Holly Johnson & Benjamin Aardewerk

Get to know the people and personalities that make the BADA, as we delve into their businesses, passions and insights. Through a series of interviews, we uncover their stories and discover what drives them in the world of art and antiques.


Holly Johnson & Benjamin Aardewerk

From Holly Johnson Antiques

Holly Johnson Antiques has been established since 1997 and is based in Cheshire, on the outskirts of Macclesfield. The business is run by Holly Johnson and Benjamin Aardewerk. Holly Johnson Antiques specialise in ''Signed and Designed'' items of furniture from the 19th and 20th centuries. They focus on rare pieces, superbly crafted, and made by specific designers and craftsmen. They also design and deliver exceptional bespoke individually designed Interiors. Their skills range from supplying fabrics, furniture, wallpaper and paint in one off capacity to major residential renovations and new builds. Below is an interview with Holly Johnson. 


What is your favourite room in a typical house to design and why?

I love a hallway, mainly because it is the first impression of the homeowner's “home” and it sets the standard and scene- the character of the people who live there. Often it states the palette and style for the rest of the house. You are also open to a multiple of options choice wise in this area. It can be theatrical, architectural or it can house an art collection. On our last project we converted the hallway into a wonderful family room, with comfy sofas and chairs, even a TV and we covered the walls with a wonderful scenic Iksel wallpaper.


How involved are your clients in the design process- are they usually quite happy to follow your lead?

Each of our projects are totally led by the client and the design totally reflects their taste. We guide them through, bringing them ideas, working through all options. We have a wonderful stable of different highly skilled craftsman and decorators to work with. For us it makes each project unique.


Wallpaper seems to be a key feature in many of your designs. Could you talk a little about how you source your wallpaper and what makes it so unique?

We love wallpaper. We love to use wallpaper. I have never been frightened of colours, patterns and textures. I love layering wallpapers and fabrics, but you must have an “eye” to work with this look.


Can you name an item that you have used as part of the scheme in a client’s space, that you now wish you had kept for yourself?

Often, I like to place a “key” item into an important room -a “hero” piece. This could be a painting or an antique piece of furniture. I would say I would have liked to have kept each of these “important” items but then I would just end up a Collector rather than an Antiques Dealer. Disastrous, as I love to shop.


Is it a challenge to design spaces that feel luxurious, whilst maintaining a level of practicality and durability? I have in mind the properties you have designed for Ben and Holly’s Hideaways.

That is my job. A space has a function, a purpose. This is most important, and the design must work within this frame. You must ask yourself, how is this area to be used and how are people going to navigate this area? With Ben and Holly’s Hideaways, the houses are used by people on holiday ,so their needs and how they use the rooms are very different than that of how they live in their own homes.

Obviously, safety , fire regulations , access for all ages are big issues. Also, the Holiday houses are often used for large gatherings, family birthdays etc. so the reception areas have to be designed with this in mind. On the other hand, in the holiday homes we can design in a slightly braver, eccentric manner. The settings can be slightly more theatrical and full of imagination and novelty which gives a fun experience for our clients.


Is there a house that you would love to design the interiors for, or perhaps a dream client you would like to work with?

Each new project and each new client is a dream, as a whole new experience starts again. Everything starts from scratch and is centered around the new clients taste and this is great fun and always a wonderful journey.


Where do you get your inspiration?

As I keep pointing out to Ben, inspirational travel just has to be done ! He thinks it is an excuse for me just to go on holiday ! I beg to differ.


Would you let an interior designer loose in your own home?

Absolutely, if they were good. Roman and Williams any day of the week.


What is a design feature that you would try and talk a client out of having in their home?

There is never a no-no. The client is always right, and I can make anything work . That is my job. No client has terrible taste. Everyone loves beauty and beauty is in the eye of the client. We help put their idea of beauty into play for the project. Every home is personal. That’s why I love what I do. We love a challenge.


What is the ‘bravest’ or most daring scheme you have pulled off?

It is very easy to spend lots of money on luxury items to create the wow factor. For Ben and Holly’s Hideaways we recycled fabrics and furniture throughout the project which was more challenging but very rewarding. We still needed to create a lavish experience look and I feel we achieved this. On another project one of the main reception rooms had no natural light. Therefore, we had to use a certain palette in the wallpapers and textiles to create a brighter feel. We had to also be very inventive with the lighting scheme.


What is your favourite period of interior design?

Every single period. I am a total nerd for specific periods. I have a huge library of historical, architectural and Interior books. Books about historical designers and craftsmanship. Furniture books. History of art books. Archives and Archives. I constantly look at period paintings and photos for inspiration. It is an addiction.


Do you have any predictions for where interior design will take you in the future?

I do think that tastes are moving away from the bland palettes of the last couple of decades. Colour, texture and patterns are emerging, giving individuality to homes. I love seeing items and works of art people have collected throughout their lives in interior settings, out on show. A home should reflect the life of the inhabitants . Also, antiques are environmentally friendly - don’t buy new- recycle.


Do you have any advice for our readers who might aspire to become an interior designer?

You can come from anywhere. A painting or decorating background, a joinery background, tiling background, design and tech, art foundation course etc: this will all come in helpful. Interior designers should be more practical and hands on. Having a trade in hand will be hugely beneficial. Interior Design should not be seen in any elitist way.


What would you be doing if you weren’t an interior designer?

Possibly a luxury travel advisor who had to do lots of travel research by testing out each individual trip personally and on a regular basis.


Do you have a signature piece or a motif that we might see in all your interiors?

A piece by Piero Fornasetti - an absolute must.