If you've been stopping by for any length of time, then you know that Di Overton's Designers' Block is one of my favorite design blogs--she's always featuring the most amazing designers from around the world and there's lots of fun stuff to look at that always makes me smile. Ever since I found out Di was creating her own line of furniture, there was no doubt in my mind that anything this talented witty woman would produce would be inventive and wonderful.
I also love poking around Designers' Block because Di often posts photos of her gorgeous surroundings--it makes me want to pack up and move to the English countryside every time! After nearly 30 years in the advertising business and owning wheredidyoubuythat.com, a luxury lifestyle online shop, she and her husband Harvey moved to the the beautiful North Tyne Valley, Northumberland to create Ghost Furniture.
Ghost Furniture takes vintage finds and turns them into new and beautiful items with a touch of 21st century eco chic.
We've been planning an interview for over a year, but her new line of Ghost Furniture was in the works, and so it didn't materialize. Now that her line is off the ground, Di was able to stop by tys and of course, I have to show you some of her fabulous work. The best description of Ghost Furniture is on Di's site: "living pieces that trick the eye and fool the mind...By using traditional techniques and new eco-friendly materials wherever possible we have brought furniture back from the dead and made it into something hauntingly beautiful." Each piece has something quirky and unique--there's plenty more to see over at ghost furniture.co.uk
mj: how did Designers' Block come to be?
di: I started it as an online magazine on the wheredidyoubuythat website and when I sold wdybt to Bodie and Fou they asked me to continue it. I kept it going because I enjoyed it and still do. After many years as a designer I think I should impart some of my knowledge to others and their appreciation is invaluable. It is also like owning a personal design directory. If I want some inspiration I usually go back to old posts and it sparks an idea.
mj: Could you talk about some of your favorite artists/designers and how they inspire or influence you?
di: I was a 60s teenager and was hugely influenced by people such as Barbara Hulanicki when she opened Biba. Everything then was totally new and exciting and I am sad that since then the only truly new ideas that have come about are to do with technology.
Norman Rockwell has always been a favourite as he captured an evolving America so perfectly.
Giorgio Armani does less is more so beautifully and no one cuts cloth in the way that he does.
Leonardo da Vinci – a true genius. I visited his museum in Vinci, Tuscany, he built a bike, with a chain made from leather loops, back in the 15th century. I saw the original drawings and I couldn't take my eyes off them – stunning.
Sir Tim Berners-Lee – the man who decided to give the internet to mankind instead of being the richest man in the world, ever. We wouldn't be doing this interview if it weren't for him. I was hugely honoured to be chosen as one of the Top 100 Internet Entrepreneurs of The Decade, back in 2004, along with Sir Tim Berners-Lee.
Heston Blumenthal (Chef)--see photo above--he draws on all of human knowledge, to explore what it is possible to do with food and the experience of eating and he does it brilliantly. His restaurant The Fat Duck was voted The Best Restaurant in the World and I have been fortunate enough to eat there and can second that. He designs meals and if ever you get a chance to watch him cook, sit down and be transported into another world.
The French – they are taught about good food and style in school and their culture is so important to them. Our youngest daughter lives in Paris and I love to hear her comparisons regarding French v English.
Each Ghost Furniture piece is a unique work of art, has its own history and comes with a detailed Certificate of Authenticity.
mj: Please tell all about your Ghost Furniture--how you came up with the concept, where you're selling it, how you see it evolving, etc.
di: Ghost Furniture came about from an idea I had when I owned wheredidyoubuythat.com. I wanted to design and have produced a range of chairs. It never happened but the seed had been sown. When Harvey and I decided to move to our cottage in the country and lead a more relaxed lifestyle, it seemed it was the ideal thing to do. I have a head full of ideas and it's a great way to empty it. I love collecting the slightly shabby items especially from our regular trips to France and turning them into hauntingly beautiful pieces (as our strap line says). The element of surprise when a piece comes together is addictive. We sell it from it's own website www.ghostfurniture.co.uk and we are talking to various retailers. As every item is unique it is a very limited market but that suites me down to the ground as we need to keep that relaxed lifestyle we enjoy so much. I hope it evolves into being what we intended it to be – an enjoyable way to earn a living in a beautiful place
mj: a lot of trustyourstyle readers love art and want to start collecting art and design. what would be your advice to an art collector who is just starting out?
di: If your eyes fall onto something and your heart misses a beat then if you can afford it, buy it. Art is personal as is fashion. To be dictated to is to not properly participate. I am a great believer buying classic clothes. I still own and wear Jean Muir clothes that I bought back in the 1980s – they are timeless. Though Boho Chic is more my style these days when a special occasion arises I can get out that Little Black Jean Muir Dress add a piece of jewelry and I'm done.
mj: who are some of your favorite artists that you've collected?
di: I don't collect any particular artist's work but I have been lucky enough to inherit some lovely pieces from my grandmothers side of the family though I am a sucker for wood that has smoothed from years of use – so tactile.
I do collect Hermes boxes and I love them even more when they have an Hermes item in them.
Here are A FEW THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT KNOW ABOUT DI OVERTON:
THE FOUR MOST STYLISH PEOPLE WHO INFLUENCED ME:
1. Terence Conran
2. Jean Muir
3. My Mother
4. Barbara Hulanicki
FOUR OF MY FAVORITE DESIGNERS:
1. Giorgio Armani
2. Jean Muir
FOUR JOBS I HAVE HAD IN MY LIFE:
1. Part time in a Butchers Shop (I needed the money and cheap meat)
2. Knitwear Designer – Dizzy's back in the 1980s
3. Owner of an Advertising Agency - @1 Limited
4. Owner of wheredidyoubuythat.com
FOUR MOVIES I WOULD WATCH OVER AND OVER (AND DO):
2. The Man Who Would Be King
3. Cathy Come Home
FOUR PLACES WHERE I HAVE LIVED:
4. Newcastle upon Tyne
FOUR TV SHOWS I LOVE TO WATCH:
1. Grand Designs
2. Jamie Oliver
3. The Antiques Roadshow
4. Any BBC costume drama
FOUR PLACES I HAVE BEEN ON VACATION IN THE LAST FOUR YEARS:
3. New York
FOUR WEBSITES I VISIT DAILY (Or at least Weekly):
1. Tongue in Cheek
2. Paris Parfait
3. My Marrakesh
4. Paris Breakfasts
FOUR OF MY FAVORITE FOODS:
2. Roast Beef & Yorkshire Puddings
3. Sweet Rice Pudding
4. Panacotta made without gelatine but whisked by an Italian Mama's hand.
FOUR PLACES I WOULD RATHER BE RIGHT NOW:
1. Somewhere where it's not raining
2. Somewhere where it's not windy
4. Shopping in Liberty London
Thanks Di for stopping by!