In conversation with: Georgina Wood, Founder of Studio Clementine

Studio Clementine might be a relatively new kid on the designer block, but its founder Georgina Woods brings a wealth of experience to the table. Writer Pauline Brettell caught up with the designer to find out a bit more about the studio and her strong personal style…

portrait of interior designer Georgina Wood Founder of Studio Clementine

After graduating Georgina Woods started her career with an F&B interior design firm, which essentially set the course for her future career. Over the next eight years she rose to become Head of Interior Design for a luxury real estate developer, followed by positions with several other leading name practices, including David Collins Studio. With each position came new resources and skills that she has been able to consolidate and use to forge her own path culminating in Studio Clementine.

bar and entertainment room with curved patterned sofa in centre by Studio Clementine

Image credit: Studio Clementine

Pauline Brettell: What made you feel that it was the right time for Studio Clementine?

Georgina Woods: The trouble is that more senior you become as an employee the less hands-on you are. I found myself sitting in business development sessions, finance meetings, HR meetings and PR discussions, steadily becoming more and more frustrated with how much time these could take up. At the end of the day, I am a creative. So, at the beginning of 2020, I decided it was a new decade and time to do my own thing. Crazy timing as it turned out with a pandemic around the corner, but I succeeded in winning and managing work via Zoom and was soon hiring a small team.

PB: You have developed a strong personal style – can you tell us a bit more about the points and persons of inspiration that have helped you on this path?

GW: My style is simple, it is about harmonious colour, attention to detail and a love of design, history and people. I adapt to each project; no one style or brief fits all, otherwise the interior is textbook and too commercially contrived. Each project, client and location needs to be studied before a DNA for the interior can be created.

My path or skill was influenced by my father who was a carpenter. I often helped (or maybe hindered) his team in the workshop during school holidays. I also love needlework, crocheting and sewing and have had an aptitude for these for as long as I can remember. When I darned my point shoes, they were so perfect I was often asked by school friends to do theirs! My mother owned a haberdashery shop when I was very young, and I would sit and crochet or knit with the old ladies.

PB: Detail and embellishment play a key role in your designs – can you talk to us a bit about that and the blurring of design boundaries between theatre, fashion and interiors?

GW: I think the ground was laid for this convergence in my approach when I was quite young. As a teenager, I went to a performing arts school in London. The school was great, but steadily I found myself more interested in the life drawing and the art classes rather than dancing. What really inspired me at the time was the idea of becoming a set designer for film and theatre. Actually, someone said to me recently that my interiors are like stage sets for my clients and their guests to act out their dreams, so it seems that my early ambitions have been translated into the work I do now!

Over the years, I also developed a deep admiration for the values of couture fashion – its apparently effortless style and timelessness as well as the precision and detail with which it is made. These are all characteristics that I hold dear in my work.

Georgina Woods, Founder of Studio Clementine, working on beading of a curtain detail

Image credit: Studio Clementine

PB: You have dabbled in bespoke furniture design – is there a Clementine range on the horizon?

GW: Maybe [on] the far horizon but, for now, I prefer to design unique furniture for my projects – pieces that reflect the personality of the client. I also like to repurpose vintage items. I love the whispers of bygone times that you feel when you bring old things into a contemporary setting and it’s usually kinder on the environment than creating anew.

PB: What has been your most inspiring project pre-Studio Clementine, and most inspiring project as Studio Clementine?

GW: Pre-Studio Clementine, it was the redesign of the Churchill Bar & Terrace at the Hyatt Regency in London. Firstly, our muse was Winston Churchill and to a lesser extent, his wife Clementine and we drew on the 1930s art deco era for our inspiration – a period of design that I love. More than that, though, we worked very closely with such passionate owners and directors, which made the entire project great fun. Bringing Churchill to life through meaningful, yet subtle, references and celebrating art deco with the use of materials such as ceramic, stainless steel, gold and stone together with lavish ornamentation and geometric patterns was an experience I will always treasure.

At Studio Clementine, I think it was a project for CIT that we completed at the end of last year. This was the first time I had been invited to design a marketing suite to help a developer sell luxury residences off-plan, so the one hand I had a lot to learn, which is always exciting. But on the other, what I was creating was essentially a hospitality experience but with marketing purpose at its heart. Throughout, every element was custom-designed or specifically purchased by Studio Clementine. These included rugs in a design inspired by a Hermes vintage silk scarf to custom designed coffee tables.

The client mentioned he loved the work of fashion designer Tom Ford. So, I found inspiration in Tom Ford’s shop interiors, specifically his flagship store on Maddison Avenue. Studio Clementine’s metal tables embody the richness and darkness of the store, and of course I christened them ‘Tom’! Other highlights included a full-height presentation cabinet in hand cut starburst rosewood, which we designed as a contemporary take on pigeonhole cabinets, a specially designed plinth combining antique mirror, dark stained oak and embossed leather to showcase the model of the development, and accessories sourced from the world-famous Alfies Antique Market.

PB: It didn’t take long before you started garnering awards! Talk us through your award winning design for Bonadea and what it is, in your eyes, that sets it apart…

GW: I think of my design for Bonadea, a luxury tableware store in London SW1, as bringing to life the narrative of Bona Dea. She was a Roman goddess known as the protector of women as they go through changes in their lives and I felt a very strong connection to her at this time when I was launching Studio Clementine. Furthermore, Bona Dea would host rituals for women that involved drinking wine and decorating their houses with flowers, so what was not to like! Every detail – and there were many – was designed to connect with the goddess after whom the boutique was named.

display niches in retail design of Bonadea in London with white pillars and coffered ceiling

Image credit: Astrid Templier

We totally stripped out the existing interiors and created a collection of distinct, yet connected, spaces. New colonnades and bespoke marble floors in the main room gave a sense of walking into an Italian palazzo with a modern-day sensibility where the colour palette was inspired by Italian fashion and photography. A custom-built marble and limestone fireplace provided a relaxed ‘at home’ area for the tableware displays and silk-lined cabinets showcased the hand-crafted object d’art and rare glassware. A striking Cartier chandelier by Mathieu Lustrerie graced a ceiling intricately carved with butterflies and bees. We created a winter garden room, imagined as a place for entertaining, with a hand-painted wallpaper by Fromental and a powder room complete with hand cut pale pink onyx, a crystal vanity and hand-embroidered linen sheers by Pierre Frey. Again, we were essentially creating a hospitality experience, this time with retail at its heart.

table setting in retail store Bonadea with patterned vintage wallpaper and crystal chandelier

Image credit: Astrid Templier

PB: Do you have a standout hotel design that ticks all the boxes for you?

GW: Sorry, I can’t pick just one! I love The Berkeley Hotel in London, designed by Remi Tessier. Whichever room you enter, soft timbers are a perfect complement to dreamy pastel colours. I adore Claridge’s for its magnificent art deco detailing and the grandeur of its arrival lobby, while there is still something so welcoming when you enter. And then there’s Public Hotel NYC – an old new hotel that it works so well. I love the simplicity and unique style of the rooms, and the main entrance up those escalators – wow!

PB: And finally, can you share any exciting projects you have in the Studio Clementine pipeline?

GW: We are currently working on several very exciting projects, including Cambridge House Hotel on London’s Piccadilly. This is the long-awaited redevelopment of the old In and Out Club which is being transformed by Reuben Brothers into an exceptional boutique hotel with residencies. The Grade l listed building is being restored and extended to create a 102-guestroom hotel with fine dining, bars and lounges and spa and function rooms, together with five beautiful apartments and two penthouses that Studio Clementine is designing.

I am also acting as design consultant on a project to create an extraordinary spa at another of London’s luxury hotels, but this remains highly confidential, for now at least!

Main image credit: Studio Clementine