Interior Design

British Style: Julian Chichester

Julian Chichester has been at the leading edge of UK and US furniture and lighting design for 25 years. We look at his design history – and latest collections

Living room with sofa and sideboard by Julian Chichester
(Image credit: Julian Chichester)

As an individualist and tastemaker, furniture and lighting designer Julian Chichester is widely admired for his distinctive designs which blend a contemporary aesthetic with a classic and mid-century sensibility.

He’s widely acknowledged to have been at the leading edge of the UK and US interior design and furniture industry for almost 25 years bringing a new vision to furniture that is simultaneously unique, yet instantly familiar. 

The beginning

Julian Chichester

Julian Chichester (right) and Richard Forwood (left) travelled to the Far East in 1987 to source antiques

(Image credit: Julian Chichester)

Having spent six years as a market trader in the City (London’s financial district) in 1987 Julian Chichester decided he’d had enough of that lifestyle. Leaving his job, he went travelling through Asia with the idea of importing antiques, mainly from Burma (Myanmar) and Thailand. 

Together with a friend, Richard Forwood, the pair travelled around on a motorbike picking up pieces and loading them up into a sidecar before shipping them back to the UK.

This eclectic selection of furniture and decorative homeware (which included four-poster beds, teak sculptures and ikat silks) was initially sold from a shop on London’s Portobello Road. 

The early days of Julian Chichester

Julian Chichester

Julian (right) and Richard began designing garden furniture which was made in Vietnam

(Image credit: Julian Chichester)

A year later 1988, having sold the majority of the Thai and Burmese antiques, Julian started designing his own collection of teak garden furniture which was made in Vietnam using British techniques. It led to the foundation of Julian Chichester.

Julian Chichester chest of drawers

Responding to demand from clients in the UK and US, Julian Chichester began designing interior furniture – this piece is from the first collection

(Image credit: Julian Chichester)

Moving forward, in 1993, Julian launched his first interior furniture collection in London, which consisted of five pieces in black with gilt details. All of them were informed by 18th and 19th century shapes from England and Holland, brought up to date with unusual finishes and interesting textures – it’s a theme that has continued through to his designs today.

Thanks to a growth and demand from British and American interior designers, this interior furniture line became central to the growth of Julian Chichester Designs where it remains today. Julian now sources from factories in Vietnam, India and the United Kingdom. Julian has been instrumental in teaching and encouraging new and exciting techniques and finishes in many of the factories he works with.

Julian Chichester in America

Julian Chichester showroom

In 1995 Julian Chichester exhibited at Decorex in Chicago where his pieces were spotted by John Rosselli

(Image credit: Julian Chichester)

Following the success of his interiors launch in London, Julian took the collection to the US and exhibited it at Decorex in Chicago in 1995. The moved proved extremely fruitful particularly after the acclaimed American antique dealer John Rosselli took the range to his New York showroom – an exciting day for the young company.

Since that time, the company has expanded, opening three showrooms in London (Battersea, Fulham Road and the Design Centre, Chelsea Harbour). In the US, Julian Chichester’s flagship showroom is in New York at 200 Lexington Avenue with further ones in Atlanta, Georgia and High Point, North Carolina.

What happened next: the modern metamorphosis

Julian Chichester desk

Toby Desk with Flamenco Armchair under Palazzo Mirror by Julian Chichester

(Image credit: Julian Chichester)

After an inspiring trip to Paris, Julian came across a gallery in St Germain full of original Jean Michael Frank pieces dating from the 1920s. The simplicity of form shown by the Parisian-born interior designer combined with exquisite finishes changed the design direction forever – and has had a significant influence on Julian’s designs ever since. 'He cleaned up [design] lines and took all the fuss out of furniture,' explains Julian.

Julian Chichester green sofa

Parrot sofa by Julian Chichester

(Image credit: Julian Chichester)

Julian Chichester continues to create and develop new designs, conjuring up innovative, fresh new finishes combination and bold palettes. The combination of skilled craftsmanship and original designs means pieces are strong enough to hold their own in a variety of interiors, whether that be a country house or New York loft.

Living room with sofa and sideboard by Julian Chichester

A Button chair with Geo side table stands in front of Deneuve Cabinet in Teal Gesso. On the right side is a Hobbs Chest and Countess Mirror, all by Julian Chichester

(Image credit: Julian Chichester)

'The very nice thing about what I do is that I have never felt as if I have to have a certain look, repeatedly use the same materials or follow a trend,' he explains. 'The collection is highly eclectic with depth, a vast array of influences and finishes. Our ethos is simply to be inspired by the past to create the future.'

Where you can see Julian Chichester today

Yellow sofa and purple chairs in living room by Julian Chichester

In the center is the Amalfi Sofa with a Leopoldo Coffee Table. On the left is the Chagal chair and on the right is the Turin

(Image credit: Julian Chichester)

Big-name brands and luxury hotels which have pieces by Julian Chichester include Soho House, The Pig Hotels, The Polizzi Collection, Rocco Forte Hotels, Harbour Hotel Group, Ritz Carltons, and Red Carnation Hotels.

There are two flagship showrooms in London: one at the Design Centre, Chelsea Harbour and the other on Queen Elm Parade in Chelsea. They have further showrooms in New York Design Center and the ADAC Atlanta as well as High Point in North Carolina.

Arabella Youens
Contributing Editor

Arabella is a freelance journalist writing for national newspapers, magazines and websites including Homes & Gardens, Country Life, The Telegraph and The Times. For many years she has specialized in writing about property and interiors, but she began her career in the early 2000s working on the newly launched Country Life website, covering anything from competitions to find the nation’s prettiest vicarage to the plight of rural post offices.