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Meet interior design studio Astman Taylor

Posted: Mon, 8th Feb 2021
Astman Taylor

Experienced surveyor Simon Taylor and environmental consultant Sarah Astman met whilst studying interior design and went on to launch the Astman Taylor design studio. They specialise in creating enduring and joyful interiors for clients, as well as curating a collection of homewares for sale, and designing and supplying handmade bespoke kitchens and joinery. You however, may know them as the owners of Westerleigh Cottage.

  1. How important do you think it is to design around the latest trends? For instance, there are recommendations that 2021 will see the trend of light woods, naval colours, statement pieces, sustainable furniture, and let us not forget Pantone’s colour of the year. Should cottage owners strive to keep up with the trends on a regular basis?

With every project we aim to achieve an enduring, crafted design that sparks joy in our clients, satisfies their needs and that evolves with them so that it can be enjoyed for many years to come. We don’t believe it’s important to design around the latest trends, although it’s good to be aware of the latest trends and understand where they originated from, although strictly designing around them can result in a contrived and cold result. Slavishly following the latest interior trends is similar to following fast fashion, which is currently falling out of favour. Big fashion houses are cutting frequent seasonal shows to one or two shows a year and this has largely been driven by the need to be more sustainable and move away from the throwaway culture.

At Astman Taylor what matters more to us is good quality enduring furniture and furnishing that can be easily refreshed over time, whilst also providing a gentle acknowledgment of current trends. We believe that holiday rental guests are not so much looking for trends. They want luxury such as freestanding roll top baths, destination hotel size beds and organic high-count cotton sheets, wine fridges, comfortable ensuites, underfloor heating and great outdoor and indoor entertaining spaces.

Complete re-design of Cotswold Holiday Cottage near Cirencester – by Astman Taylor

Complete re-design of Cotswold holiday cottage Westerleigh near Cirencester – by Astman Taylor

  1. Many people have rolled their holiday days onto next year, so we expect a high demand for the peak seasons, especially with large groups of friends or families who have been unable to meet up this year. Are there any design or space techniques that should be employed when designing for a larger group / larger property?

The most important and functional aspect of designing properties for large groups is to ensure there are enough bathroom facilities to provide the right level of comfort and privacy for every guest, including children that love a playtime bath. Guests cherish their own private ensuite, and so if you have the space and budget we would definitely recommend adding as many ensuite facilities as possible, without compromising style and quality.

Large groups often love to cook and dine together and so a good size kitchen with extensive uncluttered worktops is a great idea. Having a large bespoke island unit with comfortable adjustable bar stools allow guests to informally socialise and are also great for serving drinks and nibbles at house parties. If you are limited for space, it’s a good idea to have a dining table that can be easily extended.

Complete re-design bespoke kitchen for Cotswold Holiday Cottage near Cirencester – by Astman Taylor

Complete re-design bespoke kitchen for Cotswold holiday cottage Westerleigh near Cirencester – by Astman Taylor

Window seats, floor cushions and Ottomans are also a great way to provide additional occasional seating and the latter can easily be moved from one room to another. If the weather is fine then we all like to be outside in the garden and so it’s equally important to provide a range of lounging and dining furniture, such as garden sofas with an outside cushion store and a large enough table and chairs to accommodate the maximum occupancy of the property.

Abbey Green Ottoman – available to buy soon from Astman Taylor

Abbey Green Ottoman – available to buy soon from Astman Taylor

  1. The Cotswolds has its own countryside chic style – do you think all Cotswold cottages should align their styles to this or strive to be different?

At Astman Taylor we don’t believe in having a set ‘house style’ because we know that no two clients have the same lives, tastes or needs, just as no two buildings have the same light, proportions, or history. We believe it’s important for any interior to complement the architectural style and history of the building and the local area, although this does not necessarily mean that you are restricted to a certain look.

Each interior design project is a journey. We build on our client’s unique personality, needs and style and inject our own experience and creativity as well as those moments of joy and playfulness that really characterise our work.

Barn Conversion Holiday Cottage – by Astman Taylor

Barn conversion holiday cottage – by Astman Taylor

  1. If someone were to own a collection of holiday cottages, do you think they should focus on cementing their own style, so it is similar in all their properties? Or should they focus on keeping them unique?

To create a successful portfolio of holiday cottages we believe it’s important to achieve a balanced blend of own ‘brand style’ and ‘uniqueness’. It’s great to play on the uniqueness of each properties architectural style, location and history which serves to create an authentic story for potential guests. If you combine this with a small number of selected designs associated with your trusted brand this provides reassurance to guests.

When aiming to establish a brand for your property portfolio, stick to a certain make of high-quality appliance, add distinguishing features such as a bespoke beautifully curved island units and freestanding roll top baths. It’s also a nice idea to use a small amount of the same beautiful fabric or wallpaper design across all properties.  Although it’s important not to over-do this… balance is key!

Complete reconfiguration and re-design of master bathroom for Cotswold Holiday Cottage near Cirencester – by Astman Taylor

Complete reconfiguration and re-design of master bathroom for Cotswold holiday cottage Westerleigh near Cirencester – by Astman Taylor

  1. The old argument of functionality versus style. Do you think one always wins?

Functionality is certainly important, there is nothing more upsetting that something that looks amazing but does not adequately fulfil the job it was intended. Although purely functional items can feel cold and machine-like sapping away at your emotional energy. Getting it wrong can be expensive and time consuming. It’s also very wasteful and unsustainable.

We don’t believe there is a single winner in this argument, as great design is all about achieving a skilfully balanced combination of both form and function. This is a subtle process and not easily be achieved and that’s where seeking the advice of an interior designer really comes into its own. Interior designers not only provide a fresh perspective on a project in terms of layout and function they also know what will work in terms of complementary decoration which balances the functional aspects of design and makes it all sit together and feel just great.

Display of client’s inspirational ceramics collection and complete re-modelling of kitchen - by Astman Taylor

Display of client’s inspirational ceramics collection and complete re-modelling of kitchen – by Astman Taylor

  1. People are becoming more eco-conscious, which is fantastic. Do you think cottage owners should strive for sustainable products and decorations, and how can they best inform the guest of this?

It’s great that more people are eco-conscious and holiday cottage owners should definitely inform their guests of their commitment to protecting the environment. Sustainable products are not just about protecting the environment, they also protect our health.

Astman Taylor is all about enduring design that holds up to the test of time whilst providing a good foundation for contemporary updates. Whilst it’s not always possible, although it’s certainly improving, we believe you should strive for sustainable finishes, furniture and furnishings. Our background careers mean that we are able to consider and recommend sustainable design options such as VOC free paint, natural flame retardant materials and eco-based finishes. Cottage owners may also want to start thinking about future access for electric car charging points.

  1. The changing seasons can bring out different characters of a cottage. How can you design to complement both the summer staycation and the winter cosy getaway?

Sitting room seating that can be turned to face a garden window during the summer and re-positioned to face towards an open fire or wood burning stove in winter is a great flexible option.

In the summer people want to be outside as much as possible and so a large barbeque that can be used as a firepit in the winter, with outdoor dining facilities and separate seating areas are a great idea.

In the winter months add extra warm textures to a property, which can be removed in the summer, such as sheepskin rugs and soft cosy throws. Cushions are a great option, especially if you select a versatile fabric that works both indoors and out. There are some great stain resistant waterproof fabrics on the market now.

Practical, but stylish outdoor lighting is a must for extending the time spent outdoors in the autumn and winter months. Brighter task lighting should be provided over entrance / exits and garden steps combined with lower level less bright accent lighting which adds ambience and highlights interesting garden features.

Connecting the inside to the outside spaces for barn conversion holiday cottage - by Astman Taylor

Connecting the inside to the outside spaces for barn conversion holiday cottage – by Astman Taylor

  1. Covid question: People are focussing more on ‘staying local’. How can cottage owners draw on influences of the local area within their design?

Many historic buildings were constructed of local materials and so local character can be easily added to a property by exposing these materials such as stonewalls and timber beams.

Local character can also be added by exploring local history, cultural traditions and current craft industries using books, the internet or by simply getting out and about and studying the local area.

Visiting local museums and galleries is great for getting to learn about history and culture, and gaining an understanding of the area, and what makes it interesting.

It’s great to source products from local suppliers, such as providing locally made hand soap for your guests and introducing cushions and lamps that are made in the UK.

  1. Covid question: With working from home becoming a new normal, do you think an office space is crucial for all property rentals?

A private study space can be great for separating work from family life, although we don’t believe that an office space is crucial for a holiday rental. We would certainly hope guests are not constantly working whilst on a vacation with their family, although we understand this can happen.

What is crucial for all guests is a fast Wifi speed, good mobile phone coverage and adequate electrical charging facilities. The addition of a small study or library is a little extra luxury.

Reading library and home office for Georgian house in Hampshire - by Astman Taylor

Reading library and home office for Georgian house in Hampshire – by Astman Taylor

  1. Cottage spotlight: We notice in your cottage, Westerleigh, there’s quirky artwork even in the downstairs WC. Do you think people often overlook these small spaces, and how can we turn the smallest space into a design success?

Every space needs to have interest, no matter how small. A small space can provide sanctuary and can be great for focusing the mind and so it’s important not to neglect small spaces.  Small spaces are often private and can be a great place to have some fun with colour, texture and artwork. The doors to small spaces are often closed, and so on entering it provides a little joy of the unexpected and entertaining. When selecting property rental artwork for a range of guests it’s important to ensure that the art is interesting, evoking thought, feelings and fun, but not controversial!

Complimentary artwork bringing out the colours of the original stonework - by Astman Taylor

Complimentary artwork bringing out the colours of the original stonework – by Astman Taylor

  1. Cottage spotlight: If there are original features within the cottage, such as the original beams and fireplaces in Westerleigh, do you think owners should do their best to preserve them?

When starting any interior project, you should identify what features might be historic and remembering that many historic features may have been covered / hidden by previous additions in the property, such as plaster over stonework, thick paint and varnish on woodwork, blocked in fireplaces with original brick / stonework behind. A little exploration at the start of a project, such as chipping off a little plaster, can reveal beautiful features that have been hidden, and long forgotten.

With the above in mind, we would definitely advocate retaining and highlighting the original design features of a property. Original features have a story to tell and add so much unique character and interest to a property. They are also a great source of design inspiration that can be easily carried through and reflected in the interior design scheme.

Complete refurbishment of master bedroom for Cotswold holiday cottage near Cirencester – by Astman Taylor

Complete refurbishment of master bedroom for Cotswold holiday cottage Westerleigh near Cirencester – by Astman Taylor

  1. Before you go: If you had to pick, would you choose fresh flowers, dried flowers, or fake flowers for cottage rental decoration?

Dried flowers are growing in popularity and there is range of vibrant colours now available.  There are also some great faux flowers on the market, which can be a great option for holiday rentals, just ensure they are good quality and are regularly cleaned to avoid an unsightly build-up of dust. Obviously, our top choice would be fresh flowers as they not only look beautiful, they always smell amazing too and most of all they show that you care.

Arts & Crafts Cottage, West Sussex - by Astman Taylor

Arts & crafts cottage, West Sussex – by Astman Taylor

To experience Astman Taylor directly, why not book a stay at Westerleigh Cottage and discover how vivid design can meet sustainable functionality, in the heart of the Cotswolds.

Finally, for more details on beautifully crafted Astman Taylor designs, visit their website and for further inspiration follow them on Instagram @astmantaylor. Their homeware range is launching online in Spring 2021, and their bespoke kitchens are available now.

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