Jade Tilley speaks to Rose Murray, Founder, These White Walls, about the desire for escapism that is satiated in design
Rose Murray founded These White Walls in 2017. A luxury-led and concept-driven studio, Rose and her team adapt a ‘blank canvas’ approach to creativity, creating unique interior spaces each time.
The studio’s practice represents the synthesis of Rose’s multidisciplinary background as a scenographer, stylist and designer. Rose began her career by turning an internship at Vogue into a role styling editorials and television sets for the BBC. Her vanguard spirit led her into the world of immersive events, designing luxury dining spaces and performative venues for a more radically-minded corporate clientele.
Rose well and truly landed in the design world when she completed HIDE, the flagship restaurant in Mayfair. Based on the theme of ‘dwelling’ Rose and her team crafted every inch of the restaurant flawlessly, revealing a playful yet meaningful, naturalistic narrative that encompassed the work of many talented female artists, to convey a tranquil, thoughtful and connective space behind those colossal front doors.
Rose’s overall approach explores how everyday experiences can be redefined by the spaces we inhabit. She uses her academic background in Anthropology, alongside a well-honed talent for visual storytelling to inform the studio’s distinct approach.
She sees a symmetry between our selves and our spaces, and begins with the simple question, how can we live more beautifully?
Here, Rose shares her memories of design being ever-present and how and how her background in anthropology has impacted her style as a truly expressive designer.
What is your earliest memory of design having an impact on you?
My earliest memories are of living in Nigeria, in a house that had full height windows overlooking a palm-filled garden. I think the ever present nature and the nurturing feel of that remained with me and no matter what context I am working in, there is always a sense of that in my approach to this day.
Where did you study and what did you specialise in?
Full disclosure, I never studied interior design. I have an academic background in Anthropology and I studied at UCL in London, specialising in Material Culture. I enjoyed the lens of critical theory that ran through the course and my studies profoundly impacted how I approached my career now even, searching for freedom of expression rather than safety.
How did your education help inform and shape your career in design?
The beginning of my career was a voyage of discovery, and for the first decade I explored roles that spanned art direction, editorial styling, set dressing, event design, and scenography. I reached a point where I was too self-sufficient to be employable and the time seemed right to set up my own studio, so when the right client came along I set up These White Walls and the rest is history.
What kind of designer did you aspire to be and where do you take your inspiration from?
I aspire to remain inspired, to be ever-curious and increasingly care about how my designs have impact in the world, even in the smallest of ways. I take my inspiration largely from my travels, from literature, and from the multi-sensual experience of life off line, mostly.
What has been your biggest design commission to date?
Our biggest yet is still in the works, however a recent design commission that is near completion is a renovated boutique hotel with spa and ornamental gardens and a newly built three-story restaurant with apartments within a vine-planted estate in the Piedmont hills in northern Italy.
How would you describe TWW as a studio and a community of designers?
I lead with a blank canvas approach to creativity, which encourages designers in the studio to set aside the usual templates and to explore how we can imagine from scratch a unique expression for each of our clients. The team is an all-female collective who each care about creating design that has impact and feels extraordinary. That creates a great sense of community and sisterhood that is a joy to be around. In my team I look for curiosity, the ability to think outside-the-box, the drive to be a team player with a desire to learn, to transform and to create the incredible.
Where is the majority of your work based and in which sectors?
We major in hospitality and F&B, and increasingly now in private residential. Clients who have experienced our work in hospitality then come to us wanting that same imagination and bespoke craft within their own homes.
Our work is global, we are working on sites all over the world currently from the Middle East, Far East, Europe and the UK. I love that the studio’s work enables us to pollinate ideas across cultures. Equally, it’s been lovely to take on a few more projects closer to home.
What do you think should be a key focus for designers moving forward in 2022?
There will be a much greater emphasis on our physical and mental wellbeing, and also environmental and social sustainability within design, impacting how we create and how we consume in 2022 and beyond. The global trauma experienced collectively during the pandemic and the prolonged anxiety of that period has refocused our awareness on key fundamentals, such as the importance of sleep, safety, and comfort. But escapism will continue to play a part in this and design will continue to fulfil our desire for reverie and to experience the extraordinary. These values are very much in my mind as I approach new projects within the studio.
If you hadn’t become an interior designer what would you be doing?
At school I wanted to become either a fashion designer or a marine biologist when I grew up. I’m still waiting to grow up, so let’s see what happens.