28 November 2007

Mimmi O'Connell

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White walls, symmetry, tufted ottoman used as a coffee table, ticking used for upholstery, black iron accents, seagrass matting: elements used over and over again.


In the 70’s - there was a designer in London who started a trend that lives on, 35 years later – the cornerstone of this trend was oriental furniture imported from the far east. The young designer combined these eastern pieces with large accessories: wooden boxes that doubled as coffee tables, bowls, blue and white porcelains, and eastern baskets, to name a few. She used mostly cotton tickings and rolled up mattresses instead of bolsters. Her beds were made of black iron and they usually were four poster. Her look was one of high contrasts: lots of darks and lights. She used red as a neutral, her walls were always white, her rooms always had black accents. Her look was new and fresh and very innovative. It still is today. Her name is Mimmi O’Connell.

Mimmi was never a household name in the United States. Most images of her work come from English books and publications. Through the store she owned, Port of Call, she started a look, the fusion look, that is still going strong today. She combined relatively inexpensive eastern furniture that she imported with inexpensive fabrics to produce a look that was strongly visual and rich, texturally. Through her design work, O’Connell was the force behind using seagrass and bamboo blinds in settings other than orangeries and sunrooms. Her look has spawned hundreds of imitators, her business helped launch others: OKA in England comes to mind immediately. Her use of cotton and linens and tickings is oft copied today – you would never see a room that O’Connell designed using chenille and mohair and brocades. It’s just not her style. Despite the enormous impact she made on design today, O’Connell rarely receives press or recognition for her work. Apparently, she’s still active, still in business, but it’s been a while since any current work of hers has been seen. So, take a look at her portfolio and keep in mind, many of these images are from years and years and years ago. And remember, the next time you see a room with an iron four poster bed swathed in tickings or oriental chairs mixed with bespoke upholstery on seagrass, give a nod to Mimmi O’Connell, wherever she is today.


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An iron four poster bed, hallmark of Mimmi's style. High contrast black and white.


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Traditional Mimmi: white walls, eastern chairs, blue and white porcelains, large, spare accessorizing

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The previous room seen from the other side. Large, tufted ottomans are often used as coffee tables.

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Heaven to Mimmi: rolled bolsters, blue and white ticking, plaids, iron furniture, seagrass. The striped poles seen in the corner are frequently used in her designs.

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High contrast black and white, iron furniture, highly edited spaces.

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Red is another favorite, as is wicker.

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Outdoors styling: black iron, oversized votives set a romantic atmosphere.


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Quintessential Mimmi: black iron canopy, white walls, ticking, plus white bedding.

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Her Italian country home in a restored school house.

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Mimmi at her best: symmetry, black iron, high contrasts, oriental furniture, tufted ticking, oversized accessorizing, baskets, corner poles, black iron curtain rods, and white wallss.

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Italy meets Zen.

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Port of Call merchandise: antique oriental furniture and accessories.

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Mimmi: iron day beds used as sofas, ottomans used as coffee tables, iron bistro chairs, ticking, tufting, garden seats, symmetry, oversized accessories.


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Again and again - her recognizable design.


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Here the architecture becomes the design: high contrast black paint vs. the ever present white walls, seagrass matting, reds mixed with black ticking.


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A Mimmi kitchen: eastern influenced chairs and table, eastern baskets and buckets, the plates provide the usual symmetry and black color, iron drapery rods, white walls, red checks for curtains.


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A departure for Mimmi: aqua painted chairs!!!!

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This room looks Rose Tarlow-ish to me. Notice how even in a library/dining room, the ticking is present, the walls are white, the symmetry is intact.