Homes & Gardens Interior Designer of the Year 2021, Adam has been ‘training’ his interior design clients for over 25 years now, beginning his career in antiques at age 16 and eventually opening his own antiques store in Notting Hill in London. 

Style ethos

His entrée into interior design was via a regular client who asked him to advise on paint colors for her house in Little Venice.  ‘I think she was at a bit of a loss,’ he says, with typical wry self-deprecation. ‘A lot of the time our work is about helping people do things. It can range from a bit of a gentle handhold, leading someone to make a slightly difficult decision to projects where people say, “just do it all, from beginning to end”. Both are welcome, both are valid.’ Adam Bray (opens in new tab) is highly regarded by the industry and clients alike. He is renowned for his expertise in sourcing and using exceptional and unusual antique furniture and textiles, and for a sophisticated eye for colour that has evolved directly from his antiques work. 

Adam Bray’s collaborations

Both are seamlessly united in his projects, and these skills/affinities also mean Adam is in demand for collaborations with interesting ‘design insider’ brands. He has devised paint colors for Papers & Paints (opens in new tab), designed wallpaper with Hamilton Weston (opens in new tab), (above), created rugs with Christine van der Hurd (opens in new tab) (with Adam, below).  Adam also provided creative direction for kitchen company Plain English (opens in new tab) (below). More exciting collaborations are due to be announced.’ ‘I can’t imagine doing a house without most of the furniture being old,’ he confesses. ‘Antiques add a dimension of patina, of surface, of finish and that’s something I really love. When new fabrics and new upholstery rub up against these old pieces, they tell a very good story together.’

The internet revolution

Gone are the days when Adam would be out on the road twice a week in search of treasures. ‘I don’t need to do that any more,’ he says. ‘The internet has made it much easier to find things. I use it constantly.’  He also sells his finds online and from his latest shop in north London which opened in November 2020. A visit here is recommended – currently by appointment only – if you want to get a sense of the range of pieces he sources and his distinctive yet subtle color palette.

Color confidence

Adam’s confidence, honed over the years, leads to striking results.  ‘Color matters to me,’ he states. ‘I think it’s being surrounded by old things, looking at old houses and the soft, mellow aspect that time gives to things. So, even though I do work with some very strong colors, they are not particularly bright. I think that just comes from really liking the way the old colors look when things get a bit faded.’ As well as starting with the pieces he finds, or perhaps a striking shade he’s spotted on the street, Adam also derives color from archives – consciously avoiding an obvious or explicitly English look to perhaps favor Italian, French or American sources. He then blends these to arrive at a unique personal palette that is perfect for his projects.  Not just a decorating visionary, Adam can be relied on to deliver results for his clients: the years of experience keep his feet firmly on the ground and he knows where to draw the line between creativity and practicality: ‘It’s about fantasy and imagination and having the confidence to let that play a big part, while trying to use as much common sense as possible.’ Interview / Kate Burnett