Jermaine Gallacher: get to know London’s rising interior design star
Designer talks zigzags, collaborations and rare finds at markets
“I just love markets,” said Jermaine Gallacher. “I find it thrilling. You can find anything.” And it was a market – a car boot sale held in a schoolyard – that for Gallacher caused something akin to a ripple effect. Because it was then, a little over ten years ago, and in Battersea, London, that a chance find came in a many-pointed shape. “The first thing I ever bought,” he revealed, “well, the first thing that I bought to sell, but I never did sell, was a zigzag candlestick.” The zigzag has since become a key motif for Gallacher, a London-based design dealer and designer of furniture and interiors. “And then of course one thing inspires another and that leads on to all the fun things you can do with the zigzag shape,” he says. “It’s kind of endless.”
Fun things Gallacher has recently done with the zigzag shape include: metal candle sticks and matching candle snuffers, in saturated tones of black, orange, blue, pink or black, all cast from metal; a corresponding metal console table that is hand-welded, its top measured to fit one, perhaps two drinks. Also, coat hooks and a chair of throne-like volume. Part of Gallacher’s debut collection of homeware named Prototypes, his new creations are tactile – their metal surface is cool to the touch, their points sharp – and are a joy to use and to behold, as one can at department store Liberty London or at his own showroom. Gallacher operates from a space on Lant Street, within walking distance of both London Bridge and Southwark Bridge.
To realise his metal Prototypes, Gallacher works with expert makers in the north of England. “Steelworks are really good up there,” he said. “You have got to find good people to make things for you. They have got to know your sensibilities, because I don’t make things.”
A taste for collaboration also extends to his Lant Street set-up. Here, he gives space to the work of artists and creators. Among them are Joe Armitage and Tom Atton Moore. An orange and black lampshade has been painted by hand and is the work of Viola Lanari; there are bright ceramics by Miranda Keyes and metal furniture by Barnaby Lewis. The latter has long been among Gallacher’s key collaborators, as is Lukas Gschwandtner.
With Gschwandtner, an Austrian designer known for his chairs and work with leather, Gallacher is currently fine-tuning a series of metal stools. At the showroom today, one is fitted with a red ostrich leather seat, the other instead features soft lambskin dyed bright orange. “I like a mix of things, really,” he said. “Otherwise, you just end up with you, selfish old you. I just select what I think looks good, really. That’s it. There is no science to it.”
And perhaps in the manner of his signature zigzag, Gallacher, when listing what he has been up to the last few months, also darts from one project to another. There are interior design commissions: about a year ago, he was commissioned to imagine the office of a London barrister. Shortly after, he set about furnishing the Soho home of newly opened restaurant Bar Crispin. The site includes The Green Room, a private dining room seating 12 guests, detailed with an emerald green wall (hand-painted by Viola Lanari) framing a backlit wine rack with metal filigree doors, created for the site by Gallacher. Following the barrister’s office and the restaurant is a sculptural door in Brooklyn and “a really exciting, huge, huge residential project”, Gallacher enthused. “This just glorious apartment in Notting Hill that has not been touched since the 1970s. I am really excited about it.”
Gallacher, who firmly believes that houses become homes gradually and over time, rallies against one-stage, one-theme renovations. “This is a really nice thing about this client,” he said of the Notting Hill commission. “They just want first fits. They want me to choose the flooring, the walls, the fittings, the bathroom. They want me to design the kitchen, and it’s really grand. But, they don’t want me to fully furnish it, which I think is really cool because I think people should grow into their house.”
One way to do so is to do like Gallacher and stalk markets for rare finds. Alternatively, there is a pre-selected group of objects available to buy via Gallacher. On his website at the moment, a duo of ceramic cats modelled mid-dance and a campaign chair in wrought iron and cognac-coloured leather. Or, how about a hallway mirror, its frame finessed with velvet? Each one awaits a new home. Gallacher said: “I think there is far too much trend-led stuff and not enough people buying things because they love it.”