Handmade or hand-selected, we're proud to support exquisite craftsmanship and specialist skills. Join us as we sit down with artisans, curators and designers in our Meet The Designer series.
Ella Doran is an award-winning designer best known for applying photography-based images and patterns onto household items, from wallpaper to cushions, creating vibrant and unique homeware designs. Commissions and collaborations have seen the expansion of her work from homewares to textiles and large-scale environmental graphics. You’ve seen her designs in the pages of Warehouse Home magazine, from Parquet and Peeling Paint in Warehouse Home Issue Three to Wood Grain and Azure Skate in Warehouse Home Issue Four, and now we’re lifting the curtain to meet the designer behind the brand.
Ella could you please introduce yourself to our readers?
I am a designer and an advocate for collaboration and of the circular economy, and I run a homewares company called Ella Doran, known for ‘fusing art and design for everyday living’.
I first launched my business in the late 90s, when digital technology was in its infancy, and made a name for myself by applying my photographic designs onto everyday homewares. Since then, in addition to my own-brand designs, I have been lucky enough to work with many well-known brands, manufacturers and retailers to bring my designs to life in the interiors market, institutions, and healing spaces.
What is your background, where are you based, and what do you specialise in?
I live and work in Hackney, London, and I specialise in the creation of surface patterns. I use my own photography, mark-making and textile design skills to create a wide range of outcomes, from products and fabrics to large-scale environmental graphics. I am never happier than when acting as a catalyst, setting off a chain of interlocking designs and innovations.
Can you tell us about your homewares range?
Our web-shop offers a range of homewares in my current and classic designs and we sell an array of products for the home, from wallpapers and roller blinds to cushions, placemats and china.
“I draw inspiration from the world around me, from the outdoors both locally and on my travels.”
What are your best-selling items?
My best selling collection was Bikes of Hackney across cushions, table mats, china mugs and wallpaper, up until we launched Camouflage in Autumn 17, which is now one of our leading designs, particularly the wallpapers, along with Peeling Paint and my award-winning Geo wallpaper!
What has informed your designs? Where do you draw inspiration from?
I draw inspiration from the world around me, from the outdoors both locally and on my travels. Collections of objects have always captured my attention, from records to the tools of an artist or the abstract textures in my neighbourhood!
I learnt very early on in my career that I wanted to be involved in the whole process from design idea through to production and selling, which was the biggest push and inspiration in setting up my own company.
Over the past 5 years, my mission has developed to be more purposeful with my design projects – by that I mean, to contribute to ‘positive change’. An example of this is my work within hospitals and healing spaces, to help transform the spaces into places that contribute to you ‘feeling’ better. My company aims to be as sustainable and circular as possible in our working methods and the way we use and work with materials. This is one of the reasons we make to order as much as possible, so we do not sit on unnecessary stock.
You've worked on several collaborations recently. Can you tell us more about these?
Collaborations have always been inspiring for me – they are a way of stretching my abilities and taking risks and going where you might otherwise not go. The design process is a journey for me, an ongoing journey of exploration and my two most recent collaborations have been with fellow designers; one in fashion and the other in furniture retail.
With Kirsteen Stewart I have collaborated on a womenswear collection that celebrates the textures and colours of our respective areas in Orkney and Hackney. It has been an opportunity for me to see how my designs translate onto the body and for her to open up her business to a new audience.
With design retailers twentytwentyone, we have been talking on and off for a few years about creating a capsule collection that celebrates their wonderful archive of chairs and for me to make some kind of repeat pattern using the chairs, reminiscent of a textile design from the 1950s. Whilst the individual chairs contrast with one another, together they become connected and cohesive.
Can you tell us about your design studio space?
It’s a lovely 2 storey warehouse space with sky lights on the top floor. We are tucked behind a residential street in De Beauvior town, Hackney, London! It was a printing house before we moved in and I managed to salvage many things left behind such as letter-press printing trays and inks and paper. Some of these things became inspirations for new designs in my collections!
What style of decor inspires you?
I am inspired by people’s individuality. It’s always wonderful to see how my work fits into a home. I am drawn to the quality of materials that came out of the 1930s and 40s, furniture that lasts, made from mono materials of wood and metal. I love bold graphics and strong colour and always find myself drawn to the Scandinavian approach to textile design.
More recently I’ve been particularly interested in studying textures such as peeling paint and scratched surfaces, both of which are abundant in the city.
What exciting developments are you currently working on?
There are several exciting projects we are working on at the moment and some are still confidential! What I can talk about is my exhibition at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park(YSP) 'From Sheep to Seat’ opening next year in June!
I was inspired by the sheep living on the historic estate and by the impact of the natural features of the Park whilst I was working at YSP on a bespoke collection of homewares for their shops (2017).
My exhibition will aim to shine a light on the importance of the circular economy in reducing waste, designing for longevity, and sustaining livelihoods and traditions. Working with the wool from the sheep, I will create an immersive space filled with my artwork and interior pieces.
Confirmed collaborators are Camira Fabrics who are interpreting my ‘Waterlake' design into a jacquard woven textile. It will upholster a series of chairs made from black oak wood salvaged from the Park and designed in collaboration with Julian Mayor. Alternative Flooring will be making a limited edition series of floor runners with the wool, and SolidWool are also involved. Camira will be showcasing the work in progress at this year’s Clerkenwell Design Week.
We would like to thank Ella for taking the time to talk to Warehouse Home. For more information on Ella Doran, visit the website.