Magpie instincts: bright yellow chairs and psychedelic prints light up the living room. Photograph: Suki Dhanda for the Observer
Holly Fulton once flew back from Majorca with Marlene Dietrich in her hand luggage. It was the only way of getting around Ryanair’s stringent baggage restrictions. Marlene – or, rather, a shelf painted with Marlene’s distinctive face and expressive hands – was an irresistible market find and Fulton, the Scottish-born, London-based fashion designer, was determined to get the piece home somehow. Her success in carrying Marlene back in one piece has given Fulton confidence that “anything is possible” when it comes to stowing holiday loot – though she now always pays for a check-in case for the inevitable haul of antiques, quilts and terriers made out of matchboxes.
Marlene hangs on the wall of the sitting room in her top-floor flat above a quiet square in east London. “I am quite a hoarder-slash-curator of stuff,” says Fulton. She relies on her partner James, an illustrator with tidy instincts, to curb some of her magpie instincts. Anything banished from the flat finds a home elsewhere.
Her hunting grounds are “anywhere and everywhere”: the antiques arcade in Islington, Indian stores on Brick Lane, Chiswick car-boot sale, the second-hand shops of Edinburgh where Fulton grew up before moving to London to study at the Royal College of Art.
Fulton’s hoarding is hereditary. She once told her mother that she’d always wanted a DNA model – the helix sort you find in school science labs. “Oh, we’ve got one of those,” her mother replied, and unearthed one from a cupboard. It now stands by the window in Fulton’s sitting room between two smaller sculptures: one of a melting ice-cream cone, the other of a glass of spilt milk and Oreo cookies. Ask where she found, say, a pair of obelisk candles, and the answer is invariably: “My mum.”
“Pure shots of colour” are Fulton’s passion. “What matters is to have things that inject you with a bit of enthusiasm and joie de vivre,” she says. A row of psychedelic, dizzyingly colourful prints by the pop artist Dave Roe hangs in the sitting room. “That’s like the inside of my head,” says Fulton. The Scottish artist Eduardo Paolozzi, known for his Tottenham Court Road tube station murals, is another colour hero.
This season, Fulton is launching her own homeware and lifestyle product range alongside her clothes designs, and she says these will be very much in the graphic, pop-art, Paolozzi line. She describes her inspiration for the coming season as: “Louche, decadent, Holly Fulton meets Biba meets Memphis.” Her own cushion designs are mixed and matched at home with swirling Pucci prints.
“I’m not a purist,” she says. Things don’t have to be in mint condition. I like the interplay of different cultures and eras.” A Japanese obi belt and an African batik are draped over a chair; a Scottish quilt covers the bed.
She is fond, too, of kitsch. A ceramic army of Homepride models guards one shelf in the kitchen. Scott’s Porage Oats tea towels and a Heinz beans tote bag hang from cupboard doors. Fulton also collects “roses and castles” barge-ware – the wooden spoons and enamel cups you’d find on an Edwardian canal boat – and Portmeirion chemist jars stamped with their curious contents: Dandelion Cocoa, Egyptian Salve, Otto of Roses Cold Cream.
She is drawn to folk art and craft. A collection of “sweetheart” pin-cushions lives above the bed, embroidered by wounded First World War soldiers while they convalesced. “I like the idea of these quite macho guys making these super sentimental things with their hands.”
The narrow hallway houses her collection of painted Clydesdale horses by folk artist William Robbie, active in the 1920s. She talks of her pride in being Scottish and the great graphic tradition of tartans, tweeds and Charles Rennie Mackintosh.
Her home is a glorious Highland fling of inspirations from around the world. “All my favourite influences,” says Fulton, sitting on a Quaker Oats chair, “jammed into one place.”
Holly Fulton’s interiors collection launches today at London Fashion Week