end use for the fabric. Is it for upholstery, or curtains, or cushions, or bedding? The end use leads us to our fabric choices.
What is your most memorable Bluebellgray moment?
Oh wow, that’s a tough one! Seeing my designs for sale in Bloomingdale’s recently was a pretty special moment. I find it hard to take in when I see things like that! But some of my best memories are also from the really early days. I had made a limited edition wall hanging. It was featured in a Sunday newspaper’s magazine supplement and I was sitting at my computer that night watching the orders come in, right in front of my eyes. I couldn’t believe that people really wanted to buy my artwork and were actually buying it!
How do you decorate your home?
Full of love and color! I want to create a happy home for my husband and sons. Somewhere we all love hanging out and having fun. It’s packed full of art, with lots of colored walls and paintings. I also have a major weakness for ceramics, I can’t resist beautiful hand made pottery. A girl can never have too many bowls, right? We have a LOT of cushions too. My kids think it is totally normal to fill the entire living room floor with cushions to jump on!
What is the one thing that is an absolute must for you to have at home?
My all time favorite thing to decorate with is rugs. I love good rugs. My kids spend a lot of time on the floor playing, so having a great rug that is comfortable and stylish is a must for me. They are such a great way to add a big impact of color or pattern into a room, and can really set the tone.
Tell us a bit about your new wallpaper collection.
People have been asking me for years about doing my designs on wallpaper, but I wasn’t quite ready. Meeting our amazing supplier changed all that. I knew we needed to find the right people to do it with, to make sure the collection was as good as it could be, and I was blown away by our suppliers’ quality and expertise. They just got it and their translation of the designs and colors were everything I had hoped for. I’ve ‘tested’ it in my home and am really loving living with it. I hope our customers love it too! I really see it as art for your walls. I’m all for feature walls and making a statement.
People usually shy away from experimenting with color, what message do you have to encourage them?
I’m a huge believer in following your color heart. Everyone has a palette they love and colors that just do something for them. I’m all about the pinks and turquoises but someone else might love oranges and greens. Sometimes I think color can maybe be seen as not being as ‘tasteful’ as a neutral color palette, but it can be incredibly uplifting and really make you happy. So I say listen to your color heart and decorate fearlessly. Do what makes you happy, because life is for living!
So listen carefully to your color heart and try out some bold colors for your home this season. Also, keep a lookout for the bluebellgray’s wallpaper collection that is due to launch this month.
*This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.