Nestled in a charming corner of Edinburgh’s Stockbridge lies Malcolm Duffin’s new showroom, home to an award winning and highly faceted Interior Design firm. Tracing its heritage back over two and a half decades, Malcolm Duffin has worked closely alongside Rettie to bring some of the Scottish capital’s chicest homes to the market. Interior designers, similarly to fashion designers and artists, draw their inspiration locally and from the wider world, and similarly to these other mediums, hone in their talents to create a finished product with the aim of enriching the life of the viewer and the creation of an experience.

As the world transformed from suits to sweatpants, and we spent months without access to museums and galleries, our surroundings and more specifically our homes became the harbour to guide us through the past two years. With the localisation of life came the localisation of trends and tastes, costings and delivery times have been major victims of the pandemic. Sourcing locally and sustainably has become more than just a niche selling point to a conscious home renovator, it is now a requisite for how we can truly enrich our lives through what we place in our homes. Sitting down with Head of Design Malcolm Duffin and recent addition to the firm, Interior Designer Iona Wilson, Rettie review the impact of the pandemic on how we interact with the spaces around us, leaving us with some future insight and professional tips to navigate the world of Interior Design.

“We have noticed clients across the board are focusing on sustainability more which the pandemic has heightened but was also enforced by COP 26. These two major events have really brought sustainability to the forefront in the minds of all our clients, whether that a hotelier or a 2 bed private client in Stockbridge.” Iona expresses her joy in finding pieces for clients made from outlandish recycled materials, such as carpets made from fishing nets. “We find our clients engage with these pieces and are more inclined to use them, seeing how necessary they are in pursuit of a more sustainable home. The first question we ask our suppliers is “What is your standpoint on sustainable pieces? Where do they come from?”” Malcolm Duffin have long championed this local pursuit, with which Malcolm explains “All our furniture is made in Scotland. We have a fabulous firm here in Edinburgh which makes all our pieces to an outstanding quality and people are really seeing the benefit of buying British made furniture. Scotland makes some of the most incredible fabrics which are regularly shipped to fashion houses across the globe. Incredible pieces can be sourced here at home, we use fabrics from the Isle of Bute which are simply stunning.”

Image of tailor's fabric samples

This idea of the relationship between interior design and fashion is regularly referenced by Malcolm throughout the interview. A top tip from Malcolm is to look towards the most recent season in the fashion industry for insight in to how to decorate your home in the future. Colours, fabrics, and patterns often crisscross between both industries.

Image of upholstery fabric samples

“In the past people were aware of the need for sustainability but the lack of knowledge was there, whereas now people are doing their research. Netflix is creating documentaries that are being watched by millions, people are taking more time to process information – look at the changes to perception surrounding the fur trade and animal cruelty. It has all came to bit of a turning point, which COP 26 only localised in Scotland.” The next generation of designers are truly bringing this sustainable approach to the forefront of Interior Design, which Iona is passionate about and guides Malcolm Duffin through after receiving a First-Class honours at University in Interior Design and Sustainability. “The pandemic has made people realise their living situation and the environment around them. A lot of people now need two separate spaces to live and work In, there are offices In bedrooms and desks in kitchens. If you are working from home, you want to create a different space which you can leave at 5 o’clock and go sit on the sofa and not be in contact with your workspace.”

Daylight is key to a workplace, explains Iona. Malcolm Duffin is at the forefront of a modern style of designing, known as ‘Biophilic Design’ which is a ‘concept used within the building industry to increase occupant connectivity to the natural environment through the use of direct nature, indirect nature, and space and place conditions.’ Contrary to what many may do when they work from home, a top-tip is to make your workplace social. Sit at a table across from someone else or face desks head on to really develop your work from home space. “We are social creatures, and the pandemic hasn’t changed that.”

The fluidity of colours is central to every home and space that Malcolm Duffin work on and can be seen below on an incredible re-decoration of a Town House on Edinburgh’s Heriot Row by the firm, later sold by Rettie

Living room with two blue sofas

Displaying the same tones of colours throughout your home is a way flow through your space and provides continuity from room to room, explains Iona. This fluidity of tone of colour can also be accentuated by utilising accents (small details) throughout your space, ranging from a pillowcase to lampshade, doorknob to cabinet handle.

Image of blue sofa with four cushions

A top tip is to not be afraid to use a statement wallpaper, even in a small space. A signature Malcolm Duffin look is to have a strong, statement piece of wallpaper in maybe a quite unsuspecting place, such as in a small bathroom or within your built-in wardrobe. This simple act can really bring a dead space into action and create a sense of atmosphere whilst using some leftover wallpaper you had to spare, a win-win.

Bedroom in The Adam Hotel

So, when you move into a new home, be that’s as a first-time buyer or a seasoned professional, where do you start with interior design? “Settle it down. Strip it back, remove colours you don’t like. If there is a particularly offensive colour on your walls paint it white and allow yourself to breathe a little before you start any major decorating. Get a feel for your home – are there any pieces of furniture you enjoy and want to keep?” You don’t need to bin your kitchen says Malcolm, paint the cabinets and change the accents (handles) and you can truly freshen up the space. Always look for advice, Malcolm had already mentioned about looking to different industries for inspiration for designing your home, but he ads to this tip by incorporating Interior Designers, family and friends to this list. Don’t overload yourself with suggestions, but select a trusted few and look to them for help and advice.

Research is key to Interior Design, but what else makes a great interior designer? “Experience, passion, Malcolm Duffin.”

Iona and Malcolm Duffin

Malcolm Duffin & Iona Wilson, Edinburgh, Scotland February 2022

You can find Malcolm Duffin Design at their showroom on 114 St Stephen St, Stockbridge, Edinburgh.