Since so many of us have been stuck inside our homes for the better part of a year, it’s been hard not to scrutinize every detail of every room, whether it’s the paint color on the kitchen cabinets or the way our cleaning closets are organized. In the eyes of the Swedish-born, London-based interior designer Beata Heuman, that level of careful consideration is ultimately a good thing. “I think that the value of home is a bit clearer to people,” says Heuman, speaking over Zoom from her eponymous firm’s studio in London last week. “People are really, properly thinking about what you get out of each thing you put in there.”
Anyone who needs some guidance on that front can now turn to Beata Heuman: Every Room Should Sing, out today from Rizzoli, to explore ten of Heuman’s projects, from her own elegant townhouse to a writer’s jewel-like pied-à-terre. As much as the book is a record of some of Heuman’s most dazzling interiors, it is really a treatise about how to create a practical space that also feels individual and alive, no matter the budget or square footage. “You get so much more joy and fulfillment from your home when you connect with it on a personal level,” she says.
Growing up in the countryside in Sweden, Heuman wasn’t really aware that becoming an interior designer was an option. “Hiring an interior designer is highly unusual—people are really into doing it yourself,” she says. (But there were hints of her future career there: As a child, she did constantly rearrange her room “to various degrees of success.”) In her early 20s, she moved to London, where a friend introduced her to Nicky Haslam, the decorator and man-about-town. She worked for Haslam’s design studio for nine years, absorbing his unique combination of refinement and irreverence like a sponge. While Haslam is known for his high-society clientele, Heuman notes that there’s a cheeky side to his work that many don’t fully appreciate: In the book, she tells the story of how he once became enamored with a piece of oxblood-red sandpaper they found on the floor, which he then decided to use as a wall covering in a stately home, overlaying the humble material with leather panels. “I love doing things that are a bit unexpected, and not necessarily considered the ‘right’ thing,” Heuman says. “I love taking some risks in that regard. He really showed me how to do that.”
Like Haslam, Heuman isn’t too precious about where she finds design inspiration. Anything can spark an idea, whether it’s a roll of toilet paper, a pair of her husband’s swim trunks, or a gridded rubber mat on a boardwalk in Italy. Recently, she’s been watching a lot of Mary Poppins with her two- and three-year-old children. “In one scene, she’s standing in front of an entry door that looks like it has a kind of tulip fabric going through it,” Heuman says, laughing. “Now I’m working on something with tulips inspired by this little snapshot.”
In Every Room Should Sing, some of those bits of inspiration—along with watercolors, details of her firm’s custom furniture pieces, and quotes from aesthetes like Elsa Schiaparelli and Billy Baldwin—give context to the sumptuous images of Heuman’s interiors. Seeing all of these homes together, Heuman’s signatures begin to emerge, like marble backsplashes with soft, curved edges; TV cabinets and bathroom cupboards papered in Fornasetti clouds, and custom-made entry hall tables that perfectly encase old steam radiators. Although there is a sense of a shared DNA across each of these houses, Heuman insists that her studio approaches each new project with fresh eyes and an open mind. “It’s not at all about doing ‘my style,’ it’s more about approaching a project in an original way,” she says.
When asked to describe her firm’s signature, Heuman generally relies on three words: “Imaginative, considered, and fresh.” She also aims for an almost dreamlike element to elevate the everyday-ness of it all: “Surreal is perhaps a little bit extreme of a word, but some certain things that feel a bit more like a fantasy,” she adds. “I want to have a slight feeling of stepping into another world. You feel very inspired when you get those things right.”
Heuman’s aesthetic philosophy never comes at the expense of the practical: A little wear and tear on natural materials adds character; storage space is just as important as the art on the walls. No matter the size or style of your home, there are always ways to bring harmony and personality into it. One of the easiest ways to do that, Heuman says, is to incorporate pieces from your childhood, even if it’s something as small as a pen cup or a framed photograph. “It just gives such meaning when you live with something for a long time,” she says. “It doesn’t have to be considered beautiful by other people, as long as it means something to you.”