The Dickinson Gallery, 'Tyrian' on the walls, photography by Lydia Goldblatt Last Thursday to celebrate the opening of Phoebe Dickinson’s new exhibition ‘Great Houses & Gardens of England’ and Octavia Dickinson’s collections, we took a trip to Mayfair to meet the Dickinson sisters at the family gallery on Jermyn St. A wet and dreary day uplifted by true talent in both art, design and curation; this established London gallery transformed into the drawing room of a timeless English Country house with the deep, damson hue of ‘Tyrian’ drenching the walls by Edward Bulmer Natural Paint. The deepest purple, enveloping you as you enter and providing the perfect backdrop for the art works and its beautiful gilt frames. The body of work, which has been 18 months in the making displays over 60 intimate portraits of the houses and their occupants. We sat down in a snug corner on chairs upholstered in the wonderous new textile ‘Detmar‘ designed by Octavia and spoke about art, working together as a family and the sisters’ favourite places in London. “Tyrian is a colour that relied on advances in paint chemistry only 150 years though, to take it being from the preserve of the wealthy to being within reach for a wider populous as it is made from expensive pigments. Ours is nuanced with earth pigment as well as the blue and red it ultimately relies on to make it ‘sharey not scary’ – a colour that can work in a modern apartment just as well as the great country house.” -Edward Bulmer, founder Sisters Phoebe Dickinson and Octavia Dickinson A very personal exhibition, the pair wanted to go for a dark, strong purple that felt rich and comforting. 'After much back and forth they finally settled on 'Tyrian' By Edward Bulmer, known as 'the purple of the ancients' it chimes with the regal atmosphere of the space' writes Aimee Farrell for The Financial Times, How to Spend it. We were so pleased to be able to ask the duo about their newest ventures, let's start with a brief introduction... Phoebe: Hi, I’m Phoebe Dickinson and I’m the artist. Octavia: Hi I’m Octavia, I’m an interior decorator and I have recently launched a fabric, wallpaper and lampshade collection and we are in our family gallery which our father set up and our brother Milo Dickenson now works for in Mayfair. And when we first discussed colours for the gallery you knew you wanted a deep purple hue but what was it that drew you to our deepest damson purple Tyrian for the walls? Phoebe: Well I was preparing for a commission in an English country house called Cadland and it had an amazing deep purple wall and I just noticed how much the paintings kind of sung against that colour. I think it’s a classic English country house aesthetic and it’s very strong so I thought we thought it would make a great colour for the gallery, it was an obvious choice. Phoebe a typical English country house is usually filled with an eclectic mix of objects and textiles, often mismatching which adds to its charm your paintings are a wonderful through the keyhole insight into the homes and their occupants. What is it about old houses and their occupants that fascinates you? Phoebe: Well, I think something I love about old houses is the intricacy and detail that has gone into the interior decoration, and the craftsmanship involved in them. It’s so much more than most people do today. So that’s one thing that makes a great painting but also I think we all love looking into other people’s lives and other people’s homes and I like the idea of seeing how people live in these really wonderful great grand houses today and manage to restore them and keep them alive for the public to enjoy. Octavia please tell us about your new collection of fabrics and papers? Octavia: So we’ve launched! We’ve slowly been designing different fabrics more papers over the last two years and Add to them very slowly as we find things that inspire us. So recently what we are launching at the moment is a firm print called Marina which we’re doing in a wallpaper and a matching fabric in three colourways, which is based on a French water colour that we found and then we’re also launching ‘Detmar’, which is based on an Egyptian textile fragment that we found that comes in five colourways – and we’re very excited. Octavia, what part does colour play in your designs? Octavia: Colour is paramount to my designs. I think it can make or break an interior, like it can make or break painting; every room takes a colour in a completely different way and also creates a different mood. You can use colour to create your theme, so I love starting with a colour in a room and working out how colour wants the room to be or how I want it to be. And that’s where I always love to start! Chair upholstered in Octavia Dickinson 'Oscar- Coleman' fabric, 'Tyrian' by Edward Bulmer Natural Paint on the walls, photography by Lydia Goldblatt You mention the vision of the gallery space and wanting it to resemble the drawing rooms of an English country house. A lot of Edward's interior design work was based on the traditions of English decorating, so it seems like a natural fit for us both. What drew you to partner with Edward Bulmer Natural Paint for the gallery? Phoebe: Well, I’ve always been a fan of Edward’s because, firstly, he does these amazing picture hangings in grand houses, which I really admire. And he obviously makes the paint and creates the colour in lots of houses that I look at and paint. Edward has decorated and hung pictures in lots of houses where my portraits are displayed. I was already was very interested in him but I also love the fact that his paints are natural and that they’re not damaging to the environment. "But I also love the fact that Edward's paints are natural and that they're not damaging to the environment." Phoebe Dickinson Edward Bulmer’s background is in fact in picture hanging. Do you have any top tips when installing artworks in a space? Phoebe: I usually start with the biggest piece and have that centrally and then try and hang symmetrically either side of that and sort of work from, when we were hanging this exhibition we made sure we placed the biggest things first and then worked around them…..and as Octavia always says, don’t hang things too high. Octavia: Make sure they’re eye level. And also don’t be afraid about it! You don’t want your pictures sitting on your floor for ages never hanging them. It’s much better that they’re up, even if they’re not up in completely the right way. "Make sure they’re eye level. And also don't be afraid about it! You don't want your pictures sitting on your floor for ages never hanging them. It's much better that they're up, even if they're not up in completely the right way." Octavia Dickinson Phoebe, we loved seeing your former London home in House and Garden and were so delighted last week to see your beautiful new home in Gloucestershire. How would you describe the use of colour when decorating and styling your new house? Phoebe: Well, I have chosen an assortment of very different colours in all of the rooms. Some rooms I’ve gone very light with because the rooms were darker needed lighting up, but then some rooms I wanted a cosy, rich atmosphere. So I think it’s quite varied because of my house, which I love very much. It sounds like you have a really strong family unit and we loved reading all about your assigned jobs when you moved into your house. Your father Simon on picture hanging, Octavia on styling. How do you both find working together as a family? Edward Bulmer is also a family business so it's always interesting to see. Octavia: Well on any kind of solo venture we always ask each other for help and there’s constant what’s happening, texting and calling about anything that we’re doing. So it made complete sense to work together and it’s a very easy working relationship because we’ve done this all our lives whether its work, moving houses or just general help! Artwork by Phoebe Dickinson, 'Tyrian' on the walls by Edward Bulmer Natural Paint, photography by Lydia Goldblatt Do you find that you are both inspired by the same things? Octavia: Yes I think we are. We both have a very strong & similar aesthetic that I think has been inspired by our parents. They always encouraged us to look at things and find interest in them. And I think that’s kind of how we collect, an eclectic collection! What are your favourite spots in London, either to eat, spend time or to shop? Phoebe: Well, when it comes to galleries, I really like smaller, intimate and actually quite homely settings a bit like this. So I really love the Wallace Collection and I love Leighton House Museum. And then in terms of eating, I think again it’s a bit the same, I like something to feel quite homely. So I love Clarke’s restaurant, Sally Clarke’s, which kind of feels like a private home. And then for something a bit less formal, I quite like La Famiglia, it’s a fun kind of Italian vibe and has got really good art on the walls. Octavia: I spend a lot of time on the Pimlico Road, which it’s got even better now and it’s got so many interior shops and also La Poule au Pot, which I love, especially in the winter, it’s really calm and it feels comfy inside. And then shopping, I guess, Westbourne Grove area. And to eat, Maison Francois, which is near here. If you were to pass on one piece of advice to your children, what would it be? Phoebe: If in doubt, DON’T! Octavia: You don’t have to be one thing, you can be many different things. Phoebe, what makes your new country house a home? We know that for many years the house was home to artists which must make it a very resonant and special place for you. Phoebe: I think, I mean obviously and ultimately it’s all your own objects coming into the house and on your family being there, but I think I like things to feel really cosy and there to be quite a lot of soft furnishings, basically to feel like you’re all tucked up in bed even when you’re not! If you could both pick a favourite colour from the Edward Bulmer Natural Paint range, what would it be and why? Phoebe: I will be choosing ‘Jonquil’ for my new bathroom when I get round to doing it. Octavia: I think I love Edward’s new colours, ‘Hespan’, which is a peachy apricot colour which would look amazing in a feminine dressing room. Read all about our 7 new palette blenders HERE "I love Edwards new colours, especially 'Hespan', which is a peachy, apricot and would look amazing in a feminine dressing room" Octavia Dickinson Octavia, you made a change from the path from fine art into interior. Did your use and appreciation of colour and art have an impact on the way that you design now? Octavia: Yes, definitely. I don’t think you can help but be inspired by so many artists out there who use incredible colours, like Titian, Lapis Lazuli. I constantly look at great works and also someone like Caravaggio, the kind of balancing of Light and Dark, I think that it’s something I’m constantly in my interiors, always trying to balance, whether it be colours or layout. Phoebe is there a house that you haven't painted yet that you dream of painting? Phoebe: I would really love to paint the view from Jasper Conran’s house. I think that would be next on my list. Tell us something about you that our readers might not know. Phoebe: Well, I once sang for the queen and am secretly an ice skating genius. Octavia: I work with my husband Harry, which can be very intense at times, but he is the one that pushes me and makes sure I’m not dithering making decisions! What are you both reading or listening to at the moment? Phoebe: I’m reading William Boyd’s book, which I’m really enjoying, and I’m listening to my favourite podcast, It’s called Life Changing. Octavia: I’m definitely trying to culture myself at the moment, and I have been reading Matthew Rice’s Architectural Primer, just to try and remember details about lots of architectural details. And I’ve been listening to The Rest Is Politics because I’m trying to understand what’s going on in the world. At the same time, there’s always Desert Islands Discs, which is my ultimate favourite, but I miss Kirsty. Ruffled 'Isla' lampshade by Octavia Dickinson, photography by Lydia Goldblatt Be sure to visit Dickinson gallery to see the exhibition, on until the 23rd November to witness the paintings which allow an unparalleled access and inside glimpse of locations such as Badminton House and Belvoir Castle as well as more residential properties such as Bamford House and Iford Manor. A perfect way to spend your weekend and perhaps a quick lunch at one of the sisters’ favourite London eateries followed by a trip to The Pimlico Road to visit us at Edward Bulmer Natural Paint and pick up your NEW colour chart, to round the day off.