Helen Westlake & Alexandra Nord of Millier, Exclusive Designer Interview
When it comes to timeless and sophisticated design, the London and Stockholm based Architectural and Interiors House Millier is a master. Established in 2010 by Alexandra Nord and Helen Westlake, Millier’s team now consists of 16 highly skilled architects and designers. From grand townhouse and super-prime residences to high-profile heritage-listed country estates in the UK and around the world, Millier’s portfolio is full of stunning creations.
Read on to learn more about Millier co-founders and creative directors Alexandra Nord and Helen Westlake, explore a sampling of their beautiful work and discover their new virtual design service.
Lh Exclusive Interview with Millier Co-founders Alexandra Nord and Helen Westlake
Love Happens: What first sparked each of your love for interior design and architecture and desire to pursue the trade?
Millier: We both lived and travelled in London and throughout Europe at a young age, seeing first-hand how timeless architecture and interiors adapt to and sit within modern life, enriching cultures and experiences. We wanted to be part of the creation and imagining of this.
Lh: What led up to your decision to start a firm together?
Millier: As soon as we met we knew we had a great connection; we shared a love for design, a positive outlook, and work ethic and could bounce ideas easily off one another. It was obvious to us that we could be business partners very early on; a decision that was sealed over a glass of wine at the Admiral Codrington in Chelsea! We established Millier ten years ago and haven’t looked back since.
Lh: Where did the name Millier come from?
Millier: When we were setting up the studio, we had an old copy of Architectural Digest France lying about, which spoke of the thousands of pieces within a mosaic, and this is where we took the name ‘millier’. We liked the idea of finding beauty in the imperfect, the pieces that make up the whole, and the natural breaking and coming together of things.
We wanted to build a brand that could evolve with new talent and we’re excited by the idea of a luxury architecture and design house that was not confined by an individual’s name on the door.
Lh: What has your experience been like working as women in the traditionally male-dominated world of architecture?
Millier: At times it has definitely been challenging, but we are well aware that prejudices facing young women are only one of many in society. One thing that we have learned over the years is that hard work and surpassing expectation can stop people in their tracks, and that the best way to face challenges is to not just tell people what we can do, but show them. We feel lucky to be based in such a fantastic city as London and to be working with leading developers such as Almacantar, who have a visionary Chief Executive and a brilliant female Property Director, both of whom actively champion women in the industry.
Lh: How has the current global pandemic affected your business?
Millier: Clients are taking the time to carefully question the form and function of their homes and the amenities that they need as a couple or family. We have seen more requests for children’s play areas, landscaped kitchen gardens, and private health facilities.
Our virtual design services are also now more relevant than ever.
As a business, we are privileged to be able to successfully work from home, thanks largely to screen sharing which keeps our work collaborative.
Lh: Tell us about your new virtual design service.
Millier: We have a highly skilled team of architects and interior designers, with broad international experience who are able to deliver virtual interior design services. Now is a great time for clients to focus on concept design and development of an existing residence or a potential purchase, beginning with an initial client online meeting to discuss the brief, including the client’s personal tastes, inspirations, and the location and context of the space. The client should also be ready to share photographs and floor plans of the property to assist the designers in selecting the best layouts, orientation, and natural light.
Following the initial call and sharing of brief materials, a detailed interior design proposal is provided including ideas for wall colours, specialist wall finishes or panelling, new joinery elements, ironmongery fittings and a complementary interior furniture and dressing scheme including furniture, soft furnishings, rugs, decorative lighting, and window dressing. We also offer a complementary investment art or sculpture proposal.
Our design for the interiors is then brought to life through a computer-generated interactive space, that offers 360-degree views and the ability to zoom in and focus on specific areas. Clients can experience and engage with the space and get a sense of the overall quality and specification.
[If you are interested in learning more, email firstname.lastname@example.org, prices start from £8,000 per space.]
Lh: What prompted the decision to start this?
Millier: We work with an international clientele who aren’t currently able to travel but want to continue their project or embark upon plans for a new design. Our local clients also want to stay in close contact with us over this time so as not to lose any momentum in their projects and by offering a virtual service, not only are we able to adhere to social distancing rules but we are also lessening the environmental impact of our work.
Lh: How has it been going so far?
Very successfully, we have found there is very little difference between a virtual design meeting and one in person. We do look forward however to meeting clients in person again.
Lh: Many design firms aspire to have their own product collections, do you have any desire or plans to do this?
Millier: As a design house we want to first and foremost prioritise our love and passion for developing architecture and interiors, without diluting what we do too much.
We also love to collaborate with skilled artisans, particularly small businesses, and there is a certain elegance in a collected yet eclectic look, featuring many different suppliers and artists.
Lh: What do you each believe is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned since the creation of your business 10 years ago?
Millier: Being selective about the work we take on is key. We also fully understand the importance of delivering on what you promise; this has always been and continues to be the key to our business success.
Lh: If you were to select a piece from our publisher KOKET to design a room around which piece would you pick, and why?
Millier: The Mandy stool, designed like an elegant cuff bracelet, with the two pieces able to be both separated and joined.
Lh: What’s next for Millier?
Millier: Our landmark London commissions including The Bryanston, Hyde Park, and London’s Grade I listed Regent’s Crescent are both soon completing. Across the coming year, we will also be working on one of the UK’s grandest country estates and new West London residences, which have a strong focus on wellness and sustainability, both stylistically and through the selection of materials and craftsmanship.
A Peek Inside the Fabulous and Inspiring Minds of Helen Westlake and Alexandra Nord with the Lh Design Questionnaire
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
To be with family, to do what you love, and to have passion.
What is your greatest extravagance?
Large, luxurious beds with sumptuous bedding.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
As a business, putting the right thing first; which is our partnership and the people who work for us, who give their heart, soul, and genius to the projects.
What profession does your alter ego have?
A detective duo, Starsky and Hutch style.
The project you will never forget.
The Bryanston; situated on the most prominent corner of London’s Hyde Park, overlooking Mayfair. It was one of our first commissions almost ten years ago and we are about to see it finished.
Your favorite business tool or resource.
Our phones. Both for convenience but also the window on the world it offers us.
The most timeless design.
Is personal, with not a trend to be seen.
The biggest design faux pas.
Artwork being placed too high, and rugs that are too small.
Love happens when…
You find your people.
By Anna Beck Bimba