IN THE HOUSE: CLAIRE HARTLEY

March 14, 2016

It’s a happy Spring day, the sunny and bright kind with a chill to the air. Graphic designer and illustrator, Claire Hartley greets us with coffee and chatter as we take a tour through her colourful home. Succulent green plants, intricate illustrations, twinkling fairy lights and colour-coordinated bookshelves galore, we’re still dreaming about her gorgeous Stoke Newington flat, and about cuddling her adorable rabbits, Dolly and Duke. We caught up with Claire on design inspirations, living life in the big smoke and her favourite homeware pieces.

UO: Tell us a little about your story so far

I’m an independent graphic designer and illustrator living in Hackney. Originally a Midlands girl, I moved to London in 2013 with my other half for a new adventure and quickly fell in love with Stoke Newington. I went self-employed nearly four years ago in search of a new challenge, and find it so rewarding working directly with my clients and being fully involved in a variety of design projects, from inception to delivery.


Shop: Birdball Seed Feeder

UO: Do you come from a creative family or is your creativity all your own?

My granddad has always had a love for drawing and photography which I think was passed down to my uncle who’s also a graphic designer, my cousin who’s an art teacher, and me I guess! The rest of the clan aren’t really that ‘creative’ and I think my dad is still a bit miffed about how I earn a living from drawing pretty pictures (although there’s a lot more to it than that, I promise!)

UO: What is your design process, from first idea to finished product?

Depending on the type of project, my process can vary so it’s not a one size fits all solution. I focus mainly in brand identity, print and illustration with a love for packaging because it really connects with me (completely guilty of having preference over a product because of its packaging!) I like to start each project with good coffee, an opportunity to speak face to face with the client and to discuss the brief — everything from objectives and deliverables to timelines. Research is key; I believe it’s so important to understand the target market and audience before exploring design concepts and putting pen to paper. Of course my favourite bit is the visual exploration — experimenting, developing and refining an iterative and collaborative approach with the client.


Shop: Large Milo Cat Mug and Botanical Embroidered Cushion

UO: How would you describe your style in three words?

Curious, playful, adventurous.

UO: What’s your favourite piece in the house and what is its story?

It has to be my mid-century sideboard. I’ve had it about five years now and bought it from an elderly couple in Birmingham for about £50. They’d had it for nearly half a century, but their daughter was moving in with them due to care reasons so they were selling lots of furniture. They sold us a gorgeous teak dining table and four chairs too… the chap had worked as a saddler for the police in his younger days so each of the chairs was upholstered himself. They had so many stories to tell, I could’ve stayed there all day.


Shop: Cat Bandit Print and Small Apothecary Jar

UO: We love your rabbits! Can you tell us a bit about them?

Their names are Dolly and Duke and they’re sibling mini lops. Duke is caramel coloured — he’s a nervous but snuggly little fella while Dolly is a bossy grey and white bun. We’ve had them since they were eight weeks old (so tiny!) and now they’re 18 months old. I grew up with rabbits so always knew when I had my own home, I’d like my own. I wanted house bunnies but that involves a lot of space and bunny-proofing everything, so they live in a hutch in the garden and come in for playtime for 4-5 hours a day. Their favourite food is banana!



UO: What’s the best and worst thing about your job?

The best is the freedom… The ability to choose the clients I want to work with and build relationships with them — likeminded, lovely people with businesses I truly have an interest in and enjoy working with; whether that’s a chocolate brand, a theatre, a coffee shop or a cider company! The worst has to be the inability to switch off. My other half, Gav is also self-employed and in the design industry, so it’s too easy for us to end up talking about work at the dinner table, at the pub, in bed…

UO: What other designers are inspiring you right now?

There’s so many independent designers and small studios out there that are creating amazing work, I wouldn’t know where to start in mentioning them if I’m honest. That said, I am very lucky to have such a creative group of friends — I went through school, art college and university with Rachel Tighe (artist) and Sam Pierpoint (illustrator) and despite Rach being in Birmingham and Sam in Bristol whilst I’m now in London — we constantly inspire and support each other. We all create very different work, in different fields, but I think that’s why it works so well… I’d be a bit lost without them!


Shop: Woodblock Fox Cushion New York Times 36 Hours America Plumes Poster

UO: What should no home be without?

Plants! I have a small obsession with them and have even begun introducing them to the studio, which the guys there find hilarious. But not only do they look nice, they’re good for cleaning the air which is quite important when you live in the big smoke!


Shop: The Book of Palms and Large Milo Cat Mug

UO: If you feel creatively blocked, do you have any rituals to help get the juices flowing?

My studio is in Shoreditch so I tend to get out and have a roam. There’s so much going on around there, it can be super inspiring. I’m a member at Frame which is just round the corner too, so a good dose of cardio or kettlebells usually does the trick! I have a wanderlust for travel and exploration; I love seeing new places and meeting new faces… it’s an endless curiosity that fuels my imagination and inspires my creativity.

UO: What’s your favourite way to spend the weekend at home?

It all starts with a lie-in and a cup of tea in bed with the bunnies. Brunch is my favourite meal of the day and we’re just a five minute walk from Church Street, so we’re spoilt for choice with local and independent eateries. In the summer we spend a lot of time in the garden. I discovered a passion for gardening a couple of years ago — it’s so therapeutic, I even have my very own floral trowel and gloves. I’m looking forward to warmer climes and BBQs, although there’s something quite satisfying about hibernating in winter with a mulled wine and blanket watching a film…


Shop: Copper Star Terrarium



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