Interview: Ella Doran

by on September 01, 2010
Sunlight through leaves blind, price on request, Ella Doran.

We uncover Ella Doran’s inspiration and how she captures the wonders of nature in print.

Ella Doran’s prints are now iconic within the world of interior designs and can be seen on everything from blinds to table mats. Ella has received several awards including the ‘Most Influential Designer’ Award from her peers at Hidden Art, and the Laurent Perrier Eureka 2006 award. Her designs combine and translate the vivacity of nature and art, bringing colour and interest into your home.

We interviewed Ella to find out what inspires her, and here’s what she said...

If you had 3 words to describe your style what would they be?

Colourful, photographic, and bold.

Where does your inspiration come from?

It comes from the world around me; my children and family; the city; the countryside, and travelling. I constantly have my eyes open for new ideas.

What’s your ‘hero’ product and why?

I think it would have to be our bespoke blinds and particularly the 'Sunlight through Leaves' design. Making bespoke blinds just really adds something extra and individual to a room, and that particular design works so well. If the blind is down and there is still some light outside, it makes the image glow and it’s simply stunning.

How important is colour to your designs/prints?

Massively important! It’s often the colour that draws me to a new idea. It’s always colour that I love to absorb, like a sponge. And in terms of production it is always the colour that can lift a product from good to exceptional.

The popularity of your photographic coasters, based on photos you had taken on a trip abroad, was the catalyst for developing your business. How important is photography and capturing nature/life to you and your designs?

Photography is my pencil; my tool, my aid. Often I take my best shots when I’m not intending to. It’s the light that draws me towards a subject outdoors, be it leaves on a tree or a large building. Often I can see more in the photograph after I have taken it and use this in another way than I had originally intended. My Geo design is a bit like this because it came from a photo of a building I took in Berlin, and in post production I have reworked it to become something completely different. Its repetition inspires many people to see all sorts of different things.

Geo gloss finish table mat, (25cmx19cm), £39, Ella Doran.

What is the most recent design product that you have bought for your home?

I recently bought the 'Hang it All', Charles and Ray Eames coat hanger from TwentyTwentyOne (Islington). I have a long standing love affair with Eames’, the way they designed for industry and children, both with love, care, wit and attention to detail in such an all-encompassing way, and the freedom with which they applied their craft.

Who is your favourite interior designer of all time and why?

I don’t have one in particular. I look back at people like Fornasetti and how he covered everything in his crazy designs, and take great inspiration from his clarity of ideas and determination to experiment with his art onto anything and everything. I also love Marimekko and their story since the 60’s because their photoshoots of their fashion lines back then and in the 70’s are fantastic.

What’s your favourite material to work with and why?

Paper! Anything beautiful in paper excites me and makes me want to have it. The wallpapers have been brilliant to develop along with my stationery lines coming out soon! But I have made a name for myself in hard top tablemats and accessories, and I often see images applied to these in my mind as I work.

Where do you like to shop for quirky furniture pieces for your own home?

A mixture of places; I have my eye on a piece or two from the newly launched Jens Risom furniture at Rocket Gallery, produced by Bench. I have also bought from Russell Roberts on Cheshire Street; he has wonderful mid mod pieces, and is always displaying something wonderful in his window.

What advice would you give to aspiring interior designers?

Follow your own rules. There have been times during my career when I have been swayed by others, and this can lead you down the wrong path. You have to stay focused. It is your individuality that will make you successful; no one wants to see the same things churned out again and again, but by different people. Band-wagons are not always there to be jumped on.

Fiore cushion, £55, Ella Doran.

How important do you believe UK manufacturing is to our economy and the environment?

UK manufacturing has so many benefits to the economy and bringing back craftsmanship and skills to our society gives a huge sense of independence, achievement and longevity. It means that skills can be passed on from generation to generation, giving us an invaluable legacy. Environmentally, we would definitely save on carbon footprints! But I would say that global manufacturing, on the whole, needs to consider the environment more seriously and sustainable methods need to be embraced.

Are there any designers that you would particularly like to collaborate with in the future?

I would love to collaborate with a designer or architect on something on a large scale; often I think surface design is pigeon holed and people don't relate it to 3D products or even buildings. It would be interesting to push these boundaries where the surface design influences the form and vice versa.

What new projects do you have on the horizon?

I am always developing new products - sometimes too many! My most recent projects include gift wrap, gift bags and stationery. A larger collection of stationery is something I really want to push, as well as a larger collection of wallpaper.

You can view all of Ella Doran’s designs at

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About Emma Foale

Emma Foale Emma is a Features Writer and intern at She enjoys writing and getting inspiration from quirky, modern designs, and all things that create visual impact.